Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art and Colors: Michael Gaydos
Letters: Joshua Reed
Covers A: Michael Gaydos
Cover B: Laura Pérez
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: July 27th, 2022
Everything has gone wrong for Pearl Tanaka. On top of her own little world not that long ago, PEARL’S feud with Mr. Miike threatens to take down everything she’s built. Can she strike back against her enemy or is her only hope to run from his attacks?
Vengeance always risks begetting more vengeance, and that’s just what’s going on in PEARL: III #3. The latest tit for tat came when PEARL cut off Mr. Miike’s fingers which led to Mr. Miike blowing up Pearl’s tattoo shop, killing corrupt FBI agent Yuko, and severely injuring Pearl’s boyfriend Nick.
For quite a while now–since the latter half of the series’ first volume, PEARL has had significant control of her life–much more than she ever had before. She also gained power and security. At least she thought she had. Following the events of the first two issues, PEARL: III #3 tosses that power and security out the window as she once again finds herself reacting to circumstances rather than controlling them. This is actually a welcome change to the status quo. Brian Bendis’s story is far more interesting with a PEARL who’s dealing with conflict than one who is having an easy time at life, and PEARL: III #3 continues the return to that better side of the character.
PEARL: III #3 also spends time exploring her childhood interactions with her father. Bendis hasn’t gone into much detail about their relationship, certainly nowhere near as much as the relationship between PEARL and her mother. This may prove to be integral to the series’ developing plot threads. PEARL’S father is already factoring into her life more significantly than he ever did in the first volume but so far, without greater context, the tension between them is more that of business associates than a complex familial relationship.
The character development with which Bendis fills PEARL: III #3 is the most powerful part of the issue. But the brief revenge aspect of the story that continues to motivate PEARL, while not quite as significant as in previous issues, feels repetitive. It’s almost certain that PEARL is going to have to confront Mr. Miike in order to hold her top position in the Yakuza, but there is something appealing in the idea of her feeling uncertain and powerless as a result of Rick’s injury–the fulfillment of a warning in the first volume that predicted PEARL’S weakness would be her boyfriend.
Additionally, the circumstances of the story mean the artistic side of the characters, something that has set this apart from a simple mob story ever since the series began, doesn’t have a place in the issue. It’s unavoidable but the absence of that aspect is definitely noticeable.
Michael Gaydos has been delivering stellar art for the series ever since the first issue of volume one. In PEARL: III #3 this talent shows itself, especially in his use of color. The encounter between Mr. Miike and PEARL is striking. While Mr. Miike is outside, walking toward the building PEARL is in, the coloring is grainy and washed out. When Mr. Miike enters the building, his coloring stays the same but the setting around him turns red. PEARL, meanwhile, sits in a room with the same coloring as when Mr. Miike was outside the building. The moment Mr. Miike enters the same room as his target, though, the coloring goes completely red–both the setting and the characters. While Gaydos draws the fight in brutal detail, the use of red coloring adds an extra sense of violence to the whole thing. The aftermath of the battle, taking place once Mr. Miike leaves, switches from red to purple. In some ways, it’s evocative of deep bruising, though I doubt that was the intention.
A significant positive of Gaydos’s coloring during the fight between Mr. Miike and PEARL is that it makes the fight more interesting and does somewhat counter my criticism about its inclusion in the issue.
PEARL has been a distinct series since it began. Having the main character be an artist who is constantly trying to balance that part of her life with Yakuza membership has made it more than just a standard mob story. The issues that lack this duality, even when circumstances force it, are a little weaker and not the best representation of who these characters are. That said, this is still a strong issue in one of the more interesting series out there.