Tag Archives: Pete Pantazis

Review: The Flash/Speed Buggy Special

It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. This week we’ve got a journey into the Speed Force!

The Flash/Speed Buggy Special is by Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Mark Irwin, Marc Deering, Matt Banning, John Livesay, Andrew Dalhouse, Pete Pantazis, Tom Napolitano, Dan Mora, Liz Erickson, and Jim Chadwick.

Get your copy in comic shops today. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Review: Dark Days the Road to Metal

It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. This week we’ve got the collection that gets you caught up for Metal!

Dark Days the Road to Metal features Dark Days: The Forge #1, Dark Days: The Casting #1, Final Crisis #6-7, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1, Batman #38-39, and Nightwing #17 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita, Jr., Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex SInclair, Jeremiah Skipper, Steve Wands, Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke, J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy, Christian Alamy, Jesus Merino, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci, Norm Rapmund, Rodney Ramos, Walden Wong, Pete Pantazis, Tony Avina, Rob Clark, Jr., Travis Lanham, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Guy Major, Jared K. Fletcher, Brad Anderson, Greg Capullo, FCO Placencia, Tim Seeley, Javier Fernandez, Chris Sotomayor, Carlos M. Mangual, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Adriano Lucas, Marilyn Patrizia, and Rian Hughes.

Get your copy in comic shops today and book stores May 22. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Preview: Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #5

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #5

Story: Tony Isabella Art: Clayton Henry, Yvel Guichet Cover: Ken Lashley, Juan Fernandez
Color: Pete Pantazis Letterer: Josh Reed
Editor: Jim Chadwick Associate Editor: Harvey Richards
In Shops: Mar 07, 2018
SRP: $3.99

Black Lightning! Tobias Whale! Face to face for the first time! With Cleveland still recovering from last issue’s terrorist attack, the two archenemies will battle in the ruins of a secluded landmark for the future of the city. Oh, and in case you were wondering, yeah, it’s a trap. A trap designed to end Black Lightning once and for all!

Preview: Army of Darkness/Xena: Forever…And A Day #3

Army of Darkness/Xena: Forever…And A Day #3

writer: Scott Lobdell
artist: Diego Galindo, Pete Pantazis
cover: Nick Bradshaw
incentive cover: Nick Bradshaw (B/W art)
FC • 32 pages • $3.99 • Teen+

Once more into the breach as Ash is summoned back in time to help Xena.    Only this time, he arrives at a point when she was Pirate Xena—scourge of all seven seas! He convinces her to take him on as first mate while they investigate a mysterious island named Eden! But all this time he’s spending with her is making Ash wonder if they might have a future together…you know, after they get done saving the world?

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Preview: Army of Darkness: Ash For President

Army of Darkness: Ash For President

writer: Elliott Serrano
artist: Diego Galindo
cover: Elliot Fernandez, Pete Pantazis
FC • 48 pages • $5.99 • Teen+

He’s faced off against demons in Hell. He’s battled the dead in the future. He’s even combated the armies of darkness in space. But Ash Williams has never gone up against evil in an arena like this: the political arena! From the writer who brought you “Hail to the Queen, Baby” and “Ash Saves Obama” comes the off-beat adventure that answers the question: “What if Ash Williams ran for President of the United States?” When the Necronomicon Ex Mortis gives him a cryptic message, Ash Williams enlists the help of a beautiful psychic to help him track down the agent of the “Great Darkness”, an evil so great that it threatens both humankind and the demon realm. But what happens when the search for truth takes Ash on a trail that he never expected… the campaign trail?

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Feeling the Pulse #10-11

The_Pulse_Vol_1_11Feeling 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 #10-11 (2005) written by Brian Michael Bendis with issue 10 pencilled by Michael Lark, inked by Stefano Gaudiano, and colored by Pete Pantazis and issue 11 drawn by Michael Gaydos with colors from Matt Hollingsworth.

