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Feeling the Pulse #8-9

thepulse8coverFeeling the Pulse is a weekly issue by issue look at the follow-up series to Alias featuring Jessica Jones and a team of reporters at the Daily Bugle, who investigate and report on superhero related stories.

In this installment of Feeling the Pulse, I will be covering The Pulse #8-9 (2005) written by Brian Michael Bendis, pencilled by Michael Lark, inked by Stefano Gaudiano, and colored by Pete Pantazis.

In The Pulse #8-9, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Michael Lark (Daredevil, Gotham Central) and Stefano Gaudiano tie up the “Secret War” arc with an air of measured cynicism as the Daily Bugle decides to not print the story of Nick Fury sending superheroes to fight an unsanctioned war on foreign soil. And it’s not because they’re afraid of Nick Fury, who shows up all grandfatherly in a hologram to Luke Cage and Jessica Jones towards the end of The Pulse #9, but because they don’t have all the facts in a story that could lead to World War III. But these issues aren’t all down in the dumps as Jessica Jones resists HYDRA interrogation (Pretty damn easy after all those cops in Alias and an earlier issue of The Pulse) and shows her love for Luke by looking for him all over the state of New York before having an emotional reunion involving the words “I love you”. It’s sweet, well-earned, and adds humanity to the conspiracy and journalism plots. However, The Pulse #8-9 isn’t without its flaws even though Lark, Gaudiano, and colorist Peter Pantazis evoke Michael Gaydos’ style on Alias when drawing Jessica Jones and the various supporting characters. First, there is Wolverine yelling about being raped in front of Jessica Jones, who has been forced to watch young women being sexually assaulted by Killgrave. This isn’t mentioned at all, and Bendis just uses it to make Wolverine seem really crazy when Pantazis’ blood red colors do an even better job of showing him that he’s not in his right mind. There is also Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) acting completely mean and cold around Jessica and not letting her see Luke thinking she’s just another Power Man groupie. Night Nurse comes out and blames it on insomnia, but it’s a little sad that Luke’s best friend and girlfriend get off on the wrong foot for seemingly no reason.

The Pulse #8 opens with several silent pages as we get to see the supervillain attack Luke and Jessica’s apartment in Harlem and explode (Another great use of red from Pantazis.) before coming to the present day where HYDRA is giving her the old sales pitch appealing to her outsider nature, talking about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s corruption, and promising money and support for her and her baby. At the Bugle, Ben Urich is desperately trying to find Jessica and get to the bottom of this Nick Fury story when he gets a call from a retired S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Al McKenzie, who corroborates Jessica’s story about Nick Fury doing something seriously wrong, and tells him that the attack on the hospital was technology themed supervillains taking revenge on Fury for invading foreign soil without the sanction of the U.S. government or U.N. McKenzie says that Urich should print this story even if Fury’s activities have been off limits in the past. Urich has his usual argument with Jameson, but the story’s still in play as Agent Clay Quartermain and S.H.I.E.L.D drop in and save Jessica after she tells a HYDRA agent to stuff thousands of dollars in cash up her ass. The issue ends with Jessica acting Quatermain about the “Secret War” and S.H.I.E.L.D’s illicit activities, but he doesn’t say anything.

The Pulse #9 amps up the drama and opens with Jessica Jones berating J. Jonah Jameson for being a terrible person and letting her get kidnapped by HYDRA. As she runs off to look for Luke, Urich follows her and tries to help when Al McKenzie (who looks a lot like Donald Sutherland) shows up, applauds Jessica for not joining HYDRA, and then gets punched by her. She lets him go after he gives her an address where Luke is in upstate New York. Urich knows he’s lying, but Jessica goes into a nearby dive bar any ways and runs into a drunk, rage filled Wolverine. Wolverine hits on her, then gets angry when she mentions S.H.I.E.L.D., and talks about Jessica was probably set up so he would get angry enough to kill Fury on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D. Wolverine says that Luke Cage is a good guy, and Urich suddenly has an epiphany that Luke is staying with the Night Nurse to patch up his wounds. (He knows about her because he’s friends with Daredevil.) Luke is being heavily guarded by several martial artists, including Misty Knight, Shang Chi, and Iron Fist, but after a super emotional jarring conversation with Danny Rand, Jessica finally gets to see him and sharing a touching moment. This is ruined by a hologram of Nick Fury showing up and saying he cares about them, but doesn’t give any details about the Secret War. (Jessica totally tells him off.) The issue ends with Jameson and Robbie Robertson deciding not to print a story about Nick Fury’s illegal activities and going with their usual “Spider-Man: Menace” headline.


