PRETTY DEADLY arrives at its fifth issue -- the last in its opening arc -- quicker than Johnny's draw, and neatly wraps up the Western-cloaked myth it began just under six months ago. It's confrontation time, there are no more delays or excuses, and the very nature of life and death is on the line.
Visually, PRETTY DEADLY is an exercise in exhaustive attention to detail. Issue after issue, Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire render something on the page in the order of hundreds -- feathers, butterflies, swirls of smoke -- and while I shudder for their wrists, I can't help but enjoy the beauty of these pages. Careful palette selection, obsessively detailed line art, and subtly textured rendering have been the hallmarks of this truly stunning genre piece, and month after month, I nearly expect dust to fall out of the pages.
The setting isn't the only area of artistic note; Rios' fight choreography is swirling and cinematic, and it's breathtaking just how much action she fits into each panel. The snakes in the opening aren't just a device for conveying deeper themes; they're an analogue for this issue's action (and we're the king snake who gets to devour these pages).
Plot-wise, PRETTY DEADLY closes its initial arc in a satisfying way; everyone is accounted for, there are no dangling threads, and every character seems to be acting authentically. Even Bones Bunny has an appropriate connection to the story at hand, and the narrative feels thoughtful and planned.
The ballad-like opening issue and the grandness of a story involving Death and his legacy set a subtle expectation of a long, rambling tale for Fox, Sissy, Ginny, and the rest, so it feels strangely abrupt that the first arc is already complete. PRETTY DEADLY has kept a quick pace throughout, so the swiftness of this month's conclusion shouldn't be that much of a surprise, but there's enough interesting stuff going on that it almost feels as though the arc could have stretched across ten or more issues.
I've been conditioned by most comic books into expecting certain trappings of serial narrative -- hints, hooks, cliffhangers, and such. PRETTY DEADLY drops very few of those as it closes its first arc, and while I'm not sure that it's truly a bad, the firm conclusion of Volume One and the absence of a substantive tease for Volume Two makes me wonder what Deathface Ginny has left to do.
PRETTY DEADLY closes out its first arc with a beautifully-executed fifth issue. Loose ends are tied, exquisitely-choreographed action unfolds, and the fairy-tale-like framing device comes full circle. It's a run that will read well in trade (though trade-waiters will be shorted a set of incredibly thoughtful backmatter), and the title will be missed as the creative team takes a break before resuming Ginny's adventures.