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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?