[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Creators: Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
Letters: Joshua Reed
Design: Curtis King Jr.
Pearl Tanaka’s search for the truth brings her to Japan where she meets another strong female member of the Yakuza. Turns out fleeing to Portland didn’t end up like she thought it would, and Mr. Miike may be a little more on her side than she thought. Is this what it’ll take for Pearl to learn more about her mother? Let’s find out!
How far will you go to seek the truth?
That’s the question Pearl Tanaka faces throughout the entirety of Pearl #8. In order to learn more about her mother and her family history, Pearl will have to be willing to trust the shady Yakuza boss Mr. Miike and travel to Japan. This adds a new element to the story brought to life in new and innovative ways by the creative team of Brian Michael Gaydos, Joshua Reed, and Curtis King Jr. Each time a reader opens an issue of Pearl, they are sure to find a panel, an art style, a lettering technique, or other element that’s never been done before. It’s a story can only be told through a comic, and this team is breaking new ground with each issue.
It’s worth talking about how. How the book can consistently bring something new to the comic medium while keeping the story true to what it is. Ultimately, it’s because every page and panel revolves around the characters. This world is not some faraway fantastical place, it’s the gritty, grimy streets of San Francisco. People curse for the fun of it and find pleasure in the weirdest and most mundane things, and people are front and center in every panel of Pearl #8. No matter the style of background or the size of the scene we are looking through the eyes of complex, intriguing, and flawed characters, and that’s what makes this book so compelling.
The book doesn’t have a go-to structure or style to lean on. It uses grids, double-page spreads, stacked horizontal panels, long vertical panels, and more for all different purposes. One of the elements that sets this issue apart is the way in which it treats the atmosphere in Japan. Gaydo’s watercolors traditionally contain more faded tones for the majority of the scenes in this book, but as soon as Pearl gets to Japan, the style and colors completely change. The pale soft teals that breathed sighs of relief while Pearl was in bed with Rick Araki just an issue ago have transformed into luminescence incarnate that brings an entire city to life. Everything feels so bright and digitized from page one, and it’s almost enough to be taken aback, and that’s exactly how the reader should feel. The images are bright, blinding, and inundating as the issue soars from San Francisco to Kobe. It doesn’t stop there, however, because as soon as Pearl steps foot into the casino, the teals turn to gold without losing any of its radiance. Everything is reflective like chrome but each panel is covered in specks of red. It creates a distorted, mirage-like effect that a casino would always like to have on its patrons while reminding the reader of the beautiful work of art in every panel.
Michael Gaydos continues to be the shining star of this series, continuing to find new ways to astound readers through new textures, paneling choices, scene constructions and more. His close-up shots and facial expressions show an unbelievable amount of nuance and emotion, event to relatively stoic characters, a really allow the humor and personality of each character to shine through. Letterer Joshua Reed returns to the with a phenomenal energy, supporting Gaydos in every way with spectacular word balloon placement and shape adding a new dimension to the scene without getting in the way of the art. Reed’s “snakes” of concise and tightly packed word balloons have been a staple from the first issue that really brings everything together.
The issue includes a series conversation with Mr. Miike that takes place across three double-page spreads portraying the exact same scene. The first scene portrays the familiar back and forth we are used to between Pearl and Mr. Miike. Short, trite sentences with biting dialogue and limited trust between them. In the second spread however, Pearl listens and gives Mr. Miike a chance. Mr. Miike’s panels, in turn, get a little more wordy as he begins telling the truth and winning Pearl’s trust. The scene finishes with one balloon: “Get my dad out of jail.” A simple sentence. One command. But Pearl may as well be asking for the moon, and that’s the tone portrayed by isolating the line like that. One thing’s for sure, the developing relationship between Pearl and Mr. Miike is sure one to watch out for.
The only negative is, once again, this book continues the long tease to those waiting for answers, which may leave many readers growing impatient.
Pearl #8 is an intriguing and beautiful journey into the mystery of Pearl Tanaka as she travels the world in search of her past while possibly finding love on the way. Next issue, secrets are sure to be revealed by Yakuza members in Japan, and who knows wherein Pearl’s fate rests.