Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogathon 13: The Pulse: Fear

[Discussed in this post: The Pulse #11-14 and New Avengers Annual #1.]

The issues of The Pulse collected here at the best issues of that series. Bendis really brings his A-game to issue 11-14, which chronicle the birth of Luke and Jessica's baby, Luke asking Jessica to marry him, and the unknown story of D-Man. Bendis is joined by Alias collaborator Michael Gaydos, which is very appropriate since this is the end of The Pulse (it mutated into Frontline: Civil War or Civil War: Frontline, whatever), so no more Jessica Jones solo book.

I'll begin with the D-Man plot since the other stuff leads right into the New Avengers annual. There are probably some who hated this story as it turned the normally goofy-yet-heroic D-Man into a sadder version of himself, portraying him as mentally unstable and not as heroic. Except he is as heroic. Ben Urich investigates a few prevented robberies that Daredevil apparently stopped -- in his old costume. He eventually figures out that it's D-Man (as Kat Farrel tells him: Daredevil costume with a Wolverine hat) and also learns that a few of jewelery stores noticed, after the robbery, that some items were missing -- is D-Man preventing robberies only to steal himself?

Urich eventually discovers where D-Man enters/exits the sewers and goes down, and meets D-Man who is a big Daredevil fan and thinks that the jewels he took from the stores are Infinity Gems. He's on a quest, you see, to gather them and save the world. This is a man who could have been a great Avengers (well, 'great' being optional) and chose to be a superhero for the homeless, now mentally ill but still doing his best to save the world. Ben writes the story and it ends with Daredevil coming down to the sewers to tell D-Man his quest is over and to take him to get the help he needs. Man, when Daredevil shows up, I always get a little lump in my throat...

I understand people who would argue that Bendis ruins D-Man somehow, but something Bendis does very well at times is show just how dangerous being a superhero could be -- and the result of it. D-Man chooses to be a superhero for the homeless and pays the price through his mental balance. He's a victim of his heroism and gets the help he needs. Besides, it's the best use of D-Man... ever.

The main story has Jessica, first, freaking out over having the baby, so Carol sets up a lunch with Susan Richards. That's okay... it's got some of Bendis's wonky dialogue (which I'll probably discuss in a post all it's own at some point). The actual birth stuff is handled very well. The hospital is worried about the effects of a superhuman giving birth, Jessica is freaking because she's having the baby, and Luke Cage will not be stopped from seeing his child being born -- first, he's stranded while Carol flies Jessica to the hospital and then has to jump to catch the Quinjet. Luke Cage is the motherfucking man. Jessica gives birth at Dr. Strange's house and there's a lot of media -- one of the deals Jessica made when she took the job at The Daily Bugle was to give them exclusive access, but after Jameson lying about giving the team fair coverage in issue 15 of New Avengers, she tells him to go fuck himself. The baby is born and Luke Cage proposes.

All of that is done with skill and the right amount of frantic, excited energy. It's kind of goofy and wacky, but the right kind. It's exactly how a superhuman birth should be handled.

Issue 14 of The Pulse has Jessica considering Luke's proposal and has a flashback to her final attempt at being a superhero before giving it up. She helps take down the Owl with Power Man and Iron Fist (more accurately, they help her) and, after, a couple of kids are left since their dad was a criminal and brought them to see the supervillain. Instead of leaving the kids to spend the night at a police station, Jessica takes off her mask, reveals her identity, and takes the kids for one last night of normal living before things go bad. Luke shows up and they have a little moment. The issue ends with her deciding to accept Luke proposal.

These issues are, as I said, illustrates by Michael Gaydos and he does an amazing job. The man can draw people without being a hyper-realist sort of artist. His style is heavy on blacks and thick lines and it's just so damn good. He and Bendis do fantastic work together every time they work together. The best New Avengers issues are the ones that Michael Gaydos draws... all two of them.

The New Avengers annual is mostly just the team fighting the new Super-Adaptoid, the Black Widow II after Jessica accepts Luke's proposal and before the actual marriage ceremony. One big fight scene that's okay. Nothing special. A little long.

The wedding itself is fine. Stan Lee performs the ceremony, which would work if he had anything to do with either of these characters, but he doesn't. Has Stan Lee ever written Luke Cage even? It just feels hollow and forced.

Olivier Coipel does much weaker work here than he did in House of M. He uses a much more manga-influenced style that has energy, but the characters don't quite look like themselves. It's a little disappointing after House of M was so strong.

And so ends New Avengers pre-Civil War, because we're on The Road to Civil War in 30 minutes.

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