Pretty Deadly Volume 2

Pretty Deadly remains one of the more distinctive books on the market. Second arc The Bear is now available in a collected edition.

The daughter of a dying woman makes a deal with one of the reapers of death. Give the woman a reprieve to provide her son a chance to come home to say goodbye. That young man is entrenched in the battlefields of World War I. The reapers of death and fortune converge for a showdown with the reaper of war that has a fearsome toll.

A mystical revisionist western, Pretty Deadly doesn’t follow a traditional narrative path. Much like the first arc, Volume 2 is dense and poetic. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is more about atmosphere than plot with this project. Even those who read the first arc might struggle with keeping the story straight. But where DeConnick really shines is in communicating the power of primal forces. As a meditation on the horror of war, The Bear succeeds in painting a dark portrait with a lot of impact. Even if a reader has trouble tracking the specific flow of action, the strength of the emotional content and ideas make this a book worth reading. It may not be DeConnick’s most accessible work, but it displays her point of view in a fashion that’s different from her other recent projects.

A bigger draw for Pretty Deadly might be its world class art team. Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire collaborate to craft one of the most original visual presentations in the recent comic book market. Rios has a singular design sense, composing pages and layouts in a way that creates a swirl of images and optical sensations. In the more esoteric parts of the story, Rios unleashes her imagination, crafting some astounding pages that marry the book’s fantasy and realist elements in dynamic, innovative ways. Bellaire is one of the best color artists in the business and brings her imaginative palette, strength for crafting tonal contrasts and facility for wrapping images in a bright shimmer that gives the entire package an inviting glow. Even if you struggle to follow the plot, Rios and Bellaire give you some exotic, engaging pages to drink in.

Pretty Deadly isn’t the most accessible book and reading the prior arc is necessary to having any chance at figuring out its characters and beats. For readers willing to meet its challenges, Volume 2 provides subtle, satisfying rewards.