When Pretty Deadly, published by Image Comics, came on the scene in 2013 it felt revolutionary with its poetic storytelling, sweeping artwork, the grand scale of the whole story. Six years later and three years since the end of Volume 2, Pretty Deadly has returned with Pretty Deadly: The Rat #1 which thankfully, has retained the magic it initially evoked. The creative team, featuring writer Kelly Sue Deconnick, artist Emma Rios, colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Clayton Cowles, have brought back the story of Death’s Daughter and the new Death. The issue follows their adventures after the threads laid in volume one, Pretty Deadly: The Shrike‘s American West and volume 2, Pretty Deadly: The Bear‘s World War One settings to 1930’s Hollywoodland in a film noir-style murder mystery in The Rat.
As always, the story opens with Bones Bunny and Butterfly pondering the nature of death. Pretty Deadly: The Rat #1 contains three narratives, starting with the super-narrative of Bones Bunny and Butterfly overseeing the whole story with Bones Bunny telling a sort of fairytale to Butterfly. The narrative of the mortal world follows Sarah Fields and her progeny over the decades. Meanwhile, the narrative of the immortal world follows Death’s reapers and Death as she attempts to restore the World Garden.
In the mortal realm, a body of a young woman has been found and her next of kin contacted. Clara Fields was a storyteller creating movies before her body was found in the hills leading up to the Hollywoodland sign. Narrating as a detective in a film-noir movie, her Uncle, Frank is a conjure-man, a medium. He is devastated to learn of his niece’s death and determined to find out what happened. It’s been years since he’s contacted the Reapers. And as he listens for a sign from Deathface Ginny, daughter of Death and the Reaper of Vengeance, she listens back and responds.
Pretty Deadly has never been a comic for a universal audience and the specificity is what makes it so special. This is a comic that plays with its format, themes, and poetry. It isn’t afraid to be seen as unapproachable by some. But even those who might not be the target audience can’t deny the scale and grandness of the series. Reading Pretty Deadly: The Rat #1 feels like being transported into an old Hollywood film, even more than some modern films taking place in that setting. Rios’s art and Bellaire’s coloring create such a stunning picture they sink you right into the story. Additionally, Cowle’s lettering ties Deconnick’s words to the art perfectly. Coming back to the real world at the end is almost a disappointment.
Pretty Deadly: The Rat #1 sets up this new arc beautifully. It reintroduces the characters we have been apart from for so long and sets up the new setting and story in an engaging way leading readers to all sorts of questions as to how and why Clara Fields died and how Frank and Ginny will solve the mystery. Each volume of Pretty Deadly is both familiar and completely brand new at the same time and The Rat is no exception. A fine return to the world set up in previous volumes with a new framing and story-telling style, it sets up the rest of the arc in a way that the questions introduced can’t be answered quick enough.
Pretty Deadly: The Rat #1 is available in comic book stores everywhere now.