Created Brian Michael Bendis
"My greatest weakness is occasionally I give a damn."
It's a big leap, going from saving the world on a regular basis to trying to get the goods on some middle-aged hubby bopping the babysitter, but it's one JESSICA JONES, a former super-hero who now runs her own P.I. firm, has decided to make. Alias Investigations deals in the humdrum world of missing people and cheating spouses, but it's set against a comic book world where superheroes are constantly flitting about, making for some interesting twists on both the P.I. and superhero genres. Like the client who seems more worried that his wife might be a mutant than that she's possibly been playing slap-and-tickle with the neighbour.
It's not an entirely original idea (writer Brian Michael Bendis' own Powers comic book deals with the same scenario, almost, except that it features super-powered cops, not a private eye) but this isn't some cobbled-together world of superheroes. The appeal here is that this is the Marvel Universe where Jessica plies her trade.
Her superhero past (which Bendis made up in its entirety) consisted of a brief stint as a member of the Avengers. Luke Cage (Hero-for-Hire) and Matt Murdock (Daredevil) show up early in the series, and later on, another of Marvel's private eyes, Jessica Drew ("AKA "Spider-Woman") pops up. And she's dating Ant Man of the Avengers for most of the run.
Turns out that Jessica wasn't much of a superhero, though. And she's not doing too well as a P.I., either. Hell, she's barely scraping by. But she's refreshingly human, foul-mouthed for sure, and prone to drinking and smoking and talking too much, with enough flaws and foibles to keep her interesting. And despite it all, she actually has good detective chops. You ask me, she's the most convincing private eye Marvel ever created, and the dark, psychologically complexities of the story are drawn out with wit and compassion.
The other attraction is that Alias was published under the Marvel Max imprint, which meant it wasn't for kids. The situations were decidely adult. And the language was rougher than normal (though how overuse of the word "fuck" automatically makes anything adult is beyond me....). Anyway, just to make sure everyone knew what was going on, in the very first issue (which revolves around a missing persons case involving a woman who seems to be dating Captain America), Jessica and Luke Cage get it on. No nudity, but there's no doubt about what's going on.
Still, the "adult" nature of the comic drew the ire of the printers, American Color Graphics of Sylacauga, Alabama, who literally stopped the presses, claiming the comic was "obscene."
"I'm literally stunned," Bendis said. "There's nothing in Alias that you wouldn't see on The Sopranos." Marvel subsequently moved the printing to Quebecor, a printer based in Montreal.
And in fact, despite the sometimes rote use of obscenity, one of the highlights of the book is the dialogue -- Bendis has always had a way with low life and smartasses, and he's at the top of his game here. Alias, In fact, garned several awards within the industry, winning the Comics Buyer's Guide Award for "Favorite Comic Series" in 2003, and the Harvey Award for "Best New Series" in 2002, as well as scooping up nominations for two Eisner Awards in 2004 for "Best Continuing Series" and "Best Serialized Story."
Bendis is the man behind such other critically-acclaimed crime comics as Goldfish A.K.A., Torso and Jinx (who shares more than a few bad lifestyle choices with Jessica). He's since become one of the most-in-demand writers in the industry, and his crime fiction skills and noir vibe are evident even in his subsequent work on such mainstream titles as Spider-Man and Daredevil.
Not that he's given up on crime: one of his current projects is Scarlet, about an activist vigilante. Nor has he given up on Jessica. She returned after Alias' 28-issue run as a "superhero consultant" for J. Jonah Jameson of The Daily Bugle, in The Pulse, a more-mainstream Marvel comic that ran from 2004-2006. A major subplot had Jessica and Luke Cage now living together and preparing for the birth of their daughter, Danielle.
Unfortunately, since then, she's back in the Barbie spandex, as part of the Avengers or the New Avengers or whatever they're called it this week, and all that was good and special about her seemed to be fading.
Fortunately, Jessica Jones, a NetFlix original series that made its debut in 2015, revisited Jessica's original incarnation as a down and dour private dick not entirely at ease with -- or able to escape from -- her superhero past. Early shots of Krysten Ritter as a downbeat Jessica in street clothes looked promising, and the show more or less delivered, capturing the grim and gritty melancholy that made the original comics by Bendis so enthralling, while adding in an extra dollop of feminism. Maybe because Bendis himself, currently one of the major shapers of the current Marvel Universe, was on board as one of the producers.
The show did take some serious liberties with the original comic series, however; focussing less on Jessica the troubled gumshoe and more on Jessica the troubled former superhero, locked in an obsessive battle with her nemisis, the manipulative supercriminal Kilgrave. Still, when the show was good, it was very good, and if the use of Kilgrave as a feminist symbol of male oppression was overworked at times, it was still one hell of a potent metaphor. And Jessica hooking up with Luke Cage bodes well for Netflix' ambitious plans to bring the Marvel universe to streaming.
Even better, though, was ther announcement that Jessica would be returning to her street-level roots in 2016 in her own monthly Marvel title, Jessica Jones, and that original creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos would be running it, and Jessica will be returning to the street, instead of flying high above them.
The return of the book turned out to be the real deal, with Bendis and Gaydos Giving our heroine a book worthy of her name.
The only flaw?
Bendis announced in late 2017 that he was heading over to DC, leaving the fate of Jessica in the hands of other Marvel writers. Whether they will follow the path Bendis laid out for them, and goosestep Jessica back into the spandex world remains to be seen.
-- Alyssa Mercante on the TV show, from criminalelement.com
-- Jessica isn't big on trust (Season One, episode 2).
Looks like Jessica's back on the streets, now a single mom.
Collects issues 1-9
Collects issues #11-15
Collects issues #10, 16-21
Collects issues #22-28
The complete run, plus "What If? Jessica Jones had Joined the Avengers"
Collects Alias #1-15
Collects Alias #16-28
Contains The Pulse #1-9, 11-14, and New Avengers Annual #1.
Hits all the key points of Jessica's spandex days in the Avengers, and her ongoing relationship with Luke Cage, raising their daughter, working their first case together and their breakup.
Finally! The P.I./Funko barrier has been breached! After years of hoping the makers of those ever-so-collectable big-eyed vinyl figures would give us some shamus love, we're beginning to see some light with the release of Jessica and Luke Cage figurines, both taken, not from the comics, but from the TV show versions streaming on Netflix. Hopefully, we'll soon start to see more TV-based P.I. figures soon. Rockford? Mannix? Peter Gunn? Veronica Mars?
Yep. Krysten Ritter, the star of Netflix's Jessica Jones, has written a detective thriller, 2017's Bonfire. And not only doesn't it suck, but it's been surprisingly well received
Private Eyes of the Marvel Universe
A smart, tough feminist defense of the TV show, by Alyssa Mercante, from criminalelement.com that's, in its own way, "a super-strength punch to the testicles of problematic modes of masculinity."
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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