“Lady Killer” #1 opens simply enough: We see an Avon cosmetics saleswoman preparing for a cold call at a front door, then forcefully pushing her product on the housewife in a dressing gown and curlers with a dog under her arm. In a matter of pages, however, you see the saleswoman try to poison her client and, before you know it, out come the more brutal instruments. Welcome to the world of “Lady Killer,” where Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich show us that underneath that poise and veneer lies the spirit of murder.
Jones and Rich have collaborated on books like “12 Reasons Why I Love Her” and “You Have Killed Me” in the past, but this is the first time I remember them sharing a co-writing credit. Jones’ debut in this arena is strong; she and Rich’s story about Josie Schuller using charm to disarm her targets while distracting her family is instantly compelling. Jones and Rich are able to turn the tone in the blink of an eye, too; as the introductory sequence descends into a fight to the death, both Josie and the comic shed the carefully constructed faÃ§ade of Josie-the-saleswoman as the tale grows vicious and nasty.
That’s part of the fun of “Lady Killer” #1: Watching Josie switch from deadly assassin to adorable homemaker. Her shift back to the latter in time to make dinner and greet her husband is just as entertaining as watching Josie go after her target with a hammer, and the untrusting mother-in-law keeping an eagle eye on Josie carefully generates drama within the seemingly safe home life that Josie’s built. This is the sort of plot that could theoretically sustain dozens, if not hundreds, of issues if Jones and Rich chose to do so.
I’ve been a huge fan of Jones ever since “12 Reasons Why I Love Her,” but I feel like she’s upped her game here. The art has the same characteristics of her earlier works — clean, carefully composed characters — but there are also some differences; the art in general feels a little more fluid, the inks a little slick. In many ways, it reminds me a lot of Paul Pope, whose art always feels like it’s going to slide off of the page, but with a tiny bit more self-control imposed by Jones. Jones also does an amazing job of building a fully-realized world through the art. The clothing choices instantly plunge your mindset into the past, and that’s before you add in the backgrounds. Everything from wallpaper to home appliances is deliberately chosen to root this book in a specific time period, and it’s all meticulously drawn. Laura Allred’s colors finish bringing it to life; I’m so used to her bright, vibrant colors on Michael Allred’s art that it’s a pleasure to see her use a slightly more subdued palette. The pastels still set the scene perfectly, but this darker, muted nature fits Jones’ art and also serves as a reminder not to pigeonhole Allred into one specific style.
“Lady Killer” #1 is a strong debut for this miniseries, and it makes me want to see much more from Jones and Rich. With a darkly comic tone and a huge amount of potential on where it could go into the future, I’m ready to sit back, put on my slippers and enjoy. I bet you will, too. Definitely check this book out.