Page 45 Review by Stephen
JESSICA JONES: ALIAS volumes one to four constitute the finest comic series Marvel has ever published. It is the story of a brilliant woman trapped in a self-perpetuating spiral of self-loathing and self-destruction with a beginning, middle and oh so satisfying end.
Essentially a detective series with some of the deftest dialogue in any comics genre, it's packed with anti-establishment attitude and thoroughly cathartic. It has very little to do with costumed fisticuffs and I commend it to almost all of you heartily, no matter what else you're currently reading. Each book has been reviewed and praised to the heavens with zero spoilers.
Although there are several chapters here with ALIAS artist Michael Gaydos back on board which reprise the heart and spirit of the old title here - specifically when Jessica is introduced by Carol Danvers to Sue Storm and they do lunch (so, so good!) - this is not that, and I do believe the grotesquely twee, airbrushed cover says it all.
With one wince-worthy exception written over a decade ago I try to avoid spoilers. Even if I'm reviewing the fourth volume of a series, it's essentially a sales pitch to new readers for the first book (if, you know, I love it) with some new angle to keep those already on board guessing.
Here I'm out of options so please, please read the whole of JESSICA JONES: ALIAS before you read this review.
I'm not even kidding you. Go away!
The first third of this has an identity crisis. It's not sure if it's a Spider-book or not. Jessica didn't appear on a single one of its covers and with Gaydos unavailable Bendis brought in Mark Bagely, his artistic partner on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. I love what Bagley did there. He was perfect for what was a teenage-centric book, but here he makes formerly nuanced and ragged adult characters look like toy dolls.
Many writers are either inspired by their co-creators or write specifically for them. I know Bendis does, but here his trade-mark witty staccato banter, caught in the conflicting sensibilities, becomes a juddered mess of awkward exposition. I can hear it being typed, which is a no-no.
Seriously, just because I haven't spoiled anything yet, I'm about to with the very next sentence not just for this book but for the whole of JESSICA JONES: ALIAS.
Now that Jessica is pregnant her priority is medical insurance. Self-employment as a private detective won't provide that so she accepts a gig from J. Jonah Jameson as a columnist for the Daily Bugle, making reporter Ben Urich her partner and co-star along with boyfriend Luke Cage, the prospective father of her child. But just as she does so a fellow female reporter ends up dead in the water, having followed up one lead too many that takes her to Osborn Enterprises, home to the Green Goblin. Yeah.
The second sequence is a vast improvement, thanks partly to GOTHAM CENTRAL's Michael Lark and ASTRO CITY's Brent Anderson. The art is much more grounded, the characters very much a part of their environment which is about to become very uncomfortable. A superb evocation of frustration, fear and bewilderment, I'd recommend you read this in advance of Bendis and Dell'Otto's SECRET WAR (singular, not plural - and it ties in directly) so that, being equally out of the loop, you can empathise with Jessica's traumatised isolation and helplessness.
For here, in a split second, she finds a woman at her window, her apartment torn apart and her boyfriend blown into a coma. Because of Luke's unbreakable skin surgeons find it impossible to operate. Then the terrorists strike again - this time at the hospital. The Emergency entrance becomes the emergency... and Luke Cage goes missing.
What do the terrorists want? Why are they doing this? What does it have to do with Luke's past involvement with Nick Fury, and why will nobody - not even her employers at The Bugle nor her ex-boyfriend at S.H.I.E.L.D. - help her? It's complete and utter carnage and - I would remind you - Jessica is pregnant. Everything about this book is about the baby.
The final instalment brings back Gaydos and everything feels right with the world again.
If Andi Watson's LITTLE STAR was all about being a Dad, this is the closest thing in comics I can think of to being a pregnant Mum of the verge of giving birth. In a world where Dr. Strange is going to deliver your baby, sure, but the lunch with Sue Richards offering Jessica insight as to what to expect from motherhood was right on the money and written from experience.
"Well, I'll give you the good news... The good news is that once you're a mom, all this energy you spend on yourself, all that self-involvement..."
"I have self-involvement?"
"The second your baby's born... it's all gone. It's this huge weight - [to waiter:] thank you - this huge weight that you didn't even know was there... and it's lifted right off you. It's such a relief. And that energy you used to put on yourself... now it's all directed right at her. It's all on her now. All of you is on her. The bad news is that it's a horror movie that never ends. Just terrifying. Caring for a child. Just terrifying. I know you don't want to hear this, but it is - it's terrifying."
"Because you can't control so much of it. They fall down and split their lip -- ugh. The boo-boos. They're fine in five minutes. Me? I have to lie down for the rest of the afternoon. Oh my god! And -- and you have to let them fall down. You have to. It's life. It's learning. It'll kill you, but you have to."
"Your kids have... powers."
"Are you scared?"
"Oh my children? No."
"Of what then..."
"Screwing them up?"
"Of course! But not because they have powers or because we're superheroes... it's because... Listen, you are talking to someone who has read every baby book written on this planet, and a few from other ones... no joke. And all I learned is this: There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only love and -- and guidance and kissing the boo-boos. And you can do everything right... and they still might grow up to put on a big frog costume and jump around the city."
Quite. If you wrap kids in cotton wool, you end up with the eponymous star of PERCY GLOOM.
The final chapters run with the first exploration in detail of "What if a woman with superpowers gave birth? What would that really involve?" and it's done with careful consideration. Then Luke does something markedly un-Luke-like and it's brilliant.