“People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”
That line and variants of it have been credited to many people over the years. Yogi Berra. Mark Twain. George Bernard Shaw. Even Honest Abe Lincoln! And as is usually the case with this sort of line, none of them can be credited as the original source.
The line was originally written by a man named Artemus Ward, who I was surprised to find out was a 19th century humorist and not the lead character of an urban fantasy series about a wizard detective. Sadly, it’s probably the most famous funny thing he ever said, but nobody today ever quotes him on it.
I mention this bit of trivia because that quote was the first thing that came to mind after I finished reading Pearl #1, as I wondered who the target audience for this book was and who might enjoy it.
Pearl #1 is the first new title produced for Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld imprint, since he set up shop at DC Comics. It is also his first collaboration with artist Michael Gaydos since the two of them worked on a little series for Marvel Comics called Alias, which introduced the character of Jessica Jones. You might have heard of her from a show on Netflix that was rather popular and well-received.
So what is Pearl about? Beyond “a girl named Pearl” that’s a bit hard to say after just one issue. All we get are a simple series of factoids – she’s a tattoo artist, she’s an albino, she’s part of a Yakuza family in San Francisco and she’s uncommonly good with a gun. As is typical with Bendis’ writing, he’s taking his sweet time letting the main character’s backstory unfold and there’s no internal monologue. This places a greater burden on Bendis’ partner to make the characters’ reactions clear through their facial expressions, but usually leads to some amazing artwork.
Unfortunately, this is a burden that Gaydos is ill-equipped to handle. Gaydos sports a fine, photo-realistic style but he’s never been very good at drawing expressive faces. Most of his characters look bored or stoned, even in the middle of a gun fight! A larger problem with the artwork is the color tints Gaydos lays over each page, which make it unclear that Pearl is an albino until another character outright tells us she is one.
In fact, most of the story of this issue is unclear unless you’ve read the interview where Bendis explains the ideas behind Pearl, which basically come down to him wanting to do a Yakuza story that avoided the usual cliches and how nobody ever makes albino characters the protagonists in popular fiction. Unfortunately, Bendis has yet to give Pearl much of a character beyond being an albino and there’s nothing much to the Yakuza elements of the story so far beyond the usual cliches.
Personally, I didn’t enjoy Pearl much, but I was also equally unimpressed by Alias when it first came out. That’s fine. Some people enjoy Bendis’ and Gaydos’ work. I am not one of them. That is my right and if you think they’re awesome, more power to you.
Which brings us back to that quote – “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” If you’re the sort of person who likes Bendis’ and Gaydos’ work, you’ll almost certainly like Pearl. If, like me, you’re not a fan of decompressed storytelling and the Bendis/Gaydos ouvere, this probably won’t change your mind.
One other note of trivia: this issue also contains a reprint of a story called Citizen Wayne, which has the distinction of being the only thing Brian Michael Bendis wrote for DC Comics before being signed to an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics for the better part of two decades. Coincidentally, Michael Gaydos was also the artist on this piece, which is basically the movie Citizen Kane only with Bruce Wayne reworked into the Charles Foster Kane role and Clark Kent as the reporter trying to figure out why Bruce Wayne’s last words were “Rosebud.” Bat-fans may be tempted to pick up this issue for that reason, given that the original issue has become something of a pricey collectors’ item.
Pearl #1 releases on August 15, 2018!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.