Bendis. Man. Comic god. Guy who writes comics about monkey
man writes about half of Marvel’s books right now,
many of which are critically acclaimed, including Powers,
which recently moved to Marvel comics under the Icon imprint.
He has become something of a go-to man for any superhero
book that requires some decent writing, either to launch
(the Ultimate line) or to reinvigorate (Avengers).
Bendis is far from perfect in reference to his writing;
while I’ve enjoyed his less mainstream work like Torso
and Jinx, books like Elektra have left
me somewhat cold and annoyed. Powers remains one
of my favorite series to read, but I’m unimpressed
with much of Bendis’ Ultimate work. For me, he is
very much a hit and miss creator.
while I’ve always been familiar with his work on Alias,
I’ve never actually sat down and read the damn thing.
Heard all the praise, listened to all the accolades, and
yet I have never delved deeply into the character of Jessica
Jones (and for all those that did read Alias, that
sentence has a double meaning).
Jones once fought the good fight in spandex with nothing
but some unremarkable super powers and pink hair, but left
the life one day in favor of working as a self-employed
private investigator. Her life has now reverted to chain-smoking
while investigating cheating husbands and missing persons,
while acting in a self-destructive manner in her social
life. Oh, how the somewhat mighty have fallen.
is asked to find a client’s missing sister, she ends
up catching on video the changing of one fairly prominent
Marvel hero from plainclothes to costume, and now the video
tape is hanging over her head like the sword Damocles, or
any other impressive hanging thing. She becomes embroiled
in a conspiracy to smear the good name of superheroes, and
has to survive everything from assassination attempts to
police investigation, while trying to maintain the semblance
of someone who has their life in some type of order.
Bendis has always
had a mean touch with dialogue, not to mention character
development, and those elements are strongly featured in
the story. Jessica Jones is a dysfunctional woman with a
multitude of problems who barely holds together the remnants
of a normal life. She hates her superheroic side, but at
the same time enjoys the edge it gives her. She’s
embarrassed by her past, but finds she needs it at times.
We get to see a lot of conflict play out in the character,
and Bendis never makes it too blatant. Granted, some of
the inner dialogue makes Jessia sound like a sad sack some
of the time, but her reactions to most situations are understandable;
everything from death threats to unruly clients are all
reacted to with appropriate measure.
Bendis’ bit characters, like the cop that questions
Jessica about her involvement in a homicide, are written
well. The cop appears friendly, even stupid at first, while
his questions get more an more pointed and sharp as the
interrogation goes on. It was a subtle touch. Too often
these days, with the nineteen or so different incarnations
of Law & Order that appear on television, we
rarely get to see from the accused’s side of the one
way mirror. It was a nice change of pace.
I do question
some of Bendis’ logic for his various plot threads,
especially his opening story arc, but to discuss it would
give away some mysteries about the graphic novel that I
have no right to spoil. Suffice it to say, a very major
character in the Marvel universe seems to be acting quite
out of character in the story.
The artwork by
Michael Gaydos is serviceable, but I’m in no way in
love with it. The darkness of the coloring and inking really
fits the crime drama aspect of the comic, adding a fair
amount of sinister atmosphere, and the coloring is quite
impressive thanks to Matt Hollingsworth. Each scene seems
to have a specific color scheme going, and I was especially
impressed with the lighting done in the coffee shop scene
in the end of the graphic. Gaydos’s style though,
makes me dislike the work, not because of it’s grittiness
but because his lines seem indefinite and sometimes the
inking goes a little too dark. It’s like they’re
using an impressively large ink pen to do face work, so
it appears blocky or misshapen. This may be intentional,
highlighting the strange underworld the character inhabits,
or it might be bad inking.
way, Alias is still a good comic, and one that
is worth a read. The first trade collects the first nine
issues of the series, along with a cover gallery from cover
artist David Mack (Kabuki and a few arcs of Daredevil).
The whole series is out in trade, having ended last year
in favor of the less, um, intense The Pulse, still
featuring Jessica Jones but with 100% fewer backdoor deliveries.
Alias (Alias, Book 1)