By Kelly Sue DeConnick ; Art by Emma Rios
Death. Death is something that happens to everyone in time. Some survive for years, others do not. In this story, even death has its cycle. Death (personified) can be replaced with a new Death. Through this fairytale-like story, set in the Wild West, we see the impact death has on the world and in people’s lives.
A butterfly and a skeleton rabbit (Bones Bunny) narrate Pretty Deadly. Traditionally, a butterfly symbolizes new life, and in this situation, Bones Bunny represents death. Therefore, personified symbols of new life and death narrate the story of Death replacing Death. Confusing? Yes, I was confused too. However, DeConnick uses these narrators to weave a tale together in pieces, revealing only a little of each character at a time. This method allows me to truly appreciate individual characters as they are gradually revealed and as their past is steadily uncovered.
To introduce the characters generally, Sissy and Fox put on a show for the local villagers for money. They tell the story of Mason and Beauty. Mason takes his love and locks her in a tower to keep her away from other men. She pleads with him, saying she will die if she is locked up. He does not listen. She pleads with Death to take her. Death instead falls in love with her, but eventually grants her request. However, she and Death have a child that Death names Ginny. Ginny becomes a Reaper of Vengeance, “a hunter of men who have sinned.” She is then called Deathface Ginny.
The art is as beautiful as it is gruesome. I love how Rios incorporates the symbolism of the story into her art. Butterflies burst forth from death, water engulfs the living and brings new life, and the desert reveals the lack of life in the world. Life and death go hand in hand. Even when a character dies, he or she is still alive, they are just not “among the living.” Souls seem to live on despite physical death, yet they can eventually be “set free,” as Alice desires throughout the story. Although this tale seems to overtly focus on death, to me it comments more on the beauty and frailty of life.
I checked this book out from my local library and hope to check out volume 2 that comes out in late August 2016! I first discovered DeConnick by reading Captain Marvel and fell in love with her story telling ability. I am looking forward to reading more books by her and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.