Ambidextrous 313: Looking Back at BENDIS' ALIAS Pt. 2
#313- This is Why (Alias, pt. 2)
<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/090925-ambidextrous-alias.html>Previously in Ambidextrous...</a> (click for Part 1 of our look at Alias)
This week we continue our look back at Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. Ton of ground to cover in the final half (or so) of the series, so let's quickly get started for the sake of my word counter. When we last left off, Jessica had just rightfully screwed over J. Jonah Jameson with an incredibly clever ruse, and would soon be heading up to Lago, NY on the trail of a missing teenager…
Whatever We Want (Issue 12)
You could see this coming from the minute Jess drove into town and met the kindly sheriff wearing Luke Wilson's face. Stir in a little alcohol, a flashback drawn by Mark Bagley, and you ultimately get Jessica waking up in the town jail, put there by the kindly sheriff who was a little freaked out by something presumably extra freaky that Jessica did when they were gettin'…freaky. Ouch. Yet another emotional battering for Jones, who's starting to realize exactly why a girl would want to run away from this strange, hick-infested town.
You Know I’m Right (Issue 14)
After spending a few issues in this town with Jessica, it's pretty easy to understand why Rebecca Cross would want out. And following Rebecca's impassioned rant about why she had to run away from home, and what incredible things she realized after doing it, there's a big part of you that wishes Jones would just take her back to where she found her, presumably to live out this more enlightened existence she's discovered. Or that Rebecca will make good on her threat to leave home again the minute Jessica brings her back to her parents. Yet despite all that, the fact remains that Rebecca leaving home the way she did fractured her already dysfunctional family, culminating in the murder of her father by his own sister-in-law. All because everybody in town is convinced he had something to do with Rebecca's disappearance in the first place.
For all of Rebecca's keen observations about the people in her backwards town, a certain level of immaturity prevented her from really thinking about the possible consequences of her decision. So now she'll have to deal with that on top of all the other problems she had before she ran away. More than a raw deal for her, and it ensures this story ends on a bit of a down note, but this is another clear strength of Bendis' stuff. Not everyone gets a happy ending, and not everything is tied up perfectly in a neat bow by the final scene. Sometimes things turn to crap and there's no immediate fix for it, just like in real life.
Cape Chaser (Issue 15)
Great scene between Jessica and Luke Cage that nearly overshadows Jess' first date with Scott Lang, which comes shortly after. Because of its effort, I'm pointing it out here, as it provides some indication of how these two interacted before they eventually got together. Despite some hurt feelings on Jessica's part, you can tell there's a lot more going on here than was suggested in that first issue. These two people (both adults as Cage points out) obviously know a good deal about each other, to the point where Cage knows exactly where Jessica got this whole "cape chaser" thing from. Also very interesting was Jones'
"I hate when you talk like that" line, which stood out as something a guy would hear from a girlfriend (or wife), and not from some random work acquaintance. Funny Iron Fist joke at the end of the scene too.
Eight Dollars (Issue 16)
This little bit is just too funny, something that could easily happen to Spider-Man…if he smoked cigarettes anyway. But Jessica Jones is in a convenience store reading a stupid magazine when a guy with a gun shows up to rob the place. Despite a complete lack of aim, she takes the guy down and convinces the store's owner to call the police (there's a good chance he'll shoot him instead of that), and for her impromptu moment of selfless heroism, the storeowner still charges her for cigarettes. That's some classic Parker luck on display, which will soon become a little funnier and a little more ironic given Jessica's upcoming origin story.
Language Mask (Issue 17)
We knew it was bad…this big, terrible secret that forced Jessica out of a life of costumed adventuring…but in just a couple of pages, near the close of this brilliantly framed issue, we get a feel for just how terrible the truth really might be. And it's more than the stammering words coming out of an embarrassed Madame Web, whose powers accidentally ripped the truth from Jessica's mind, it's Jessica's reaction that sells it. Feeling completely exposed in a way we haven't seen her exposed before, she resorts to screaming and cussing at Web for what is obviously an intense violation, which should've been a tiny clue to what happened in her past. But I just took it as a really nice moment of foreshadowing, and was instantly left with a sense of dread at what this revelation would ultimately be.
You Called Me (Issue 20)
This is yet another weird, random thing about me, but anytime I see someone get electrocuted, I always think of Return of the Jedi. Could very well be one of those childhood things that’ll stay with me until the end of time, but Palpatine setting Luke’s skin on fire with the coolest looking fingertip shot lightning bolts possible in the mid-80’s was the first thought I had when Jessica Drew attacks Jessica Jones in her own apartment. Second thought is that Jessica in general needs an ADT system or something, because the ease at which people gain access to her place and office is now bordering on the absolute embarrassing. Third and most important though, is that this is undoubtedly going to lead to a cool little team-up between two former superheroes on the trail of another former superhero.
