Current Reviews


The Pulse #4

Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2004
By: Dave Wallace

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Scott Hanna (i)

Publisher: Marvel

With Norman Osborn offing his employees left right and centre, Ben Urich decides itís high time someone intervened. Spidey gets involved as the Daily Bugleís Pulse team gears up for another battle with the Green GoblinÖ

After a difficult first few issues during which The Pulse has struggled to find a voice, a delayed fourth issue finally arrives with the title apparently now on a bi-monthly schedule. Whilst Iím still not completely convinced that this first arc was the best way to get to know these characters, Bendis continues to plough ahead with his Green Goblin storyline - perhaps hoping that weíll pick up on how The Pulse team hangs together on the way, without hanging around for a stilted introductory few issues. This strategy only turns out to be half-successful, as the writer gives himself a few too many plot strands to juggle with any time left over to concentrate enough on Ben and Jessica (or even Kat?) interacting as a team Ė and this should surely be what the introductory arc of this book is about?

However, far be it from me to dictate to a proven excellent writer what the subject matter of his stories should be. The scenes that we are treated to are great fun to read Ė in particular Ben Urichís frank encounter with Spider-Man. Itís testament to the nuanced craftsmanship of both writer and artist that weíve got the same creative team from Ultimate Spider-Man working together here but with the results feeling so different. This is definitely the more adult Spider-Man talking, and his conversation with Ben follows a great logical strain of argument that shows us just how unlikely it is that Pete could keep his secret from everybody. To its great credit, the scene is done in a way which doesnít mock the genre conventions but instead uses some nice character details (from both parties) to show us how (a) Ben worked out who Spidey is, and (b) why this is going to be good for the story. Thereís humour in this scene, but also a sense of Peterís anger at his perennial stalemate with Norman Osborn, which begs Benís question: How can they still let Osborn walk around? Itís a compelling question, and one which gets to the root of Spideyís character. Letís hope we see it answered in future issues.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Bagleyís art here, too. Maybe itís me getting used to his work on this title, maybe heís warming to his subject matter, or maybe itís a combination of factors including Pete Pantazisí clearer colours or Scott Hannaís lighter inking this time round, but the artwork is definitely growing on me. Weíre treated so a variety of emotional scenes here, and whether itís the carefree maternal dreaming of Jessica Jones (albeit minus Luke Cage Ė uh-oh?), the restrained anger of Spider-Manís body language, or the sheer terror of the issueís closing pages, all are conveyed effectively. If there are any nits to pick, one is that thereís a frustrating printing error on one page (maybe itís not on all issues? Itís just as the team is arriving at Oscorp, if anyone else wants to check) which has led to all of the captions and speech bubbles being printed about half an inch to the left, making it a little hard work to follow. But itís a minor quibble and hardly something that can be laid at the artistsí feet.

Overall, the things I dislike about this issue donít seem to be the same as everyone else: Iím definitely getting used to Bagleyís art and whether or not Norman Osborn is still alive in Marvel continuity is neither here nor there, as long as the creators can tell a good storyÖ And thereís the thing. Iím still not sure where I stand on the quality of this as a good story. Bendis can write character scenes which knock other writersí attempts at dimensionality into a cocked hat, and I enjoy each separate segment Ė whether itís Jessica and Lukeís baby-talk, Urich and Peteís heart-to-heart, or J. Jonah Jamesonís integrity in the face of all his other character flaws Ė immensely. Unfortunately, the ensemble that this book has thrown together has yet to really gel for me, with no sense of ďThe PulseĒ journalists as a team - or even a network of relationships. The closing moments of this issue suggest that things will coalesce for an exciting next issue, but at the moment this title still just falls short of being any greater than the sum of its parts.

Final Word:
Maybe itís just that my expectations of how ďThe PulseĒ would turn out were off-mark, but itís hard to believe that this opening arc is written by the same person who gave us the laboured and dull six-issue origin of the Ultimate Fantastic Four recently. However, if your only complaint is that too much is happening, things canít be too bad. Letís just hope that future issues see more of that team dynamic that was displayed last issue.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!