Review: Lady Killer

Lady Killer - Jamie S. Rich, Joëlle Jones

(I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review)

 

Published by Dark Horse Comics

 

Lady Killer is a dark slice of satire that skewers the picture-perfect illusion of the 1960s, and reveals what can hide behind the white picket fence. Beautiful housewife Josie Schuller is living the American Dream: tending her suburban household, raising picture-perfect children—and brutally killing strangers for cold, hard cash. When gender politics and a moment of conscience collide in the midst of a hit, Josie has to protect herself and her family by going rogue, all while keeping her secret hidden from those she cares about.

 

I have to say, the last couple of years have been notable for the rise of badass ladies in comics, both as characters and creators. I would rank Lady Killer amongst my current favorites: Rat Queens, Lumberjanes, Ms. Marvel, Adventure Time, and Saga. However, Lady Killer stands out for having a lead character- a female lead, no less- who can be difficult to like. She is fascinating and you can’t help root for her success…but you wouldn’t want to know her personally. And I love that about her; likeability has become a catchall for evaluating female characters, and Josie breaks away from that mold, holding your attention without having to be nice about it. In many ways, she reminds me of Marvel’s Black Widow, but without worrying about how much “red is in her ledger.”

 

Joelle Jones, artist and co-creator (along with writer Jamie Smith), has a biting style that blends the kitsch elements of the period setting with more a more 21st century aesthetic. This trade collection also features original hand-colored mock advertisements, using bloodstains to shill for fake cleaners, or a dead body to show the trunk space of a new model car, that were created by Jones as she began exploring the viciously satirical tone used throughout the narrative. These give you an interesting glimpse of just where Josie began to come to life as a character. Josie is a skilled assassin, but she refuses to use guns, which makes for a very hands-on approach to murder. The violence is visceral, often shown in close quarters and with off-kilter framing, the coloring tends to rise and fall in intensity along with the action, and scenes frequently break free from the edges of the panels, projecting out and overlapping other scenes to create a frenetic atmosphere. It has a very modern feel, despite the car fins and pillbox hats that characterize the setting.

 

Lady Killer was initially designed as a short-run series, but I hope it doesn’t stay that way. While an argument can be made that this is essentially a self-contained story, there are a lot of loose threads that could (and should) be tied up to give it more substance. Who, really, is Josie? Why would she get married and have children in her line of work? Is it just a cover, or a kowtow to the social expectations of the day, or something else? What will her mother-in-law do with the information she has learned? There is so much potential for this to expand beyond the initial rogue-assassin trope storyline, and I hope the creators run with it.

 

 

Lady Killer is available to the public on September 15, 2015