30 April 2012

Faster than a DC Bullet: Jessica Jones, Part II: Alias: Ultimate Collection, Book 2

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2010 (contents: 2003)
Borrowed from the library
Read April 2012
Alias: Ultimate Collection, Book 2

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Gaydos (with Mark Bagley, Al Vey & Art Thibert and Rick Mays)
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth (with Dean White)
Letters: Cory Petit (with Richard Starkings & Wes Abbott and Jason Levine)

The second volume of Alias continues the excellence of the first. It continues Jessica Jones's investigations of the dark underbelly of the Marvel Universe, as she looks into the disappearance of one of the many superheroes known as Spider-Woman... who just happens to be the adopted daughter of J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson is always a great character, and he's even greater when he's legitimately worried about something. I would say that this story is my favorite of Alias's "cases," except that it's tied with the Rick Jones and runaway mutant cases in the first volume. (I do love those moments where we see Jessica's very awkward way of flying.)

As good as the first half of the book is, the second is even better. Intending to read just one chapter before I went to bed, I read all of them-- and when she read the book, my wife did the same thing! Here, we finally learn the "secret origin" of Jessica Jones. She went to Midtown High with Peter Parker, which maybe stretched credulity a bit, but as always I like the way that Bendis and Gaydos juxtapose Jessica's miserable life against superheroics. Part of the story is drawn in the style of Steve Ditko, and Bendis's naturalistic dialogue is put right alongside all-caps Stan Lee proclamatory stuff. Jessica says things like "I can't believe how badly I screwed that up" at the same time that a Midtown student says, "SAY, GANG! WE NEED ONE MORE GUY FOR THE DANCE! HOW ABOUT PETER PARKER OVER THERE?" I especially like it when Jessica calls Flash Thompson "a fucking repressed dickhead retard" and Peter replies, "I wouldn't put it in those words exactly."

As always, putting Jessica's life next to these other ones shows how terrible her life is. The secret origin starts with her getting a car crash, and things only get worse from there, as we explore Jessica's past and see how what's happened then relates to her present. It's great, terrifying stuff. Poor, poor Jessica.

As good as it is, though, there are three things I don't like about the ending. (YES, THIS PARAGRAPH HAS SPOILERS IN IT.) The first is that Jessica's "archnemesis," the Purple Man, thinks that he's a character in a comic book. It's too knowing, and I don't think it adds anything to the story. We already get when Bendis and Gaydos are doing if we're paying attention. The second is that when Jessica defeats the Purple Man because Jean Grey installed a psychic trigger in her all those years ago. That's it? Lame. Too easy. The third is Jessica's sudden decision that she loves Luke Cage, who we've seen on a total of three previous occasions this entire series. Really? Why? I just don't see what exists between them.

Aside from that stuff, though, Alias's second book is just as good, if not better, than the first. Good dialogue from Bendis and great art from Gaydos give us a gripping examination of what it means to be powerless-- and the lengths to which people will go to overcome that feeling.

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