Monday, October 23, 2017

Noir Gravity

Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2015, $24.99)
I am just getting around to watching the now not-so-new-anymore Marvel shows on Netflix, starting with Jessica Jones. I'm starting with this program—rather than Daredevil or Luke Cagebecause, while it was the second series aired by Netflix, it was a character I wasn't familiar with; and because of the actress Krysten Ritter, whose role on Breaking Bad, while short-lived, was excellent.

After an episode or two of the series, I was intrigued enough to go to the comics, so here I am reading Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1, which collects #1-9 of Alias, originally published by Marvel as part of its Max Comics. Truth be told, this is also my first exposure to Max, which I initially avoided entirely because I didn't really need to read "mature" comics published by Marvel. (There are already plenty of mature comics already available!) And I didn't feel the need to explore the seamier side of Marvel's street-level heroes. Boy, did I miss out at the time!

Featuring writing by Brian Michael Bendis, art by Michael Gaydos, covers by David Mack (Kabuki!), and additional art by Bill Sienkiewicz, the comic series is more Max Allan Collins-like noir adventure than superhero fare, regardless of ones's previous heroism as Jewel and membership in the Avengers.

Having seen the show before reading the comic, I couldn't help but look for continuity parallels while reading. While it's clear that the series draws on the comics, its plot has already taken on a life of its own, which makes for better reading and viewing.

As a comic, the book holds together very well. The superhero cameos—even if merely in memento photographs or on TV—grounds the story in the Marvel Universe, and the mysteries Jones endeavors to solve often don't rely on her past superhero work. That said, the appearance of Matt Murdock as her attorney and Carol Danvers as her friend are pleasant character-development moments. Bendis's writing is excellent. Sections have the rapid-fire patter of the dialogue of a police procedural TV program, and the quieter, slower sequences have a thoughtfulness and weight to them that helps maintain the noir gravity of the book.

This is a serious comic. There are serious crimes, serious risk, serious violence, serious relationship issues, serious life problems—including Jones's alcoholism. Bendis's treatment of Jones's drinking is respectful and true to life. This isn't the slurring swagger of a bewhiskered Tony Stark, this is daily functional alcoholism. Jones drinks too much, makes bad decisions—including sleeping with the main character of another Netflix series—and carries the weight of her hangover to work the next day.

As the comic continues, hopefully we'll learn why she drinks so much—but for now, it's background noise and traveling music that only makes an already difficult life more difficult.

Availability: Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 is currently available.

No comments: