Brian Michael Bendis, writer
Michael Gaydos, art
Josh Reed, letters
The last issue ends, Pearl and her new-found friend Rick meet with Mr. Mike, an elite member of the Yakuza clan in San Francisco. The meeting is interrupted by the Endo Twins, aspiring pornography empire builders, who are upset with Mr. Mike and the impact the Yakuza clan have on their business. This issue begins, Pearl and Rick calmly walk out of the meeting after Pearl smokes a joint. Rick is surprised by how easily Pearl broke free from a seemingly perilous circumstance. Pearl shrugs it off, and they leave when she meets up with her father, who’s in prison. She asked him what Mr. Mike knows about her mother that he hasn’t told her? The meeting ends with Pearl fully aware of the significance of her mother’s role in the Yakuza clan. Meanwhile, The Endo Twins leave their meeting, the brother minus a finger, with orders given by Mr. Mike: kill Pearl or lose another finger.
This is a dirty crime noir story with a mystical tattoo artist connection. The bad language, seedy subjects, and dangerousness of the story piques my interests but isn’t the reason I like the book. What’s intriguing is that I’m starting to like the characters. The chemistry between Pearl and Rick, specifically. She’s the “always got it together hit-girl for the Yakuza clan”; he’s the naive street kid with a playful willingness to be where she is. It’s a testament to Bendis who is a master at his craft as he builds a universe with deep connections between characters, both positive and negative. For example, balancing Pearl’s altruism in her devotion to Rick is Mr. Mike’s grip on his empire. The Yakuza clan once had different leadership. Now that Pearl knows, she is compelled to respond.
The art plays off the dark themes in the exposition. Scenes are grainy and muddy purposefully communicating a cryptic “never-trust-your-eyes” feeling to an unfolding mystery. The depictions of the tattoos on Pearl’s body are the highlight. They appear when she flushes providing a way to read her emotions if you’re knowledgeable but providing a beautiful aesthetic. Pearls’ stoic appearance is layered with emotions that come to life in the facial expressions. She’s not to be messed with but fiercely loyal.
Bendis is building a world where crime-bosses meet street-level characters caught up in the larger gears of the criminal organizations that run the city of San Francisco. The art beautifully overlays this seedy story infusing it with emotional connections. I highly recommend this engaging story to those that love crime stories.