Pearl #12 closes out what can be argued to be the best comics Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos have ever done. Starting out as a six-issue miniseries, revamped to be a twelve-issue maxi, and now potentially a movie. With the title chosen to launch the new and revigorated Jinxworld line, Pearl has certainly come a long way. Much like her comic, Pearl Tanaka has come far and been through a great deal indeed. Pearl #12 provides an ending to a series that feels quite fitting. This series has never gone the way you expect, and it ends the same way.
How Pearl #12 Beautifully Subverts Expectations
I know in recent times, the term “subverts expectations” has become a bit of buzzword to mock bad writing. This comes from many people’s distaste for the ending of Game of Thrones and how its creators used subverting expectations as an explanation for everything. The funny thing is that Game of Thrones subversion of audience expectations was the very thing people loved about the show and the books until recently.
Subverting expectations can be a controversial move, but writers who are worth their salt can execute it with aplomb. Bendis, being one of the industries most applauded modern writers, is most definitely worth his salt. Pearl #12 subverts your expectations, but in a way that has been set up so well that it both surprises and makes sense.
Much like Pearl #6 the big confrontation between everyone is quickly put aside for a far more interesting climax. Yuko Masako, who up to this point had been set up as an antagonist, cuts a deal with Pearl. Why should they fight? Pearl offers the FBI the same deal that her mother offered, which keeping her mother’s memory alive has been something that Pearl has sought to do from the beginning. Yuko accepts, and everyone calms down. Much like the last issue’s deal with the Endo Twins, why fight an enemy when you can make them a friend?
The End Of Pearl Tanaka’s Journey
When the other clans attack Pearl as a result of the Endo Twins stupidity, they are quickly dealt with by Pearl. This is the story of Pearl Tanaka acknowledging her legacy, staying true to her mother’s memory, but forging her own path. So she unites the clan and takes over the Yakuza in San Francisco, not to be a crime lord or to make money, she did it just so she could do her art. Throughout the series, she has been told who and what she is or will be. She is taking agency back and doing what she wants. Something she has been trying to do over the past few issues.
The symbol that Pearl unites the clan with, appears on the cover, and she is drawing in the flashbacks is a beautiful metaphor. She repeatedly asked, “What does it represent” and “What does it mean?” Pearl just knows she likes drawing. Does it matter what it represents? There are several readings I have for this symbol which Gaydos makes pop on every page, begging you to analyze it. But, much like the core theme of the book, it’s Pearl’s. What she says it means is what it means. It’s her way, not mine, not yours.
Ultimately, this is a story about Pearl and Rick’s odd but cute romance. The series started with that and it with it. He was one of the few people to not make judgments about her based solely on how he could use her, unlike most people in her life. They now run a tattoo parlour; they also happen to run the Yakuza. Not bad for a young couple, is it?
Pearl #12 Is The Perfect End Of This Series
Pearl #12 is both a delight to read and saddening to read. It has been a fantastic series, that in my opinion, is a masterpiece from art to story. But to see it end is heartbreaking because every month I knew I was going to get more. Bendis stated in the letters page that there is room for more, Pearl’s story does not end at Pearl #12.
But Gaydos needs a rest and they have the movie to start thinking about. What the future holds for tattoo artist/Yakuza leader is unknown. But I will most definitely be first in line for the film and have every volume of this series on my pull list for the rest of my life.