Alias, written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Gaydos and sometimes contributors Mark Bagley, David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz, was one of the first books released by Marvel’s MAX line and remains one of their best. It is probably one of the finest things that Bendis has ever written and remains as sharp and smart today as it did when it started coming out twelve years ago.
Now if you are a long-time Avengers reader you would know that Bendis took over and rebooted the books a number of years ago. One of those books was New Avengers and in that book we were introduced to a character named Jessica Jones aka Jewel, a once-upon-a-time superhero a lot of people thought he was shoehorning into the team, albeit in more of a supporting character role. Some people liked her and for some people it rubbed them the wrong way, simply because there were so many characters he could have chosen over her. And that is where this book, Alias, comes into play as it is essentially her origin issue told over the course of 28 books or four trade paperbacks or one omnibus. The problem with Jessica being in the New Avengers was that she was given very little context as Marvel could not really reference a mature readers title that most of its audience would not or could not pick up.
Now after so many years of having that image of Jessica Jones, to read her in a book on her own is refreshing to say the least. It puts a lot of things in perspective and connects the dots to a lot of situations. It is also nice to see that the book holds up after so long as well. There isn’t anything that seems dated in the book as most of the situations are generic and don’t refer to anything specific – such as the Kree/Skrull War or other key Marvel moments. To have the book on its own and not tied down gives it a lot of freedom to go whatever route Bendis wishes.
During the course of the series Jessica gets to interact with many of Marvel’s mainstay characters such as Matt Murdock, Carol Danvers, Captain America and Nick Fury. It is with these interactions that we get to see a lot of character building moments with her. It seems when she is confronted by her peers she comes out of her self-made shell just a little bit more, for even though she feels uncomfortable around other super-heroes she also feels more comfortable. The relationship between Jessica and Scott Lang is fascinating to watch as it sort of feels like you’re watching a sitcom or a WB dramedy. It is also nice to see Luke Cage as something other than the plain, old Luke Cage that is normally portrayed in the books.
The best issues are those that involve the Purple Man. Bendis has taken the Z-grade villain and turned him into an A-level threat. We are shown that the Purple Man’s powers are something to truly be feared; especially in the way that he uses them, which is almost always random. The conversations that play out between them are just riveting. They play out like its Hannibal Lecter talking to Clarice Starling. Absolutely brilliant.
What also works very well in this particular series are all of the conversations that take place – no matter the subject. Bendis has gotten a lot of flack over the years for his ‘talking heads’ books. And some of them are deservedly so as it seems out of place such as the Avengers book which is a more action-oriented book. But Alias is crafted for just that purpose almost and the execution is done masterfully. Bendis is a great writer and when he is on his game, the stories really shine.
It is a shame that this book was a mature reader’s book, though it did benefit from the label as it had the potential to reach a far wider audience and a shame that the role Jessica Jones played in New Avengers was not appreciated more than it was.
4.5 out of 5