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Review: Pretty Deadly #8

PrettyDeadly_08-1“The needs of the bear are not the same as the needs of a bee.”

This quote from Bones Bunny opens Pretty Deadly #8 as he and Butterfly watch a bear steal from a hive in the world garden. Not only does it inform the issue as a whole, but what the arc has been working towards as well. When you see the Reaper of War, it’s not hard to imagine why this giant imposing figure of blood red mist is the bear to Sissy’s figurative network of bees.

As the focus shifts to the battlefield, it ends up being one of Pretty Deadly’s most brutal issues yet. With a sickening color palette of green and red courtesy of Jordie Bellaire, the violence in the trenches grows as Ginny and Alice watch War, a reaper with no face that feeds off of fear and “will consume all that remains” once that is gone.

War is probably one of the most terrifying designs that Emma Ríos has come up with. A rider on a giant red horse, he seems to be created of tendrils taken from the spirits of these men, shaping himself into the rough approximation of a man. When Ginny confronts him and we see his form for the first time, I felt ill looking at his “face.” It’s more like veins bundled together into a shape. This is also building a bit more of the lore of Pretty Deadly. If there are reapers out there who are less human looking than Ginny and Alice, just what kind of shapes do they take?

This issue blends the battlefield with the world of War in mind-bending ways. These kind of concepts often sit on a razor’s edge, easily falling into incomprehensible if one is not careful. However, Kelly Sue Deconnick and Ríos handle it gracefully as the issue ebbs and flows between those two worlds. The backmatter of this issue goes into just the kind of process the two go through to make that balance work, specifically focused on the scene where Alice is talking to Cyrus as his commander barks orders at him. Ginny and Alice are essentially ghosts to everyone else in this issue and striking that balance was essential. It feels morbid to say “how the sausage gets made” in an issue with multiple headshots, dismemberments and blood splashes, but it’s a definite read if you’re interested in the behind the scenes stuff in comics.

Speaking of those headshots and dismemberments, the way Pretty Deadly handles that extreme amount of violence is something I haven’t seen done in comics or most media for that matter. It’s extreme, but it has weight. It isn’t there to build up how gritty and dark the story is, but to show the reality of World War I. It’s senseless, but in the way war is senseless. This isn’t violence to be excited about, it is disgusting and cruel. The way the team of Deconnick, Ríos and Bellaire work in tandem to show this is part of why Pretty Deadly works so well as a book.

Much like the midpoint of the first arc, the buildup and the climax of this particular part of the arc revolves around a story, this time one Molly Raven tells Johnny Coyote as the walk the battlefield to find Cyrus. As French and American soldiers alike accept their death on a soil that grows Frenchmen, Molly tells the tale of the Lucky Farmer, which echoes through the battlefield. The construction of this scene both in writing and art is lovely and heart-wrenching as the tension builds further towards the final page. The matching of a more Chinese style of art and coloring with the dark and dingy settings of the western front is disconcerting, but it blends well as it rides into the last page, which might just be the darkest page of all. If everything up to that final declaration of “Good luck, bad luck, I don’t know” was like the climb on a roller coaster, that last page is the split second before the drop off, where the world goes silent, the breath escapes your lungs and your body prepares for the drop.

And of course, the moon is full. Time is up in more ways than one in this part of the story, but it’s a question now of how everything will land. The first instinct is to think “not well,” but perhaps we as readers can take a lesson from The Lucky Farmer. Is this all good or bad? I don’t know.

Story: Kelly Sue Deconnick Art: Emma Ríos and Jordie Bellaire
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation:  Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review