Monday, 28 October 2013

Pondering About Pretty Deadly #1

Breaking all the rules in Pretty Deadly #1
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire; Image comics.

Pretty Deadly is a comic, that for me, is about breaking rules.

One of my personal rules is that I'm only allowed to read ten ongoing comic titles a month. I get to choose my favourite ten Marvel or DC comics, read them, and then supplement these with my choice of one creator-ownederish tradepaperback or graphic novel a week. (It let's me read a wider variety of comics on a smaller budget.) As a result, I end up tradewaiting on a lot of insanely great comics that oh-my-god-I-want-right-now. It's tough, but I somehow I've managed... Until now.

I am reading Pretty Deadly in issues, on top of my on-going ten, because I couldn't wait. A comic written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (one of my favourite writers who I've always wanted to see work consistently with a firebrand artist), drawn by Emma Rios (a brilliant and innovative firebrand artist who I've been dying to see draw a longterm comic) and coloured by Jordie Bellaire (one of those elite colourists who can elevate the artwork of even the best firebrand artists) is one I really want to read. A comic by such a talented group of creators that is a Spaghetti Western about the daughter of Death is a comic I know I HAVE to read. So, after two full years of following my purchasing rules, Pretty Deadly has made me break them.

When it comes to writing this blog I have another rule, which is never to just say something is good. While I love writing about media I like, I feel just saying something is good is lazy and uninteresting. So instead I try to find a hook, to figure out some interesting angle to explain WHY I think a thing is good. To provide some analysis on interesting techniques, or themes, or well anything more than "it's good". It's challenging and fun. 

The trouble is that Pretty Deadly #1 is really, really good but I can't find a hook to write about it. It's brilliantly executed, but, is so artistically unconventional and organic that I don't really have the tools to pull it apart, to try to convey how it works. I feel like an architecture student trying to explain the biology of cellular vesicle trafficking. But Pretty Deadly is too fucking good not to read and so I have to break another one of my rules.

Pretty Deadly is a good comic. Go read it.

What I can just about manage to say about Pretty Deadly #1, from a more substantive perspective, is that this comic brilliantly, elegantly breaks rules too.

There will be *SPOILERS* for Pretty Deadly #1 beyond this point.

Pretty Deadly is an origin comic where characters within the story TELL the origin of the protagonist. This is a decision that breaks one of the most fundamental rules of comics: show do not tell. The idea being that comics are a visual medium and that comics aught to show the audience instead of relying on lengthy exposition. But! By taking this approach Pretty Deadly manages to establish its Western setting, introduce two important supporting characters (I presume), and set up the protagonist, Ginny, as a pretty big deal in their fictional universe in a very natural and interesting way. This approach also functions as this really neat ersatz comic within the comic as the storytellers use a Tarot chart to relay the events of the story in panels. It's great, daringly unconventional comics.

Pretty Deadly is also a comic that breaks the prevailing conventions of comic book art. The standard comic approach is to present the story panels in some form of a grid, moving sequentially from top left to bottom right. The art in Pretty Deadly uses a much freer, much more organic approach to comic storytelling. For every standard grid there is an interesting violation of the normal panel order to add dramatic weight to a moment, or a focus panel that snaps to an emotion, sound, or movement within a larger composition. It's an innovative comic that has an organic approach to storytelling with its own unique voice. It is completely a comic worth just looking at. 

So to reiterate, Pretty Deadly is a good comic. 

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