Whoever thinks women are squeamish has clearly never read the dark comedy, Lady Killer, or for that matter ever had a serious conversation with a woman about what it’s like, well, to be a woman. Standing convention on its head and drilling a very large hole into it, Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich give us a rich and compelling character in Josie Schuller and an engaging look at who women are, as opposed to what culture and society have attempted to train us to be.
Josie Schuller is a happy, 1950s housewife with two adorable twin girls, a dog, a husband who is devoted to her, and a cranky German mother-in-law. She also happens to be a highly skilled assassin with an aversion to guns. Able to transform herself from an Avon Lady to a Playboy-type bunny on a moment’s notice, Josie rakes in the kills for her handler, Peck, and her boss, Stenholm. Both men of their time, they do not trust her double-life, and Stenholm declares her to be an unfit mother. Stenholm sends her out on a mission that will determine whether she rises up in the ranks or be eliminated. When she chooses not to follow through on her assignment, Peck is there to take her out, but he fails. Knowing that Peck and Stenholm will try to kill her again, she allies with another female assassin to kill them. What happens next is an action sequence worthy of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne films and reveals a potentially very interesting subplot.
With tremendous period detail, the art pretty much rocks. I love how the transition pages are textured with that awful pink tile of the time. Details like the Felix the Cat clock, a Sunbeam mixer, garter belts, and the pastel colors are right on target and give us a real sense of time and place. (Think Mad Men but with real knives instead of metaphorical ones.) And, they even have Josie sitting in a chair the way my mother taught me: knees together with legs at a slight angle, ankles crossed, butt at the edge of the chair, and back ram-rod straight. No slouching allowed in this time period. Even her outfits match. (Thank you, colorist Laura Allred.)
Add all of the above to the witty and action-packed story of a woman living two lives and wanting to keep both and you get a terrific comic. Josie is a complex, dynamic woman who refuses to give up those that she loves just because her boss tells her to. (Does that sound familiar to any of you?) Yet, she has no problem killing for money. Is she pathological? Probably. Is she fascinating? Most definitely. Her type of character is usually reserved for a man or a tough-as-nails type of woman, but Jones and Rich have imbued her with femininity, style, and razor-sharp intelligence. Even her husband is not a stereotype, which rounds out the difference between him, Peck, and Stenholm nicely.
Do I want more? Yes. And, by the way, you’re going to love the ad parodies.