I grew up in the salad days of Nick at Nite, watching black and white classics such as Patty Duke, Donna Reed, and Dobie Gillis. There’s a certain dark charm to the women of the ’50s and ’60s, with their prefect hair, pointy bras and petticoated skirts. They are the images of charm and grace, even though that charm and grace was placed upon them by society at large. Which is why, Joëlle Jones’ Lady Killer is such a goddamn treat to the senses.
Earlier this year, the series kicked off, introducing us to the titular Lady Killer, Josephine “Josie” Schuller. The epitome of the perfect house wife, Josie also happens to be a contract killer. The initial 5-issue series set up Josie’s transition from “working for the man” to going into business for herself. All the while navigating the rampant sexism of the ’60s (and, if we’re honest, today, too), and the perfect, plastic appeal of suburban America.
Lady Killer 2 picks up a few months after issue 5 of the first series, with Josie continuing to balance both working life, and being the perfect mother and wife. The dark and gory nature of her day job aside, there is an oddly empowering tone to Josie as she does manage to “have it all.” She can work a fulfilling job, but also get her daughters to ballet recitals and host beautiful cocktail parties. Though, by the same note, it’s hard to not imagine that Jones is also presenting the expectation of balance as murder on the people trying to achieve it. Josie is literally killing her way through the perfect life.
Josie herself, remains a compelling character. Thus far, Jones hasn’t weighed her down with the nature of her work; she is good at what she does, and seems to enjoy it. In the first series, we’re told that Josie detests guns and prefers to work with knives and other blunt instruments, which lends an even darker side to her. She doesn’t want to kill people in a clean, impersonal manner, no, she wants to get up close and personal with them and shed their mortal coil by hand. That’s dark as hell, and yet, there is a certain degree of delightful camp to it. As Josie bashes an old woman’s skull with a hammer, all while wearing a frilled yellow apron and sharp red dress, it’s hard to not laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
The first issue of the second arc establishes Josie’s plans for going into business for herself. She is no longer taking orders, but that means she no longer has a clean-up crew on speed dial, either. She’s now a lone, murderous island, professionally. The question, though, is how long she’ll be able to keep her disapproving mother-in-law from revealing her nature to her family, thus stranding her in her personal life, too.
You may recall that Mrs. Schuller did say, last arc, that she knew the murderous Reinhardt “from the war.” She seemed quite familiar with his handiwork, making me wonder if Mrs. Schuller may or may not have something in common with Josie, after all. As a dark figure looms over the pages of the issue, it appears that Josie’s plans may not be as well thought out as she had hoped.
As always, Jones’ art demands special attention. It is impossible to understate the grim charm that exudes from every page. Josie’s perfect hair and attire, and the kitsch of ’60s decor always acts as the most sublime counterbalance to the grisly actions within. It’s dark humor at its absolute finest. Also, the nod to Tupperware’s many uses is just delightful.
Lady Killer 2 is set for another 5-issue story arc, and the stakes have been upped both at work and home, meaning Josie may have quite the challenge on her blood-stained hands. But like a true lady, I have no doubt she’ll face it with grace, and blood-soaked charm.