Review: Lady Killer #1 (spoilers)

Lady Killer 1, Jones and Smith, Dark Horse, 2015Lady Killer #01

Joelle Jones & James S. Rich (w)
Joelle Jones (a)
Dark Horse
January 7, 2015

“Betty Draper meets Hannibal.”

This is the tagline for Lady Killer, which reels me right in, as I love Mad Men and the idea of a serial killing Betty Draper is just too perfect. However, it’s a little misleading. Our Betty Draper-esque lead is actually a killer-for-hire. Still interesting, but I was really looking forward to Betty Draper, Serial Killer.

The setting is reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands with its cloying pastels and Dior’s New Look silhouettes. Josie Schulling is hawking Avon products to a Mrs. Roman. Mrs. Roman’s home is bedecked mid-century modern, and I am practically foaming at the mouth. Well done, Joelle Jones. The lines, the patterns, it’s the level of detail one comes to expect from Mad Men.

Anyway, Josie is turning on clueless charm to Mrs. Roman’s curmudgeonly complaints and ends up slipping poison into Mrs. Roman’s coffee. Interesting move–considering how often poison is associated as a woman’s choice as murder “weapon.” I am hoping for some blood and guts out of this though.

However, Mrs. Roman’s yappy little terriers foil Josie’s plans by spilling Mrs. Roman’s drink. Nonplussed, Josie turns to other methods; She grabs a hammer. However, Mrs. Roman is no shrinking violet. She’s on to Josie, and in a calculating move, goes for the butcher block set of knives. Mrs. Roman puts up a righteous fight, but Josie gets the better of her and plunges the butcher knife into Mrs. Roman’s chest. During these panels, the colors shift from pastels and clean lines to a warm, orange wash that manages to soften the brutality while also forcing you to pause on it. Some of Mrs. Roman’s blood gets on Josie’s lovely blue suit. Josie is clearly frustrated which is the most honest emotion we have seen thus far from our antihero.

At home that evening, Josie is making dinner like a good little housewife. Her blonde, blue-eyed twin girls are playing Indians in feathered crowns, fringe, and bow and arrows. It seems like the sort of thing Mad Men does to subtly negate the contemporary nostalgia for this bygone era. In the context of the the comic, it feels cynical, and I like that.

Dad, named Gene, shows up and is greeted by everyone in Leave it to Beaver style. His mother, a German immigrant who lives with them (poor Josie), immediately starts railing about how appalling it is that Josie doesn’t have dinner on the table by the time Gene is home. Maybe Josie could slip her mother-in-law poison in the lovely meal she makes?

Someone named Peck calls for Josie about an upcoming job. Josie plays it cool, pretending it’s a telemarketer, and hangs up on him. Peck then shows up at her house, dashing in a suit and all roguish charm. There’s a sexual chemistry between the two right off the bat. Peck leans against a doorway while Josie coyly presses her back against it. He plays dashing assassin to her femme fatale. It’s classic. Josie tells everyone that it’s neighbor their Marge, and she will be back in a jiffy. Unbeknownst to her, Frau Grandma spies the outline of Josie and Peck from the window.

Peck’s got a job for Josie–it’s high profile which is apparently something she doesn’t usually handle. He needs her undercover at the Kitty Kat Club, which is exactly what it sounds like–a fictional equivalent to the Playboy Club. On the last page, we see Josie decked out in a red corset and cat ears serving drinks.

Plot-wise, Lady Killer feels pretty standard so far, but there’s something lurking–a cynicism, a brutality that I am looking forward to seeing more of. Josie is immediately compelling as a femme fatale, as is Peck as the roguish assassin, but the narrative knows that it’s dealing in tropes. And the art, again I love Mad Men and the aesthetic of the 1950s, and Jones does it well. In an interview with ComicVine, Jones revealed her fascination with midcentury illustration and advertising–it’s clear that she has closely studied the era and spiced up its more typical representation with a cynicism and dark comedic perspective.

Lady Killer is currently set for a 5 issue run, but could go on if there’s enough interest so go, go buy it, support great creator-owned comics by ladies about ladies! Please, I need more than 5 issues of this comic!

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik