Script/Letters: Erica Schultz
Art: Carola Borelli
Colors: Gab Contreras
Cover: Adriana Melo & Dijjo Lima
Variant Covers: Natasha Alterici; Liana Kangas
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 10th, 2022
A mother is dead, and her daughters have returned home to find out why. But can they overcome their own traumas, secrets, and dysfunction to unravel the truth? This promises to be a captivating character-based murder mystery.
If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the Deadliest Bouquet #1 Review.
One of my favorite parts of a murder mystery is unraveling the background of the various characters: who are they, what are their secrets, and why might they be the killer? The more layered and complicated the characters, the better the mystery. THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 starts asking these questions from the start, concerning itself much more with the victim Jasmine’s three daughters (Rose, Poppy, and Violet) than with Jasmine herself.
THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 begins after Jasmine’s murder has already happened. Poppy Hawthorn, the only one of the three sisters who still live near their mother, finds Jasmine’s body and calls her sisters who arrive in short order. Saying that Rose, Poppy, and Jasmine are dysfunctional is a massive understatement. Writer Erica Schultz hints at the reason for that dysfunction throughout THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1, and by the end of the issue, she’s dropped a big revelation. But the character development of the three sisters (to say nothing of the unexpected last page) tells us that this is only the beginning of our journey with them.
Schultz delivers three very distinct characters in Rose, Poppy, and Violet which is largely why THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 works so well as a first issue. With the initial heavy focus on the sisters instead of their mother or her murder, THE DEADLIEST BOQUET #1 is in a position to stand or fall based on the strength of their development. Schultz succeeds wildly here and the book delivers three unique characters (the most interesting and amusing of the three is the one who thinks she’s the alpha despite the other two clearly not agreeing). Anyone whose relationship with their siblings is difficult will recognize elements of these characters.
As for the murder that sets THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 in motion, there isn’t much to go on yet. Jasmine had a tattoo of the Lorraine Cross, a symbol used by the French Revolution in World War II and connected to European heraldry. She owned the flower shop Les Trois Fleurs (the three flowers)–possibly a red flag since she also had three daughters named after flowers. And there is almost certainly a relationship between these women named after flowers and the series’ title, THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET. There’s nothing beyond that, though, so readers hoping that THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 immediately dives into the nuts and bolts of the murder mystery may be disappointed. Even with my attachment to the sisters’ strong character development, the way Schultz shoves the police procedural aspect of this issue aside so fast makes it feel noticeably absent even if it isn’t necessary.
There are two moments where the issue’s pacing hits a speed bump. Rose has a husband and two small children who make the trip with her. They make two unnecessary appearances. First somewhat inexplicably at the murder scene. And another when the husband and children return to their hotel. This familial connection obviously factors in as character development for Rose if nothing else. But the scenes only minimally flesh out the family. Establishing them in dialogue until there is a better reason to include them in a scene would have been just effective.
Carola Borelli’s focus on body language does a good job supporting the focus on the sisters. The art provides even more information about their attitudes and motivations than the dialogue. Borelli draws Violet in particular with such physical expression that she demands the attention within every panel that features her.
The characters’ expressiveness, either by accident or design, also sets them completely apart from the physical space they occupy. Gab Contreras’s colors use richer hues for the characters. But thanks to softer colors and more conservative use of lines and shading, the environment feels two-dimensional. The effect does make a nice contrast that keeps the characters in focus and prevents the eye from wandering. Unfortunately, it also makes the environment feel less real, reminiscent of a stage play with minimalist set design and dressing. Clearly, Borelli and Contreras don’t mean for the physical space the characters occupy is to be our focus.
THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 is the perfect start to a mystery story. It asks several questions as a jumping-off point for the story. And it provides an answer or two to tantalize the reader with breadcrumbs and make them eager to know more. The three sisters command attention every time the issue focuses on them. Unfortunately, that strength of character also means that the few pages and panels without them feel less energetic. The first issue’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses, though, so fans of murder mysteries will be easily drawn to THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1.