Pete Pantazis really punches up his colors in The Pulse #8-9 in ways both subtle and bombastic. As I mentioned earlier, he uses red during moments where Jessica Jones feels her life or her baby’s life is being threatened. The two page opening scene of The Pulse #8 is very powerful because Bendis lets Lark and Pantazis do the heavy lifting with plenty of shadows overlaid by red and by showing the scene from Jessica’s POV as her apartment crumbles all around her. It’s a visual representation of how terrible she has been feeling throughout the arc. This red comes back when Jessica runs into Wolverine at the dive bar where he is drinking away his trauma of being used as a human weapon yet again by S.H.I.E.L.D. in a similar manner to the Weapon X program. He flashes his claws as Lark breaks up the page, but relents just before the killing blow as Pantazis relaxes his colors from scarlet red to just a general dark palette.


This is a strong way to show Wolverine’s berserker rage as well as his humanity, but Bendis kind of ruins it by having him yell, “Stop raping me” over and over again in regards to secret government organizations manipulating him. Comics is a medium that prides itself on economy of storytelling, and the best comics use a well-placed facial expression or use of color to convey meaning instead of dialogue. But Bendis won’t let Pantazis’ excellent color work stand for itself, or even Lark’s panels of Jessica Jones looking terrified as Wolverine pops his claws. He has to have Wolverine go on about being a rape victim in front of someone, who was actually sexually assaulted. Of course, he’s not in his right mind, but usually when Wolverine goes feral, he’s non-verbal or monosyllabic. (See the laconic killing machine when he was brainwashed in the “Enemy of the State” from Mark Millar’s run on Wolverine.) So, this is both out of character, insensitive, and just plain takes me out of the story. Luckily, Bendis course corrects by the end of the scene with Pantazis returning to a neutral palette, and Wolverine saying that Luke Cage is one of the four good guys he knows. (Who are the other three, I wonder? Maybe Bendis expands on this in his New Avengers run that I’ve only read in bits and pieces.)

Along with Wolverine, Bendis’ characterization of Iron Fist is inconsistent in The Pulse #9. It’s perfectly understandable that he, Shang Chi, and Misty Knight (We could have used a pointless ninja brawl with those three in the same panel.) are protecting Luke Cage, whose injuries were considered life threatening back in The Pulse #6. However, Danny acts very rudely towards the mother of his best friend’s child. It isn’t like he doesn’t know who Jessica is and tersely acknowledges her presence and pregnancy in their first interaction. However, then he goes on a long diatribe about how he and Luke have had many enemies since their days as Power Man and Iron Fist, and how does he know that she’s not one of them. Then, he closes by claiming that Luke might not be the father of her child. (Lark nails Jessica’s anger in this scene with a subtle zoom towards her bloodshot eyes and bandaged face.) But before he does or says anything, Night Nurse and Misty Knight shut him up, and we finally get some payoff to Jessica’s breathless search throughout New York that included enduring a HYDRA monologue, calling in a favor from an ex-boyfriend, and having adamantium claws a couple inches from her face.


So far, I’ve said a lot of negative things in this article, but The Pulse #8-9 does an excellent job with its characterization of Ben Urich as well as creating some genuine emotional catharsis in Luke and Jessica’s reunion scene. These issues incorporate the Daily Bugle reporters into the narrative nicely while showing that Ben Urich has had to compromise in the past to get stories and has connections other than the ones who wear red and run or swing from rooftops. Bendis and Lark use the illustrated script format to make the extended conversation between former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Al McKenzie and Urich easy on the eyes as well as pulling a twist that, yes, S.H.I.E.L.D. is okay with the Bugle printing a story showing Nick Fury in an unfavorable light. Lark’s art shows how restless Urich is as he shifts from side to side and looks over his shoulder, especially after McKenzie says the call has been “monitored”, which is different from being “bugged” and what the government does to all major media companies in an post 9/11/NSA/Patriot Act world.

