"Thin Air: Part 1"
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Scott Hanna (i)
After the tumultuous events of Alias, Jessica Jones starts a new title teaming up with Ben Urich and Kat Farrell of the Daily Bugle, giving her own unique point of view to an editorial team who are going to make the Bugle a success again covering the superhero beat - and being sure to keep her finger on the Pulse...
With Alias having ended its run, readers who crave another instalment of Jessica Jones can thank Marvel for the solicitation of a new series which follows her burgeoning career. Much more than the further adventures of Jessica Jones however, The Pulse reintroduces Jones into the world of J. Jonah Jameson and Ben Urich of the Daily Bugle and promises interaction with Kat Farrell, the likeable young reporter on "capes", who made her debut in the recent Deadline miniseries. A lot of set-up finally gives way to the plot, such as it is, suggesting the first signs of a murder mystery that will presumably drive this first arc.
The premise of this first issue centres around Jameson's realisation that "capes" sell papers and his personal vendetta against masked avengers such as Spider-Man is finally beginning to harm his sales figures. Shrewdly recruiting an ex-superhero to which he has past ties (a good use of existing continuity to build a satisfying new relationship and storyline) he recruits Jessica Jones to work with Ben Urich on The Pulse ("I hate the name but it's the best we have right now."), a weekly section of the newspapers which reports on the superheroes. Characterisation is strongest when dealing with Jameson's shrewd manipulation of Jones and Urich, their recruitment scenes mirroring each other and showing that for all his bluff and bluster, Jameson is in fact a savvy handler of people. Indeed, this tempering of the caricature that has been Jameson for so long with a sense of reality and endearing character traits may go far to make him an unlikely hero of this series - and readers could happily subsist on a good few more issues focusing on J. Jonah Jameson on the evidence here.
Mark Bagley brings with him the reputation of a man who has worked quickly and effectively with Bendis in Ultimate Spider-Man and has established a certain pedigree which he is expected to live up to. Here, his artistic style adapts itself admirably - both to the darker mood established in the previous Alias series, and to the contemporary looks of many marvel characters as they appear today: witness the John Romita Jr. style Spideys that crop up in the newspapers and a Ben Urich who is familiar from his appearances in Daredevil and Deadline. Longtime readers may nevertheless feel uncomfortable with an overly cartoonish, large-eyed rendering of consummate down-to-earth superhero Jessica Jones, and the art occasionally lapses into inconsistency when called upon to repeatedly portray facial expressions in conversation - a fault exacerbated by Bendis' preponderance towards talking heads. However, the promise that different artists will handle different story arcs (with Gaydos' return imminent) is a welcome development and the device will help to build interest, developing different moods as the individual tales demand.
A solid overall package which sets the scene (and little else) is unfortunately let down by a cliffhanger which is as confusing as it is intriguing. Whilst the seeds of an interesting mystery may be sown, the reader is likely to come away knowing only that a woman is dead, with the artwork and writing being too frustratingly vague to give any further clue as to the identity of the woman and therefore the significance of her death. It is left to the readers, as with so many opening issues these days, to trust in the creative team that something great will come of the following few episodes. The Pulse goes some way to suggest that this may be the case, but it still has much to do if it is to capture the imaginations of its readers.
A fair first issue despite the absence of Jessica's P.I. identity and tendency towards strong language, but one which perhaps suffers in comparison to the high standards set by Bendis' other work in the field. Nevertheless, the development of incidental Daily Bugle characters holds a lot of promise and readers will likely be eager to see where this goes. By no means a solid gold hit from the off, The Pulse still holds a lot of promise by virtue of its down-to-earth approach to superheroics which promises a different point of view from the standard Marvel adventures many of us have grown up with.
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