Lady Killer is heavy in tropes. This must be intentional, and it’s not always clear when it’s being sardonic. In a lot of ways it’s heavily reminiscent of some of Pam Greer’s sexploitation films, although of course without the added blaxsploitation element. Josie infiltrates her targets with seduction and feminine wiles, slinky hip-shaking Charlie’s Angels moves that belie the construct of a strong female character. But the added element, the redeeming factor that makes me want to keep picking up this book, is that Josie knows this.
Josie knows that she’s as respected by her colleagues when she’s principled and refuses to degrade herself as when she does degrading things for the good of the mission and completes it flawlessly. That is to say, she’s not respected at all. And she equally manages to convey that she’ll “yes sir” because that’s how she gets what she wants, but if he fucks with her she will not hesitate to pull out his eyeballs and strangle him with his own optic nerves.
The premise of Lady Killer, on the surface, is a sexy lady spy who’s also very attached to her cover life as a loving wife and mother. The real story, though, is about the very real person who has to live within the construct of these tropes. We, the reader, are presented with a false dichotomy of her glamorous, dangerous, and sexually-charged spy life and her picture-perfect, sexless, morally superior home life. But echoing the way that even modern women are offered a false choice between work and home life (are you going to be a career woman or a good mom?), these aren’t the only options, and Josie may feel torn between them, but they don’t define her. This is only the second issue, and there’s so much left to develop, but critiquing the dichotomy is absolutely essential to this series, and it’s essential to gender equality.
This issue follows Josie’s mission as a sexy leotard-wearing kitty cat lady in a bar, and contradicts the effortless sex appeal with the grotesque brutality of her fight scenes. Murdering a man is not a sexy endeavor, and real people are unlikely to be able to do it as effortlessly as you see on TV.
This issue gets even more gender-essentializing with her next assignment, which she has been chosen for because she’s a woman, and which she may hesitate to do because she is a wife and mother. I can’t say more without going into some pretty hefty spoiler territory, but this book is really pushing the boundaries of identity, what a person is willing to do, and how that is (presumably) affected by constructed gender.
As long as this story continues to question a binary construct of gender, I’ll be reading it. Plus, the cover is clever and delightful and my favorite this week, earning the second installment of Lady Killer a 9/10.