Pretty Deadly: The Rat #5 Review

by Jay Hill on January 09, 2020

Written by: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by: Emma Ríos
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by: Clayton Cowles
Published by: Image Comics

After giving herself over to Obsession, Ginny wants answers. And though she has been on this journey for answers for some time now, it seems like she will finally get what she desires. In the final issue of Pretty Deadly: The Rat, Clara Fields finally speaks.

I have been mentioning how cohesive the multiple narratives of this series have gotten. Each issue has opened with a story that generally related to the storyline of the investigation of Clara’s death, but this issue opened with the most ambiguous Bunny and Butterfly tale, yet. However, when it is made clear how this beginning relates to the other narratives, it turns out to be the strongest of all the openings. Clara’s opening monologue displays the sorrow of her soul. “How long ago was it, when the rain came to the desert?” was a great mirror to issue #1’s scene of her death; it’s like the city was crying for her when she died. Kelly Sue DeConnick shows Clara as a woman who was drained for all she had while she searched for something to hold onto. Then, in death, she couldn’t even find rest. Clara roams with no end like her last film. This story has an unfortunately timely nature to it. Women currently in Hollywood (drop the “land”) are being used, mistreated, and underappreciated. No additions of “Reapers” or “World Gardens” can diminish that pertinence. When Ginny and Clara meet up and Obsession reveals the “masterplan”, is when this issue reaches a new stratosphere. Not only did I not fully expect this moment, but I also didn’t expect the weight it brought with it. This seems to be another benefit of the cohesion of this series and the “tri-level” structure it’s applied. When Sissy was shown leaving her realm for this moment, the gravity was felt. Ginny bowed and I can’t say I didn’t feel the urge to do the same. The stoic nature of Sissy in this series led wonderfully to this scene. In a series so full of poetically poignant messages, this one resonated in its simplicity. To let go of obsession, you have to let go. Sissy, with a tear in her eye, doesn’t give in. The scene reminded me of the MGMT song “Hand It Over”; it was full of catharsis. It also reminded me of Michael Corleone telling Fredo, “You broke my heart.” It was like the entire page was animated and I could see the thorny vines lose their hold of Clara. This was such a fitting end to the story because it shows a way to think that can save someone from following the same path as Clara which makes it bittersweet when you wish she could have gotten it before it was too late. If this is following my “Wizard of Oz” theory (from my previous review), Clara finally gets the knowledge that the entire time she could have gone home if she just knew the proper way to think and the words to say. “I forgive myself.” Is her way of saying, “There’s no place like home.”

Emma Ríos & Jordie Bellaire work together from page one to express the visuals of this issue to the fullest of their abilities. Ríos’ swaying lines, ominous branches, and popping panels mixed with Bellaire’s earthy palette and gradients immediately display what the dialogue states, “There’s a storm brewing.” And, Sissy's balled fist displays her hand in it. The first shots of Clara show the lifelessness in her tired face; the color chosen similarly mimics Clara’s inner feelings: blue. Ríos’ use of film as panel borders, Lotte Reiniger inspired shadows, and a Marilyn Monroe-esque dress brings the Hollywoodland elements to a peak. Bellaire’s blue color keeps Clara feeling cold even when she is around the fire with Ginny. The deceitful dragon appearance of Obsession is now fully shown as ensnaring thorny vines. Bellaire uses the same orange color with a dash of red for brutality. When the lightning starts rippling, the imagery has a distinctly separate aesthetic to it. The chaos and suddenness Ríos gives it with the buzzing colors Bellaire gives it, makes it an audible elemental force. The “boom” and “crackle” is felt without any sound effect text. The next few pages Ríos fills with the thorns of Obsession and it invokes an all-consuming corruption. And without many panels dedicated to the retreating of the thorns, the image of Clara finally letting go, at the bottom-right corner of the page (the intuitive last place your eyes go) cements the cathartic scene and lets the healing begin. The final shot we’re shown of the Garden is paired with a more “positive” palette from Bellaire, closing it with a good outlook. But, the book ends bittersweetly, like the story, with the Conjure-Man at his nieces grave. The final shot of her tombstone shows the thorns of roses like the thorns of obsession that put her in that grave.

Pretty Deadly: The Rat #5 is the solemn swansong of the mini-series and with it, a high point has been reached. The poetry and poignancy of this series have never been more lucidly on display. Artistry is the focus and motivation behind the writing and the visuals which leads to the final product being a work of pure art. For five issues this story has shown that this team has their best in front of them and, with more Pretty Deadly scheduled to come, comic fans are in for a treat. But, for now, this stands as the absolute testament to the beauty offered by this series.

Our Score:


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