And in this short exchange, we drift away from the world of superheroes to explosions and to a world where people who leak government secrets are literally stuck in Russia. This fear of retaliation from an organization that can send a full squad of agents based on a cellphone call from three days ago (Jessica freaking out and calling Agent Quatermain with no result before she fainted and was scooped up by HYDRA agents.) is truly frightening, and the HYDRA agent’s words about S.H.I.E.L.D. now being extralegal terrorists kind of rings true in the light of these events. Espionage is one thing, but this is covering up a military engagement against the sovereign state of Latveria. (These details actually don’t make it into The Pulse, and not reading the actual Secret War adds to the suspense and makes the ending doubly bitter.) The “Secret War” arc ends in bitter resignation as Urich types up a story about the Secret War even though he knows Agent McKenzie is manipulating him to take down Nick Fury, but it’s Robbie Robertson, the idealist and proponent of news journalism as truth, who doesn’t decide to print it, not the pragmatist J. Jonah Jameson. He realizes the messiness and potential gravity of this situation and decides to protect his readers (and the United States by extension) by not going forward with a story that relies on an unnamed source. It would be thrilling to read about the Daily Bugle taking down a corrupt S.H.I.E.L.D. All the President’s Men style, but Bendis and Lark give us a story that rings true to the 21st American surveillance state albeit in the heightened world of the Marvel Universe.


The short, quiet scene that Jessica and Luke share towards the The Pulse #9 is a heartwarming to the cold dose reality served up by the Daily Bugle deciding not to print a story about Nick Fury and Secret War. Lark uses a nine panel grid to isolate the focus on Jessica and Luke’s feelings while Bendis easily conveys their chemistry together by having Jessica’s confession of love stem from a witty retort to a good natured quip from Luke saying she used to be a “tougher broad”. But, of course, Nick Fury shows to ruin the mood, but letterer Cory Petit turns thing up to eleven when Jessica tells the hologram to “Get the @#$% of our lives”. Like, in Alias, where she just wanted to make ends meet, Jessica just wants to keep her child and Luke safe and not have to deal with random explosions and S.H.I.E.L.D cover ups. Her anti-superhero/anti-establishment attitude serves her well in this situation.

Some issues with his writing of Wolverine and Iron Fist aside, The Pulse #8-#9 is a strong ending to Brian Michael Bendis, Brent Anderson, Michael Lark, and Pete Pantazis’ “Secret War” arc, which acts as the darker counterpoint to the investigative journalism triumph that was “Thin Air”. Lark was a good choice of artist for this story compared to Mark Bagley because he is known for doing stories that are more street level and cynical of costumed heroes, like Gotham Central or Daredevil. He also works well in the shadows, which really shows in the climactic scene in the dive bar with Wolverine or even the HYDRA warehouse. “Secret War” is overall a better arc than “Thin Air” because it also focuses more on Jessica’s and Ben Urich’s story than Spider-Man’s grudge with the Green Goblin and gets bonus points for shedding new light on Secret War from a different perspective.

Feeling the Pulse #4-5

The_Pulse_Vol_1_4Feeling the Pulse is a weekly issue by issue look at the follow-up series to Alias featuring Jessica Jones and a team of reporters at the Daily Bugle, who investigate and report on superhero related stories.

In this installment of Feeling the Pulse, I will be covering The Pulse #4-5(2004) written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled by Mark Bagley, inked by Scott Hanna, and colored by Pete Pantazis.

Spider-Man has a prominent guest role in The Pulse #4-5, but he doesn’t steal the spotlight from the real heroes of the “In the Air” arc: the journalists of the Daily Bugle, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, whose picking up Norman Osborn’s limo throws a wrench in the newspaper’s plan. However, it ends up opening up the story a little wider as J. Jonah Jameson decides to forgo the sensationalism of TV journalism and focus on the victims of the Green Goblin’s murders. Along the way, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Mark Bagley and Scott Hanna spend some time taking stock of Jessica Jones’ feelings about her pregnancy as she is freaked out that the Green Goblin has killed her baby and goes berserk in some power packed panels.

The Pulse #4 opens with Ben Urich getting ready to meet Spider-Man on the roof while Jessica Jones catches up Luke on what she’s been up to at work and even shares an adorable dream about their child and her superpowers. Then, there is a quick back and forth conversation between Ben and Spider-Man as he tells him how he discovered Spidey’s secret identity and about how the Green Goblin is just killing at random now. Spider-Man is worried about this and tells Ben that the Green Goblin killed the love of his life, Gwen Stacy, and to be careful with his story. Ben then talks to Terri’s (the Daily Bugle reporter who was killed) friend Sheryl and with great reluctance, Jameson lets him go to the police with his findings on Norman Osborn after Jessica says that these kind of stories are why journalism exists. The police come to Oscorp with Ben and Jessica, who is acting as an “outside viewer”, because they might make the cover of the Daily Bugle, and the issue ends with the Green Goblin throwing pumpkin bombs at them.

