Page 45 Review by Stephen
Highly recommended to everyone over 16. Except your grandparents.
Featuring some of the finest dialogue in any genre of comics - full of the staccato start-stop and rewind of any real-life conversation - I couldn't imagine anyone except Gaydos delineating its largely deadpan delivery. His sequential storytelling is full of incremental eye movements and the sort of small, languid gestures we might idly make while avoiding eye contact during an awkward exchange or on a first date. We will get to the first date anon.
Michael is joined here, however, by David Mack whose expertise in collage is put to appropriate use for a missing girl's scrap book (reprinted in even greater glory in the back) and the tell tale clues it might hold for the young woman's whereabouts. Also, briefly, Bagley comes aboard with strikingly brighter panels flashing back to Jessica's earlier years when her life seemed so full of prospects.
On the whole, however, it is Gaydos who keeps it real in small-town America, sitting at a street-side cafe or outside a beleaguered lawyer's office (see interior art) for there are sly ties to Bendis & Maleev's equally eloquent DAREDEVIL as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are hired as bodyguards now that Matt Murdock has been outed as the superhero he once defended in a courtroom thereby committing perjury. There Luke rebukes Jessica for her resentful behaviour following their night of consensual steamy sex in JESSICA JONES: ALIAS VOL 1 which she can probably barely remember, and does so in explicit detail. This before they both realise that if Matt Murdock is Daredevil (and they both know he is) his acute hearing which compensates for blindness has ensured that he has heard every single word they said.
Quick recap, then on with the show.
This isn't superheroes at all. It's the messed-up life of a woman who cares and who gives as good as she gets. She could have given and gotten a great deal more except that something so harrowing happened to her years ago when she was once a cape that it's set her down a self-perpetuating spiral of self-loathing.
Night after night Jessica wanders around from bar to bar drinking whatever she can and sleeping with whoever will have her. She wakes up in the morning and hates what she did, so she wanders around from bar to bar, drinking as much as she can and sleeping with whoever will have her.
Set at the peripheral, adult side of the Marvel universe where ladies do lunch and individuals actually swear, have sex and suffer from chronic period pains, it's a journey during which Jessica Jones finally comes to terms with the fact that she's been not a failure but a victim of one wretched bastard's callous and cruel objectification and - anyway, you'll have to wait for book four, but the hints begin here. It does have a happy ending whose seeds are sown early on, but it's a tortuous path till we get there.
In her new career as a private investigator, Jessica is hired by a mother and her sister in small-town and small-minded America to discover the fate of a missing teenage daughter called Rebecca. Both seem oblivious to their error of judgement upon alerting the local media to Jessica's presence even when it's spelled out to them that such publicity gives any miscreant the heads-up and so opportunity to hide any evidence of their crime. Certainly the mother admits she isn't particularly close to her daughter - she can't even remember the last time she saw her - and is convinced her estranged, drunken husband's to blame. The father is fractious but seems genuinely concerned about his kid even if his ire at his wife overcomes him. The sheriff is positively lackadaisical. The local priest is a bigot and a half. His venomous sermons preach hatred towards so-called abominations like gays and mutants, for which he is much loved by the community except local reporter Patrice.
The mutant thing is very much an issue for word has got around that the missing girl had proclaimed herself one. She hadn't. Perhaps out of solidarity, she simply hadn't denied it. Here's one of her High School peers:
"You know it's true, because, like, why wouldn't she deny it? Liz flat out asked her and she just - I mean - being a mutant is like being gay or Jewish - You don't want to pretend you are if you're not, right? Right?"
The town is not without a history of children being beaten within an inch of their lives for being different. So what really happened?
I promise you that plays out brilliantly and unexpectedly enough. Although, as expected, Jessica makes more drunken mistakes.
But I promised you a first date, didn't I? So I now return you to the appallingly bad habit which I ditched when this website went up half a dozen years ago: that of quoting dialogue at excruciating length. But it's relevant in that - apart from being evidence of Bendis' ear for such things - it's the first time that our Jessica is stood up to on the alcohol front.
"Hi, I'm Julie. I'll be your waitress for the night."
"Hi Julie. I'll have a double vodka on the rocks and --"
"How about you don't?"
"I was hoping we could not drink tonight."
"If that's okay."
"I'll have a coke."
".... I'll -- uh -- I'll have a sprite -- I guess. But don't go too far."
"I'm sorry. I just -- Carol told me you have a tendency to drink and then be mad at yourself about it afterwards... And I thought this being our first date, and a blind date, and life being too short and all that maybe we could -- uh -- not drink, and have a nice, real, genuine conversation."
"No, I'm stunned. This is stunned."
"If you want a drink, have a drink. I -- clearly overstepped my --"
"No, we can do it this way."
"Carol wasn't talking behind your back."
"Ooooh, yes she was."
First dates. Aren't they fun? Someone remind me.