In my review of the last issue of Pretty Deadly, I mentioned that the story immediately showed itself as a race against time once Fox made the deal to Verine that Cyrus had until the moon was full again to make it home before he took Sarah. Well, the story is that, but the stakes have been raised even higher.
The story opens with Bones Bunny and Butterfly watching Sissy tend to the roses in the World Garden. This is the first time we as the readers really get a sense of what the World Garden is actually like outside of the tree that populates the center of it. This is once again where Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Ríos and Jordie Bellaire are working in perfect tandem with each other to create this universe. The way the rose bramble reaches out and curls in on itself, the perfect colors of sunset, the way Sissy carries herself with this new responsibility on her wings, the way Fox approaches her, and the two page spread as she sees Cyrus’ current fate through his teary eyes. Just thinking about how these first few scenes played out took my breath away.
In fact, Bellaire is probably the MVP in this issue. Constantly, the way her sense of color plays with Ríos’ winding, expansive and ethereal art is astounding, whether it’s in the World Garden or in the trenches of the Western Front. Ríos’ always brings her A game in this book, but her tag team efforts with Bellaire is what truly gives the art a sense of impending dread.
In the garden, Fox and Sissy talk about Sarah and getting Cyrus home. Fox’s sadness is heartbreaking, but Sissy’s quiet sadness in her stance and words is devastating. There’s an effect that Clayton Cowles gives Sissy’s speech bubbles and boxes that seems to give an extra echo to what she’s saying, which makes it all the worse. She has to keep it together for the sake of the world, but this particular case is more personal than others. Especially with the reveal that Ginny and Alice are on the front to end the war and that there’s another being called ‘The Rider’ chasing after Cyrus. Even without reading the previous issue and having seen the red specter that approached him, Fox’s reaction is enough to tell how much bad news this reaper is. Fox tries to volunteer himself to go for Cyrus, but Sissy tells him it isn’t is place. All they can do is hope that Ginny and Alice come through and reach Cyrus before The Rider can.
The middle two page spread is one of the most astounding art spreads in comics this year. As Fox sleeps (with gentle hand lettered sound effect for snoring from Ríos), Sissy calls to Molly Raven, opening up the sky in the World Garden to call to her. With no words, the sense of gentleness and urgency as Sissy calls in Molly for a favor is immediate. The scope of this scene is also astounding as the World Garden and the Earth sky seem to swirl and blend seamlessly. There’s an interview between DeConnick and Ríos in the backmatter of this issue about the creation of this scene and DeConnick seems in just as much awe as the rest of us over how Ríos interpreted her words to art.
With the request from Sissy to bring luck to Cyrus and the girls, Molly flies to Johnny Coyote, flitting between panels without edges, and tells him they have a job to do. Johnny seems to be betting on horse race, which ends in tragedy as one rider is thrown from the cart carrying him and dies. As they run off, Johnny stops and tells a man named Eduardo that he should pay the owners of that horse a call to see if they need a new driver. This scene seems a bit odd at first read, but there are no wasted moments with Pretty Deadly. Between the emphasis on luck and the pointed focus on Eduardo, it should be interesting to see just where this thread picks up.
In the trenches, there is something of a quiet moment where Cyrus bonds with a rat he named after Clara and his fellow soldiers before a gas attack. It’s a nice world building scene gives more of a sense of the war time environment these characters are living in and a better sense of Cyrus’ character since the last time the reader saw him, he was a scared young child. There seems to be some of that still underlying with him, even though he’s a bit older now. Cyrus admits that he’s running from something, but he just doesn’t know what. Again, no wasted moments. With the emphasis on Sissy’s special destiny as The Ascendant in the last arc, I would not be surprised if Cyrus was meant to be brought into the fold of Sissy’s band. Or perhaps he is just running from his mother’s mortality, but Sissy does have a pointed speech about running from destiny as she watches this unfold. We shall see as this arc goes.
Still, this moment doesn’t last long as their laughter turns into noxious gas and the regiment seems to be thrown in chaos as they are either killed by the gas or the soldiers of the Central Powers. Through the gas, the Rider appears, wrapping himself around the regiment. in the Garden, Sissy remarks about he is sending her ten thousand every day and how she can’t make sense of why there’s that sheer amount of volume. This isn’t the natural cycle. It’s something else.
As Cyrus stumbles through the gas, we see directly through his green tinted vision in his gas mask as he nearly meets his death at the hands of the enemy before a familiar face saves him: Big Alice. Dropping the reader into the perspective of Cyrus in this moment is genius, since it gives the reader a sense of same heart stopping dread that he has. We know that Alice is on a mission, but Cyrus doesn’t. In fact, he hasn’t seen Alice since he was a child and she tried to kill his family. He has all the reason to be terrified.
He doesn’t have long to be scared though, because Ginny isn’t too far behind to tell him that they’re looking to bring him home. Alice says that’s “the sugar version,” which is a quick way of showing the dichotomy of Alice and Ginny. Alice is far more brutal, both in actions and words. Ginny is terse, but she speaks honestly. Her intention is to get Cyrus home to Sarah, but Alice admits that they need him for another reason: to bait The Reaper of War.
And this is where we see the one known as The Rider in his full, terrifying glory. Blood red against the noxious green, The Reaper stands on a mound of dead soldiers like a king surveying his kingdom. He is grand and regal. He is terrifying in all senses of the word. He is what Ginny and Alice are up against and in that first look, you wonder how Vengeance and Cruelty could stand a chance against War.
With all the pieces starting to slip into place, Pretty Deadly #7 raises the stakes even further while still orbiting around what was set up in the previous issue. It’s no longer just about Cyrus getting home, it’s about him running while Ginny and Alice try to stop a war. Especially now with a terrifying new reaper introduced. The way DeConnick, Ríos and Bellaire work on this comic together also never ceases to amaze with just how much this grand and daring work seems to come together on such a personal level. You just don’t want to know what happens next from the suspense. You also want to know what happens next because you care about these characters so much, whether they’re human or reaper.
Written by Kelly Sue Deconnick
Art by Emma Ríos
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Clayton Cowles
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Ashley is a writer based out of Atlanta with a penchant for all things nerdy and has done a whole other host of weirdness, including work at Steampunk Chronicle, Nerdophiles, the Ratchet Retrocast and the Killer Queen and 27 anthologies published through Red Stylo Media. Most of her current work is non-fictional and found at her blog as well as PopOptiq. She can often be found online crying about comics, TV, pro-wrestling and music.