• Lady Killer 2 (Trade Paperback)

    Lady Killer 2 (Trade Paperback)
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: November 11th, 2017.
    Written And Illustrated by: Joelle Jones
    Purchase From Amazon

    Josie Schuller is demonstrating how to “lock in flavor and block out air” at a the home of a woman named Jan. The ladies in attendance are far more interesting in tea, snacks and gossip than in buying what Josie has to sell. When Jan heads upstairs to use the facilities, she instructs her sister Mona to make sure they get the free gift they were promised before Josie splits. A few blows of a hammer later and Jan’s bleeding out on the floor, Mona’s dead in the living room, Josie is covered in their blood and giving their nephew his regards.

    Josie’s internal narration lets us know that she doesn’t typically clean up the bodies, usually someone else handles that, but as she’s trying to build her own business this time around, she knows she has to go the extra mile. She struggles to deal with the mess, but she’s smart and she’s strong and she’s more than a little tenacious. With that dealt with, she heads out to find an odd ‘sorry we missed you’ note under the wiper on her car’s windshield and then drives on back to her new home in Cocoa Beach to be a wife and a mother to her husband and children. Domestic bliss? Not when her husband, Gene, is irked that she forgot to pick up his golf club and her mother-in-law is skulking about the kitchen, grouchy as can be.

    At her husband’s request, Josie tries to talk to mother Schuller, to find out what’s eating away at her. The elder woman wants nothing to do with Josie, she knows what she saw back in Seattle (read the first mini-series if you haven’t already and if you haven’t already you need to correct that). Josie tells her she needs to put it behind her, not for her sake but for that of Gene and their two daughters. Before the conversation can go much further, George and Ruth Robidoux (Gene’s boss and his wife) show up for dinner. Once that’s out of the way, Josie’s rules of going into business for yourself come into play…

    Josie Schuller was dumping a body when we last left her. Out there in the swamp, she’s shocked to be approached by an old man she recognizes and addresses as Irving. He’s more taken aback by the mess she’s making than anything else, and although they haven’t seen each other since the World’s Fair, when he tells her to get the shovel out of his trunk, she obliges. He heard she was going solo and, since they had so much fun last time, he figured he’d track her down and help her out. He might be retired, but he proposes that they work together. She doesn’t agree… at first, but he’s convincing in his own way. She’ll handle the hit, he’ll handle the cleanup. Josie trusts him.

    The next day, she and her family are at the beach for a company Christmas party. They run into George, who is as friendly to Josie as ever (much to her dismay). As Gene heads off with George to get a drink and their girls go off to play, Irving shows up to tell her that everything was taken care of the night before. He says it’s to put her mind at ease, but there’s something off about it. Gene comes back and is introduced to his wife’s ‘Uncle Irving’ – the relative he never knew she had. And then Josie finds a note requesting her presence at the Surfside Playhouse that night at 8pm.

    She obliges and plays dumb when a man she doesn’t know or recognize complements her on her skill set. He knows all the bloody details, even what went down at the World’s Fair. As they talk, he offers her a spot in a union of likeminded professionals. There are dues, of course, but they can offer her a ‘better caliber of client.’ And from there, it’s time to get to work.

    Josie Schuller seems quite pleased with the results that have taken place since bringing old Irving on board to help her get rid of the people she kills for a living. Not only does he prove to be very good at handling the ‘clean up’ but she enjoys hanging out with the guy as well. Splitting off from Mr. Hawley and his ‘union’ of killers to do her own thing seems to suit Josie just fine, even if, as she notes, the quality of the clientele is a step down from what she’s been used to in the past. But all things in due time.

    In the Schuller household, it’s time to prepare for Christmas. Josie and her two girls decorate the tree. When Uncle Irving shows up, invited over for dinner, Mother Schuller immediately recognizes the old man. She’s not happy about his presence in the home. She throws glass ornaments at him and screams at him in German that he is not welcome. She tries to attack him with a cleaver but things settle down once a clearly inebriated Gene comes home from work. He takes Irving into the garage for a beer when Mother Schuller threatens to tell Gene and the cops all about her extracurricular activities if she doesn’t get Irving out of the house immediately. She politely gets Irving out of the place, but he denies knowing Josie’s mother-in-law.