In The Pulse #10, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano tie the comic into yet another Marvel “event” and instead of the relatively self-contained Secret War, it’s House of M, a comic which really kickstarted the decade plus Marvel tradition of having a summer event that ties into virtually their entire publishing line. To jog everyone’s memory (Thank goodness for recap pages!), Scarlet Witch lost control of her reality warping powers in the famous or infamous “Avengers Disassembled” arc (also written by Bendis) and killed the Avengers Hawkeye, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), and her ex-husband Vision. After this, she flees to her father Magneto while Professor X gathers the X-Men (from Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run) and New Avengers to decide what to do with her and hopefully not killer. But this confrontation causes her powers to go into overdrive and create a whole new reality called House of M where mutants led by Magneto and his children rule the world, and humans are hated and feared. Wolverine and Layla Miller (A smart teenage mutant from Peter David’s X-Factor) remember the pre-House of M reality, and this leads to complications when Layla reminds the still living Hawkeye that he died in another reality.

And Hawkeye freaking out leads directly into The Pulse #10, which doesn’t feature Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, but focuses on Ben Urich, Kat Farrell, and the Daily Bugle, whose editor-in-chief is somehow Mystique. The issue opens with Kat Farrell investigating an explosion of a Stark Industries building, which Bishop, a bodyguard/PR guy for the House of Magnus, blames on a human using mutant growth hormone when Kat spots kinetic energy absorbing mutant Sebastian Shaw and members of SHIELD on the scene. Thinking she has a scoop, she brings it up at a newspaper meeting, but is deflected by her editor-in-chief, who is waiting for SHIELD to make a comment. Then, Kat gives Mystique a piece of her mind and has a heart to heart with Ben Urich about working within the system and occasionally breaking a big story. And while working late, the story happens as Hawkeye bursts in and starts to realize that there were two realities when a newspaper headline about his death turns to something about the House of Magnus memorial. And when he tries to show Kat Avengers Mansion, it turns out to be a memorial to mutants killed by Sentinels. Reality is flimsy, and it freaks him out. And in his freakout, he destroys the Sentinel memorial with exploding arrows, asks Kat to tell his story, and runs off. The issue kind of ends with a note to follow the rest of Hawkeye’s story in House of M proper. Sometimes event tie-ins can be really annoying.

The Pulse #11 takes us back to the friendly haunts of Earth-616 as well as reuniting Bendis with Alias artist Michael Gaydos and colorist Matt Hollingsworth for the final arc “Fear” before cancellation. And they give us an excellent character-driven story with a B-plot featuring a Z-list superhero and the Daily Bugle journalists that wouldn’t be out of place in Alias. Also, Gaydos just plain understands how Jessica Jones looks as a character and her reactions to things, like when she is scared, being sarcastic, or just being happy. The Pulse #11 focuses on her taking a trip to the Baxter Building, seeing how the superest of moms Sue Richards deals with having kids and superpowers, and then going to lunch with her and Carol Danvers. Their conversations are raw, honest, and kind of read like What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but with superheroes. And while Jessica is lunching, Ben Urich is investigating an interesting case of a smelly, out of breath superhero, who looked like Daredevil in his original yellow costume , helping stop the robbery of a store way out of Hell’s Kitchen. Kat Farrell identifies him as D-Man, a wrestler turned superhero and former Avenger, thanks to his “Wolverine hat”, which is what cowls should be called from now on. And it turns out that he took more than just a bottle of water from the store. The Pulse #11 concludes with Janet Van Dyne working on redesigning Luke Cage’s costume because he’s now a New Avenger when Jessica’s water breaks.

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In characterization and art, The Pulse #10 isn’t a bad read as Kat Farrell is the lead character for the first time in the series. Her tenacity and willingness to tell the truth, snap a cellphone pic, and break a story even in the face of a mutant, who has both telepathic and energy absorbing abilities are on full display this issue. It’s also a subtle inversion of her role in the main universe The Pulse series as Ben Urich is the one courting controversy, hiding Daredevil’s secret identity, and possibly taking down Nick Fury while Kat is more willing to play ball with editorial. In this issue, Ben is the one giving Kat a mini-lecture about picking battles and working with Mystique until they can really blow the whole Magnus regime open. Artists Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano with colorist Pete Pantazis even give us a glimpse at the writing process with a double page spread that cuts between the dusty Daily Bugle archives, and Kat desperately trying to churn out a story. Her computer has a slight glow in the dark building and will remind anyone of that burning feeling you get in your eyes when you’re trying to beat a deadline the night before.

