Sunday, 1 April 2018

Jessica Jones: Alias, Volume 4 Review (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos)

Behold: the depressing origin of Jessica Jones! Plus: her traumatic past with Killgrave the Purple Man revealed! Yes, it’s a Marvel comic! 

I knew it – I knew there was a great Jessica Jones book to be had somewhere! The first one was ok, the second and third were entirely superfluous (Jessica looks for a runaway teen girl in Vol 2; Jessica looks for a drugged-out runaway teen girl in Vol 3), but this fourth one is where it’s at. 

Brian Bendis artfully constructs Jessica’s dark origin, from how she got her powers to the fate of her biological family. He weaves in a lot of Silver Age Marvel stuff into the background (a little redundantly I thought – Jessica went to school with Peter Parker and was there when he got bit by the spider; really?) while slowly building up to the mystery of why she’s a mess today. I liked the subtle hints we got on the covers – the redacted words, the ever-present purple, both cleverly hinting at her repressed memories – and Bendis absolutely delivered on her horrible encounter with Killgrave. 

In addition to tenderly and sympathetically writing Jessica’s confessional scenes with Luke Cage, Bendis’ choice to write Killgrave as a fourth wall-breaking character was really interesting and unexpected. It made for a very different final encounter that you usually see in Marvel books and was imaginative, unpredictable and satisfying. The entire book reads at a driving pace with Bendis on point throughout rather than indulging his tendency to tread water and unnecessarily prolong the narrative. 

I’ve never really cared for Michael Gaydos’ art, which was the book’s only low point for me. His realistic indie style is not a great fit for the superhero genre and the thick inky lines made for some clunky character expressions. Mark Bagley draws the superhero sequences in his cartoony style, which was a clever choice that definitely worked, though I’m not really a Bagley fan either. That said, the art of Jessica’s high school days in the first couple chapters looked great, helped in large part by the poppy colouring. 

This original four-volume Jessica Jones run is very uneven but it ends really strongly with the best book in the series. I recommend reading the first book, ignoring the next two and jumping straight to this one.

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