The Pulse #2
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Mark Bagley
Alias was a damn gutsy book. It followed a broken
b-level superhero who'd been about as psychologically raped
as it is possible to be and bravely swept us along her twisted
road to redemption.
For all his crimes against fandom, former Marvel president
Bill Jemas' own redemption came with his unwavering support
of this book; a story one might expect from DC/Vertigo, but
Marvel? Not on your life. Hell, according to Bendis, Jemas
created the Marvel MAX line just so they could put the book
like all good stories, Alias had an ending, and a great
one at that.
wasn't about to give Jessica Jones the axe just because the
original arc was over, so her story continues now as The
Pulse, following the now pregnant full-time girlfriend
of Luke Cage as she and Ben Urich go to work reporting for
a new section of the Daily Bugle, focusing on superheroes,
well, "The Pulse."
who haven't read the first issue (and there seem to be many,
since people keep complaining about it selling out), a woman's
body was found in the Central Park reservoir, police surmising
that it was tossed there from midair. That issue really seemed
aimed at new readers more than anyone else, so most of it
was devoted to Jessica getting hired and J. Jonah Jameson
justifying why a mask-hater like himself wants to print stories
on heroes, all of a sudden. The body in the water was more
of a sly parallel plot used to keep Jessica's hiring from
being too joyous and cliché of an event. Almost worked,
however, flashes us back to the day before the body was found
and focuses on a new reporter for the Daily Bugle named Terri
Kidder (clearly an amalgam of actresses Teri Hatcher and Margot
Kidder, aka cinema and TV's Lois Lanes), who, as you
might easily guess, is the soon-to-be dead woman in question.
She frets over her inability to find a story by deadline and
how different the Bugle is from the big national paper she
used to write for. She tells herself over and over that she'll
be fired by the end of the week, which seems pretty damn likely
when she turns in a story on the Avengers and nearly gets
her head taken off by Jameson. Then, while she's sulking,
a call comes in that Spider-man and The Vulture are brawling
in the streets. Rushing to the scene, Terri finds TV news
vans, cameramen, and reporters littering the streets beneath
the grappling foes. And then it's over. Spider-man and The
Vulture move on, the TV reporters wrap up, and she's left
with a story that she's already been beaten to by every TV,
radio, and internet reporter out there.
said in the first issue and Terri echoes in this one: people
just don't buy papers any more. They get their news elsewhere,
and they get it faster. Motion picture is just better suited
to certain stories, and all-out power battles are one of them.
Ah, but the printed word is still king when it comes to facts,
and how could this be Lois Lane if she didn't stumble into
that big story, lurking around the corner, and then put all
her skills as an investigative reporter into weeding out those
facts. Unfortunately for Terri, the Lois Lane comparison doesn't
hold out: Lois had Superman to rescue her when she dug too
let's bash this next chapter in the life of Jessica Jones,
which may put the fear of God into some hardcore Alias
fans for two reasons: Jessica can no longer cuss her hungover
head off, since the title has moved to Marvel's main line,
and the art is no longer in the hands of Michael Gaydos, but
in no way intended to say Bagley is an untalented hack (I
reserve that distinction for the more Leifeld-esque scribblers
still running around), but his character designs are very
similar. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he only has a couple
of female face templates he uses (for close-ups, at least),
altering the nose and cheekbones a bit for variety. Not a
huge problem in male dominated books, but this is Jessica
Jones, man. You know? The one who slouches around town, squinting
at any light bright enough to show the bags under her eyes
and sneering through cigarette smoke at anyone dumb enough
to pick a fight? I can understand that she'd quit smoking
now that she's pregnant, but she just looks like a bit too
much of a babe, now. Bagley certainly has adapted his style
to be somewhat true to the pug-nosed, thick-lipped look of
Jessica, but there's one thing drastically different about
her, and that's the eyes. Bagley's eye designs are nothing
like the darkened, sly looks Gaydos bestowed upon her, but
rather resemble the big, bright eyes of just about every woman
in Ultimate Spider-man. That said, she hasn't morphed
into Ultimate Mary Jane Watson, and Bagley is drawing her
better than he did in his sections of Alias so things
aren't as bad as they could be.
of the story, on the other hand, seems to have altered drastically.
Oh, we're still in New York, but there can be no doubt that
this is a different New York. Not the gritty, dirty, dark
place from Alias and Daredevil, but much more
akin to the bright metropolis of Ultimate Spider-man.
The feeling that something's gonna lunge out of the shadows
and eat you is gone. Bagley's city has personality, but it's
different. Not necessarily bad, but different.
that's what I'm getting at: this book IS different from Alias.
It's too early to tell, but it seems like Bendis may be on
to something. I mean, he killed off Lois Lane, for God's sake!
Then he had J. Jonah Jameson relax his view on superheroes
(but just a bit), announcing that the "old way"
of telling the news is through.
Bendis really saying that the old way of doing the superhero/reporter
book is dead, and that he's going to re-invent it? Looking
at Bagley's New York, it does faintly call to mind those images
from Action Comics and Amazing Spider-Man where
you knew a photographer was perched just around the corner,
waiting to say "What a scoop!" before popping a
flashbulb. A dark, gritty New York works great for noir
stories; detectives living in the shadows and blending
in with the filth, but the reporter story was always more
about living in the light and occasionally popping your head
into those shadows to see what's scurrying around in them.
Parker no longer reporting and Clark Kent eternally taking
a backseat to Supes, maybe Bendis has sniffed out a new way
of filling that superhero/reporter void. Maybe this is a shadow
in the superhero genre worth investigating. This is, after
all, the "Information Age." The news has changed
a lot in all these years, so why shouldn't the newspaper oriented
comic change, as well?
not sound as groundbreaking as a former superhero rape victim
defeating the mind-controlling monster who crushed her, but
when you consider she's now pregnant with her black boyfriend's
baby, the comic no longer has adult warnings to chase the
kiddies off, and the ride's JUST getting started, The Pulse
looks pretty damn gutsy, after all.