The Pulse #5 is mostly explosive superhero action that Bagley excels at drawing as Spider-Man swings in and saves Jessica Jones from the Green Goblin. Completely freaking out, Jessica gets a few licks in and throws his glider at him as he flies away. The scene switches to Jessica and Luke at a hospital where the doctor compliments her toughness, says the baby is okay, and says that her pregnancy and labor will be tough so she should see a doctor that specializes in superhuman cases. Next, a deranged Norman Osborn is conferring with his lawyer, who helped get the Kingpin off and should get his own spinoff comic, when Luke Cage wrecks his limo in payback for almost killing his kid. Spider-Man shows up to cool things down, but even he ends up as a weapon in Luke’s hands as Norman Osborn’s identity as the Green Goblin is on display for the whole world. This ends up being a big headline for the Daily Bugle with the Pulse section running profiles on the families of Green Goblin’s victims, and Jessica walking alone and saying all she cares about is her baby. The final page of The Pulse #5 is a great return to her attitude in Alias where she just wanted to pay the bills as a P.I. and not have to deal with superhero drama.


With plenty of whiz bang fight scenes in The Pulse #5 and opportunities to draw arguably his signature character, Mark Bagley seems more at ease in these issues. He even gets a little visual humor when Ben meets with Spider-Man on the roof and is almost blown away by the wind while Spidey just chills out and sticks on the wall like a spider. Colorist Pete Pantazis’ work doesn’t particularly pop, but he definitely uses brighter reds, blues, and yellows for Spider-Man and the Green Goblin tussling together versus muted browns and greys for Luke and Jessica just chatting about their lives. And his palette is almost clinical when Jessica is in the hospital in The Pulse #5 as inker/finisher Scott Hanna channels his inner Michael Gaydos and gives her some frown lines that reminded me of when she was stressed out in Alias. For once, she doesn’t look like a teenage girl, but a superhero mom-to-be, who has taken a little bit of a beating while protecting the ones she loved.

Bendis probes at a weakness in Spider-Man in The Pulse #4 and borrows a little bit from the deconstructive bent of Alias as Ben explores why he just lets the Green Goblin walk free after killing so many people, including his girlfriend. Spider-Man is afraid that if he tells the press or authorities what he knows about Norman Osborn’s true identity that his own secret identity will be exposed, and that he will go to prison for his supposed murders and crimes. And this is yet another iteration of the famed “Parker luck” where Spider-Man can never catch a break.  (Except that might not be a thing any more because he’s basically Batman now in Dan Slott’s current Amazing Spider-Man run for some reason.) Does putting one murderer out on the street outweigh all the good Spider-Man has done for the people of New York? It’s a dilemma that gets solved by journalists and a hero, who went public years ago and still doesn’t end up being a part of the Superhuman Registration Act in Civil War because he wants to protect his neighborhood in Harlem and not exist at the government or S.H.I.E.L.D’s beck and call.

Speaking of Luke Cage, the fight between him and the Green Goblin is cathartic and memorable. A crazy LukeCagevsGreenGoblinpsychopath hurt his girlfriend and almost killed their child so he’s back for revenge, and a limo or a pumpkin bomb won’t be able to stop him. Unlike Spider-Man, Luke doesn’t have to protect his secret identity from the public, press, and bad guys and is free to whale on the Goblin. Bagley even gives us the hilariously epic panel of him putting a pumpkin bomb on his bulletproof skin and then quipping about losing his shirt “again” because kevlar looks tacky as daily or vengeance wear. And Bendis gives Spider-Man a perfect rejoinder about “unbreakable pants”. But this isn’t in the end, and Luke fights the Green Goblin until the villain is unconscious in front of the Daily Bugle reporters. Without a shadow of the doubt, this famous industrialist is the murderous Green Goblin, and if Luke hadn’t come over and given him a piece of his mind and fists, there probably would be two or three more issues focused on the legal battle between Oscorp and the Bugle. Also, this sequence shows how much Luke cares for Jessica, and how he wants to keep her safe.

