"Thin Air: Part 2"
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p) Scott Hanna (i)
In this second issue, we are introduced to Terri Kidder, novice reporter for the Daily Bugle, who has one day to find a good enough story for J. Jonah Jameson's latest feature or she will lose her job. But after a mis-step that exposes Jameson's dislike of "capes", Terri stumbles across a story to die for...
Anyone who was confused by the non-event that was last issue's cliffhanger will be pleased to learn that this issue resolves the "mystery" of the dead body recovered from Central Park. It doesn't take a genius to work out who that body will be, but the manner in which the story reaches its predictable conclusion is entertaining enough for a stand-alone tale. It remains, however, a brave choice for a series which has had only one issue to establish its main cast, most of whom are underused this issue. One central character who does get a look in, "Deadline"'s Kat Farrel, has undergone such a personality transformation since that series that Marvel seem to be assuming that no-one will be familiar with that under-rated miniseries from a couple of years ago. Here, her adulation and close relationship with kindred spirit Ben Urich has been reduced to a kind of bickering resentment and confusion at his success.
Further disappointing character work is presented with the appearance of J. Jonah Jameson. Whilst Terri's lengthy inner monologue which opens the issue provides some telling insights into why Jameson might be so angry and anxious after all his years in the business, Jameson's later dialogue is two-dimensional and predictable, especially in relation to the welcome depth of understanding that was applied to his character last issue. Nevertheless, his aversion to running an article on the Avengers is in keeping with the Jonah that we know and love and sets up a plot device which serves the story, and his mere presence makes up for a certain neglect in the core Spider-titles of late.
Artwork is good, Bagley clearly adapting his style to a slightly more gritty tone than Ultimate Spider-Man can muster, helped in no small part by the subdued colours and inking. A cameo by Spider-Man and the Vulture brings a welcome splash of colour (even if it is outstripped by Gabrielle Del'Otto's stunning cover) and Norman Osborn's later appearance is given a requisite sense of suave menace, mixing the demeanour of a powerful businessman with the temperament of an unhinged psychopath to chilling effect.
Indeed, this meeting proves to be a dramatic highpoint, conveying a sense of menace which is almost gripping enough to make us care about Terri's plight: but here lies the problem with the issue. In showing us the result of these events last issue, much of the dramatic tension of the story has been stripped. Bendis' rare misjudgement of the use of structure here has not only served to render last issue's ending confusing and meaningless, but also lessened the impact of this otherwise compelling second instalment. By telling the two issue's stories in a more interspersed manner, the comic could have been far more effective: as it is, The Pulse's second issue serves only to explain the mystery begun in the first. Whilst not a bad read by any means, the reader may not feel as attached to the story as they might, and subsequently the impact of the tale is lessened.
An interesting tale of a reporter who stumbles across a dangerous story serves to interrupt the main series after only one issue. Seeds for future developments in the series seem to have been sown, but considered on its lone merits the issue is as likely to provoke indifference as any real sense of excitement. With any luck, the storyline will fulfil its potential and blossom into a more interesting crime thriller, but having explained issue #1's mystery even more fully than expected it will be interesting to see where Bendis goes from here.
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