Jessica Jones 1

jessica-jones-1

Today, Spencer and Ryan M. are discussing Jessica Jones 1, originally released October 5th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: Befitting her job as a private investigator, mystery is a vital element of the Jessica Jones mythos. It’s probably why my favorite episode of the Netflix series is the one that put the ongoing Kilgrave story on hold to solve an unrelated case of the week, and it’s also why the first issue of the new Jessica Jones relaunch works so well — Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos don’t just build a mystery around Jessica’s newest case, they turn her very life into a mystery that the audience, and perhaps even Jessica herself, need to solve.

Of course, Jessica’s new case is really only a mystery to the characters within the series — to anyone who’s been reading Marvel comics over the past few years, the truth is clear.

husband

We all know that eight months ago, the Marvel universe was destroyed and then rebooted by Reed Richards and the Molecule Man. Further discussion of parallel universes and the client’s husband’s former family being named “Gwen and Norma” seem to imply that her husband is a survivor of a parallel universe (perhaps even a Norman or Harry Osborne doppelgänger) who was integrated into the reformed Marvel universe and retconned a new past with a new family (not entirely unlike what happened to, say, Miles Morales). In light of the world they live in, Jessica’s immediate dismissal of the idea is a bit silly (but not out of character), so I look forward to seeing, not only how she uncovers the truth, but how the knowledge comes to impact her life once she does.

While the outcome of that case could conceivably even have a massive impact on the Marvel universe at large, the more compelling mystery is still the one revolving around Jessica herself. My biggest question walking into this series was how Jessica now being a wife and a mother and a relatively more stable person than she was in the original Alias would effect her return as P.I., and I think Bendis knew this would be a question on a lot of readers’ minds. That’s why it’s so (purposely) jarring when the issue opens on Jessica imprisoned, with no sign of her family and no inkling of why Jessica was arrested or who freed her — even Jessica isn’t entirely clear on the whos and whys.

Bendis and Gaydos keep readers feeling unsettled throughout the first half of the issue, even leaving subtle hints that maybe this story isn’t even taking place in the “present day.”

competition

Jessica referring to Misty as “the competition” doesn’t sound like something Luke Cage’s wife would say — it sounds like something someone far less secure in her relationship would be thinking, and it paints a picture of a younger, less-mature Jessica Jones. That latter point ends up being the takeaway from moments like these — while Bendis and Gaydos go on to confirm that this story is taking place in the present (most noticeably via a cameo by Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and Nova, the poster-children for the Post-Secret Wars era of Marvel), Jessica herself is regressing into old habits and mindsets.

By the end of the issue it’s clear that Jessica and Luke’s daughter, Danielle Cage, is missing, and the appearance of Luke himself should hopefully force some answers into the light. But with so much context still fuzzy, the mystery here isn’t just “where’s Danielle,” it’s “Why is Jessica Jones being so obstinate? Does Jessica even know what’s going on or where her child is?” Bendis and Gaydos have really thrown their readers into the deep end with this one, but at least for me, this feeling immersed me in the questions, and made finding answers all the more rewarding. I want to find answers to this mystery, not just because I care about Jessica and her family, but because it feels like I’m coming out of the dark every time I find a new clue.

Unraveling a mystery is an art, and Bendis and Gaydos are thus far doing a fine job progressing theirs along. It does frustrate me a little that the creative team felt it necessary to put Jessica’s family in peril in order to establish this mystery — it’s the easy, and somewhat cliché, route — but it’s certainly an effective choice, manipulating my preexisting affection for Luke and Danielle to get me even more emotionally involved in the case. I’m curious whether someone who no previous experience with Jessica’s family would feel the same, though.

Thankfully, there’s more to this issue than just the mysteries. Bendis’ grip on Jessica Jones’ voice (and trainwreck of a life) is as strong as ever, and Gaydos’ gritty, down-to-Earth pencils are the perfect compliment to Bendis’ story. Gaydos never highlights or glorifies Jessica’s powers — which seems appropriate, considering how little she seems to care about them — and his choices when it comes to layouts and framing shots seem to match Jessica’s wildly unstable perspective as well.

alias

It’s a minor example, but I love the way Gaydos frames Jessica’s sign in that first panel — the borders aren’t stable, and the entire name doesn’t even fit into the panel. It’s messy (albeit intentionally so), and that’s Jessica Jones’ aesthetic to a “T.”

