Dark Horse Kills It with “Lady Killer #1” REVIEW
Written by: Joëlle Jones & Jamie S. Rich
Art by: Joëlle Jones
Colors by: Laura Allred
Imagine if you will any iconic mother figure from the last sixty years on television. Donna Reed, Mary Tyler Moore, Florence Henderson, Phylicia Rashad, come to mind but picture them as stone-cold killer assassins. That’s what we have here in Lady Killer #1 by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich from Dark Horse Comics. A beautifully drawn, dark comedy that mixes ‘60s nostalgia, wicked sit-com satire and deadly action.
Meet Josie Schuller, devoted wife, doting mother of two and living a double life as a hired assassin. A profession she’s quite adept at as the opening sequence finds her knocking on the door of “Mrs. Roman” and posing as a perky but persistent Avon lady. As the pushy sales pitch continues it’s clear this Avon lady isn’t just calling she’s about to make a killing. A brawl unfolds and Jones’ cinematic eye as an artist takes over. The staging captures the brutality of the fight and struggle for a kitchen knife. The angles Jones uses in each panel leads to maximum effect when Josie takes the advantage and plunges the knife squarely in Mrs. Roman’s (aka Mrs. Romanov) chest. Was she a Russian spy? Presumably, it is the days of the cold war after all but she gets paid to kill a target whatever the reason.
The tone quickly changes as Josie returns to suburbia to make supper amid her children and disapproving mother-in-law. This is where the familiar sit-com world we’re accustomed to takes place. Dad is greeted at the door after a long day at work whilst the impeccably dressed housewife caters to his needs so lovingly and welcomingly. The German mother-in-law isn’t so convinced talking trash in her native tongue. This picture of perfection and television family fantasy is undercut by a phone call.
Josie’s handler has another job for her. Admittedly, this is territory we’ve covered before with an undercover operative living a double-life in some fashion. True Lies, Long Kiss Goodnight, Mr. & Mrs. Smith are movies with similar themes but what separates Lady Killer is the clean precise execution of the storytelling supported by superior artwork. Sure, little is known of Josie’s motivations or background in issue one but she conveys enough personality and confidence that she’s likable.
Jones has done incredible work on Oni Press’ Helheim with Cullen Bunn and here she has even surpassed that. Her sharp lines lend perfectly to the period with stylish dresses, sharp suits and expressive faces. The amount of detail is painstakingly done to capture the kitchens of the time with appliances and cabinetry that are appropriate. It’s more work than you’d expect or needed but Jones clearly took additional pride in a title that bears her name as co-writer and artist. Readers will reap the rewards scanning each beautiful panel.
Laura Allred enhances Jones’ lines with bright colors in the clothing with darker earth tones in the background that make the contrast really stand out.
Lady Killer doesn’t rewrite the genre of undercover assassins but does exemplify how good it can look. This first of five issues is a winner and shows a ton of potential for the rest of the run.