Comics : The Pulse #6

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This story is part of an Arc: "Secret War"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

It's a Secret War tie-in and Spidey doesn't even appear... but we're going to review the thing anyway.

In Detail...

The Pulse #6
Jan 2005 : SM Spin-Off
Arc: Part 1 of "Secret War"
Editor:  Andy Schmidt
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Artist:  Brent Anderson
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Review

Jessica Jones says, "I'm sorry" to Wolverine, which pisses him off so badly that he shoves his claws up to her face and then breaks down crying. What is that all about? I haven't a clue because, suddenly, it's one week ago and Luke Cage's apartment is blowing up. He and Jessica are within and they are both injured by the blast. The problem is Luke's skin is unbreakable so they can't stick a needle in him or open him up for surgery at the hospital. Jessica is less hurt and is grilled by the NYPD until they suddenly get a mysterious call, ordering them to back off.

Luke is kept alive by various tubes running into his mouth. Jessica and Danny Rand a.k.a. Iron Fist sit at his bedside when Nick Fury shows up. Fury seems remorseful about something ("What have I done?" he blurts out.) but then Captain America shows up and backhands Nick across the face. "Damn you for what you did to us!" Cap tells Nick but then the two take it outside so that Jessica still doesn't know what's going on.

Jessica goes to the hospital lobby to make a couple of phone calls. There she spots a man who seems to get a report in his earpiece and bolts for the exit. Suddenly a powerful light show and explosion occur outside. Jessica races back to Luke's room only to find he and Danny missing. In fact, Luke's entire bed is gone. She runs outside into the aftermath of the explosions and sees a corona of light in the night sky. Impotently, she yells for Luke.

In General...

I like Brian Bendis. I really do. He's done some of the best writing in recent comics and has, in many ways, changed the way comics are done as much as any writer in the history of the medium. But he also has some tendencies that drive me nuts: redundancies, slow pacing (using five issues to tell a story when one would suffice) and, at times, maddeningly unfocused dialogue. This issue suffers from two of those three vices.

As has been pointed out often, Bendis writes stage/screenplays for the comic book causing him to eschew thought balloons and, usually, captions. The captions he does use are essentially monologues by a specific character, in this case Jessica Jones, which serve as a screenplay voiceover. The trouble is that while theatre, film, and comics are all drama-driven forms, they are different enough that simply transposing one medium over another often doesn't work. In this case, however, the dialogue is the only one of the three tendencies that fits. What about the other two?

The first problem is that this issue is a tie-in to a mini-series that has only been appearing sporadically. Since I can't quite remember what has already happened in Secret War, I can't figure out what I should already know and what I'm only now learning. The opening two pages featuring Jessica's confrontation with Wolverine are useless in the context of this story and only seem to point out something we already know if we're reading Secret War; that Wolverine was involved in the mission. No new information is provided and the whole scene only seems to be an excuse for making the cover make at least a dollop of sense. (Well, it actually makes no sense but at least Wolverine is in the book.) And at least that scene feels new. The rest of the comic feels like something I already read in Secret War a couple of months ago (or whenever it last came out). Granted, I'm not pulling out the two comics and comparing them side-by-side. I'm not pulling out the other issue at all! But didn't we already learn about Luke's injuries and most of what comes from that in the mini-series? I don't have any need to read it twice. Yes, it's from Jessica's point of view this time but do we really need that? It just gives the feeling that I've bought the same issue all over again. A lot of that feeling comes from Brian's tendency to stretch and stretch and stretch out his stories. All he really needed to do here is give us a several page recap of the Secret War stuff and then go on with his tale. But since he doesn't do that, the story in this issue never gets started at all.

It's not a complete disaster, of course. As I mentioned, the dialogue this time is very smart and focused. And I do like the idea of Luke's unbreakable skin working against him in the hospital. (It's an idea used as long ago as the 1940s with the Man of Steel in the Superman radio series but it feels fresh and that's what counts.) Which proves Bendis is good even when he isn't. I also like Brent Anderson's moody artwork which is deeper and richer than the work he was doing on Ka-Zar the Savage and Somerset Holmes twenty years ago. And it really captures the mood with Pete Pantazis' colors.

Overall Rating...

Yes, I'm giving this two webs. I'm probably harder on it than I would be if somebody other than Bendis wrote it. It does have its virtues but it just feels like Brian is coasting. With all the comics he writes, I'm not surprised he has to slide on occasion. I just wish he'd e-mail me and tell me on which issue he's doing it so I can skip that one. Besides, it doesn't even have Spidey in it! Why am I even bothering?