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Pretty Deadly #1-4

I just read the latest issue of Pretty Deadly, and it had enough revelations that I went back and read the first three issues to try and get my bearings. I have a bunch of discussion below the cut, but before I get there, I want to say that finally, finally I am getting a sense of what kind of story this is. It's a story with a much grander scope that those first couple of issues seemed to suggest, which I like. I think the confusion of the basic character motivations and relationships in the first couple of issues obscured the scale of the thing, but suffice to say that it's big, and there's a lot of worldbuilding going on here.

Also, I think Emma Rios with #4 is finally coming into her own on this book. Each issue has been getting better in terms of clarity of what's being represented, helped a lot by lighter inking, but this issue I actively enjoyed the artwork (as opposed to a lot of squinting as I tried to make out what I was looking at all). Her reliance on inset boxes is working better for me now, although that may be partly because I read today's issue on Comixology with its handy comics reader, which is really helpful in guiding the eye and keeping things from feeling too busy.

All that sounds like I'm damning with faint praise, but I really did enjoy this issue, and now I'm excited to see where they're going.

I'm going to start by getting a bunch of facts in order, beginning with the characters:
* Fox is the Mason (#3), whom I've chosen to believe is named for his profession and not his membership in a secret society. He did, after all, build a tower.
* Sissy is the 'ascendant,' the one who will take Death's place (#4). (Or, alternatively, will abolish death? His speech in #3 made it sound like there would be no more death after this, which I don't get.) She has one blue eye and one brown eye, and was born "the spawn of a thousand violent deaths" when she is lifted out of a river (#3). Elsewhere it's said that her father is violence and her mother is grief (#4).
* Johnny is Johnny Coyote, the trickster of the story. I'm rather enjoying him in these last two issues, particularly with Sissy and with the talking crow Molly, but he does beg the question of where the Native Americans are in this wild-west narrative.
* Molly is a crow who talks. (#3)
* Sarah is the woman who was grieving at the river when Sissy was born and Fox arrived to kill her (#3). She has five children, including Cyrus (#2).
* Alice is Death's bounty hunter. When killed, she dissolves into butterflies (#3). What. She's been chasing Ginny to bring her home, but Ginny doesn't want to go (#3). Alice's new plan is to ally with Ginny to find the ascendant, aka Sissy, and kill her (#4).
* Death is a skeleton with a giant rabbit's skull for a head.
* Deathface Ginny is Death's daughter with Beauty, the Mason's wife. She visited Sissy in a dream (full of fire imagery) and gave her a key (#3). Sissy remembers liking her in the dream, although she can't remember her face.
* Beauty is dead and imprisoned in Death's cavern (#4). The story Sissy and Fox tell in #1 say that Death let Beauty's soul go free, so I have to assume Fox was working from incomplete information there.
* The sentinels, the day maid and the night maid, seem to be the observers of the world. They're bracing themselves for what happens next. (#3, possibly also glimpsed in #4)

At the close of issue #4, Fox, Sissy, Johnny, Sarah, and Ginny join forces and head off to 'save the world.' They accomplish this by marching straight to Alice, at which point Ginny tells her, "Tell Papa I'm home."

Unanswered questions:
* So who is Alice, anyway?
* What are we saving the world from, exactly? I feel like I should know this one already, but the consequences of Death being unseated are really unclear to me.
* We're supposed to be surprised that Death still has Beauty, right?
* Did Fox and co know that Ginny was taking them to Death's cavern? Because I had no idea that was where we were going. It feels like a trap.
* What do the day maid and the night maid have to do with anything? What does Lila the prostitute have to do with anything? She seemed a lot more cognizant of the situation than I'd expect from a random passerby.
* How are our narrators, Butterfly and Bones Bunny, related to anything? I tend to assume that they're set up in some kind of thematic contrast, as well as echoing Death (rabbit) and Alice (butterfly) in the main story. In addition, I think we're supposed to take it's somehow Butterfly who shoots Bones Bunny on the second page of #1 - at least, that's what their dialogue indicates. Okay. So naive, childlike Butterfly is also a a girl with a gun and a frilly top (which I assume is supposed to visually echo butterlies' wings). What?

I find it interesting that Death is a far more complicated figure than is presented to us in #1. After maiming Fox, he offers to protect his life and possibly eventually reunite him with his dead wife if he will kill Sissy, aka the threat to Death's power. Nothing in the story suggests what might happen if Death's successor fails to rise. In any case, Death's motivations are ambiguous at best, and we're already making parallels in issue #4 between his treatment of Beauty and Fox's.

I can't decide what to make of Ginny yet. She's a cipher. She's angry for what Fox did to her mother, but I wonder if she knows her mother is still at Death's cavern. Has she had a relationship with her? Where does Ginny get her general drive for justice? I just can't figure her yet.

Finally, a rhetorical question: How is it that with a canon so full of female characters, it's the three male characters that drive basically all the action? Fox/the Mason imprisons Beauty, Death falls in love with her and takes her to his lair, Death puts a binder on Ginny to keep her from leaving, Fox hides and raises Sissy, Johnny Coyote puts the whole plot into motion by getting Sissy to steal the binder. What the female characters do, even Ginny, is in reaction to the male characters. I'm disappointed about that, to be honest. How is it that a fantasy western (with a talking rabbit) that is written, drawn, colored, and edited by women and populated by so many and varied female characters still gives the handful of male characters the lion's share of narrative agency? Grumble grumble.

Still, on the whole, this issue is more sense making and more visually attractive than any that came before, and since issue #5 is supposed to wrap up the first arc, hopefully we will feel like we've made some forward progress by then. With these last two issues, I'm beginning to get glimpses of a story that could build to something really impressive. Fingers crossed.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comment here or there. (comment count unavailable DW replies)

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
ladymercury_10
Jan. 23rd, 2014 01:31 am (UTC)
That sounds like a lot to keep track of! Glad to hear it's going interesting places. :)

P.S., have you gotten your new FF issue?

Edited at 2014-01-23 01:32 am (UTC)
snickfic
Jan. 23rd, 2014 02:24 am (UTC)
It is a lot to keep track of. Hence the list. :)

I have not gotten the new FF issue. At the moment they seem to be running about two weeks behind; I just today got my Black Widow #1 in the mail (to which my main response is, KITTY.)
ladymercury_10
Jan. 23rd, 2014 02:29 am (UTC)
Lists are good. :)

The kitty already has its own AO3 tag! This fic is pretty cute.
snickfic
Jan. 23rd, 2014 02:30 am (UTC)
Ooh, thank you for link!
ladymercury_10
Jan. 23rd, 2014 02:35 am (UTC)
Sure! Oh, and I just read this one which is also totally cute.
snickfic
Jan. 23rd, 2014 03:06 am (UTC)
I have saved them both to put on my Kindle. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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