Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Michael Lark (Breakdowns), Stefano Guadiano (Finishes), Pete Pantazis (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Daily Bugle reporter Kat Farrell is sick of letting the mutant-controlled government censor the press. She’s also frustrated with living as a second-class citizen in a mutant-ruled society. One night, she’s visited by Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, a member of the human resistance. He’s just found out this world is a lie and he should be dead. He tries to convince Kat of the truth, but the illusion created by the Scarlet Witch is too strong. Clint wonders if the Witch brought him to life to kill Magneto.
I didn’t buy this when I first saw it on the shelf because I’ve been avoiding the entire House of M crossover. I got burned on “Avengers Disassembled,” and I still can’t accept the Scarlet Witch going crazy in direct contradiction to established continuity. Ray Tate has Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair; I got Wanda Maximoff gone crazy from lies. In fact, I wouldn’t have bought this issue if I wasn’t already reading The Pulse. And the reason I buy The Pulse is because of Jessica Jones. I buy Pulse because I liked Alias.
Jones isn’t in this. If I knew that, I wouldn’t have bought it. It does have Ben Urich, a regular cast member of Pulse. And Kat Farrell is an occasional character. But the reason I buy the series isn’t here. This is not an issue of The Pulse. This is Avengers Spotlight featuring Hawkeye.
So, as a story about Hawkeye dealing with his possible non-existence and a human reporter’s frustration with her oppressive society, it’s not bad. When Hawkeye says his life feels “paper thin,” it feels poignant. He’s a comic book character; ALL their lives are paper thin! Bendis writes Clint as an angry average Joe. That’s pretty much how Hawkeye’s always been. Kat asks all the right questions to all the wrong people. She’s the kind of inquisitive, self-confident, smart reporter than modern newspapers hate. Michael Lark & Stefano Guidano remind me of Brent Anderson on Astro City. Their NYC is dark and imposing, even in daylight. Their Hawkeye displays his unique feelings of pain and bitter humor. Good work.
If this was any other comic, I’d give it . I don’t think Kat Farrell’s frustrations are resolved or addressed. They seem to be pushed to the side when Clint shows up. But since this issue is such a deviation from the regular series, and because I oppose the idea of House of M, I’m giving it only .
I do recommend picking up The Pulse: House of M special. It’s supposed to be a newspaper from the “House of M”-iverse. It summarizes the stories in the tie-in issues and mini-series, gives one an idea of the history and society of this new world, and provides a handy checklist. It allows you to understand what the crossovers are about without actually reading it. It’s a piece of marketing that should be free, but is still worth the 50-cent price tag.
Plot: At the site of a violent break-in at Stark Tower, intrepid Bugle reporter Kat Farrell senses a story, but can’t quite get a handle on it. At least not until a haunted figure shows up to put a point on her musings.
Comments: Let’s see, the first arc was a Spider-Man story. Followed by a Secret War thread. Now we’re onto House of M. I think this book’s role as a supporting text to Bendis’s more major projects is clear. Secret War was hampered by the bi-monthly schedule and the delays of the parent book. This issue
is at least timely.
And it’s not half-bad, though it’s not so much Kat’s story as it is the place to reflect on Hawkeye’s post-death status. Wolverine’s sensitivity has clued him in to his nebulous existence between two worlds (and apparently, Wanda’s illusion is more flimsy than we at first presumed; there’s a telling sequence where an old clipping in the morgue flickers from one reality to the next, depending on who’s watching it). Clint is understandably rather gloomy about all this, and Bendis tries to pass off his ignominious finish in “Chaos” as lame BECAUSE it was just a fantasy of Wanda’s. Meta-commentary critiquing itself – what’s the word for that? Self-deprecating? Or perverse self-aggrandizement? Perhaps self-conscious will suffice.
This is the book where Bendis can afford to be talky and ruminative, without having to worry about the genre-required action scenes. This title is about words and thoughts, and, as such, it’s generally well-suited to character pieces. Lark’s art is a perfect match. This character piece enhances and develops an important role in House of M, and targets yet more ire at Magneto (rather than just at Wanda). In fact, Clint’s thoughts on Wanda’s possible uses for him are actually quite intriguing, and more nuanced than anything that appeared in “Chaos” itself.
This issue of The Pulse is the fifth in a row to concentrate not on the development of the core characters or the introduction of a new story direction, but on a crossover with another Bendis-penned minseries. Ultimately, this issue is only really going to be enjoyable for those who are following the core House of M title, and want to know more about Hawkeye’s return. As reporter Kat Farrel stays behind after work to research old photos for a bland puff-piece she’s being forced to write on the House of Magnus, Clint Barton appears out of nowhere in the Daily Bugle archive, looking for evidence of his lost and forgotten life as an Avenger in the pre-“House of M” Marvel Universe.