Ryan! Did the mysteries of Jessica Jones 1 work for you? Do you have any guesses as to what, exactly, is going on? This issue is full of cameos — do you have a favorite?

Ryan M: While I loved the brief moment when Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man run by in the background, Jessica Drew’s scene with Jessica is my favorite. For the only time in the issue, the cognitive distance between Jones’ thoughts and words seemed short. As written by Bendis, Jessica is guarded. She presents an impassive attitude, especially to clients, but Bendis gives us enough insight into her thoughts to know that this is a front that allows her to protect herself. When Jessica and Drew meet on the rooftop, Gaydos’ art places the women as contrasts. They are essentially wearing matching outfits, but Jessica’s coat doesn’t fit her so well, and her hair isn’t quite as shiny.

jessicas

Bendis has Drew underline their shared motherhood, if only to give Jessica a chance to dismiss it. Their conversation clearly illustrates their conflicting attitudes. Jessica uses name-calling and sarcasm while Drew is willing to pose direct questions. After the back and forth on the page, the most painful question,”is the baby still alive?”, is given it’s own panel. The words are paired with Drew’s earnest and sympathetic direct gaze. This kind of empathy is not something anyone else has offered Jessica in this issue and certainly not something she would ever ask for. It’s affecting but not surprising that the confrontation leaves Jessica in tears. Of course, no one else sees the tears as she hides in a darkened stairwell, but we know that she isn’t indifferent to whatever is going on with Danielle.

I wrote “going on with” because I am not ready to believe that Danielle is dead. Jessica is clearly dealing with trauma, but to not let Luke know that his baby daughter is dead is beyond the pale. So, if Danielle is alive, where is she? I do have a theory, fueled by the mail waiting for Jessica when she returns to Alias Investigations.

clue

It looks like the big envelope her hands in the first panel has the logo for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. So, that paired with my unwillingness to believe Danielle is dead, leads me to my pet theory: related to the event that landed Jessica in jail, Danielle exhibited powers and was sent to a safe place (likely with the X-men) so that she could be protected. Based on everything Bendis and Gaydos established in the previous ALIAS run as well as this issue, it makes sense that Jessica would not trust any of the people Luke sent to get information.

That’s why it feels both inevitable as satisfying to have Luke come in on the final page. The entire issue is Jessica brushing off people who want to connect with her. She dispatches an out-matched Misty, blows off Carol’s messages, ignores her client’s questions about her personal life and refuses to respond to Drew’s direct questions. But now, she has to deal with the man she married.

luke-wants-anwers

On the last page of the issue, Gaydos gives an image of Luke’s shadowed form, his brow furrowed and mouth tight. Here is another character likely going through a plethora of emotions internally while displaying only the “tough” ones. Bendis also gives him the final line of the issue. It’s a direct question and, unlike when it was posed by others earlier in the issue, Jessica must answer.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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10 comments on “Jessica Jones 1

  1. Ok, so I know Bendis loves Jessica Drew. But I have to admit to being a bit surprised she would get involved in this. Especially after all of Civil War II. I also never got the impression she was particularly close to Luke or Jessica Jones even though they were on the Avengers together.

    So while I am certainly GLAD Jessica Drew showed up here (because more Jessica Drew is always a great thing) I’m surprised she did – at least in this context.

    And great point on the mail there…I saw that and I was like “what do the X-Men have to do with this?” I didn’t think to connect it to Dani.

    • I already explained the meta stuff of having Jessica Jones meet Jessica Drew, but there are many other reasons to use Jessica Drew. Like the fact that she is the best character to approach Jessica Jones from the perspective as a mother, since they are the two highest profile mothers in the current Marvel Universe, unless I’m forgetting someone.

