Marvel Comics attempted in 2001 to launch its own mature readers imprint. Perhaps it was an attempt copy something along the lines of what DC had for years with its Vertigo line; the Max line didn’t have the same sort of variety or longevity. Despite sending out numerous titles, all of them seemed to have some connection to the mainstream all-ages Marvel Universe, only two showed any real staying power: Garth Ennis’ Punisher and Brian Michael Bendiss’ Alias, the first series Bendis wrote when he came to Marvel.
So, given how I’ve found series star Jessica Jones’ Netflix series to be the best of the bunch, I thought it might be worth giving the original series a second look.
You know, as much as I love Krysten Ritter’s take on Jessica, I never quite bought Jessica as being as angry and annoyed as Ritter portrays her more or less all the time. It’s somewhat easy to see why given that Bendis’ inner monologue, all in the form of Jessica’s personal thoughts, seem to show more self-doubt and general confusion than anger. Factor in Michael Gaydos’ artwork shows her looking more confused and dumbfounded by events around her (when she isn’t being a total professional), and you can see where I may be coming from. Like I said, I love Ritter’s take on the character, but it isn’t the one I see on the page. Ritter’s Jessica is likely to pass out from excessive drinking. The comic version is more likely to pass out from a simple lack of sleep. Plus, as much as Netflix does allow for more mature content, the TV series never did get the full effect of Jessica’s creative swearing down.
But what we have here is Jessica covering two cases over nine issues. We learn a little about her past. She seems to be good friends with Carol Danvers before there was a falling out. She turned down the chance to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. She had some sort of superpowers (mostly superhuman strength), but she’s somewhat self-conscious about using them. She doesn’t like to talk about her superhero past. She follows the rules for her profession of private detective, even calling the police herself after an altercation in her office (can you imagine the Netflix version doing that?), and despite not wanting to get involved with superheroes, both of the cases she deals with here have superheroes involved, though Jessica herself stays on the fringe. That means she accidentally gets video of Captain America’s real face and she’s asked to go look for professional sidekick Rick Jones (who she isn’t related to as far as she knows). And for all that she seems to be just scraping by, she is very good at her job. She just doesn’t seem to like herself very much for reasons that only become clear in much later storyarcs.
I grew rather tired of Bendis’ work over time, but going back to his beginnings paid off well. These are still good comics and well worth a read to fans of detective fiction, superheroes, the Netflix show, and anyone who doesn’t mind a little heavy swearing. 9.5 out of 10 embarrassing superhero costume pictures.