Someone in the CBR community recently mentioned that they are curious about how books come into our lives. I’m not typically a comic book reader (with a few exceptions), but I read this one when it came to me in the mail. More specifically, it came to my husband, a recommendation from one of his coworkers. After he read Lady Killer, he passed it on to me, thinking I might enjoy it
The cover is the first thing that intrigued me: a stylish Betty Draper-esque housewife, decked out in pearls and a starched skirt, mopping up bloody splatters. The artwork throughout the first two volumes is utterly delightful, pairing 1950s Tupperware-party perfection with graphic images of knives, strangulations, and lots of blood. The chapters are interspersed with clever mock advertisements: ice chests big enough to put all your leftovers (i.e., bodies) on ice, cars that are stylish enough for her, and roomy enough for everyone else (again, bodies). I’m honestly giving these books 4 stars on the strength of the artwork alone.
That said, I did enjoy the story, simple as it is. Josie Schuller is a homemaker leading a double life as a hired assassin. She picks up her assignments, carries them out, and is home in time to get pork chops on the table for her loving husband. She has two daughters, a mother-in-law, and a dog, and none of them can know about her side gig. The characters around her are fairly standard. Her husband fancies himself the man of the household, having no idea what his “little woman” is up to in her spare time. Her mother-in-law is suspicious and judgmental, though volume 2 demonstrates that there is more to Mother Schuller than meets the eye. Josie even has a nosy neighbor a la Mrs. Kravitz to whom she can drop hints about suspicious goings-on if one of Josie’s rivals is causing her problems. So far, so ordinary.
I do like, though, how the books have fun with the concept of the working woman competing in a man’s world. Even among assassins Josie has to work twice as hard to prove that her family life won’t get in the way of her career. When she tells her boss she takes her job seriously, he replies, “I suppose you take your family life seriously, too, which is why you’ve been letting it get in the way of things.” Never has a male assassin had to choose between family and career! In volume 2, Josie strikes out on her own and is frustrated to find men wanting to cut in on her business. She might even have to “go it alone” in her personal life, if her husband isn’t kept in the dark as to her new venture.
I don’t believe I’ve ever met another heroine like Josie. Certainly most killers in television and movies are men, but even when killers are women, they are typically more noble in their pursuits: wronged females fighting for revenge, or strong ones pursuing justice for others. Very few female characters kill simply for money; very few are as violently efficient. Indeed, in the first few pages of volume 1, even though I knew the series was about a female assassin, at the moment of the murder, I involuntarily thought, “Wow, she’s really killing that poor hag.” Even Josie’s choice of weapons skews toward the savage. She stabs, she strangles, she bashes, as opposed to killing with a gun, which can be executed from a distance. Her physicality is part of her identity, and most encounters leave her covered in blood (one has to wonder how she has time to get all those blood stains out).
In the introduction to volume 1, fellow author Chelsea Cain writes, “Bloodshed is, apparently, unladylike. We expect women–nurturing, kind, loving women–to avoid violence. Even, apparently, when we’re murdering someone.” Lady Killer plays with these conventions. It’s a fun read in spite of, or maybe because of, all the blood.