      There is also the fact that Jessica Drew is a private investigator. She and Misty Knight are exactly the sort of heroes you would want to investigate Jessica Jones to find out what happened to Dani. And while I can’t remember if she is officially a private detective at the moment, she is close enough to that in her current status quo that it isn’t a surprise she would decide to use those skills again when such a personal crisis happened to the superhero community

  2. This really wasn’t that great or even interesting, really didn’t care about the mystery. I will say that I hope Carol doesn’t show up in this book because of Civil War II I never want to see Bendis writer her again. Also don’t want to see more Carol’s forced friendship with Jones.

    • What was wrong with Jessica Jones’ friendship with Carol? It was perfectly reasonable that Carol had friends outside her life as a superhero. Alias was always a book about what happens in the Marvel universe outside of superhero books, so why couldn’t Carol have a relationship with Jessica Jones.

      This has nothing to do with how Bendis is currently writing her in Civil War II. I don like Civil War II, but have criticised Bendis constantly for how he is writing Carol (though I feel the issue actually comes down to a combination of not doing enough to establish her romantic relationship with Rhodey and, even more more importantly, not giving Carol scenes where she is allowed to explore the nuance of her side like Tony is)

      • Yes it’s perfectly fine for Carol to have friends outside of being a super hero my problem with Carol friendships Jones is was pretty much shoehorned out nowhere here in Alias. Hence why I said it was forced. To be fair I think Bendis did do a good job with Carol’s and Jessica Drew’s friendship at least. As to Civil War II I don’t think Bendis ever intended to give any nuance into Carol’s side of in his to be blunt his minority report rip off.

        • I don’t think is was shoehorned in. It was never forced. It was just an accepted fact of the world. There is no contortion required to believe that Jessica, who used to be a superhero and still interacted with them, could have Carol as a friend. The whole point of Alias was that it showed a side of the Marvel Universe that no one ever saw. The sides of all these heroes that never got shown. Scott Lang’s struggles as a divorced man dating. Rick Jones’ problems with copycats. Luke Cage’s reputation about his dating life. All of this was brand new stuff we’d never seen before, because the whole point of Alias was that this is the side of the characters we never saw. Why is Carol’s friendships off limit? What made that shoehorned?

          If you want to see Bendis give Carol some nuance in Civil War II, read the final issue of Invincible Iron Man. Both Tony and Carol are given time to be sympathetic and show the nuances of their sides. Really good, and I really hope Bendis gets to give Carol some of that in the main miniseries. I’m hoping that with the latest cliffhanger, the perspective is going to shift towards Carol and Tony starts acting unsympathetically.

          And I think describing Civil War II as a Minority Report rip off is a poor description of Civil War II, especially as it ignores the very important fact that Ulysses doesn’t see the future, and instead he sees a sophisticated prediction of it. And I do think that it is a fascinating moral quandary that deserves to be explored. Especially as we enter the era of Big Data. Why shouldn’t heroes debate the merit of sophisticated predictions of the future?
          It also ignores the importance of Rhodey – ultimately, the real story of Civil War II is of two people’s breakdowns when dealing with the death of a loved one. Ulysses acts as the catalyst and gives Civil War its politics, but the book is really about how loss tears the superhero community apart.
          Bendis has written some terrible events, but Civil War II isn’t one of them. Or at the very least, Civil War II has proven to be clever enough that it deserves a more nuanced explanation for why it is good/bad (for example, did you notice how Banner’s death was done so that the morality of Hawkeye’s actions is defined entirely on one’s view of Ulysses? Bendis addressed basically every nuance that could be addressed, in order to force the reader to form an actual opinion)

  3. Welcome home, Bendis.

    In all honesty, Bendis should have had a similar career to Brubaker. He’s always been best with street level books. Alias and Daredevil are his greats (with Ultimate Spiderman coming close behind) and he never made the transition to team books and event books, despite being Marvel’s premiere Team and Event guy (I say this as a guy who loves his Civil War II, which I see as the one exception). But down on the dirty streets is where Bendis belongs, whether it is the streets of Marvel’s New York or the streets of Power’s Chicago. So welcome home.