I really liked the artwork this issue. The foreboding sense of atmosphere is palpable, and credit for this is for the most part due to the great visuals of Guadiano, Lark and Pantazis, which capture the dark, mysterious nature of Hawkeye’s surprising appearance well. Colour is used particularly effectively, notably during the scenes set in the Bugle archive. Its musty darkness lit only by a glowing yellow light which throws out some moody shadows and plays off against Hawkeye’s purple costume well. Hawkeye’s consistently taut, tense body language also subtly conveys the mood of the scene, as well as telling us something about his character’s state of mind. Also impressive is the cinematic staging of the issue’s final scene, which sets up a neat cliffhanger that feeds back quite significantly into the core House of M title.
Less impressive is the actual story being told here. Certainly, there are a couple of decent character moments brought out through the writing – Hawkeye’s frustration and confusion at being a resurrected dead man (with all his memories from both realities still intact) is well-written, and justifies his surly anger much better than House of M #4 managed. Kat Farrell is also strongly written, with a combination of the idealistic go-getting zeal of a reporter chasing an elusive story with the youthful naivety of a rookie reporter which makes her an interesting addition to the Daily Bugle newsroom. However, the crux of the issue’s events still rests on ideas which haven’t even played out yet in the House of M core title, and as such, even the informed reader has to take certain elements on faith. Clint’s regained memory of his past life, his ability to “see” the reality which other characters have forgotten, the explanation of the mysterious powers of the young House of M mutant Layla, and Hawkeye’s disappearance from the band of Sapiens he’s currently teamed-up with in House of M all have to be accepted without question, despite all being key elements of this story. A quick explanation in the opening recap just doesn’t cut it: Marvel editorial policy has made a blunder by taking the much-publicised return of Hawkeye and printing his appearances in House of M and The Pulse out -of-sequence, so that the reader has to piece the story together after the event. It’s a confusing, frustrating way to map out a flagship crossover event, and readers would be forgiven for coming away from this issue feeling that they’d been denied a key part of the story here.
Despite a couple of well-written exchanges, and (finally) a chance in the spotlight for Kat Farrell in this title, this issue could easily be skipped by non-House of M readers as it’s fairly incidental to The Pulse. Indeed, I’m keen to see The Pulse return to some sort of regular status quo next issue, as the book has taken a real downhill turn since the decision almost a year ago to constantly tie itself in with whatever else Bendis is up to in the Marvel Universe at any given time. With such excellent characters wasted in peripheral roles in these crossovers (Ben Urich is relegated to a cameo here, and Jessica Jones – supposedly a core character – is nowhere to be found this issue), I can’t wait for a return to the winning mix of strong character interaction and journalistic adventures in the Marvel Universe which defined the first five issues of this title, and is currently sorely missed. For the second time in a week I’m recommending a Bendis book more on the basis of its artwork (and in this case, general House of M interest) than for any real enthusiasm for the jumbled story, and it’s a shame, as this issue could have meant much more.
Bonus Related Review from Dave Wallace:
The Pulse – House of M Special Edition
This newspaper-style recap of events in the House of M has been attracting attention ever since its original cover – featuring Magneto, in full House-of-M mode - made headlines for its uncanny resemblance to a portrait of a member of the Spanish Royal family. Gimmicky news stories aside, this special issue of The Pulse (presented as a real-life newspaper) is full of… gimmicky news stories.
What it amounts to is basically a fun little exercise in creative marketing, with most of the articles (each of which concentrates on a different character or storyline) spinning out of the core House of M title and feeding into the various spin-off issues and limited series which are being churned out by Marvel in the course of their big summer event. Some of the articles are better written than others, with almost all of them ending with a little note telling you which issues will give you the full story, but all of them do help to enrich the “House of M” universe a little bit more - especially for readers like me who are picking and choosing the tie-ins which they’re going to follow.
At only 50 cents, this is as near as dammit to free (my local shop was giving it away to anyone with a standing order) and goes beyond its remit of a mere advertising pamphlet to deliver some neat artwork and some interesting insight into some of the smaller corners of the House of M which have gone unexplored in the core title. Whilst it’s not going to change my mind about following any more of the tie-in miniseries, it’s worth picking up as a curious little novelty which isn’t going to break the bank.
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