Pearl #1 – Brian Michael Bendis, Writer; Michael Gaydos, Artist, Janice Chiang, Backup Inker; Patricia Mulvihill, Backup Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: In November 2001, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos changed comics forever with the inaugural book of the Marvel MAX line, Alias #1. Jessica Jones became one of the universe’s breakout characters and eventually made her way over to the main line and mainstream media – now the star of her own Netflix TV series. Bendis and his Jinxworld imprint are over at DC now, and Gaydos has come along for the ride to see if history repeats itself. Pearl #1 is a very different comic – it’s a fully creator-owned book set in its own universe, a dark and fascinating story of tattoos and organized crime. It opens when the title character is sitting alone at a cafe, and a man notices the photorealistic spider tattoo on her hand. It’s an Iriguci, done by the most renowned tattoo artist in San Francisco. Before they can talk too much about her ink, she, the mysterious guy, and her best friend Kim all come under attack by a band of motorcycle-riding mob killers in a stunning segment, and Pearl proves that she’s much more than a girl with an interesting tattoo.
Bendis, much like his fellow veteran creator Greg Rucka, loves tough-as-nails female leads with dark pasts, and Pearl is very much in his wheelhouse. After dispatching her attackers, she heads home to meet with her mentor Mr. Kai, who wants her to get rid of the gun – a gun she has very personal attachments to. A more pressing concern is her boss Mr. Miike, a sadistic crimelord who exacts a very painful and graphic revenge on her for potentially exposing his operation. This book is not going to be to everyone’s tastes, and the first issue leaves a lot of questions unanswered. What I do see in this series immediately, though, is fantastic, minimalist art that elevates a story with a compelling lead and a pitch-black atmosphere. The issue has a bonus in the form of “Citizen Wayne”, Bendis’ only prior DC work before his exclusive. It’s a Bendis-Gaydos short from Batman Chronicles, an old anthology series. It retells Citizen Kane with Batman in the lead, and while the eventual reveal of “rosebud” may be predictable – what is the formative item of Bruce Wayne’s life? – it’s still a great, suspenseful take with some clever alternate versions of the major figures in Batman’s life. Overall, definitely a recommended first issue just to see these masters work.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.