Art by Joëlle Jones
Colours by Laura Allred
Letters by Crank!
Since the release of the first issue, Lady Killer has been making waves with the first and second issues both getting second print runs and the entire series receiving universal critical acclaim. The complete miniseries has been collected and is finally hitting shelves for people (like me) who enjoy reading finite stories in their entirety. Lady Killer continues Dark Horse's trend of astounding creator-owned miniseries, with a unique idea that keeps you gripped with its balance of endearingly wholesome and downright violent moments.
When we first lay eyes on series protagonist Josie Schuller, it's as an innocent and enthusiastic Avon representative. The tone quickly shifts and reveals that Schuller isn't as she initially seems and that this mother-of-two is actually a hired assassin. Throughout the book, the story shifts between the character's wholesome private life and the mindlessly violent life of a mercenary. While it sounds like those two plots would clash, the transitions are seamless and each serve to make the other side of her life seem far more intense.
Despite being borderline psychopathic at the start of the first issue, Josie is still portrayed as being inherently likeable. There is something about her positive and yet determined attitude in the first two issues that allows you to root for her and makes her work seem like any other career. When you see her at home and interacting with her husband, children and grumpy mother-in-law, she demonstrates immense amounts of compassion and you almost forget that you just saw her stab a woman in the neck.
For her first couple of missions, you consistently root for her to succeed. When her goals take a far darker turn, you acquire a greater perspective on the situation and realise that this character might not be on the right side. The subsequent guilt that comes flooding in is a stroke of genius from Jones and Rich as you question all of your feelings toward the situation. The writers walk a dangerous path of writing a character that doesn't shy away from what needs to be done but still remains a nice person at their core. Instead of alienating the reader with Josie's reprehensible actions, the writers introduce the complex and morally grey area that allows you to still enjoy watching this character work.
With Jones supplying both the story and the art, there comes a far greater understanding of the characters and their little mannerisms and facial expressions. Josie and her supporting cast are instantly recognisable and bring about a narrative clarity which ensures that the story is coherent from start to finish. Jones often uses the art to emphasise Josie's small stature in relation to her targets, but also makes sure to demonstrate how toned and capable she really is.
A review of this miniseries wouldn't be complete without talking about the stunning covers for each issue. Jones cover designs are an homage to classic adverts from the 1950s but introduces a morbid twist. This seemingly unusual combination is a great representation of the main character herself as a summation that shouldn't work, but completely does. The cover of issue #2, with its morbid humour and attention to detail, stands out as my definite favourite and would be something that I would be proud to hang on my wall.
For people who already own the individual issues, you might be wondering whether or not the collected edition is worth the extra money. Unlike many of the collections that display the original issues and perhaps a few adverts, the trade paperback of this series contains an extra short essay from best-selling author Chelsea Cain. It serves as a fantastic introduction to the essence of the title and why a series like this one is an important addition to the male-dominated world of comics. Additionally, there are a substantial number of concept art snapshots for the previously mentioned adverts that give a greater insight into the mind of the creators.
Even though Jones provides the pencils, the magnificent colours are provided by industry veteran, Laura Allred. The style of the 1950s has been captured well by the pencils, but the connection is enriched by Allred's colours that fully cement the reader in the era. The pastel colours that Josie so frequently selects to wear spread out into the background and give the book a very stylised and faded look that fits perfectly. Colours are used to great effect to reflect the darkness contained within the plot. Whenever a ferocious act is about to be committed, Allred colours the background with either a red or another dark colour that highlights how grave the situation is.
With full control over the panel layout and the styling of the world and its characters, Jones fits everything together so that it flows perfectly from panel to panel. The use of different perspectives of a situation ensures that scenes remain fresh and with the creative camera angles littered throughout, Jones' art creates a real window into this world. Each location feels lived in thanks to the level of detail that Jones adds into the background. For instance, when a few characters are climbing the stairs of a block of apartments, we get a look inside the rooms on every floor providing a glimpse at characters living lives that we're never going to see again.
This series begins on a strong note and remains pitch perfect until the last page. This miniseries leaves you wanting more and, judging by the plot seeds scattered throughout, it seems like the creators want that too. The book manages to combine an understandable plot with hints of a wider world as Josie realises her world isn't as stable as she thought it was. Each page makes you want to keep reading and I guarantee that you won't want to put this book down until you reach the magnificent conclusion. This team is made up of very talented writers and artists and with the amount of attention this book is rightfully getting, the future of this title is bright and I look forward to eventually being able to return to this world.