By Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos & Joshua Reed
From the creators of Jessica Jones we have a brand new comic and from the get go, one thing’s pretty clear. It looks absolutely stunning. Following the life of the titular Pearl, a tattoo artist, it delves deep into her character and kickstarts the plot in an interesting way when she becomes an accidental assassin. For a first issue, it’s a welcome change in the fact that we get a distinct lack of an overdose of story, and as the launch title for his Jinxworld imprint of DC Comics, it sets the ground running nicely.
The tone and noir-ish feel of the first issue will appeal to fans of Jessica Jones and on the surface it hits that sweet spot pretty well. Although, the more you peel back the layers between the two characters of Jessica and Pearl and the worlds that they inhabit, the more you realise that they aren’t quite so similar after all. It takes a lot to make readers instantly assume that this isn’t another re-treading of Bendis and Gaydos’ greatest hits, as the creative team opt for a new approach that feels more grounded due to the as of this moment, distinct lack of superpowers.
Pearl is a slow-burner, and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not this book will end up being better read as a trade paperback rather than in individual issues, but the serialized nature of this series plays in its favour, as it allows for the plot to take its time and the characters to be fleshed out.
As good as Bendis’ script is, the main draw of Pearl #1 is its utterly gorgeous artwork from Michael Gaydos, who is on pencilling and colouring duties respectively. Gaydos’ moody, atmospheric tone gives the book a unique and dynamic feel, supplementing the script very well. Within its pages you’ll find that Gaydos doesn’t shy away from bringing San Francisco to life, turning it into an inviting yet enigmatic city, making use of lighting to play into the mood of the scene. Joshua Reed’s letters play into the book’s favour very well, with the set-piece featuring a masked biker attack allowing letter, artist and writer to maximise the creativity on show here.
The characterization of Pearl’s character and her background with the Yakuza is an interesting one. Not much is revealed about her. The minimal dialogue doesn’t feel as expository as some comics do. Instead, the subtler, more realistic approach is a welcome one that adds depth to her character, and her newfound relationship with Rick. Pearl herself is a likeable character, as is Rick, and the bond that the comic creates between them allows for Bendis push in different directions going forward, especially given how little readers know about the characters.
Pearl #1 is a very strong start for the series that instantly emerges as an eye-catching read and represents a tonal shift from most of the more mainstream titles. It’s not especially quick, but it doesn’t need to be, as the world and the characters – and the art – are more than engaging enough to have readers coming back for more.