Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review # 164: "Alias"

Jessica Jones is going to go down in history as the greatest thing Brian Michael Bendis ever contributed to comics. It's tempting to call her the greatest female character in the history of superhero books.

While I'm a bigger fan of Bendis' writing work on "Daredevil," Jessica - the character at the centre of "Alias" - is a revelation. She's the answer to the question of what happens when somebody gets superpowers, and they're neither a good enough person to become a hero nor a bad enough person to be a villain. In Jessica's case, she becomes nothing: a private detective with a struggling business, a notable set of friends, a checkered past and a life filled with dumb mistakes.

In the mainstream Marvel Universe, Jessica is refreshing. She drinks, she swears (without censorship. Thank, you "MAX" line!) and sleeps with the wrong people. Her mouth constantly gets her in trouble and she acts irrationally. Forget being a hero; being a good person is a challenge.

To that effect, she humanizes the more Marvelish characters she associates with. Scott Lang, Carol Danvers and Spider-Woman are shown in a new light, and act a lot more like real people. This series also did more for Luke Cage than any other book, taking a character who was once a blacksploitation stereotype and turning him into something much more realistic.

Jones takes a multitude of cases during the course of the book (a neat thread between them is how each opening interview with a client is drawn in a repeating pattern. Artist Michael Gaydos' portrait work reminds me a lot Sergio Leone's direction in the "Man With No Name" trilogy. The human face can say a lot.) Despite some intriguing plotlines, the most interesting mystery is Jones herself. Eluding to past work fighting crime, her history is kept under wraps until near the end of the series. The circumstances around how she became embued with her powers of flight (without developing the skill to land) and super-strength (though not invulnerability,) gets a little too cute for their own good. However, the reason why she gave up her superhero career as Jewel is, well... terrifying. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read this or others who will soon find out through the adaptation on Netflix.

One can only hope that "Jessica Jones" leads to the character getting her own comic series again.

Rating: 9.5/10

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