But the characters that come off as the real heroes of the first arc of The Pulse are the pregnant, ex-superhero Jessica Jones and the embattled, intrepid reporter Ben Urich. Bendis gives Jessica an amazing speech about how taking down men like Osborn is the point of a paper like the Daily Bugle, and “isn’t telling people stuff like this, like, the only reason to work here?” In any other character’s speech, this line would come off as a tad saccharine, but it seems more genuine coming from Jessica, who is usually cynical and sarcastic although she is a good person beneath it. If she’s the idealistic one, you should really go after the story. And her heroism is on display later as she beats the crap out of the Green Goblin, leaping and throwing him around to keep him away from Ben and Spider-Man. Bagley doesn’t depict these scenes like a typical superhero fight with punches and, but as an intense brawl with Jessica grabbing at the Goblin’s throat. There’s just a hint of sentiment as Jessica gets caught by Spider-Man, who is her high school crush, Peter Parker.


Ben Urich doesn’t get a big fight scene, but he gets several panels of getting his throat grabbed by the Green Goblin, who taunts him with bad jokes about journalists. Bagley and Hanna zoom in on his pain stricken and constricted face with Pantazis giving the backgrounds a fiery color after all the explosions and punches being thrown around buildings in New York. And after this and seeing the Green Goblin get away, he’s still brave enough to publish an article saying he’s Norman Osborn on the front page of the Daily Bugle. He’s also clever as hell as Bendis and Bagley spend several pages in The Pulse #4 showing how he realized Peter Parker was Spider-Man from the obvious of him getting the best pictures of Spidey to the soot on his costume he gets from running on rooftops like Daredevil and finally the fact that a school teacher from Queens knew Matt Murdock was Daredevil. Spider-Man’s first reaction to this is understandably anger, but later he fears for Ben’s life as he goes to take down Osborn via the printed word and even confides in him about his relationship with Gwen Stacy. Ben Urich is street level superheroes, like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and later Spider-Woman’s greatest advocate, but he isn’t naive about them and is still a solid journalist through and through.

The Pulse #4 may seem like padding for the trade, but it gives us a look at the time consuming and difficult journalism process as Ben Urich must corroborate sources and also make a strong argument to J. Jonah Jameson about printing his article about Norman Osborn being the Green Goblin. It also furthers the bond between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones as they talk about their future child adding an emotional layer to the slugfest of The Pulse #5.

It slips in some spots artistically and sometimes pushes its presumed protagonist Jessica Jones to the side, but the “In the Air” arc of The Pulse  is a fairly triumphant melding of an investigative reporting story with a superhero comic.

Feeling the Pulse #2-3

The_Pulse_Vol_1_3Feeling the Pulse is a weekly issue by issue look at the follow-up series to Alias featuring Jessica Jones and a team of reporters at the Daily Bugle, who investigate and report on superhero related stories.

In this installment of Feeling the Pulse, I will be covering The Pulse #2-3 (2004) written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled by Mark Bagley, inked by Scott Hanna, and colored by Frank D’Armata, Brian Reber, and Pete Pantazis.

In The Pulse #2-3, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Mark Bagley and Scott Hanna abandon the whole half-assed murder mystery angle to tell the story of the Daily Bugle trying to expose Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin. It’s high concept and definitely a tough story to break, but is definitely the kind of hard hitting journalism that J. Jonah Jameson wants in The Pulse section of the Daily Bugle. Something that would usually be a subplot in a Spider-Man or Daredevil comic (or TV show) ends up being the main plot of The Pulse as up and coming reporter Kat Farrell, teams up with supposedly long in the tooth Ben Urich, and Jessica Jones to prove Norman Osborn is the Green Goblin after he killed the young Daily Bugle writer Terri Kidder.

The Pulse #2 is the kind of super focused character study that Bendis excels at as he and Bagley turn a woman, who was just a body at the end of The Pulse #1 into a flesh and blood human being with passions and weaknesses. The issue’s protagonist is Terri Kidder, a new reporter at the Daily Bugle, who transferred from a “major metropolitan newspaper”. (Perhaps The Daily Planet if sharing the first name and surname of two actors, who have played Lois Lane, is any clue.) She is trouble finding her place at a paper where the publisher is up in everyone’s business and gets laughed out of meeting when her first article pitch in a couple weeks is a puff piece on The Avengers. However, this lights a fire under her, and after talking with her friend, who is an Oscorp employee, she decides to interview Norman Osborn about multiple people at Oscorp, who have gone missing. She gets an interview with Osborn and plays to his pride first before pivoting and asking about the people. The issue ends with him strangling her to death, transforming into the Green Goblin, and killing her.

