Lady Killer (1 of 5)
Written by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by Joëlle Jones
Colors by Laura Allred
Letters by Crank!
Design by Kat Larson
Design by Kat Larson
Dark Horse Comics
Lady Killer is the stylish first issue of a new miniseries which feels like Mad Men meets The Americans meets Kill Bill. It's got an charming housewife who looks like Jackie Kennedy and kills like someone out of Goodfellas. With sharp writing from Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich, gorgeous, expressive illustration from Jones, and bright, era-appropriate colors from Laura Allred, this is a definite pickup.
The story begins with a visit from the friendly Avon lady (immaculately dressed in a powder blue dress and a matching pillbox hat), knocking at the door of a Ms. Roman. As it turns out, she's not there to sell cosmetics; her purpose is significantly bloodier. After a sales call that will make you never want to let a stranger in your house ever again, the story transitions to the Avon lady Josie Schuller (previously identified by another name on her Avon "sales call") busily making dinner, accompanied by her adorable twin daughters dressed as Squaws, and her disapproving mother-in-law. The family (including Josie's seemingly clueless husband) sit down to enjoy dinner when Josie receives an unwelcome call from her handler, Peck. Peck has a new job for her, and he's not going to be brushed aside easily as he later shows up to Josie's house, to her alarm. She's got another assignment, and this time her beauty and particular set of skills are going to take her away from makeup sales, but to another place where women's beauty is commodified.
This first issue throws us right into the middle of the mystery of Josie Schuller, housewife and professional killer, showing just enough about her and establishing the conflicts which will presumably serve as the main source of tension throughout the series (i.e., the balance between Josie's hidden life and her more public one, and the potential problem her mother-in-law may be). One issue in and Josie is a compelling, complex character. Despite her annoyance about Peck showing up at her house, she seems perfectly happy to have her job as a killer. The creative team here perfectly showcases the contrast between Josie's secret work, and her role as a housewife. Her husband and daughters are the suburban ideal, and appear to have no clue about her other activities.
The notion of darkness hidden in the white-picket fences of the suburbs is an idea that's been explored for a long time from John Updike to Serial Mom, and there are all sorts of political and social messages here (about women being repressed and circumscribed in their societal roles, and needing some sort of outlet). It's also worth noting that even among killers, the book reminds us that society rewards beauty, as Josie's appearance and poise make it possible for her to both pass as an Avon lady, and makes her well suited for the assignment she receives at the end of the first issue. The creative team handles these issues deftly and with a wink; it feels like they respect the reader's intelligence enough not to belabor these points.