The Pulse: Thin Air & Secret War
Brian Michael Bendis et al
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Buy *The Pulse, Volume I: Thin Air & Volume II: Secret War* online

The Pulse, Volume I: Thin Air & Volume II: Secret War
Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Begley, Scott Hanna, Brent Anderson & Michael Lark
Marvel Comics
128 & 96 pages
November 2004 & August 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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For years, J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher of the Daily Bugle, has written thousands of words publicly condemning the super-heroes of the world. His particular favorites to loathe include Spiderman, Daredevil, and the Fantastic Four, all natives to New York City. But his hateful words don’t seem to be selling enough papers these days, so he is forced to call upon Jessica Jones, former superhero XXX, and one of his best reporters, Ben Ulrich, to devise a new column named “The Pulse.” The purpose of the Pulse is to deliver news positive or negative about whatever superheroes and villains are in the news.

This series follows the life of Jessica Jones as the primary character with Ben Ulrich, Luke Cage, J. Jonah Jameson and others filling in various subplots. As a consultant with definitive experience, Jones provides insight and relevant commentary on the busy lives of super-heroes. In addition to her experience, she also goes out with Luke Cage, formerly known as Power Man. Jones is also pregnant with a child that doctors are thus concluding will be just potently powerful as herself and Luke Cage.

In the first volume, as she takes on the new job, she finds herself a bit lost as for what direction to take. The answer comes to her when a fellow Bugle reporter is found dead in the river and the trail leads to Norman Osborne, the dreaded Green Goblin. With a guest appearance from Spider-Man, they go full force against the demented Osborne. As the first run in a series, The Pulse manages to give a decent description of all the main characters while also introducing short and long-term plot strings. In terms of originality, one would hard pressed to find any other series that follows the life of a consulting reporter who is a former super-heroine and is currently pregnant with what is expected to be a super-powered baby. Even within all of that, the realism of emotions including fear and anxiety over protecting the growing child really flesh out Jones as more human than super-hero.

The second volume finds Jones frantically searching for Luke Cage after they are attacked in their apartment. Practically near death, Cage is brought to the hospital where Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., and even Captain America appear without warning. Everything goes awry when a bomb explodes and Cage completely disappears. Her quest will lead her to clues about a “Secret War” that somehow involves Nick Fury, Luke Cage, and even possibly Wolverine. But when all is said and done, will she also be able to get a story out of it?

Mark Bagley’s specialty definitely lies in drawing faces that display emotional range. Flipping through the first volume, one can find ample examples. In addition, his action scenes are tight and he does some really interesting cross-page panels. The only fault one can find is with his presentation of Cage, who just doesn’t look right from previous series—that is, he’s had a face-lift of sorts. But by contrast, Bagley’s work seems much more together than Brent Anderson and Michael Lark, who draw volume two. Maybe it’s because Bagley runs the first five issues that the next four issues by comparison seem to degrade in quality. Anderson and Lark’s drawings are dark by comparison, with more lines and shadows. Bagley maintains much more distinct lines within the pictures and remains consistent with his characters, while selected panels from volume two could easily make Jones appear almost unidentifiable.

Yet, the story still carries the day. Part detective story and part super-hero comic book, The Pulse blends interesting elements in this series which creates a great plot dynamic. Though focused on Jones, the presence of Ulrich also benefits the series as he has become a popular non-superhero among readers and to flesh him out even more in this series will attract even more readers.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lance Eaton, 2005

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