Comic Review: Pearl III #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

The latest string of stories about Pearl are here! It’s the return of Pearl, the tattoo artist with Japanese roots. She’s an outsider, an albino, surrounded by gangsters. The yakuza. […]

The latest string of stories about Pearl are here!

It’s the return of Pearl, the tattoo artist with Japanese roots. She’s an outsider, an albino, surrounded by gangsters. The yakuza. But it’s even more sinister and complicated than just a skin-deep connection to the underworld: Pearl is on the hook for payouts to the yakuza, who know her true worth.

Brian Michael Bendis (Superman, etc) writes the terse dialogue, the betrayals, the opaque situations that can swing into wild violence at any moment. It’s thrilling. Drop the needle, drop the microphone, drop the weapon. You’re surrounded by thugs, making thuds and pounding out the story beat by beat. Bendis finds the words, elaborates the scene, picks the moments for drama. Unfortunately, there is no synopsis or reintroduction to this deep story; the reader is plunked into the midst of a recap that rotates in 360 degrees, an all-encompassing whirlwind that is intended to launch us into the new chapter. Well, it’s a great gesture, to be sure, but even readers who are familiar with Pearl will be grabbing onto the handles, looking for candles in the wind, a firm grip on the rudder.

The artwork by Michael Gaydos is simply astonishing. It’s real-but-altered, it’s photographic-but-graphic, high contrast, high resolution. Gaydos gives us realism in the gestures, the expressions, the surroundings, and this magnifies the drama. The colour palette ranges from cool blues to flashy orange, with panel borders twisting and thickening to make some pages look Polaroid and paranoid.

Letterer Joshua Reed’s chapter headings and phrases are solid and blocky in display, with a jittery ‘up and down’ alignment. Some sound effects are white, angular, and explosive, others are more ‘comic booky’. The dialogue balloons and captions are just right, placed where we want them, almost invisible in the flow of the action.

There’s some terrific stuff here, and Pearl is a title to come back to, to refresh upon, to revisit. If you take pains to understand the narrative, it’s well paid off in enjoying this top-notch crime drama.

Dark Horse, Pearl III, #1, $3.99 for 25 pages of content. Assume mature rating

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!