Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Essential Book For Fans Of Jessica Jones: Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4

The Good: Good character development, Decent plot progression, Intriguing tone
The Bad: Artwork, Fourth wall break in the last two chapters, Plot does not actually get resolved
The Basics: Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 is an engaging Jessica Jones story that was the source of much of the material for the first season of Jessica Jones and makes for a decent read.

I have become a fan of the first season of Jessica Jones (reviewed here!) and that led me to look into the source material. I've managed to go, now, through the entire first-run of Jessica Jones's graphic novels from her first standalone series, Alias. Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 is the book that seems to be the source material for the essential conflict and story of Season One of Jessica Jones and it is incredibly accessible to readers, which is ironic given that it is the fourth book in the series. And yet, in character for Jessica Jones, Jones's story is told out-of-order and finally readers are given the chance to understand just who Jessica Jones is and where she came from.

Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 was originally released with the title The Secret Origins Of Jessica Jones. Readers of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 are given the closest they might expect of a comic book reference for Jessica Jones. The essential purpose of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 is to spell-out the backstory of Jessica Jones and put her in conflict with her greatest enemy once again.

Opening with a teenage Jessica Cambell pining for her classmate, Peter Parker at Midtown High, Jessica returns home and begins to masturbate over a poster of Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) when her younger brother bursts into her room. The next day, the Cambell family is on a trip, courtesy of tickets from Tony Stark for whom Jessica's father unhappily works, when Philip and Jessica get into a fight, which causes her father to crash their car into a military convoy. Six months later, Jessica Jones awakens in the coma ward of a hospital during an attack by Galactus on Earth. Adopted by Jones, Jessica is mocked when she returns to school and when Peter Parker actually pays attention to her, she runs away. In running away, she discovers she has the ability to leap so powerfully she is essentially flying. Unnerved at her landing in the ocean, Jessica is rescued by Thor. In exploring her powers, Jessica lands upon a costumed criminal attempting to rob a laudromat.

Flashing forward, Matt Murdock brings Jessica Jones in on a case to help find Ka-Zar's sabretooth tiger Zabu. Jones refuses the case and returns to Alias Investigations. On her machine is a call from someone looking for Jones's help on a case involving Killgrave, The Purple Man. Jones meets with Kim Rourke, who represents dozens of people who were victims or relatives of victims of Killgrave's, whom he never admitted to exerting his influence over. Rourke's clients want help in getting closure. Emotionally unprepared for this type of case, Jones gets black-out drunk and wakes up at Luke Cage's apartment where she relates her entire backstory with Killgrave to him. For eight months, Killgrave controlled Jessica Jones while she was the super hero Jewel and when he tired of her, he sent her out to kill Daredevil. Accidentally attacking the Scarlet Witch instead, Jewel was hunted by the combined might of the Avengers and Defenders. When Jones interviews Killgrave at The Raft, she is unnerved . . . but not nearly as she is upset when there is a break-out at The Raft and Killgrave escapes!

Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 is a mixed bag on the artwork front. The flashback scenes for Jessica in high school are very well-executed with a style that is reminiscent of teen romance comic books, almost like Archie comics and that fits the tone of pre-accident Jessica Cambell pining for Peter Parker. In a similar vein, the hard-backstory section of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4, which features Jones as Jewel is rendered in a very clear comic book style that makes it seem like lost-Avengers book. But then, the book reverts to its very simplistic artwork that has been very un-expressive despite that Killgrave says of the book.

Which brings up the problem of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 for those who have invested in the story of Jessica Jones. When Jones encounters Killgrave at The Raft, he appears to be bat-shit crazy in some ways and he references Jones as a comic book character. While fourth wall breaks might work in some books, like Deadpool, for something intentionally gritty and adult like Alias, it does not work. Killgrave messing with Jones in that particular way does not work all that well.

In a similar fashion, the narrative flow of Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 gets very choppy as the book nears its end. Brian Michael Bendis leaps forward with the essential conflict between Jones and Killgrave, which leads to a pretty huge, emotionally unsatisfying storytelling gap with Jones simply abandoning the case that put her in contact with Killgrave.

Beyond that, Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4, though it is the volume that invites the most comparisions to season 1 of Jessica Jones. There are intriguing differences between the book and television character, most notably in the detailing of what actually happened between Jones and Killgrave. Brian Michael Bendis characterizes Killgrave as the most sadistic psychopath he can, whereas the showrunners of Jessica Jones used the medium and forum well to have a strong female character actually address being raped by someone else.

The character progression of Jessica Jones is well-developed in Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4. While there are gaps in Jessica's story, the phases of Jessica's life are interesting and the progression of her life and arcs come to make sense. Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 4 is a generally satisfying read, even if it has some gaps and erratic artwork for telling the story it seeks to tell.

For other Alias books, please visit my reviews of:
Jessica Jones, Alias Volume 1
Jessica Jones, Alias Volume 2
Jessica Jones, Alias Volume 3


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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