    There is so much to compliment. For example, the case is both a really interesting piece of continuity – of course there is weird fallout from Secret Wars – and a fantastic metaphor for Jessica’s position in life. Once again, Jessica’s life has been pulled out from under her, and there is this sense that she is in the wrong place – the Jessica we know and love is supposed to be from a different ‘universe’ than this one, a universe where she is happily married to Luke Cage, who doesn’t have the entire Superhero community against her.

    In all honesty, the Jessica we expect to see is Jessica Drew. Ryan’s discussions about their contrasts is fantastic, but misses one very important, very meta thing. When Bendis first created Alias, it was originally going to be about Jessica Drew. But Marvel was afraid to use an existing character, and so Bendis created Jessica Jones. Same first name, similar appearance, same job as a private investigator, same best friend, but a completely new character (Bendis even had fun with this, in an arc where someone got confused between the two Jessicas). And especially after Hopeless gave Jessica Drew her own child, rebuilding the similarities. With Jessica Drew representing what Jessica should be, it is very clear that Jessica Jones has fallen.

    But that is the purpose of Jessica Jones. She is supposed to be the person who is rebuilding. What makes Jessica Jones so powerful is that she never has her life together. That she lashes out nastily to Misty Knight and Jessica Drew. That she is trying to fix things (no one can argue that she isn’t heartbroken that she is missing her child), but is going about it wrong and hurt others.

    Bendis has done exactly what he should have done with Jessica Jones. He has an intimate understanding of what makes Jessica work, and found the perfect update, that keeps everything we love while acknowledging the ways that she has changed. I was really worried that Bendis couldn’t come home again.

    But welcome home

  4. Also, Spencer, I think you have misinterpreted the Misty Knight scene. As I mentioned in the Cage! comments, Misty Knight has never been romantically involved with Luke. When Jessica calls her the competition, it isn’t a reference to Luke’s romantic history, but a reference to the fact that Misty Knight and Coleen Wing run Knightwing Restorations Ltd, a private detective agency. Misty Knight is actually Jessica competition.

    That still doesn’t change the broader idea of Jessica regressing. Jessica should not be treating Misty like this (hell, Misty in all likelihood is an honorary aunt of Dani). Referring to her as the competition, instead of colleague, is a sign is Jessica’s headspace. But the exact context of that scene changes when you realise that 1. Misty has never been a romantic rival and 2. Misty is actually a professional rival

    • Thanks for that tidbit, Matt. Despite my piece, I did know that Luke and Misty were never technically an item in the Marvel Universe (she and Iron Fist were a thing instead, right?), but I wasn’t aware of Knightwing Restorations.

      Between the date in Cage! and Luke and Misty sleeping together in the Luke Cage Netflix series (which I’m only three episodes into, no spoilers please), I guess the idea of Misty and Luke even having had some sort of potential for romance even if it was never acted upon was pretty fresh in my mind. Because of the Netflix show, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people misinterpreted it that way.

      • It is kind of interesting how the whole Luke/Misty thing has all of a sudden popped up. This is basically the first time that Luke Cage is getting proper adaptions, both on TV and as out of continuity miniseries. And it is interesting that both have decided to give Luke and Misty some potential for romance. Is it just because in both cases, Jessica Jones is off the table? Jessica wasn’t going to be in Luke Cage, and Jessica is too modern for the throwback nature of Cage!

        And as someone who only learned about Knightwing Restorations by scanning Misty Knight’s wikipedia page for confirmation that she had never dated Luke when posting in the Cage! comments, it is sad that it has been forgotten. It is the sort of thing that gives her a point of difference and helps define her as more than just Luke Cage and Iron Fist supporting cast. As much as I’m enjoying her in Captain America, I don’t think Spencer has done a great job at showing Misty’s life outside her role as Sam Wilson’s sidekick (Spencer is too busy with other stuff. Can’t do everything)

        Would be awesome to see a Misty Knight and Coleen Wing series reviving that idea

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