Pearl #1

Cover to ‘Pearl’ #1. Art by Michael Gaydos/DC/Jinxworld

By Brendan F. Hodgdon. There’s something special about recurring collaborators in comics. The particular synergy that comes from a writer and artist that know each other thoroughly, whose talents mesh comfortably, can be a great boon to a series. Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos are creators with just that sort of familiarity, and their new series Pearl showcases that to exciting effect. The first title in Bendis’ new Jinxworld imprint at DC, Pearl is a great mission statement for the line and an even better showcase for its creators’ talents.

This unique crime fable follows the eponymous hero, a tattoo artist affiliated with the yakuza who has her meet-cute with a fellow artist ruined by the realization that he’s allied with a rival clan. But when she intervenes in a shootout to save her new friend anyway, she incurs a debt that plunges her into even more dangerous territory. In other words, it’s dramatic gold, with the specific details of the yakuza and tattoo communities helping it stand out from comparable fare. There’s a deliberate sense of escalation on almost every page, with hardly any moments of rest or equilibrium. Pearl’s world is disrupted immediately and keeps getting more complicated and dangerous, momentum building all the while. By the time we’ve arrived to the subdued cliffhanger, it’s become clear that this series has no intention of slowing down. Its trajectory will continue until the bitter end.

Bendis’ flair for dialogue gives each page a natural rhythm, while Gaydos’ art lends a particular hypnotic quality. Between their efforts, this creative team delivers a world that at once feels grounded and surreal, relatable and dreamlike. The combination of contemplative and chatty feels like a reflection of Pearl as a character: lurking behind her social and business interactions is a thoughtful reserve of someone carrying an unknown weight on her shoulders. This also blends intriguingly with the pace of the issue; the mood conveyed by the art feels like a counterpoint to the escalation on the page.

Gaydos in particular makes some really thoughtful and effective choices in this issue. When the inciting shootout hits, it’s done almost entirely in a double-page spread. The layout of the panels both demonstrates a sense of progression to the fight while also making it feel like it’s happening all at once. On the other hand, there’s the flashback Pearl has of her father, where he’s depicted against a clean white background. This highlights the feeling of memory, how Pearl recalls her father clearly while having forgotten the details surrounding him. These sorts of clever flourishes amplify the script very effectively, and draw you into each moment more fully. And then there are Gaydos’ colors, which are essential to establishing the aforementioned mood. It’s not often that you read a comic that visually recalls a Michael Mann movie, but here’s Gaydos, doing exactly that.

As for Bendis, the writer lays down his themes with equal parts clinical precision and focused passion. In particular he seems interested in exploring the objectification and control of women through Pearl’s experiences. She thinks back on her father warning her to protect herself around boys, and the crime boss Mr. Miike clearly sees her as belonging to him. Even when Pearl’s potential paramour Rick first approaches her it’s really about her tattoo, and initially goes on at length about it in a way that makes Pearl sound more like a vessel than a person. As Pearl is drawn into the darker corners of her world, it’s not just her life that’s at risk, but seemingly her autonomy as well.

After blazing through this first issue, it’s clear that Bendis and Gaydos are onto something here. What’s more, it bodes well for Jinxworld as an imprint, and serves as a reminder of Bendis’ talent beyond his cape-and-cowl work. Pearl had a lot to prove in its debut. It’s cleared that bar.

PS: a nice little bonus to this issue is the inclusion of Bendis & Gaydos’ first Batman story from many years ago, a short called “Citizen Wayne”. If you have never read it before, it’s a cute piece of apocrypha that is an interesting riff on Batman and Citizen Kane. It’s a fun (if inessential) inclusion for fans, especially as a point of comparison for how Bendis and Gaydos have both evolved since its original publication.


Written by Brian Michael Bendis.

Art by Michael Gaydos.

Letters by Joshua Reed.

Design by Curtis King Jr.

8.5 out of 10


Check out this five-page preview of ‘Pearl’ #1, courtesy of DC and Jinxworld!