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However, the story of Kat Farrell intrepid journalist comes to a halt halfway through the issue and becomes the tale of Hawkeye Crossover Event Explainer Man. He doesn’t even let Kat get in a word edgewise, threatens her with his arrows, and blabbers on about what’s happened to him in the previous issues of House of M. There is a payoff to all the chatter, which isn’t bad to read as Bendis makes Clint a real salt of the Earth fellow as he quips about only reading the sports page of the newspaper, with the earlier mentioned destruction of the Sentinel memorial, but the issue just ends. There’s no reflection on Kat’s part just a silent scene as the police pull up. It’s like this House of M tie-in was supposed to be a two-parter with Kat writing the story in the second half and trying to get it past editorial, but it only ended up being one issue. It’s an example of what not to do with an event tie-in as Bendis and Lark set up story-worthy themes, like the difference between journalism and PR, and intriguing situations, like Mystique being interested in print media for some reason (She’s been a high school principal too so this isn’t her weirdest form of employment.), but fail to explore them and just explain the events of the main series.

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But, if The Pulse #10 has you down, The Pulse #11 is the breath of freshest air. And one thing that surprised about me is the comedic timing of Michael Gaydos despite his rougher hewn style compared to say, this series’ original artist Mark Bagley. And it’s on display from the opening page where Jessica Jones can go right up to see the Fantastic Four in the Baxter Building after being escorted out by security back when she needed their help in Alias with the FF’s receptionist still having that creepy rictus. Next, there is his and Bendis’ riff on the fights between the Thing and Human Torch that seemed to happen during Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s run on Fantastic Four. Gaydos’ realistic style shows the serious side of their battle as the Thing almost falls into a very pregnant Jessica Jones (who is saved by a last second force field from Sue Richards). But it ends being a great set-up for a line by Sue about Franklin and Valeria being more well-behaved than these grown men and superheroes in their twenties and thirties. And the comedy comes back in the final pages as Gaydos nails Luke’s painful reactions to the various superhero costumes that Janet Van Dyne is trying to interest him in as Carol and Jessica giggle in the background. It’s also a larger meta joke about Luke Cage not having an iconic costume since his days as the tiara wearing, yellow silk shirt sporting Power Man back in the 1970s and just wearing jeans and a t-shirt in Bendis’ New Avengers run. (Maybe Sanford Greene will change this in his Power Man and Iron Fist run.

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The lunch with Jessica Jones, Carol Danvers, and Sue Richards is another showcase of Brian Michael Bendis’ ability to craft characters through dialogue and conversation. Gaydos’ faces are key too as he can do subtle really well, like Jessica spacing out when Sue gets a little bit too earnest about the Fantastic Four’s mission, and how her children “live a life without superficial judgment”. But most of their talk is dealing with the cold, harsh realities of motherhood, and Sue doesn’t sugarcoat things for Jessica saying that her superhero status could leave to villain attacks and kidnapping and that it’s super freaky to be entrusted to take care of another human life. But in the end it’s all worth it, and Jessica is actually pretty refreshed to see how “normal” the Richards kids are as Franklin adorably touches her pregnant stomach and gets scolded for saying “butt”. Bendis continues his tradition of writing mothers well (Aunt May in Ultimate Spider-Man comes to mind.) and gives Sue a warm voice as she loves her kids, but also can get exasperated by them. It’s unfortunate that the Fantastic Four and their family dynamic is one team he hasn’t been unable to write so far.

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And because this is a comic about journalism and not just Jessica Jones, Bendis and Gaydos give us a pretty interesting journalism subplot about Ben Urich and Kat Farrell investigating the re-emergence of D-Man as a vigilante and thief. Gaydos and Hollingsworth initially sell that this is a Daredevil story by using plenty of shadows in the art as well as touch of red in the background as a gun goes off. But, then there’s a cut to D-Man ambling around the store with his gut hanging out and moving a little slower than the Man without Fear. The store owners that he save don’t paint the most flattering picture of him saying that he had a smell and took some jewelry. And thus begins Ben Urich’s investigation into superheroes, who don’t have the benefit of a well-paying job as a lawyer or the sponsorship of a billionaire philanthropist or bald guy.

