Lady Killer #4 Plays With Gender Conceptions

Originally published on Bloody Disgusting

Lady Killer #4 continues to show that comic readers are capable of appreciating nuance, that this media is capable of a fun action-packed romp but is not limited—and is rather enhanced—by the brightly colored panels.

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WRITTEN BY: Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich

ART BY: Joëlle Jones

PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics

PRICE: $3.50

RELEASE: April 1, 2015

 

The politics of this book are incredibly subtle, so subtle it’s literally (pardon the pun) an art. Lady Killer uses its seat in nostalgia and camp to discuss the very discussion of gender roles, of women as naturally maternal, of men as breadwinners and women as homemakers, of the gender slant inherent to most discussion of balancing work and home lives. Josie’s character embodies these discussions, her femininity is a source of vulnerability as often it is a weapon. The way Josie is written—and to an even greater extent, the way she is treated by the men in the book—reek of gender.

She’s afraid of guns, she is hit on nearly every time she meets a male, colleague or otherwise. But Josie effortlessly accesses the trappings of suburban housewifery to her advantage, using a nosy neighbor and a neighborhood watch as part of her own surveillance, playing damsel in distress when she has more important things to do than finish this fight, treating the twins to an ice cream cone before ballet as an eavesdropping tactic. She is equally weaker because of the way she is being gendered and in full ownership of it. By choosing not to write a character who is able to constantly rise above prejudices, by writing a character who is very much formed by the way performative gender balances are valued without equality in society, Lady Killer is holding a mirror disguised as a fun spy thriller up to each of us, asking us to see ourselves.

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The art and design of this book combines to evoke commercials of the 1950’s, the nostalgic palette referencing the idyllic home life that only existed in advertisements. The way this book lives on the surface of aesthetic perfection, and in a media that is so dominantly visual, is just another way this book plays with being transgressive without appearing to. The art is striking, evocative, and dynamic, every panel its own mini-treatise on aesthetic, each character beautifully exaggerated to the point of grotesqueness. The settings are so familiar, so based in trope, that they border on the uncanny, too familiar to be completely comfortable.

This issue, too, introduces a character who may be the audience’s entry into the “real” Josie, beyond wife and mother, beyond spy; another woman who holds a similar position, who may have similar needs, but who first needs to trust and be trusted.

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