Temporarily out of trouble, tattooist/assassin Pearl Tanaka journeys to Japan with Mr. Miike to settle things under the order of the Yakuza.
Not everything Brian Michael Bendis writes suffers from his affinity for dialogue and conversation. When the man does it well, it does nothing to stall the story and can even accelerate proceedings. This is true of Pearl. Everything slides and clicks into place to have this read at a perfect pace.
The story has been intriguing from issue #1, but the character development and history along with the real-world attachments really work. It’s work like this that can put a shine on Bendis’s other writings and prevent it from nearing insufferable levels when it threatens to.
Following Pearl as she grows out of her fragilities and becomes more attuned to her own agency is a great experience. Her take-no-s--t but still wide-eyed approach to everything bleeds authenticity and truth. The roles of the supporting cast, whether small or large, are so well defined you can hear the characters speak their lines.
This issue manages to balance dense story, a recap of everything of the previous seven issues, and excitement, with forward progression. That’s very unlike Bendis, who rarely gets to the point quickly, and he doesn’t fully achieve that here, but it’s dressed in such richness that it barely registers as a complaint.
Michael Gaydos turns in incredible work, most of all when paired with Bendis on their own creations. Nothing else out there looks like his art. Setting aside the photo referencing for now, his coloring and the design aesthetics are amazing to just stare at.
Having said that, the one problem photo referencing can often lead to is unemotive expressions from the characters. Layouts, framing, angles, these can all carry over quite well from the principles of photography but it’s an extremely difficult thing to capture the exact moment grief is recounted or a heartfelt farewell is spoken.
The other thing that really lets an otherwise spectacular effort down in this issue is the three pages of a repeated image. It just feels like a cheat. A cheap trick for a short page count. This is fine for comedic or dramatic effect if it’s done over three panels, or if it’s to amp up the tension and features incremental change. But comic book readerships pay too much per issue today to be shortchanged under the guise of supposed cleverness like that.