This is a strange book and I mean that as a total compliment. Strange is good. Unique is appreciated. Original is commendable. Pretty Deadly is all of those things, and more.
Pretty Deadly is not a linear story. Meaning, it doesn’t start at an origin, then progress to a conclusion. It sort of begins in the middle of things, offers some hints as to what occurred in the past, yet doesn’t totally explain what’s occurring in the middle. By the book’s end, you have a good idea of what happened, but not a complete one. For some books, this would be a gross misstep, but DeConnick executes it masterfully and I trust that the writer knows exactly what she’s doing.
For example, by and large, we don’t know much about the characters. They are explored just enough to seem round, dynamic, real, but we don’t know everything. For a few of them, we don’t know anything. Even so, I want to know more. This is not a plot driven book, though it certainly has an interesting one. This is a story about people (of sorts).
This is a rather unconventional title, and that’s why it works so well. Death personified is a major player, but that’s not necessarily breaking new ground. The story occurs in the Old West, but that’s not unheard of in the comic book world, either. But the combination of the two, coupled with mysticism, swordplay, gunfights, and a mythology-in-the-making sets Pretty Deadly apart from anything else out there at the moment.
Rios’ artwork is frenetic, almost messy, yet oddly detailed. It suits the story well. At times it’s hard to tell what’s going on, especially during the brutal fight scenes, but I believe that’s actually a boon to this title. Fights usually are messy and confusing, and since this story is not delivered in a neat, tidy little package, I see no reason for the art to contradict the story’s style.
The story ends on a bittersweet note, but one that certainly lays the groundwork for many interesting stories to come. If you’re looking for something different from a comic book, something well executed and purposeful, something that will stand the test of time, I urge you to give Pretty Deadly a shot.