We finally catch up to the present day in The Pulse #3 as Robbie Robertson gives a big, motivational speech that wouldn’t be out of place in Newsroom, The West Wing, or hell even Friday Night Lights about the Daily Bugle having the best, most connected and giving Terri’s family a clear answer about why their daughter is dead. He puts Ben Urich, Kat Farrell, and The Pulse on this story/case. After showing a short tiff between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, we get to see Ben and Kat in action and the difference in their reporting styles. Ben has a lot of skeletons in his closets from past editorials and gets told off by a NYPD homicide detective when he says he wants to help with the case. On the other hand, Kat makes friends easily and gets all the details about Terri’s death from her medical examiner buddy, who is on his coffee/look at Iron Man break. Along with Jessica, they put their heads together and think about flying superheroes/villains, who may have dropped Terri in the lake. The issue ends with Ben being a tenacious, dogged reporter and digging in Teri’s desk (aka an active crime scene), finding a recording of a phone conversation with her friend at Oscorp, making the connection to the Green Goblin, and calling Peter Parker. Because a Spider-Man cameo is always great for sales.

Even if the exposé of Norman Osborn is barely starting to pick up steam three issues in, The Pulse #2 stands alone as a “day in the life” type story about an ordinary journalist in the Marvel Universe, which happens to end with her getting dropped into a lake by the Green Goblin. This is a dangerous place to hold a job because the corporation that gives you a nice pension package and healthcare could be run by an insane supervillain. Before you try to go after a powerful billionaire, you should probably be able to call Spider-Man, Daredevil, or another superhero for backup But Terri is just an intrepid reporter, doesn’t have any of these connections and ends up fish food.


However, Bendis gives Terri a full character arc in The Pulse #2 as he and Bagley use a kind of “hypercompression” and the “illustrated play technique” that was used in Alias #10 to show how much of a damn chatterbox J. Jonah Jameson was. There is text off to the side showing how stressed out Terri is at the Daily Bugle while Bagley draws yet another full page cutaway diagram to show the bustling newsroom. Bendis’ writing also reveals her motivation for working for the Bugle: she wants to be part of every day people’s conversation by writing for a tabloid newspaper. (And once and for all, Bendis through Teri dispels the idea that the Daily Bugle is the Marvel Universe equivalent of the Daily Mail because the tabloid is the form and not the content in this case.) And this stress combined with J. Jonah Jameson’s insults propels her onto a deadly path, including an interview and death at the hands of Norman Osborn.


Bendis and Bagley are definitely on the same page when Osborn goes loony. Terri and Norman’s encounter just starts as a usual talking heads scene with a decent amount of panels as he adjusts his suit while she lobs softball questions. But when she asks about the missing people, something snaps, and Norman Osborn becomes the Green Goblin even before he puts on the Halloween costume. Bagley’s layout turns into a strict eight and then six panel grid, and he and Hanna progressively give Osborn more wrinkles in his face while colorists Frank D’Armata and Brian Reber give his eyes a full green color that they previously hinted at in the hue of his chair. The ever increasing close-up is a successful device at showing Terri’s horror and surprise and reminds readers that Green Goblin isn’t a cheesy villain, but a psychopath, who kills for kicks.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, the warm chemistry that they shared has mostly left the building in The Pulse #3. Neither character appears in The Pulse #2, and they share a short conversation in issue three, which is mostly contradictions and arguing for the sake of arguing. And, of course, Jessica cries because she’s pregnant while Luke sits and acts stoically. They do get one genuine spark as Jessica lands a great one-liner about hiring a guy to tell Luke he’s the “mutha&*%in’ best” superhero as a random Luke Cage fan wanders by and gives him a high five. The conclusion of their conversation isn’t half bad either as Jessica talks about hating her body, and Luke just gives her hug and kiss. Some interesting ideas are thrown about Luke not liking Jameson or the fact that he’s an obscure superhero, but they don’t really come into play. Basically, Luke and Jessica’s arc is stupid fight, not the best characterization of a pregnant woman, and then a kiss and makeup. They definitely both play second fiddle to the Daily Bugle reporters so far.


And we get to see Kat Farrell and Ben Urich’s journalistic process and philosophy in The Pulse #3 as they try to get to the truth in different ways. Kat doesn’t hate superheroes, but she knows her editor does and isn’t a big fan of both Terri’s piece about the Avengers as well as Ben withholding his knowledge about Daredevil’s secret identity. Therefore, she is more in-line with usual, non-fantastic journalistic practices, like having a source in the police station, similar to Terri, who has a friend that works at Oscorp. Their conversation is the kind of upbeat banter found in the good police procedurals and connects the plot dots a lot quicker than Urich mouthing off to an NYPD detective.