The Pulse  #10-11 features one example of how not to write a tie-in for a company-wide and one example of how to tell use superheroes to tell a story about a real life situation in this case, becoming a mother. It encapsulates the uneven nature of The Pulse as a series, which didn’t know if it wanted to tell Jessica Jones stories or and found a balance between both in the “Fear” arc just as it was being cancelled. At least, the art is consistent with Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, and Michael Gaydos finding a sweet spot between realism and cartooning with a side of natural facial expressions and the awkwardness of superhero costumes. (Honestly, only George Perez, Jack Kirby, and the animators of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can pull off the “Purple H” Hawkeye costume.)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 #6-7

marvel-the-pulse-issue-7Feeling 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 #6-7 (2005) written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Brent Anderson, and colored by Pete Pantazis.

In the “Secret War” arc of The Pulse, which acts as kind of a follow up to The Pulse writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto’s miniseries Secret War about Nick Fury sending different superheroes to Latveria to depose Dr. Doom, Bendis, new artist Brent Anderson (who won 7 Eisners for Astro City and drew the famous X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills graphic novel), and colorist Pete Pantazis tap into the old Alias magic and craft a conspiracy plot that gets pretty personal. The Pulse #6 opens up very enigmatically with Wolverine running around ferally before the story cuts to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s apartment in Harlem blowing with both of them rushed to the hospital. Luke is in a coma after taking the brunt of a power blast from an unknown superpowered female, and the doctors can’t do anything to bring him back because no needles can break through his unbreakable skin. There’s yet another annoying police interrogation session, and then Nick Fury and Captain America burst in with Cap socking Fury in the jaw and then heading out with Luke and Danny Rand. (This arc is more mysterious if you haven’t already read Secret War) Jessica is really perturbed about this and tries to call her lawyer Matt Murdock, but ends up talking to Ben Urich instead. Then, lights start to flash in the hospital with explosions everywhere, and the issue ends with Jessica Jones in the wreckage of the hospital.

The Pulse #7 is all about Jessica freaking out with Ben Urich and wondering where Fury and Cap took Luke. A nurse at the hospital blames her for the damage on the hospital and then says that Luke Cage should have never dated a white woman. After this painful exchange, Ben calls into the Daily Bugle and finds out that there was a “fireworks incident” at the pier while a homeless man tells Jessica that he was saved by Daredevil at the same location. Something doesn’t really add up. Then, she frantically calls everyone from her ex boyfriend and current SHIELD agent Clay Quatermain to Misty Knight and Danny Rand and finally Luke one more time. There’s no response so she and Ben head to the Daily Bugle where Jessica is furious when Robbie Robertson tells her that the Bugle and all media outlets turn a blind eye to Nick Fury’s activities because he is protecting national security and the greater good. Then, Jessica runs off and ends up collapsing outside Misty Knight’s apartment where some teenagers try to steal her wallet before they’re scared off by HYDRA agents in a crazy cliffhanger.

Whereas “Thin Air” was more of a Daily Bugle story, the first two chapters of “Secret War” feel like an actual Jessica Jones solo story. Sure, there are cameos from Captain America, Nick Fury, Wolverine, Iron Fist, and other superheroes’ voice mails, but their appearances remind me of the first arc of Alias where the big name characters are used to create tension and show that Jessica’s paranoia is well-placed. The Pulse #6 and #7 also look like a Jessica Jones story as the standard superhero art of Mark Bagley is replaced by the realism and gritty lines of Brent Anderson. As an artist known for his character first, spectacle second approach on titles like Astro City, range on emotions are at the forefront of his work. For example, Captain America can go from angrily berating Nick Fury and punching him in the face with speed lines zooming and then pivot and ask Jessica how her baby is doing before leaving without a word. In Alias, Cap said Jessica was a true hero, and this is a nice reminder of their previous positive interactions as well as showing that he is a decent human being even in a terrible situation.

