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‘Pearl’ V. 1 & 2 TPB (review)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Michael Gaydos
Published by Dark Horse Comics


Coming of age stories can be tricky. Often they are filled to the gills with tropes of angst and awkwardness. The central character is forever the outsider until the clouds part, the sun shines, and viola, their placement in society is understood and aligned. What once was a fragmented outsider is now a completely whole insider. Welcome to the journey from adolescence to adulthood.

Pearl Volume 1 and 2, created by Brian Mchael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, grabs those themes, adds the Yakuza mythos to increase our collective hunger for danger, and generates a plot that is as electric as Gaydos’ artwork. If you are a fan of blood feuds, assassins, and vengeance narratives packaged into a mystery box of steady reveals about the central characters, add this book to your list.

The story centers around Pearl, a young woman who is finding her way as a talented tattoo artist.

She is Japanese. She is albino. With her father in prison, she evidently has a lot of scores to settle with the Yakuza clan plaguing her neighborhood. There is also a secret about her family that she learns which indeed changes everything she thought she knew to be true..

It’s hard not to compare Pearl with the many femme fatale narratives that have saturated culture since the 70s and which had a resurgence in the 90s and 00s.

Full disclosure, I am a fan of those narratives and will happily eat them for breakfast. Watching a woman take arms to stand tall with a gun or sword in hand, claiming their independence never gets old.

Now, we can get meta and ask if this is how women wish to be seen.

What about the other stories and other versions of womanhood?

Pearl is exceptional. She is a gifted artist with a gun or a tattoo needle. Sometimes I wonder if we are doing a disservice by linking a woman’s independence to a high level of exceptionalism. Independence should be an intrinsic quality that belongs to every human.

Aside from that critique, Pearl is an extremely entertaining book. Pearl is surrounded by a cast of supporting characters who provide additional danger, mystery and comic relief. The illustrations are also a complete additive. The primary colors are shaded with a neon-like pastel, creating a contrast that totally mirrors Pearl’s environment and mood.

Bendis’ story easily can stand alone on its own merits, but when you add Gaydos’ artwork, the book transforms into something quite unique and worth your time.

Grade: A


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