For some reason, Bendis gives her some insane Buffy-speak (“Did the guy have the super duper? Was he whacky on the junk?”) maybe to show that she is younger than Ben even though it’s impossible to tell her age relative to Jessica or anyone because again Bagley draws adult women like teenagers with slightly different fashion and an extra line or two from his inker Hanna. Ben Urich is the aging loose cannon to Kat’s fresh faced, company woman, and it shows in his not so friendly chat with Police Detective Gans, who has turned Terri’s desk into a crime scene. Bendis’ dialogue really sings when it’s used combatively, and the detective and Ben’s sniping shows the often antagonistic relationship between the police force and press of a major city. However, it’s his connection with Peter Parker that could be their only chance at exposing Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin and simultaneously providing a successful first story for The Pulse.

The Pulse #2-3 is trying to tell a non-superhero story in a superhero universe, and it should be commended for that even if it’s not as groundbreaking, visually interesting, or as nuanced as its “mother” series Alias. It might have Spider-Man on the cover, but it’s really about ordinary journalists trying to break stories and find the truth in an extraordinary world.

Feeling the Pulse #1

ThePulse1Feeling the Pulse is a weekly issue by issue look at the follow-up series to Alias featuring Jessica Jones and a team of reporters at the Daily Bugle, who investigate and report on superhero related stories.

In this installment of Feeling the Pulse, I will be covering The Pulse #1 (2004) written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled by Mark Bagley, inked by Scott Hanna, and colored by Frank D’Armata and Brian Reber.

In The Pulse #1, Jessica Jones goes from being the through and through protagonists of her own series to a co-protagonist with embattled Daily Bugle city and crime reporter Ben Urich, who was a scene stealing supporting character in writer Brian Michael Bendis’ work on Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil as well as making a couple appearances in Alias so the two aren’t strangers. And like Alias, The Pulse isn’t a superhero comic, but something like The Newsroom set square in the center of the Marvel Universe. For over 50 years, the Daily Bugle and its denizens, like J. Jonah Jameson, have been supporting characters of Spider-Man, and now they get the spotlight. And they shine for the most part with some quick hitting conversations that would make Aaron Sorkin or David Mamet proud even though the “hook” for the next issue is a little conventional with a floating dead body and an ID of a random person. Also, it is entertaining to see J. Jonah Jameson talk out of both sides of his mouth as he pitches “The Pulse” newspaper section to both Jessica Jones and Ben Urich.

PulseIntroThe Pulse #1 opens slowly and cinematically with a full page spread from artists Mark Bagley and Scott Hanna of reporter Ben Urich looking at a Daily Bugle newspaper with a typical anti-Spider-Man headline while his crime story about a Yakuza uprising is pushed to the back page. Perhaps this is a comment on traditional superhero tales continuing to dominate comics sales while compelling crime and noir stories are more middling, and no one wants to read about journalists. (In February 2004, Ultimate Spider-Man #53 sold 92,514 copies whereas Bendis’ crime meets superhero story in Daredevil #57 sold 54,629, and The Pulse #1 sold 51,116 and dropped to a little over 27,000 towards the end of its run.) It’s a compelling character introduction with a medium brown color palette from Frank D’Armata and Brian Reber

The first issue shows a dead body just rotting in a lake in Central Park for a whole issue while Jessica Jones prepares for her interview with the Daily Bugle in an attempt to find stability (and health insurance) for her and her boyfriend, Luke Cage. J. Jonah Jameson tells her that because his paper’s circulation numbers are down in the age of TV and Internet news that he is trying something new and deciding to give superheroes a positive spin in the new weekly “The Pulse” section, which will feature in-depth features about them. Ben Urich will write the stories while Jessica Jones acts as a “vigilante analyst” or consultant and will even be part of the story once she announces her pregnancy. Jameson tells a very different thing to Ben Urich telling him that even though “The Pulse” is meant for admirers of superheroes that he should be tough on superheroes if he catches them doing something wrong. This section is Jameson’s attempt at trying to shake off his lethargy and get him breaking big stories. Presumably, his and Jessica’s first piece will have something to do with the random body in Central Park that was dropped by a superhero or supervillain.


