Reviews: Domestic 50s bliss meets contract killing: Lady Killer #1
Lady Killer #1,
Joelle Jones, Jamie S Rich,
The wholesome, all-American suburban life of the 1950s, the neat little homes and lawns, the pretty young wife mixing being a homemaker with little side job as an Avon Lady. Invite her in, let her show you her glamorous wares as she sits there, so elegant and poised, immaculately dressed. Slipping poison into the cup of coffee you just made…
Meet Josie Schuller, housewife, mother, secret contract killer. And several pages in and this hit isn’t going quite to plan – obviously she meant to gain access to her target’s home by posing as an Avon sales lady, show her some beauty products, covertly slip her poison and leave, all quick and clean. But in a scene reminiscent of the suddenly botched hit at the start of the brilliant Grosse Point Blank, where Cusack’s hitman plans to poison his target in his sleep so it looks like a natural death, but the guy wakes up and he has to resort to gunplay, this hit too goes suddenly rather messy and Josie has to improvise. Which leads to a scene which, like Grosse Point Blank, is disturbingly funny – disturbing, because we shouldn’t find murder funny, but the situation as the two women end up grappling in the kitchen is so ludicrous in its spontaneous nature that it does indeed make you grin.
Cut back to the domestic bliss, Julie now at home, cooking, her young girls playing with the family dog, the grim-faced mother-in-law watching over everything, criticising her (but not actually helping, oh no, just there to find fault), and here comes daddy home from the office. Sorry, dear, dinner is slightly late, got caught up with a couple of the girls this afternoon, nearly there… Naturally Mr Schuller doting on his daughter and beautiful wife doesn’t suspect what she was really doing that afternoon. The mother-in-law doesn’t know either, but she doesn’t trust or like Josie, and when Josie gets a call at home for a rush job that only she can do, the mother-in-law sees her sneak out to talk to the man who delivers the details of the hit. Trouble is a-brewin’…
This was such a huge, fun read – Mad Men meets Grosse Point Blank and Nikita, perhaps. Josie, so elegant in those 1950s fashions, hair perfectly coiffed, those long, flowing dresses (she manages to remain glamorous even when donning an apron over one of those dresses, seemingly the content 50s domestic goddess) and the idealised 1950s, early 60s white, suburban, middle-class American wholesome family life. But like Lynch’s Blue Velvet we’ve just had a glimpse of the darkness underneath all that supposed family perfection and conformity, delivered in a delightful mixture of violence laced with dark humour.
Joelle Jones artwork (ably assisted with colours by Laura Allred) is perfect, not just in capturing the style of the fashions and homes of the period, but the expressions – the demure, “professionally friendly” (like an air steward) smile of Josie as she pretends to be the Avon Lady, the contrasts between her supposedly demure, refined, genteel lady and the woman she is calling on, ciggie dangling from her mouth, old housecoat, curlers in the hair. The sneaky way she uses the perfume spray in the face to distract her target while she slips the poison into the cup, and then that fight scene where this perfect suburban home falls into almost cartoonish levels of hand to hand violence, not to mention the playing with gender expectations in that terribly buttoned-down era when the roles of men and women were so harshly defined. It’s a terrific, fun introduction to the series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Rich and Jones take it next.