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Girls Write Reviews - Deadliest Bouquet

“They f^ck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra, just for you.” No matter how functional or dysfunctional our relationships with our parents may be, I think this quote always rings true. For some of us, it may just be little foibles or unfounded fears here and there (try being the daughter to a neat freak dad). But for others, like Poppy, Violet, and Rose, the three protagonists of The Deadliest Bouquet, the faults and trauma can be so much more. The Deadliest Bouquet, written and lettered by Erica Schultz art by Carola Borelli, colors by Gab Contreras (chapter 1-3) and Tom Chu (chapter 4-5), and with a cover by Kevin Wada tells the tale of three estranged sisters as they reunite to solve the murder of their mother.

I first found out about this book in May through an interview with Erica Schultz talking about the book. Immediately, I was hooked and shortly after backed the book on Kickstarter. Three sisters, all trained assassins, helping solve the murder of their mother who trained them? What’s not to love? I fully anticipated a graphic novel full of page after page of bad ass women kicking ass and taking names until they find the people responsible and putting them in the ground. What I got instead, and, I think, for the better, is a heartfelt story about sisters whose very different reactions to childhood trauma pushed them apart and what happens when circumstances force them back together.

The book opens at the same place many murder mysteries do: the murder. Jasmine Hawthorn, mother of our three protagonists and daughter of French resistance fighters, lays murdered in her flower shop. Rose Hawthorn, the oldest daughter, frantically calls her sister Poppy, now a wife and mother of two living in California, to tells her the news. Within mere moments, the tension is already there, as Poppy tells Rose, “You’re supposed to be taking care of her,” to which Rose angrily responds that it’s not her fault and that she has been left to deal with their mother all this time. Soon, the tension ramps up further as Rose and Poppy, now in the back room of the flower shop, are joined by the youngest sister, “Violent” Violet, a “model” (read: assassin) fresh off a plane from London. Violet is angry and ready to fight, putting her training to good use. Rose wants to take the quiet route, worried what more noisy methods might mean for the family and its secrets. Poppy, meanwhile, wonders why she is even there when she’s done so well to run away and establish a new life with a new family an entire country away.

It’s this tension between the three sisters that informs so much of the book going forward. We see the sisters bicker about Violet’s choice to beat up a bar full of bikers for answers. We see them argue over Poppy’s family and her attempts to hide them away. We see them quarrel over Rose’s efforts taking care of their mother in her declining health. All of these exchanges, however, stem from one place: how their mother raised them. We are shown this upbringing through flashback panels interspersed throughout each chapter. We see how they watched their mother kill their father and had them help her dispose of the body. We see panel after panel of the girls being taught to shoot, throw knives, sneak, and fight. We see the girls paired against each other in bare knuckle fights, being told that they are not sisters, they are enemies. With each panel, my heart broke more and more for young Rose, Poppy, and Violet as I saw just how traumatic it was for them to be raised by an overbearing mother incapable of raising anything other than trained killers.

As the book reaches its climax, you soon realize that this is not your more traditional crime drama about three sister assassins coming together to take on the world. No, what you see is a more personal story of the ways in which family can truly mess you up and what happens when you’re forced to come to terms with it. At times cool and stylish, at other times tragic, The Deadliest Bouquet delivers a fantastic story with great art that is definitely worth your time.

On the technical side, the book is just really well illustrated and beautifully colored. Every panel is clear and flows smoothly from one to the next without any jumps that make you go “okay, what happened?” The flashback panels have a slight sepia tone which helps make it clear when the action is taken place. All of the character designs, even those for the side characters, are also really cool and really sell the 1990s setting of the book. If I had to choose a favorite, it’d be Violet with Rose being a close second. The lettering was also great, with special shout-out to how the thought bubbles were created for each individual character.

Overall, The Deadliest Bouquet is an entertaining and heartfelt graphic novel that beautifully deals with family trauma in a unique and stylish way. I’d highly recommend it for any comic reader, but especially those with some family trauma in need of catharsis.

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