Before delving into the excellent characterization of J. Jonah Jameson or Bagley’s use of double page spreads to give letterer Cory Petit an opportunity to let Bendis’ long stretches of dialogue breathe, there is one main negative that will make you wish Michael Gaydos was still the artist. Mark Bagley is terrible at drawing adult women. He does an okay job with the teenagers in Ultimate Spider-Man, but his facial and anatomy work with Jessica Jones shifts rapidly as she goes from looking like a 17 year old when she’s cuddling with Luke Cage to a middle aged woman when she enters the Daily Bugle offices. Hanna’s inking gets more consistent during the “interview” scene between her and Jameson, but she does look like a brunette version of Ultimate Mary Jane Watson.

Bendis really seems to get a kick out of writing J. Jonah Jameson and even though Ben Urich and Jessica Jones are nominally the protagonists of The Pulse, he steals the entire issue kind of like J.K. Simmons stole the entire Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy from Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and company. He builds off Jameson’s characterization in Alias where he is grateful to Jessica for finding his missing foster daughter, Mattie Franklin, and creates a turning point for him as a character as he goes on about giving superheroes a fair shake if only to increase readership. But there’s always a catch with him, and the catch is the Daily Bugle getting the exclusive on her pregnancy as his tabloid headline grabber side reveals itself. Jameson likes good, hard news as evidenced by his keeping Ben Urich on the staff, but he also wants to make a buck and if he has to say nice things about superheroes, so be it.

JJJ Job Offer

Bendis and Bagley create a study in parallels between Jameson’s chat with Jessica Jones about The Pulse, and his chat with Ben Urich at the local watering hole. Bagley uses a stricter grid when Jameson and Jessica speak as she tries to keep it as businesslike as possible and is willing to compromise a little bit to support her family. But with the Jameson, Robertson, and Urich conversation, D’Armata evokes the smell of a respectable, but not too respectable tavern with brown wood tones and just enough shadow to keep it from being noir. Jameson also uses a similar manipulative technique on Urich that he did with Jessica by portraying each of them as “washed up” in some way or another. Jessica as a superhero and P.I., Urich as a reporter. Starting out, he dictates the narrative and dynamic between them. And teaming up an ex-superhero, who has a low opinion of them with a journalist, who respects their power to inspire, and an editor, who hates them is bound to lead to some great drama and disagreements along the way.

For being a first issue, The Pulse #1 doesn’t have the greatest final page hook. It is kind of interesting that there’s been a dead body in the lake for an entire issue in a city the population of New York, and that no one has noticed. Perhaps some kind of mind control is involved. But, whether it’s because of lack of visual distinctness in Bagley’s faces for women or just a plain, bad ending, the cliffhanger of the police looking at a faded I.D. falls flat. But the concept of a supervillain murder mystery from a journalist and possibly police perspective has some genre bending potential, and the interference and role of the press always spices up mystery and crime stories. (See The Wire or more recently BBC America’s Broadchurch.) Plus it’ll give Jessica a chance to do her private investigator thing.

The Pulse #1 has a unique concept and the makings of a compelling ensemble in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, J. Jonah Jameson, Ben Urich, and Robbie Robertson, who have been liberated from playing second fiddle to Spider- Man.Some of the execution is lacking, such as Bagley’s inability to draw adult women and a half-assed murder mystery plot, but Bendis’ dialogue was built for walk and talk newsroom environment. (He used to work as a cartoonist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and this is evident in his development of Jameson’s philosophy for the Daily Bugle and its Pulse section.)

Amazing Spider-Man Goes Viral

It looks like Sony has been paying attention to what’s worked for a certain dark knight…. they’ve decided to launch a few viral/arg’ish elements in the lead up to this summer’s blockbuster movie reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man.  At Wondercon, this poster was seen around the convention.

That poster has the hint to go to the website webbedmenace.com.  That website has various elements including this video “Law vs. Disorder” which is part of the Daily Bugle‘s YouTube channel and is an interview with  Captain Stacy (played by Denis Leary).

The website also encourages folks to submit photos of Spider-Man committing crimes… an engaging, fun and creative element.



Colbert Beats Obama & McCain

In a repeat of “Dewey beats Truman”, Marvel Comics’ Daily Bugle announced that Stephen Colbert had beaten Barack Obama and John McCain for the Presidency of the United States.  They quickly followed up the story with this correction:

New York City, November 5, 2008— The Daily Bugle is reporting that, despite winning the popular vote, Stephen Colbert did not win the United States Presidency in the Marvel Universe, with Democratic nominee Barack Obama triumphing.

When questioned by the media regarding the confusion, Marvel Comics EiC Joe Quesada said, “We completely forgot the Marvel Universe reflects what happens in the real world…Ooops, our bad.”

More on this story as it develops.