Thursday, December 1, 2016

Artwork Undermines Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3!

The Good: Interesting case, Moments of concept
The Bad: The protagonist does not truly grow and develop, The artwork flat-out sucks for most of the book, More exposition than revelation
The Basics: Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 finds Jessica Jones searching for Mattie Franklin (the third Spider-Woman) and getting embroiled in a case that mixes mutants and drugs with a character who has an ill-defined set of abilities.

Whether I intended to or not, it seems like I have gotten into the graphic novels surrounding the character Jessica Jones. I know, obviously, how it started: I kept returning and returning to the Netflix show Jessica Jones (season one is reviewed here!) and finding myself more and more impressed with the complexity and density of it. That led me to Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 1 (reviewed here!) and Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 2 (reviewed here!). While not being thoroughly wowed by them, I still found myself picking up Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 and I'll admit I have a stack of further Jessica Jones books kicking around that I will be reading and reviewing in the near future.

As it is, Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 is the latest volume I have read and it continues the threads begun in Volumes 1 & 2. Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 is an anthology of seven comic books and one of the immediate pluses of the anthology is that it keeps fidelity to story. The book begins with Alias issue #10 before leaping forward to where that one-shot story becomes relevant again in the arc of Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones takes a meeting with J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle where he offers her a job after establishing that she is the same Jessica Jones who was once Jewel and Knightress. Jameson wants Jones to uncover the identity of Spider-Man and for Ben Urich to follow her on the trail and report on it for the Bugle. Jones takes the job and two months later Ben Urich reports that she has essentially used the money to follow "leads" which all put her in places to volunteer to the less fortunate . . . while charging J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle hundreds of dollars an hour!

The opening chapter features minimal artwork and is so dense that it is essentially a script on the page. The technique for the one-shot is adequate, but it helps to illustrate what a straightforward story the chapter is presenting. This is a simple problem, simple solution and Jessica Jones has less voice in it than J. Jonah Jameson or Ben Urich. It does, however, set up a framework of animosity between Jameson and Jones for the rest of the book.

The main story of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 begins with Jessica Jones at a convenience store, feeling terrible about herself based on what the magazines are printing about women, when there is a stick-up. After a bit of debate, Jones incapacitates the would-be robber and returns home after being charged for the cigarettes she wanted. At her apartment, she finds Spider-Woman (unmasked) coming out of her bathroom, before the costumed woman freaks out and leaps out Jones's window. Jones calls Scott Lang for help and, while sleeping over at his place, calls Clay Quartermain to figure out who was in her apartment. That sets Jessica Jones on the trail of Mattie Franklin, the third Spider-Woman. Learning that Franklin stayed with Jameson puts Jones in contact with the editor of the Daily Bugle again and this time, he wants Franklin back, suspecting that Jones is running a scam on him.

While Malcolm comes around again hoping to work for Jones, Jones heads off to meet Madame Web, whose name came up in Franklin's S.H.I.E.L.D. file. Web sees Jones finding Franklin and inadvertently reads Jones's mind to see her past in the process, which sends Jones running away and back to Lang. After fleeing him when he asks her follow-up questions on her story, Jones gets a lead from Malcolm and heads to a night club to find a guy who might be having sex with Franklin and keeping her on drugs. When Jones finds Mattie Franklin, she learns about mutants selling parts of themselves to drug mundane humans and she finally gets in touch with Jessica Drew. Together, they hunt down the people using Franklin for drugs and try to rescue her.

More than in any of the prior volumes of Alias, Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 is plagued by artwork issues and a protagonist who is poorly defined. The latter problem becomes a more significant issue as the volume progresses. Jessica Jones gets the crap kicked out of her by pretty much everyone she encounters in Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3. So, instead of being a woman with abilities who gave up being a super hero, she just seems like a washed-up private investigator for the bulk of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3.

Equally problematic is the artwork in Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3. More than in the prior volumes, there is an importance to the sense of movement within and between panels in Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3. This is a book where Jessica Jones gets into more physical altercations and the fundamental problem with the book is those fights are incredibly unclear. Is Jessica Jones drugged when she first finds Denny in the back room at the club? What the hell actually happens with the power-balls from Speedball in the final chapter?! Is that spiky hair or forehead protrusions?! And because Jessica Drew and Jessica Jones are only truly separated in the artwork by their hair color, why is it that Jessica Jones decks Drew, but then has the black eye in the next scene with Jameson?! Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 looks horrible and the sloppy artwork undermines the narrative in a jarring way.

Beyond that, Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 is just a painfully straightforward missing person's case and it is presented in an unremarkable way. Jones does not discover Mutant Growth Hormone being used as drug; Ben Urich tells her all about it in a string of exposition. Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 is a poor use of the medium as it involves characters telling a lot of information that could have effectively been shown if the writing was better.

Ultimately, Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 3 might play into the larger Marvel Comics universe better than some of the earlier books, but it fails to do its own thing well enough to be worth reading.

For other Marvel Comics works by Brian Michael Bendis, please visit my reviews of:
Civil War: Marvel Universe
Road To Civil War
Secret Invasion


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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