Panelology is a weekly podcast about comics. We talk about current books, what we're looking forward to, and how to get into reading comics in the first place.

Pretty Deadly: The Shrike (Image Comics, 2013; #1-5)

I’ve been holding off on talking about Pretty Deadly here.  I struggle to discuss it, to a degree, because I consider it one of those stories that should be read with as little foreknowledge of as possible.  As a result, I’m going to keep this one pretty short.

Let me lead with this:  Pretty Deadly is one of the handful of must-read books I’ve hit on here.  I recommend it with the same weight as Monstress or Saga.

In fact, while Pretty Deadly predates Monstress by a couple of years, the two books share certain characteristics.  Both feature strong women and come from women creators.  Each borrows from Eastern storytelling visually and in its writing.  Both are beautiful and gut-wrenching.  Both explore vengeance and demons and the relationships between the two.

But they’re not the same book, even if the comparison is the easiest way to sell Pretty Deadly without giving away too much about it.  They’re distinct stories, with different approaches and influences.  Pretty Deadly is a western, and it feels like a revenge drama.  Kelly Sue DeConnick packs history and experience and loss into her characters—even when you are still piecing the full story together, these characters have clearly been somewhere.

That act of piecing things together was a large part of reading the book for me.  It is a very smart book, in both its writing and its art.  It relies on symbolism, nonverbal communication, and elements.  Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire pack every page with art that is simultaneously beautiful and grim and brutal.  They not only communicate as much in art as the words on the page do, but they define and control that language in perfect sync with DeConnick.  My inner semiotics nerd loves this book, and if I had a time machine, I would go back to before Zack Snyder started working on Batman v Superman and make him study how they do it.

I know that trying to sell a book on its technical merits is far from the most glamorous way to go about the job.  But Pretty Deadly isn’t just a good comic; it is a master class in the craft of making a comic.  

Collected in

  • Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike (#1-5)


Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick | Artist: Emma Rios | Colorist; Jordie Bellaire | Letterer: Clayton Cowles | Editor: Sigrid Ellis

Ei8ht: Outcast (Dark Horse, 2015; #1-5)

The Flash by Geoff Johns: Vol. 3 (DC Comics, 1987; #189-194)