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But most of Anderson’s work is dedicated to showing Jessica’s vulnerability, paranoia, and how terrible she feels, but that she’s an ex-superhero/P.I and a current journalist, who wants to get to the bottom of this situation protocols about Nick Fury be damned. His pencils and ink work are pretty bleak showing the swaths of destruction created by this unknown supervillains, and he even opens The Pulse #7 with a highly detailed, almost watercolor painting of a sad, exhausted Jessica Jones. The fact that this is a conspiracy involving the man she loved has taken an extra toll on her, but has also increased her resolve to get to the bottom of it.

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The Pulse #6 and #7 is filled with sudden, insane events that make no sense to anyone who hasn’t read Secret War. Why is Nick Fury giving Captain America orders like he’s just another soldier? Why does a simple Daredevil and Black Widow team-up level a major docking area in New York and warrant a double page destructoporn spread? And why are random, hidden in the shadows superhumans showing up and blasting energy at buildings with striking gold colors from Pantazis? With the departure of the superheroes in The Pulse #6 and the inability of the Daily Bugle to publish or even investigate anything having to do with Nick Fury, Jessica is truly on her own in this situation.

Also, in The Pulse #6-#7, Jessica Jones sounds and acts like herself. In a couple pages with black gutters simulating the bars of an interrogation room, she tells off police officers, who focus on her possible mutant status, constantly refer to Luke Cage as her husband, and give her no space, because she has just lost her home and possibly her boyfriend. Again, Bendis turns his focus on casual sexism as the police say they’re big fans of Luke Cage, but don’t even acknowledge her abilities, career, or even listen to her when she says over and over again that she’s not married to Luke. And in a more simple return of the character’s voice kind of way, the hard swearing Jessica Jones of Alias is back even though her f-bombs are censored because The Pulse is set in the mainstream Marvel Universe. And, like in Alias, it’s not profanity for the sake of shock value, but Jessica Jones is super freaked out and alone and turns to her reporter friend, Ben Urich, to help her sort out this crazy situation.

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But The Pulse #6-7 isn’t just a conspiracy thriller and character study of Jessica Jones. Bendis uses the beginning of the “Secret War” arc to show how news media is complicit in government cover-ups because of “national security” reasons or because they’ll lose their access to press briefings, which hurts their access to breaking stories and will probably make them lose circulation and readers. Of course, Jessica won’t have any of this, and J. Jonah Jameson tactfully chooses the more idealistic Robbie Robertson to break their “no Nick Fury stories” policy to her even though him getting punched by Captain America while Luke Cage and Iron Fist look on in a hospital that later gets levelled would make a hell of a news story. Even Ben Urich, who has stood by his conscience for years and not exposed Daredevil or Spider-Man’s secret identity, agrees with the Bugle’s stance. This leads to angry running from Jessica Jones as Anderson’s layouts go from a grid to overlapping shapes as she looks at a Hulk headline and realizes that the media exists to make money and not show the truth about the world. It actually makes perfect sense that Jessica Jones is furious in this situation because her old job was a private investigator and to expose the secrets of the powerful (including a presidential candidate in the first arc of Alias) while the Daily Bugle reporters are implicit in the cover-up.

Even though some of the suspense and/or understanding of The Pulse #6-7 is contingent on if you’ve read another Brian Michael Bendis comic actually called Secret War, these two issues are a true artistic improvement over the previous five as Brent Anderson is the documentary filmmaker to Mark Bagley’s superhero stylist. Anderson really hits that sweet spot between cartooning and photorealism as his art is detailed, but not stiff. You can really feel the pain in Jessica’s eyes as she sees seemingly random superheroes fighting and arguing while her boyfriend is in a coma, and the power in Cap’s blow as he sucker punches Nick Fury, who is looking very guilty. Anderson and Bendis aren’t afraid to expose the dark, cynical underbelly of the Marvel Universe and even show that honest reporters, like Ben Urich, aren’t always paragons of integrity.

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.

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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.

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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.