The series nearly featuring Drew in the lead role instead of Jones is just another reason this particular pairing was so interesting. It did follow a familiar formula---Drew’s electric fingers followed by a punishing right cross to the face from Jones, followed by reconciliation and then finally cooperation. But a brief, yet important appearance by J. Jonah Jameson, an unexpected cameo from Speedball, Jessica dropping a TV on a guy's head, and a high flying rescue, combine to make for some of the best moments of the series. And make you a little grateful that Bendis went ahead and created an entirely new character to base this series around, because Marvel probably wouldn't have let him get away with half of this stuff if it was happening to the former Spider-Woman. Whose character arc started in New Avengers and is now continuing into her own series was a better fit anyway.
Jessica and Peter Sitting in a Tree (Issue 22)
This is the type of stuff that drives continuity nuts up the wall, but I thought it was a fairly clever way to stitch Jessica Jones into the permanent fabric of the Marvel Universe. And to once again emphasize that Peter Parker has the worst luck of any superhero ever created ever. Sure it was a tad convenient that the first day Jess works up the nerve to speak to Peter is the same he meets a certain irradiated spider, however something about her secret crush is charming, and well…well, just sweet really. And up to this point, we’ve seen Jessica Jones as many things, some of them pretty negative, so it’s fun (and necessary) to see this side of her before we learn her secret origin and what took her out of the superhero game.
Plus, and who knows if Bendis intended this from the beginning, it’s making for some great stuff between Jessica, Spidey, and her husband Luke Cage in New Avengers. That kinda retroactively makes the whole thing cool, even if you weren’t initially crazy about it.
Accidents Are Accidents (Issue 22)
Far as comic book origins go, this is a pretty traditional one, which of course is the whole point. Jessica came from the same humble, awkward beginnings that many superheroes do, and was driven into the life by a combination of fate, guilt, and responsibility. Before learning the worst thing that's ever happened to her, it was important to have this foundation clearly established here. What happened with the Purple Man didn't have anything to do with her specifically, or the kind of person or hero she was or wasn't, it basically amounted to an accident, a horrible twist of fate that put her in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could've happened to anyone, and at the end of the day, she just got a raw deal…just like she did when she got her powers in the first place. Everything is connected really, and again, I just love that whole concept in practice.
Also nice to see Gaydos kickin' it old school.
Purple (Issues 24-28)
As strong as this series began, the ending eclipses almost everything about it, bringing every major plotline, thread, and character crashing together in an excellent five-issue frame that closes the book on this chapter of Jessica Jones’ so-called life. For two years, Bendis has been building up to the dramatic revelation behind Jessica hanging up her superhero suit once and for all, and the untold story is as terrible as he’s been suggesting, possibly even more so. Thankfully, it doesn’t involve rape, and I say that for obvious reasons, and because that’s become something of a horribly common cliché in the realm of female characters in comics. Hell, Jessica even says it as much in a great scene between her and Scott Lang, which is yet another reason her character is so fantastic.
Having said that, what happened to her at the hands of the Purple Man is still particularly awful, and I went from having no clue who Killgrave even was, to wanting to see his face pounded flat in a rain of unbreakable Luke Cage fists. Which became a distinct possibility after he escaped from The Raft and went on a little rampage, but as cathartic as that would've been, this was a personal victory that Jessica needed to win on her own, and she did so in grand fashion. With the game on the line and all of her guy friends either disposed of or just plain away, she took down the Purple Man, with a little help from Jean Grey. Great, great moment to reinforce the idea that females (superheroes or otherwise) don't need to wait for the male hero to swoop in and save the day. They can whup that ass all on their own and look damn cool doing it.
Another huge development is Jessica finding out she's carrying Luke Cage's baby, and the two of them realizing maybe there's a little something there. It speaks volumes that when she finally reveals what happened between her and Killgrave, Luke is the one she tells, and the one who knows just what to say to be comforting and supportive, without being condescending. And when he crosses the line, she tells him to stop and he does. Their final scene on the steps of Cage's apartment is great, both of them doing their best to both express and conceal their emotions, which all falls away when Cage breaks into the Kool-Aid smile after learning she's pregnant and that she wants to keep it. Last two lines that close out the series are, "Alright then. New chapter."
I'd also encourage everyone to read The Pulse, which was the series that followed this one, and continued the story of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. It lacks the same type of singular focus of this series (due to a couple artistic changes along the way) but it does have several great moments of its own, including but not limited to a can't miss encounter between Ben Urich and Peter Parker on the Bugle's roof, Cage taking down Norman Osborn for attacking his pregnant wife, Jessica rejecting a big-time offer from Hydra, Danny Rand making a complete ass of himself, the Jones/Cage baby finally being born, and the story of how Jess and Luke met in the first place. Nice work throughout, and Gaydos returning to draw the last arc was a treat and proof that he played a huge part in Alias's success, if you hadn't already figured that out.
Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos---this is why I love comics.
Comments and additional thoughts below, if you feel additionally inspired. Thanks.
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