The Comic Queen

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I Missed the Boat: Alias

Back in 2001, I wasn’t reading comics. I wasn’t buying them. I wasn’t even keeping up with comic book news. It’s easy then to understand that I missed many great books. Slowly, I’ve been going back and picking up the better titles that I missed. Marvel’s Alias was at the top of my list.

As admirer of Brian Michael Bendis’s work, I wanted to explore his earlier stories that I missed. When I first heard about Alias I thought it might be a book about the ABC show of the same name. It’s not, but like the show, Alias the comic is often billed as a “fan favorite.” This usually means that a book has a rabid, if small fan base. Shows like Joss Whedon’s Buffy, Angel, and Firefly and comic books like Spider-Girl, my personal favorite, often get this nefarious tag. Sometimes this means the title won’t last long despite how much geeks like me love them. With all this in mind, I knew Alias would be right up my alley.

Alias stars Jessica Jones, an ex-superhero who now makes a living as a private investigator. While she once hung with the Avengers and New York’s other caped crime fighters under the name Jewel, now she schleps around New York’s grittier neighborhoods as a PI for hire. Other Marvel characters, such as Luke Cage and Captain America pop up throughout the book.

Now I’m not done reading the run, but Alias is turning out grand. Five issues in, I already dreaded the end; something that wouldn’t come for 23 more issues. I like Jessica Jones. She’s disgruntled and down on her luck. She doesn’t make lemonade out of her life’s lemons, but prefers to be sarcastic and self-depreciating instead. This is an attitude I can appreciate, respect, and relate to. She lives somewhat of a sad existence and I really pulled for her.

Bendis does great work throughout. The stories are tough and gritty. It’s part of Marvel’s underutilized Max line, so he is allowed to use language appropriate to the rough situations in Jones’s world. This lends credibility to the book and helps to keep the reader immersed in the story. The script never feels phony or unbelievable.

Keeping with the grimy feels of the writing, artist Michael Gaydos keeps the pages dark. Many of the panels have a blue or green tint to them making them feel like they are covered in a greasy film. It looks like the best episodes of the X-Files without the crazy alien abductions and Mulder’s paranoid ponderings. The panel layout is very creative and different, but not at all confusing. This makes the books interesting to read and view.

The covers also make the book stick out. They have a style all their owen and are even like collages. Drawings of bits of ephemera such as stamps, doodles, Polaroids, stickers, and labels accompany a portrait of Ms. Jones each issue. Most covers look layered, like each item is taped or glued in place. It is a cool effect that I’ve only seen here.

The series unfortunately ended in 2003, but all is not lost for Jessica Jones fans. Bendis brought her back in another Marvel book, The Pulse, where she works as a consultant to a new superhero section of the Bugle. Issue six of that series should come out today. While the Pulse isn’t as gritty or R-rated as Alias, the first story line was very good. It’s a great place to catch Ms. Jones if you’re an old Alias fan and need your fix. For a newbie like me, it’s nice to see Bendis use her in more projects. Jones is also set to star in a Bendis helmed What If? in December.

I certainly missed the boat on Alias, but I’m glad to be indoctrinated now .You can pick up the entire run on Ebay for a decent price, probably around $35. That is quite a deal for such high quality writing by Bendis and amazing art from Gaydos.


  • At 11:05 PM, October 14, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good call on Alias. Nice review. You can also catch Jessica sometimes in Daredevil as she acted as Matt Murdock's bodyguard for a while. She's also showing up in Secret War. No big surprise: both are written by Bendis. I think the Alias lead was originally supposed to be Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman. But, due to some legal or continuity snag, Bendis had to create a new character.

    The only thing that bugged me about this storyline was that it relied so much on the fact that she discovered who Captain America was. She struggled with what to do with this classified information. Meanwhile, he "revealed" his own secret identity right around the same time in his own book. It's ironic (maybe not technically) that a stupid editorial decision in his own title took away from a much better story in Alias.


  • At 3:22 PM, October 02, 2005, Blogger jon said…

    We are trying to find good movie poster to take the kids this weekend. Good movie poster reviews are hard to find

    I just stumbled onto your blog while looking. Seems to happen to me a lot since I am a knowledge mooch LOL


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