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While the major publishers are filling their pages with villains, battling atoms and infinite crises, Image Comics this week has largely concentrated on crafting some monthly titles around strong female leads. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s highly anticipated Pretty Deadly #1 debuts alongside Ed Brubaker’s Velvet #1, while we take a second look at Kurtis J. Wiebe’s Rat Queens. This is Graphic Bits.
Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new comic is different. Not just for DeConnick, who is perhaps best known for her current runs of Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble, but different from any other comic currently occupying the racks. The highly anticipated book begins with a dead rabbit narrating the tale to a butterfly, recounting the tale of Death’s daughter, who rides the wind on a smokey horse. Recalling fairy tales as much as the obvious parallels with Sandman, it borders on Jonathan Hickman territory, not just thematically but structurally as well. The team of DeConnick, Rios and Bellaire work together on a dream-like narrative, one that is almost too dense in some ways. Like Hickman’s East of West, DeConnick’s Pretty Deadly is full of hidden meaning and concurrent stories, and while we’re sure that they will gradually reveal themselves over time, DeConnick seems keen to share a whole bunch of them which the reader at once. Rios brings this all to vivid life, framing this pseudo-Western in a way that is just as much Alejandro Jodorowsky as it is Sergio Leone, complemented by Bellaire’s delicate colours that add to the ethereal nature of the piece. A feather is just as significant as a lizard doing a double-take, and this first issue is a book that will reward those that read (and re-read) at a steady and attentive pace.
If you wandered out of Skyfall somewhat dissatisfied with the treatment of Miss Moneypenny, then Velvet might just be the series for you. The original Winter Soldier team of Brubaker and Epting reunite for something a bit special, as they once again turn their gaze to super spies in this incredibly taut thriller that gets the mix right as soon as it gets out of the gate. When X-14, the world’s top secret agent is killed (14 is twice 007, isn’t it?), Velvet Templeton, the Personal Assistant to the Director of the Agency, is drawn away from her desk for the first time in almost two decades for some kick-ass fieldwork. Velvet is one of the most intriguing new characters of the year, clearly with a wealth of stories to tell that will come out in her pursuit for the truth. Epting doesn’t so much illustrate these characters as reveal them fully formed, instantly drawing us into a cinematic landscape. Breitweiser’s colours set the mood for the two distinct eras of the book, the warm golden memories of the 1960s heyday and the cold realities of the 1970s. It’s early days yet, but Brubaker has presented us with a mystery that must be unlocked, and we’re in for the ride.
Kurtis J. Wiebe has been making a name for himself over the last few years, most prominently as the scribe of the cult hit Peter Panzerfaust. He scores another winner with Rat Queens, which may seem like a D&D exploit with breasts on the surface, but is a whole world of funny-making and subversion under the surface. Few books can claim to be straight-up fun in the same way as the sophomore issue of Wiebe’s latest creation. The four leads have such a natural rapport that Wiebe might just be hiding behind one of the giant flagons of ale that these presently plagued questers are fond of sipping from, transcribing their hilarious and potty-mouthed exploits. Upchurch mirrors this raucous and irreverent take on the fantasy genre, defining each of the women with their own style, retaining their femininity without ever exploiting it. Passing the Bechdel Test with flying colours, Rat Queens is the book we never knew that we were missing. With a world of untapped stories lurking behind these initial issues, let’s hope this mischievous group of adventurers sticks around for some time to come.
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