Lady Killer 2 (#1-5) Review
Writer: Joëlle Jones
Artist: Joëlle Jones
Colourist: Michelle Madsen
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
A review by Danielle Subject
Josie Schuller is a woman of many talents — she cooks, she cleans, she has dinner on the table for 5 p.m. and she manages to accomplish all this with a full face of makeup, perfectly pinned-up hair, and a squeaky clean ’50s housewife dress. Oh, and she’s also a highly trained assassin. Whether you’ve read the first volume of Lady Killer or not, it doesn’t take a genius to know that Josie isn’t your typical housewife.
I mean, just look at that cover of Lady Killer 2 #1 by Joëlle Jones and Laura Allred. The series is like I Love Lucy meets Atomic Blonde meets Hannibal, or if Mona Lisa Smile were actually about a finishing school that was secretly training government assassins.
Volume 1 of Lady Killer, which was released in 2015, started out as a project between friends. In a farewell letter penned by the series’ original co-writer Jamie S. Rich (who moved on to other ventures before Volume 2 was released), Rich explained that the idea for the comic came from its co-writer and artist Joëlle Jones, who was inspired by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.
If you think about it, a 1950s housewife living a double life as an assassin makes total sense. It’s no secret that being a middle-class woman in the 1950s meant signing away your soul to domestic hell; to a life of vacuum ads, ungrateful husbands, maternal slavery, meatloaves, and crappy wallpaper. There was no room for intellect, no room for other interests, and certainly no room for having a life outside of the home.
In Lady Killer, we are presented with this dull world of domesticity — Josie’s husband is your typical 9-5er, thinking with, dare I say, his other head. Her kids, two blonde girls, serve as background noise to a perfectly kept household. All the while, Josie is able to blow off steam by literally hammering people’s heads in and, in doing so, inevitably making a living for herself. Her career as an assassin allows for financial independence, something that was deemed radical for a woman at the time.
In Lady Killer 2, we are finally given more to Josie’s story, but just enough to keep us coming back for more. We are met with slightly more depth to her character, specifically in #5, as well as a turn of events that opens the door to an important bond between two women, emphasizing the importance of female friendships.
The most intriguing story development in this volume, however, lies with Josie’s mother-in-law, referred to as Mother Schuller. Mother Schuller played a minimal role in the first volume, being depicted as your stereotypical hard-to-please mother-in-law who is perpetually suspicious of her son’s wife. In Lady Killer 2, Mother Schuller’s character development plays a pivotal role in advancing the plot, much to the reader’s delight.
Lady Killer’s biggest strength is in its art. Volume 2 follows the same stunning vintage style that hypnotized us in the first issues. Michelle Madsen’s bright, bold colouring fills in Joëlle Jones’ gorgeous illustrations in the most perfect way. The art is reminiscent of 1950s advertisements — the kind you might see in a magazine for a Hoover ad. Madsen does an excellent job at showing the dichotomy between Josie’s double lives through the way she decorates Josie’s appearance: bubblegum pink for Domestic Josie, blood red lips for Killer Josie. Her eyes are predatory, while her edges are sharp and striking.
Additionally, Jones expresses Josie’s double life through her illustrations. Josie herself, along with anyone involved in the assassin world, are drawn with rigid, razor-edged lines and erotic colours, while those inside Josie’s domestic sphere are soft, coloured with happy tones of light blues and yellows. It’s a visual feast.
Buy It! My partner bought me the first volume of Lady Killer after walking into a comic book store and telling the clerk that his girlfriend liked comics drawn and written by women with badass women characters. The clerk immediately handed him Lady Killer, for which I am forever grateful. This series is undeniably delicious in every way, especially for those with a ravenous appetite for great art. Do yourself a favour and read it.