One Shots – Lady Killer (2015)
Writer – Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Artist – Joelle Jones
It is rare to see comics that take place in different eras outside of modern, medieval, or ancient civilizations. This is even more true when it comes to stories from the mid 20th century. Thankfully we got Lady Killer from Dark Horse. Lady Killer came out with a Mad Men aesthetic mixed with the ultra violence of the 70s exploitation movies and quickly caught the attention of many comic book fans. The interesting mix of violence and classic style makes this book very different from the usual stories that come out and that works to the benefit of the series.
The story follows Josie Schuller, a stereotypical 60s housewife who on the outside has the typical sitcom family of two kids, dopey husband, and cranky mother-in-law. However, secretly she works as an assassin for hire killing targets in some very brutal ways. The first two issues introduce the cast and establish Josie’s skills as a killer and a mother. Issue three begins the turn to a more typical assassin story that anyone familiar with the genre will see coming from a mile away. It is this turn toward the cliché story that really hurts this book. While it isn’t as drawn out or cringe worthy as the paint by numbers plot of Executive Assistant Iris, it is still a shame to see the story go that direction. However, Lady Killer does overcome this weakness by having very likable and memorable characters that seem far more real than the cardboard cut outs that pass for character in Iris. The characters are funny, charming, or even sweet and while the family is a little flat they work as a contrast to Josie’s life as a killer. The depth and thought put into the characters even works with the assassination marks all of whom seem to have their own life that is abruptly ended by Josie.
One of the reasons why this book works so well is that it has that perfect old time Norman Rockwell style aesthetic that just screams mid century Americana. Everything is stylized just right and it works well as a contrast against the blood and gore of the fights. Part of what makes this contrast so perfect is the coloring work by Laura Allred featuring just the right pastels and bright tones that help show off the distinct contrast of the blood stains. Everything looks authentic to the advertising and entertainment of that era which helps create a believable world. It feels as if this story should have appeared in old crime comics like Crime SpenStories or Crime Story Confidential due to the art choices and amount of visual violence. The fights are brutal and may be some of the best scenes done in recent comics. There are very few one hit kills and instead we get drawn out battles that feel like something from a Tarantino film. It feels as if you took a cheap 60s sitcom and a grindhouse movie and threw them into a blender to create a perfect mix of old time class and ultra violence. The art is easily one of the most appealing aspects of this series and will quickly draw you into the world of Lady Killer.
While there are a few flaws in this book like the Schuller family being a little too Norman Rockwell and the directional shift of the ending, the style of the art and wit of the story more than makes up for those flaws. This is a fun read that leaves a few strings untied for a possible continuation, but it doesn’t really feel like sequel baiting. Lady Killer has a mix of blood, humor, and social commentary that makes it far more than its logline of ‘Betty Draper meets Hannibal’ would suggest. If you want a quick read that is a nice change of pace from all the darker stories out there, but still has some bite then you cannot do better than Lady Killer.
4/5 – A wild ride with a few flaws, but amazing style and depth.
– Jared G
jared @ scarlet-rhapsody.com