    When Gene passes out in the living room later that night, Mother Schuller brings Josie into her room and explains to her how and why she knows Irving. During the Second World War in her native Germany she worked as a civil service officer and was occasionally called on to investigate special cases. Irving was one such cases, suspected by the German government of helping forge documents to allow people who wanted to escape safe passage out of the country. Frau Schuller did her duty, she got very close to ‘Doctor Reinhardt’ – maybe too close – and then she discovered the truth.

    Josie Schuller is not happy with Irving. Things started out great in their partnership – she took care of the killing and he took care of the cleanup work – but now that he’s brought the body of her husband’s murdered boss back to their home, she’s less than impressed. Josie fires him. She comes close to killing him, but stops short – she cans him and sends him on his way, she’s got to make porkchops for dinner, after all, she did promise Gene.

    Speaking of Gene, he’s sitting in an airplane hangar watching a maintenance crew work on a bird. He chimes in here and there but these guys aren’t really having it. They see him as nothing more than a desk jockey, his experience working on planes back in Seattle doesn’t mean anything since they’ve moved. As he heads back into the office, he’s alerted that two men –Detective Reed and Detective Vega - want to talk to him. They bring him into the office of his ‘missing’ boss, Mr. Robidoux and question him. It seems Gene was next in line for ol’ George’s job and it certainly is convenient that he’s disappeared like this. They send him on his way but ask that he not leave town.

    Elsewhere, on the seedy side of town, a man mops the floor in a strip club. In the backroom of this club a stripper cleans up for the night as Josie pulls up quietly behind her and strangles the life out of her. When another dancer walks in on this, it looks bad for Josie – until someone puts a bullet in the back of that strippers head, getting rid of any witnesses. It’s Irving, and he was loud. Loud enough that the guy mopping the floor heads over to a phone and calls the cops. Irving, however, wants to talk Josie into changing her mind and bringing him back onboard. His timing isn’t so good, Josie can hear the sirens getting closer, but Irving keeps talking. He wants her to leave her suburban lie behind and embrace the fact that she is, for all intents and purposes, a killer just like he is.

    She escapes into the night, the cops none the wiser, and heads home. It doesn’t end well.

    When the last issue begins, we meet a woman and her daughter living in poverty. The mother tells the girl that since she was born with nothing, that the girl is doubly nothing but that as long as everyone knows they were born with nothing, no one else will ever know what they really are – survivors. As the camera pulls back, we realize that as they’re talking her husband sits at the other side of the dinner table, poisoned to death by some arsenic.

    Cut to the present day and Josie thinks about the seven rules of going into business for yourself. Her mother-in-law Greta Schuller has had Eugene take the girls while the two of them talk. Josie didn’t expect Irving to retaliate when he did, nor did they expect him to show up just now with a blazing pistol in hand. Josie orders Greta to hide while she takes care of their assailant. And she does, or at least she tries, but it doesn’t quite work out as planned. Thankfully Greta is faster and more able than anyone realizes, until Irving once again gets the upper hand. Once he does, Josie moves in to do what she does best.

    Like Greta says to her: “Just do what you do and let’s be done with it.”

    Irving is a lot tougher and a lot more determined than Josie ever thought possible.

    Some things are worth waiting for. This fifth and final issue of Josie Schuller’s story ends with a pretty serious bang, but it also (thankfully) leaves things wide open for a third installment – and hopefully we’ll get that sooner rather than later. This one has it all – the action and gory carnage that’s been a big part of the series since the start but also the series’ ever important sense of pitch black humor. On top of that, we learn a bit about Josie’s background and we see how her extracurricular activities affect her personal life in a big way. And it all happens in a way that makes sense. As over the top as this series can get at times, there are moments throughout that ground it and that make the characters believable. This issue has quite a lot of those moments and it’s all the better for it.

    Jones’ art is once again just as strong as her storytelling. A stand out example from this issue? We get a great two page spread of the house from a top down angle showing everywhere that Josie can hide and every angel that Irving could get to her from. It’s a clever move, on that you don’t often see exploited in comic books but one that also works really well. Again, she shows excellent attention to detail and a great way of showing us how certain characters are feeling through expressions and eye ‘movement’ – it all works really well. The coloring work from Michelle Madsen compliments things perfectly.

    Really, nothing to complain about here. This series has been great from the get go.

    In addition to collecting all five issues if Lady Killer 2, this trade paperback edition also features a sketchbook section that shows off some of the character and costume design work that Jones did, a page that didn’t make the cut and even some period pattern designs that Jones did to keep the look of the book authentic.