Script/Letters: Erica Schultz
Art: Carola Borelli
Colors: Tom Chu
Cover: Adriana Melo & Chris Peter
Variant Cover: Chris Campana, Jeremy Clark & Tom Chu
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: December 21st, 2022
The sisters have gotten to the bottom of the mystery and the murderer stands revealed. But what will come of Poppy, Rose, Violet once they know the truth?
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THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET’s plot may involve a murder mystery, but the meat of the story all along has been the relationship between the three sisters: Poppy, Rose, and Violet. From the first issue Schultz crafted an engaging character drama, and THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5 pays that off by solving the mystery while tying it back tinto the very personal connection between the sisters.
THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5 opens with a flashback detailing the murder before then cutting back to the present shortly after Violet’s announcement at the end of the previous issue that she knew who the killer was. There is unfortunately no way to effectively recap THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5’s plot further without completely spoiling the mystery’s solution and the consequences that result from that revelation.
More important than the resolution of the mystery in THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5, though, is how it impacts the sisters. In a general sense, the truth about what happened plays into sisters’ dysfunction. It’s been on display since the series started, ebbing and flowing as their investigation has gone on. It all comes to a head here and the way it unfolds is very compelling. Schultz gives each of the sisters a different perspective. Violet sees the truth as something that splits them apart. Rose sees it as something that will bring them together. Poppy sits on the fence to an extent, not entirely on either side.
The sisters’ conflict puts a nice point on their development over the course of the series. Rose’s desire to see this as an opportunity to renew their relationship flows nicely out of her isolation after being left with their mother when the other two left. Poppy’s weaker resolve isn’t surprising since she already has a family beyond her sisters. And Violet’s urge to push her sisters away underscores the emotional detachment she says she’s experienced since they were children. It’s this conflict that drives THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5’s ultimate conclusion which is about more than just who killed Rose, Poppy, and Violet’s mother.
The one place that THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5 stumbles is its (non) use of the police. Schultz cuts back and forth in the fourth issue to great effect. It drives tension throughout the issue as each side tries to solve the mystery first. The storytelling makes it appear that the sisters and police are heading toward a collision.
But the police are all but absent from this issue, and even though Detective Bayani is not a main character in the series his absence here after such effective use of him in previous issues is conspicuous. In the end Schultz’s inclusion of the detective only pays off in such that when he appears for a few panels in this issue we can assign an identity to him. Unfortunately this has been an ongoing issue in the series, with Bayani’s presence feeling at times critical and at other times merely a mystery genre requirement.
Chu’s coloring is used to very good effect in THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5. The flashback sequence has a slightly faded aspect which contrasts with the jump to the present where the issue catches up to the sisters in a highly charged moment. This also has the side effect of making this sequence feel of secondary importance to the conflict between the sisters which results from the revelation detailed in it–further emphasizing that the interpersonal drama is the true heart of the story.
Borelli turns in another issue of strong work. Her depiction of Violet is especially strong. She runs a gamut of emotions in this issue. Borelli is able to distinguish her mood changes–sometimes very subtly–to build up to an unexpected resolution for the character.
This skill with facial expression also serves to make the issue’s climax hit its fullest potential. Over the course of four pages Schultz’s script cuts between panels. Their order maximizes tension in this crucial moment. Almost every panel centers on characters’ faces: the three sisters and Poppy’s husband Derek. It’s an outstanding example of emotional strength possible in comic book storytelling, and it depends entirely on Borelli’s ability to convey the sisters’ feelings.
THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET set out to tell a murder mystery that was a vehicle to explore the relationship between three sisters raised into a dysfunctional relationship. The fact that the victim was their mother proved to be the perfect catalyst. This issue wraps it up very well. It’s not quite perfect, but it delivers a surprising and effective resolution that is more than satisfying.