Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios strike gold with "Pretty Deadly" #2 as the first issue's exposition culminates in Deathface Ginny's breathtaking reveal. By building such anticipation through not only the previous issue but the first half of this one, DeConnick and Rios really amped up readers' expectations for the character and the payoff is worth the wait. With DeConnick's weighted dialogue and Rios' cascading layouts, "Pretty Deadly" is vivid, fast-paced and beautifully brutal.
Although she doesn't pack much dialogue in, DeConnick's characters speak with great purpose and clarity. Each plot point, every little drop of new information works organically to further the story or deepen the mystery under her masterful control. What's more, she does a fantastic job transcribing their accents in a natural, subtle way; without any clear indications like dropped "g"s or overbearing drawls, their accents emanate off the page with authentic sound through their diction. Likewise, DeConnick has her hands on a fantastic narrative device through Bunny and Butterfly's narration. In Butterfly's youthful voice and Bunny's sage patience, she solidifies the book's legendary tone while asserting her control over the plot's timeline.
To put it bluntly, "Pretty Deadly" is a violent book. That does not, however, draw away from its ingenuity or impact; in fact, it strengthens Deconnick's themes like isolation and brutality. Though the gore is both graphic and startling, it is never glorified, if only because it is employed by antagonists who enjoy it on characters like outnumbered victims and children; the effects of such violence feel real through the gut-wrenching reactions from Sarah and her son Cyrus. When Deathface Ginny arrives amidst the destruction, she uses violence only because she must: in the defense of others and herself. Because of this, the brutality translates (as it should) into horror. In that, DeConnick's portrayal of mindful violence casts a deeper meaning on the book as a whole.
Rios' work on the issue is similarly breathtaking. Her layouts will make a reader want to look everywhere at once; without much use of thick, black breaks between panels, each sequence bleeds gorgeously into the next with concise narrative flow. This fluid design emphasizes the interconnectedness of the characters while swiftly carrying the reader through the story. With so much packed into each page, you really need a moment to let her style soak in. Additionally, her character work is phenomenal; each design comes across as distinct and unique, with diverse figure depictions. Jordie Bellaire makes a huge difference in the issue as well, with color schemes that borrow from the same pallet, enveloping entire pages monochromatically in gorgeous pinks and blues before moving into the fierce orange glow of destruction.
"Pretty Deadly" really hits its stride with its second issue. DeConnick and Rios' voices are distinct; their message, clear. With grace and poise, both writer and artist exhibit a level of mastery over their work that few others have attained. This may be one of the most stunning books of the year, and I can't wait to see where DeConnick and Rios go next.