by Joelle Jones, Jamie S. Rich, and Laura Allred
The idea of the contradiction on which this series appears to be pitched is fun, but it is certainly not completely original. Taking the wholesome family focused adult and providing them with a secret life as a deadly and brutal assassin needs more than that hook to have legs. In the first issue of Lady Killer, Joelle Jones and Jaime S. Rich portray a story of this type of character, though Josie feels fully formed almost instantly. The cold delivery behind an enchanting and warm smile is implied from the very start and when the first issue reveals its hand, the impact certainly gives a strong argument that the premise may not need much more that good execution. Jones, Rich and Allred, though, are certainly not settling there and issue two brings even more to the table.
One of the best moments of the first issue is when Josie’s handler comes to her house. The man makes a comment about being in disguise as a plumber, though all that indicates such is a massive wrench slung over his shoulder. Despite the intensity of the violence, Jones and Rich present some coyness and humor in the story. Issue two brings Josie to a seedy strip club to take out a mark that may let down his guard because she is a female. This is dangerous territory for a writer to touch upon. Using a female character who is made to be more effective when she uses her body and sexuality as part of her skill set can make the story feel cheap or lazy. But Jones and Rich are more than impressive in how they are able to initiate the job in this way and deliver with a fantastic sequence and continue to grow Josie’s character as a result. Growing Josie’s character and, by result, involving some decent world building, is the real focus of this second issue. Readers learn a bit more about the character and the business as well as her balancing of the two lives. Though the premise of the double-life leading unassuming assassin has been done, Jones and Rich are so effective and compelling in these first two issues that this might as well be the first time anyone has ever told that type of story.
In another fun and subtle moment, Josie is unpacking her car at the house and chatting with the neighbor. In a series of lines she drops this phrase packed with double meaning about her job and then immediately begins talking about food items on the menu for her husbands birthday party. It’s a short moment, but it is further proof of just how well the creators understand the character they have created and the world in which she has been placed. And fortunately, the story they are crafting is brought full circle with absolutely gorgeous art. Jones, who has shown her talent with pencils in the past, is drawing the book as well. Josie’s character design, the decision to place the story in the era it is in and how that visual aesthetic dresses the world completes the crafted universe so perfectly. Laura Allred’s colors are more muted than one might expect, and that’s a fantastic choice for the story. As a result, there are a number of times when a single color, especially a red, is able to pop amongst the muted surrounding colors. Whether it’s Josie’s devil-suit from the opening sequence, or the red contract folder in Stenholm’s office, the color balance to the story is as carefully chosen and understated as the writing. When Josie reaches for the contract, and Stenholm makes a terrifying remark about family potentially being a challenge to the job, Allred drops away all colors in the background, leaving just the characters and the red folder in color, accentuating the exchange and gravity of the moment.
The conclusion of the Lady Killer #2 may be a bit telegraphed in how it is framed all along. There is a bit of transparency to what is coming in the final page turn. This, though, is barely a critique as the creative team has already proven that expectations don’t actually undermine a well-crafted issue and that excellent talent does not need to rely on shock to engage the reader. Instead, the skills on display are all the convincing that a reader needs to settle in with this mini from Dark Horse Comics and hope that this is merely just the beginning.