Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogathon 03: The Pulse: Thin Air

[Discussed in this post: The Pulse #1-5.]

While the inclusion of the opening storyarc of The Pulse may not seem essential, only a fool would think so, because this is absolutely essential to Bendis's Avengers work. And I will tell you why.

Firstly, The Pulse was a short-lived title that spun out of the MAX title Alias by Bendis and Michael Gaydos, a series that introduced us to Jessica Jones, a former superhero (now private detective) who was even an Avenger once. The only reason Alias isn't in this blogathon is that I don't own anything after the first two trades. Damn, man...

Anyway, by the end of that series, she's pregnant with Luke Cage's baby and they're involved. In The Pulse, she's given a job offer by J. Jonah Jameson to work for The Daily Bugle as part of a new weekly section on superheroes called 'The Pulse.' She winds up taking the job despite being unsure -- she does it for the medical benefits and money because of the baby.

The story here involves people disappearing at Oscorp and the Green Goblin being involved -- something that's capped off when a Bugle reporter is found dead, apparently dropped from a great height. Jameson is reluctant to go after Osborn when the connection is revealed to him, because of past problems where Osborn pretty much took over the Bugle.

The reason why Thin Air is essential is that this is where we get introduced to Jessica and Luke as we'll know them: a somewhat happy couple dealing with being adults. While Alias has a lot of that growth (probably), I think this is a great place to begin as we see Jessica constantly make decisions based on what's best for the baby -- when was the last time you saw a superhero that selfless (even though she's not a superhero now)? Luke is a bit slower in coming to that point, but he's getting there. The idea of being a father is a lot less immediate for him, but, when it's called for, he shows up.

The final confrontation with Osborn who goes all nuts and reveals officially that he's the Green Goblin is fantastic -- as an earlier scene had Jessica worried that he forced a miscarriage (but her superhuman toughness prevented any damage). Luke, as you'd expect, is pissed the fuck off and acts accordingly. It's nice to see, because we're not used to superheroes just randomly grabbing a limo, demanding that the guy get out, so he can get his face pounded in -- and then Luke does it. He takes out the Green Goblin with one punch... but then adds a few more for good measure.

This story also marks Bendis's first writing of Norman Osborn who is different here than he is later on, mostly because Warren Ellis hasn't gotten to him yet. Spider-Man also makes some appearances, teaming up with Luke and saving Jessica, basically, making their being teammates a little more easy of a transition.

Mark Bagley provides the art and it's fine. Bagley is a solid artist. I don't like his Luke Cage, but everything else is done well. This arc marks the first real appearance of something I find slightly annoying in Bendis books: the use of double-page-with-grid layouts. They're damn hard to follow sometimes, particularly with Bendis's dialogue, which can be a bit stilted and non-sequitur at times. But, I'd learn to cope.

This arc also brought to light the obvious West Wing/Aaron Sorking influence on Bendis (and that's not a negative, by the way) with his love of 'behind the scenes' books. Sorkin did a sports show, the White House, and a sketch comedy show... Bendis does a newspaper. His dialogue doesn't have the same rhythm or cadence as Sorkin's, but there are similarities. They're both fond of the joke where someone says something only to have an external event make them look wrong and/or foolish. I noticed this primarily because my girlfriend and I are watching The West Wing currently, so it's been on my mind.

In 30 minutes: Secret War (my favourite Bendis Avengers story, I think).

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