Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I don't know what to do."
Over and over you'll hear that phrase. Does it seem quite familiar to you?
The finest series ever published by Marvel, 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. It does have a happy ending whose seeds are sown so early on here, but it's a tortuous path till we get there.
Don't get me wrong: this is very, very funny with such smooth, silky and wink-ridden dialogue full of the false starts, stuttering and back-tracking which reflect our own real-life interactions that you will be utterly immersed in up to sixty consecutive panels of talking heads without blinking once before coming up for air. Then you'll be craving the next.
It's riddled if not with misogyny then at least balls-out chauvinism as Jessica attempts to earn a living through private investigation while encountering walls of lawyers, corporate cover-ups, political intrigue and street-level lies and deceit. Men and women hire her to find their spouses or find them out. One guy is cheating on his missus not with a woman but with multiple men whom he meets online and if you think these chat-room exchanges have been edited into something more acceptable to the average, American and easily outraged male Marvel reader, please think again!
My rule number one is "Never ask questions you don't want to know the answers to". This goes double for employing P.I.s. You may not like what you find.
Like HAWKEYE it's completely accessible to newcomers with no knowledge at all of the Marvel universe because this was Jessica Jones' first-ever appearance. It guest-stars Luke Cage, Carol Danvers and Matt Murdock. Indeed there's a certain degree of cross-over with Bendis' concurrent DAREDEVIL series which was similarly street-level and out-shone even Frank Miller's.
Michael Gaydos employs the same repeated panels Miller utilised there but to different effect as Jones listens to her clients witter on. Their expressions change: hers don't. She's listening. She's assessing the veracity of their stories. She doesn't always trust her own instincts or get it right.
In the first major episode of several here Jessica is employed to find a sister who's gone missing - a woman who's gone to great lengths not to be tracked or found. She finds the sister safe and well but visited at night by a broad-shouldered blonde bloke whose pager receives a call-out at 2am. Is he a doctor? Pfft. No. He doesn't even leave by the front door. Why would the sister not want to be found if she's happy and beginning a brand-new relationship?
The answer makes so much sense but it's the question which you should concentrate on. As should Jessica. Because she's being set up by those several tiers above and it's how she handles that which will make all the difference in the world to what follows.
Superheroes don't just have secret identities. They have private lives. Or at least they do here and they're... complicated.
Complicated by sex. Here's Jessica out to lunch at a street-side cafe with Carol Danvers. They're rekindling their friendship after letting it lapse. It's amazing how much you can do for a friendship if you're prepared to reach out.
"I have done some stupid, stupid things with guys lately. Just a mixture of needy and just -- just stupid -- like you wouldn't believe."
"Were you out with Cage?"
"... Oh my god."
"Who told you that?"
"There's a grapevine now?"
"There was always a grapevine."
"Oh my god."
"So, that would be a big, huge, gigantic... yes."
Well, yes and no.
"Cage and I are not going out."
"He's a - a he's a total cape chaser - like no one's business."
"A cape chaser."
"What? Like he..."
"Likes to... you know... those with capes."
"Oh yeah. Just ask Jessica Drew."
"Come on... I tell ya - I thought - I thought he was a good guy."
"He absolutely is. Absolutely. Has nothing to do with what I'm talking about."
Of course it doesn't. I don't quote that sequence at random, either. Cage will be playing a very significant role, effectively reintroducing him to the Marvel universe in far more contemporary manner, eventually leading into Bendis' NEW AVENGERS VOL 1: BREAK OUT.
This is a series about accepting your limitations without being bullied by them, recognising your real strengths, looking forward not back, and going with the risk of letting new people in. Actually, it's about relearning how to love yourself in the way that you should.