Comics : The Pulse #14

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This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

Last time, Jessica finally had her baby, a girl, after being pregnant for who- knows-how-long. Luke Cage, feeling the moment, asked Jessica to marry him.

In Detail...

"Finale"
The Pulse #14
May 2006 : SM Spin-Off
Editor:  Andy Schmidt
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Artist:  Michael Gaydos
Staff Only
Issue
Review

We're going to play another one of those Bendis games with time. You know the kind I mean. Where Daredevil takes over as the Kingpin and the next issue is one year later. This isn't anywhere near as radical as that. However, the story begins with the designation "Now" which is not the "now" with which we left off last issue. Jessica is at home with the child she calls "little 'whatever your name is' Jones slash Cage baby". She tells the tyke that Luke asked her to marry him. Then we move to "Last week..." which happens to be moments after Luke has popped the question. Jessica's reply is to ask him why he wants to marry her. Luke launches a soliloquy which essentially says 1) he loves Jessica 2) he and Jessica are now super-hero parents of a biracial baby with the "Avengers spotlight" on them and he doesn't want his child to take all sorts of "illegitimate" crap on top of all the other pressures she'll have but 3) he's willing to forget it if Jessica doesn't want to. Jessica promises to think about it. Back to "now" and Jessica still doesn't know what answer to give to Luke. Instead, she tells her baby and us how she first met Luke Cage.

Way back when, Jessica tried to be an upbeat super-hero known as Jewel. Later she tried again but with a darker look, calling herself the Knightress... "for about a week". She decides to tackle the Owl, busting into a warehouse and fighting a handful of mob goons. Luke Cage, then known as Power Man, and his partner Iron Fist arrive and join the fight. While their entrance distracts Jessica, the Owl slashes her in the back with a knife. Jessica responds by pounding on the Owl, finally pushing him right into Luke's fist. After the fight, Luke introduces himself and asks Jessica to stay to help the police file their report. When Jessica says she usually runs away, Luke tells her, "Spider- Man does that and wonders why everyone hates him and he fights the same three people over and over." While they're discussing this, they find two kids sitting in the back seat of a mobster's car.

When the police arrive, they tell the super-heroes that the kids will have to stay overnight at the police station. Jessica asks if she can take them home and a cop tells her that they could arrange it if she was "an average citizen whose record we could look up". Jessica thinks about it for a moment, unmasks, reveals her identity to the cop, tells him she has references with S.H.I.E.L.D. and takes the kids home for the night.

Later, Luke comes over to Jessica's apartment with sandwiches. They both look in on the two kids asleep in Jessica's bed. As Luke patches up the knife slash on Jessica's back, he asks her why she unmasked just so two kids could stay out of the police station. Jessica explains that her parents and little brother were killed years ago (in Alias #22, July 2003) and she knows what these kids will be going through. She also tells Luke that she isn't cut out to be a super-hero. Luke tells her that she needs to "Find something you can do and do that." Just as the conversation starts to get cozy, Jessica falls asleep on the couch.

Back to "now", Jessica finishes her story by telling her baby that Luke stayed all night and made breakfast for everyone before "social services came and took the kids". "He's such a good guy" she says, "We were friends first, I think that's why it worked. You know?" She looks down into her daughter's face and it all clicks for her. She picks up the baby and tells her, "Okay you convinced me... I'll marry your dad. But you owe me huge."

In General...

Beginning with a terrific cover by Mike Mayhew showing Jessica as Jewel, as Knightress, hanging out with Luke Cage, and cradling her week-old baby, the Pulse #14 is a classy send-off for the title. Like most Bendis books, it takes twenty pages to tell what it could have done in ten and like most Jessica Jones' stories, it retcons her into Marvel history (this time into Power Man/Iron Fist/Owl continuity) in a way that doesn't quite ring true. But never mind. The rest of it is so darned effective. The moments of Jessica talking to her week-old are tender and touching. Luke's proposal speech says so much about him that it's worth reading again and again. The whole notion of Jessica being a super-being who can't sustain being a super-hero has always been a wonderful concept. (Surely, if people with powers existed, there would be plenty of people who wouldn't use them in public or may not use them at all.) Having her attempt a "dark" hero role after giving up on the "light" one and then to give that one up to take two kids home for the night is Bendis at his best. This scene is introduced with a narrative passage so true to Jessica's character and affectionately satirical about the Dark Knight and other "gritty" comics of the 80s that I have to quote it in its entirety: "Yeah, got myself a new look... I was in a much darker place. I tried to reflect that. Something that matched my rather cynical new world view- - called myself Knightress. But, now I look back on it and I get that same little throw-up in my mouth that I get when I think of my hair choices back then. And truthfully... everyone was doing darker costumes back then. Even Spider-Man went all black. It was the super hero equivalent of leg warmers. But that's all hindsight... My point is... I put on a costume and I tried to do it one more time. For about a week. And it wasn't a good week. It was an angry week. But I kept telling myself. There's people in need. People causing trouble. That was the excuse, but really... I just wanted to hit things. This time it was the Owl. Yes, the Owl. You have an animal, there's an idiot that wants to be called that. This guy is one of Daredevil's, usually. A Kingpin wannabe in the worst way. There are guys who just aspire to be the big boss of all the other bad guys. Like that's some big aspiration. Like that story ever ends well. But guys like this Owl guy... Nothing stops him but a really hard punch in the face. This is exactly what I was looking to do." The whole thing wraps up nicely with Luke's visit and Jessica falling asleep on the couch. All of which leads to a clear understanding of why Jessica finally decides to say "yes". And that final Michael Gaydos drawing of the baby is so sweet and Jessica's baby's-eye-view reaction shot is so charming the reader can't help but envy Luke Cage.

Overall Rating...

I was going to give this issue four webs when I first read it but a second read- through made me realize that it is rich in subtleties of character and my quibbles are ultimately meaningless. It's Jessica's last issue, so let's give her a five-web send-off. I'm sorry to see this series end.