Okay, I’ll admit it. I know I’m in the minority here, but my interest level in James Bond and characters like him – the debonair spy with cars, sex, and the mission on the mind – rests a little below absolutely none. Lady Killer, a series by powerhouse artist Joelle Jones and renegade writer Jamie S. Rich, has a character like that. And you know what? For once, he’s treated like the complete lunkhead of a villain that he is… which is just a small part of why I love this book – for both what it is and it’s not. Lady Killer’s interest in the chauvinist male assassin type is zilch, which works, considering how much it has to say about a new blood-soaked, home-making icon.
Her name is Josie Schuller, and she just tricked you into letting her walk through your front door. Mistake, that.
She might show up in a blue get-up, her pleasant cry of “Avon calling!” following your doorbell. She may be your waitress, leaving a provocative note under your drink. Perhaps she spoke to your parents about coming over – she left something behind the other day. No matter how she gets you alone, no matter how you try to defend yourself, it’s too late. She’s a woman at work, you see, and she does her job like a goddamn boss.
The twist here isn’t “she’s a deadly assassin… and she’s a woman!” Lady Killer takes a figure we all know very well – the television housewife and doting mother of the fifties – and gives her a dark secret. Josie Schuller is three dimensional from the start, both as a housewife moonlighting as an assassin and as an artist whose kills ooze with a sort of flair that feels pointedly congruous with the obsessive attention to aesthetic of the time.
There’s commentary to be found about societal repression, and a looming patriarchy attempting to keep women confined to roles deemed appropriate – even the seemingly harmless character, such as Josie’s hard-working, loving, complete buffoon of a husband makes patronizing comments about how she can do to learn about business and accomplishment from her work… to which Josie, completely above his criticism, satisfied and empowered by her secret life in ways that he could never imagine, can only offer a coy grin. And, on top of all of that razor wit and thoughtful writing, it’s just a hell of a fun time. Joelle Jones’ fight scenes here are as engaging as any all out brawl between the big name superheroes in whatever summer crossover they’re doing at Marvel or DC, and with much more panache. Jones and Rich, both in their co-written script and the lovely art by Jones with colors by heavy-hitter Laura Allred and Crank! on letters, have painted such a real world that every single blow is felt; every movement, whether it be a desperate crawl across the floor to reach a knife or the fucking life being choked out of some dumbass unlucky enough to follow Josie into the back of a bar, feels real, feels now.
It’s really a hell of a book.
Lady Killer is an unsettling read in some ways, but you know what’s the most comforting thing about it? On the spine of the trade paperback, right below the credits… it says Volume One. And boy howdy, I can’t wait for Josie to kill again.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Robyn Hood, Charmed, Family Pets) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide). He constantly struggles over the age old question… is Six Feet Under or Buffy the Vampire Slayer the best show of all time? Please tweet @PatShand and let him know, as to ease this constant existential tension.