The source material for the Netflix hit series–welcome to the wonderfully dysfunctional life of Jessica Jones, ex-superhero. Jessica used to run with the Avengers, back in the day before she became a private investigator (PI).
But she wasn’t very good at the whole superhero thing. Her powers aren’t remarkable and she doesn’t really have control over them. In a city flooded with heroes of all stripes and powers -she was mediocre, unneeded and maybe a little unwanted.
At least that’s what she thinks.
Making a living as a PI specializing in superhuman cases, Jessica has hits rock bottom. Depressed. Paranoid. Drinking.
Until she’s contracted to find a wealthy woman’s missing sister. All of a sudden Jessica comes into possession of a tape that reveals the secret identity of one of the Marvel universes greatest heroes! Powerful people want that tape. And they are willing to kill to get it.
Thus starts one of the most refreshing adventures in modern Marvel history. Will Jessica survive and figure out who set her up? Read on…
Alcoholic P.I., Failed Superhero, Murder and the Avengers
Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 collects the first 9 issues of the series. It introduced Jessica and takes us through the first two story arcs of her adventures.
And they are …unusual.
Jessica struggles with life. Some days she’s barely able to climb out of the bottle long enough to work. She fells too much… or maybe not enough. Jessica Jones is a broken, self-destructive person.
When a wealthy looking woman asks her to find her missing sister, Miranda, Jessica doesn’t think much of it. It’s a boring, everyday case. And Jessica is too jaded, too depressed to care. But she needs the money.
She takes the case. Alias Investigations at your service…
With her PI skills and a little internet search, she manages to track down Miranda. Taping Miranda late at night as proof of life for the concerned sister. Jessica makes a startling discovery. Miranda seems to be meeting with a man. That in itself is ordinary enough. What happens next is the shocker.
Miranda’s mysterious boyfriend receives a call on his pager (who still uses those things?). Jessica figures he’s some cheating married Doctor or something. Only to see him leave the love nest by way of the roof. In the uniform of Captain America!
And Jessica has his secret identity on film.
Bright cookie that she is (off the booze), Jessica immediately recognizes that she’s been set up!
Maybe this case wasn’t about a ‘missing’ sister. Maybe this was all about ferreting out Caps’ secret identity.
When Jessica tries to reach her client. Her worst fears are proved true. The client’s phone number is disconnected. Her address leads to a baby clothing shop. Oh oh…
In full paranoid mode, Jessica returns to Miranda’s house –only to find the place locked down by the cops and surrounded by curious onlookers. A woman has been murdered. Brutally chocked to death.
Miranda is dead.
And Jessica might be next. Hounded by sinister forces, with no friends to turn to (the Avengers butler shoos her away from the gate) –Jessica must use her wits to survive, solve a murder and get some really bad people of her back. That is not easy. Considering that the cops think she is a person of interest in the case.
Remember when I said that Jessica Jones got it rough? That was an understatement.
Searching for Ricky Jones and Avoiding Another Kree War
The second story arc deals with Ricky Jones (no relation).
Ricky has been a re-occurring sidekick and secondary character in the Marvel universe for decades. He’s been Bruce ‘The Hulk’ Banner’s right hand man, ended the Kree-Skrull war single-handedly and was the earthly anchor of Kree superhero Captain Marvel. Oh and he was an almost rock star at some point.
Looks like Ricky has gone missing and his wife (???) just wants Jessica to find him. Since Jessica is more of a sucker for people in need than she lets on –she decides to look into it.
Once again, something that would have taken a superhero one phone call becomes a protracted investigation. Because while Jessica is part of the community, she isn’t an insider. She has to do this the old fashioned, hard way. So she hits the streets.
Looks like old Ricky has been trying to revive his music career. But when Jessica finally catches up with him, trouble isn’t far away. Is Rick Jones being hunted by inter-galactic agents who want payback for his part in ending the Kree-Skrull War? Is he making up fantastical stories to get away from a clingy spouse? Is Ricky Jones really Ricky Jones?
You’ll have to read Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 to find out!
The Art & Writing of Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1
Brian Michael Bendis is one of those writers you just gotta love! He started off in indy and underground comics and worked his way into Marvel.
He’s one of the creative geniuses behind Marvel’s hip Ultimate parallel universe that re-imagines popular characters and stories in new ways. The African-American Nick Fury, as opposed to the original Irish-American rabble-rouser, is one of the products of this universe.
But one of Bendis’ most iconic works is his creator-owned graphic novel series ‘Powers’ –about ordinary cops trying to enforce the law on super powered villains and heroes alike. Which also happens to be a Netflix exclusive TV series. Hmmm I sense a pattern here.
(By the way, you should really check out Powers. Its first story arch ‘Who Killed Retro Girl’ is an awesome fresh take on the classic superhero trope.)
Bendis’ always cites writers from film and theater (e.g. Aaron Sorkin) as some of his greatest influences. It shows. He is a master of banter. His dialogue is gritty, smart and flows. His stories are unusual, full of unexpected twists and turns. He keeps you engaged and interested.
The illustrator team of Michael Gaydos and Bill Sienkiewicz deliver great visual for the novel. Their art is dark, edgy and sharp. Very stylized and in tune with the atmosphere of the stories. People actually look like people, not Hollywood glamour models. Their New York is a dark and grimy place, even during the day.
Why is Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 a must read graphic novel?
Because Bendis and Co. take the classic superhero story, turn it around and tear it to shreds. Jessica Jones is interesting because her powers have done nothing for her. Besides make life more difficult. She is an ordinary person with super powered problems.
Take an earlier incidence where an angry client thought he could take his frustrations out on Jessica. She punches him through a door. And gets in a whole mess of trouble with the cops. Who vent all their frustrations about heroes ‘thinking’ they are above the law on her.
Yet, she finds herself entangled in the super powered community. He friend (and part-time) lover is Luke Cage (formerly the Avenger Power Man). When she gets in trouble with the cops in the first arch Matt Murdock bails her out.
But she is a non-entity. The Avenger (and Fantastic Four) won’t speak to her. And Captain America only vaguely remembers that she ‘used to hang around the mansion’ some time ago.
Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 is one woman’s struggle with what it means to be the little guy in a world of superheroes. Not ordinary enough to be a civilian but not exceptional or powerful enough to be a player.
It’s raw, it’s real and it’s fresh. If you want to see what life looks like for the underdog in a super-powered world –read this graphic novel! A unique view on a familiar world. Definitely worth adding to your reading list!
PS: You can get your copy of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 1 in paperback.
If you like Jessica Jones checkout Brian Michael Bendis’ masterpiece Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl?!