Page 45 Review by Stephen
"We are all shaped by what we do."
Powerful, profound, and exquisitely coloured by Jordie Bellaire, this book bursts with what Emma Rios describes as "lyrical landscapes".
With such a quietly controlled script, reading this is an intimate, sensual, spiritual, almost out-of-body experience as your eyes are drawn around organic page compositions, between free-floating visual ideas and inset panels.
There's a process-piece conversation between DeConnick and Rios in the back which ably demonstrates how much thought goes into translating so many clever and complex concepts into elaborate, eloquent visual narratives.
The Garden wherein the Soul of the World resides is particularly impressive. From there Sissy - who has assumed the mantle of Death and so become both the inner and outer worlds' Gardener - can see all that occurs, pruning through necessity for the benefit of the bramble. As the branches bend and bifurcate above, so too the roots swell below, while the red-rose tendrils trail in the air, shedding green leaves against a pale pink sky.
This is very much a book of the living and the dead, and the balance is currently out of kilter for we have reached World War I and the horse-mounted Reaper of War is sending 10,000 souls to The Black every day.
"When they dig their trenches... do you think they know that they're digging their own graves?"
In PRETTY DEADLY VOL 1 we met Sissy and Foxy, Molly the Raven and Johnny Coyote, Deathface Ginny who had become the Reaper of Vengeance, and Big Alice, the Reaper of Cruelty. Here you will encounter other Reapers, one of whom you may not even suspect to exist, but when its identity is finally revealed it will make so much sense - not just for this story, but for the way in which the world works. For yes, this is also a book about how the world works.
Previously our narrator Bunny Bones instructed Butterfly on the ways of nature: of adversity, fear, patience, perseverance and survival. Here Bunny has much to impart about the bear and the bees. About how bees are builders or foragers, guards or nurses - even undertakers. How their honey may be sweet but it is their larvae which actually sustains the bear.
"The needs of the bear are not the same as the needs of the bee."
If the bee stings, it dies. On the other hand:
"Oh, Butterfly. Big things are often humbled by small. That too is the way of things."
None of this is extraneous.
PRETTY DEADLY is also a big book of compassion and, as it opens, Susan whom we encountered many moons ago is dying. It's long been established that her line can see the dead, so when her old flame Fox comes to escort her to the other side, her daughter Verine begs Fox to let her linger just long enough to see her son Cyrus again. She makes this request even though Susan's in pain and Cyrus is on the other side of the world. His head's in the moon but hidden himself and his heart well away in a French trench. He's unlikely to make it out, for the Reaper of War is at work.
Just as the first book begins with a ballad - The Song Of Deathface Ginny and How She Came To Be - so this opens with another generational lament, including wise words for any wake.
"Don't steal tears from tomorrow, boy
"Don't grieve for what ain't lost
"Don't waste time on yesterday
"You still got paths to cross."
Almost everyone you loved from book one will be back, and their paths will surely cross. In doing so, hitherto unseen and unexpected aspects will be revealed, and more than one war will be fought to the death.