Tony Stark infiltrates New Attilan, setting off even more conflict in Civil War II #2.
Having losing best friend James Rhodes (War Machine) last issue, Stark kidnaps Ulysses from his new home to learn more about the young man’s supposed ability to see visions of the future.
While he studies and interrogates the boy, the Inhumans respond by following an enraged Karnak to Stark Tower. Captain Marvel and the Ultimates arrive with Maria Hill to defuse the situation. Together, they find Tony and Ulysses after the former has finished downloading a copy of latter’s brain for study.
Though you could chalk up Tony’s response to his best friend dying as something in between impulsive and insane, the issue never really gives the normally rational man a really good reason for infiltrating a sovereign country and kidnapping one of its citizens. While it’s clear that Tony wants to study Ulysses’ brain and precog abilities, it’s not like the Inhumans were against any sort of rational measure. It’s actually pretty clear that Medusa — having caught Tony in the kidnapping act — seems like she’s willing to help. When Tony refuses to go home, things escalate, turning a shaky situation into full-blown war.
Hot off the heels of a Civil War movie — which, in turn, was based very loosely on the comic crossover of the same name — comes Civil War Part Dos #1. Written by Brian Michael Bendis with beautifully rendered panels from artist David Marquez and colorist Justin Ponsor, the next big event in Marvel history explodes from the pages of its first issue.
After Terrigen mist rolls through Columbus, Ohio, a new batch of Inhumans are born. One of them, Ulysses, gains the power of foresight and predicts a major invasion by a Celestial — or is it Galactus?
With the Avengers getting the heads-up and calling in all of its membership and various allies, the threat is averted, and Tony Stark throws a celebration to honor the victory.
Curiosity gets the better of Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, and the Inhumans decide it’s time to become a little more transparent. They introduce Ulysses to the Avengers, and Danvers makes a move to bring the human crystal ball onto her squad — which causes Stark to express his reservations.
Pretty Deadly begins with a sudden blast of violence hinting at a larger and deeper story in Captain Marvel scribe Kelly Sue DeConnick’s series set in the Wild West. That story begins to unfold with a story that goes back to the past with a stage performance by Foxy and Sissy, a girl in a vulture cloak, who tell a captivating story about Death’s daughter. As the pair collect donations after the show, they’re interrupted by the ginger Johnny who picks up one of Sissy’s cloak feathers after she leaves.
Scenes follow various characters who interact with each other, furthering the plot down mysterious trails. Foxy and Sissy move on to the next town only to be shot at by would-be assassins who inexplicably join them at a later point. Back in town, Big Alice, a tall and imposing woman, finds Johnny in a whorehouse and threatens him for the feather he recovered.
It’s too late, Johnny tells her, “It’s done now.”
Alice takes her riders on a mission to find Sissy — possibly under the pretext that she’s stolen something valuable. By the issue’s end, Death’s daughter Ginny makes an appearance, called by someone who’s been wronged.
While its scenes and characters are compelling, what’s hidden underneath the surface of Pretty Deadly feels disparately distant. Besides the stage performance when Ginny’s origin is explained, there isn’t much explication for everything else. Readers are a dropped into the middle of a fantastic world without a hand to hold, and the daunting task of figuring out what’s going on isn’t helped by Emma Rios’ line art which creates its own sort of chaos in the panels. Everything seems to have the texture of hair, and while some faces get a very simple treatment, there’s a whole lot of scratchy shading going on with indistinct figures and forms that are difficult to distinguish.
The colors by Jordie Bellaire don’t help much, and the flat tones don’t have enough contrast in some panels to give the eye some immediate aid in recognizing what’s what. That’s not to say there are only negatives in Pretty Deadly — but it just feels so indeterminate, like eavesdropping on someone in the middle of a story filled with tremendous history and backstory. It’s a frustrating read that would be a total loss if it weren’t so deliberately intriguing.
In terms of perspective, Pretty Deadly will fare as well as it becomes open for digestion. Things are a little tight across the board with readers getting as much information as will fall between the creative team’s fingers. A scene like Big Alice’s meeting with Johnny shows what this book is capable of — for all of the dialogue stretching around unknown variables, there’s enough context to support any assumptions on the plot.
I’ve had the chance to sit on this issue for a few weeks before writing this review, and even now, I can see the art in both the writing and visuals, but I can’t help but feel like I’m peering through the space between two iron gates slowly opening.
Pretty Deadly #1 (2013)
Words: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Emma Rios
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles