Jessica Jones, hot off a big Netflix series, has finally got a brand new series after several years and with her original creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos to boot. What do these guys have in store for us? Is it good?
Jessica Jones #1 (Marvel Comics)
Our journey begins with Jessica Jones being released from jail and heading back to her office, where she gets hit with a case. However, the case she gets is rather odd and seems to be related to an old interest of hers from high school. Meanwhile, old friends and allies are all hitting her up and wanting the answer to one simple question: Where’s the baby?
The Initial Impression
When the original Jessica Jones series arrived, it was very different from what was being published at the time. Part of the Marvel Max line, it dealt with hard issues, did not shy away from sex and mature topics, and even openly swore without the words being censored (for instance, the first word of the series was a loud “F--K”). It was different, but it was also very well-written and captivating with its interesting storylines that weaved in and out of the underbelly of the Marvel Universe. So bringing back the original team to work on this new series after they struck gold before was a good idea. It made me rather curious to see what they could bring in this new day and age, especially with how the Marvel Universe and Jessica herself has changed. However, after reading it, Jessica Jones #1 both lacks the edge of the original and walks back on the progress that has been made over the years.
Let’s start off by tackling what was good about the comic and what worked. The main and strongest point was the setup of the mystery. The case presented to Jessica was rather intriguing, a story about a guy who one day wakes up and says he was living a different life and doesn’t recognize anything anymore. In a world of gods, otherworldly beings, and time travel, it makes you rather curious about what’s going on and what could be behind this incident. All we got was the setup, but it’s good setup that makes you want to see where this case will be going.
Writing wise, it all depends on how you feel about Bendis’ craft. His long and choppy dialogue exchanges, word balloons that have one sentence in them, the VERY slow pace of the story with little happening outside of talking, lots of decompression, and the “editing” of characters’ personalities and arcs to fit his own narrative–it’s stuff like this that could go either way for a person depending on how much they like his style. Honestly, I thought his writing style was a better fit here than in Civil War II: Electric Boogaloo. For instance, a sizable chunk of the dialogue was good (except during the superhero scenes) and the slow pace was working well enough for the story since the comic is handling two storylines at once. However, it’ll all depend on how Bendis approaches the rest of the issues.
Michael Gaydos is back on art and for fans of him, he hasn’t lost his touch since drawing the original series. The gritty and ugly line work, the heavy inks that make the scenes darker in a way, the facial expressions that capture how characters feel almost perfectly from their worries to their sadness, and the layouts that have a good sense of motion and flow to them with what is happening. Combined with Matt Hollingsworth’s perfectly moody color scheme, it’s an art style that fits this and the original series like a glove. If you liked Gaydos’ art back in the day, you’ll like it here since it’s about the same level of quality. If you didn’t, you are not going to be swayed by anything here.
Despite its positives, Jessica Jones #1 was a disappointing letdown. The major thing that struck me the most after reading it was how it lacked the edge of the original. Alias was gritty and ugly. You had a troubled main character with a drinking problem that had no issue chewing people out. The comic did not shy away from profanity, sex or violence, but all in a mature and natural way that fit the tone and type of story that Bendis was going for. The first issue of Jessica Jones here feels like it lost its edge somewhere along the way. Yes, there was some swearing, but PG-13 movies have more of a mouth than this comic (I counted at least six swears). No violence, no adult themes, and no real maturity to it. Maybe it’ll be different in later issues, but the first one is just lacking in that power and tone that original’s first issue had.
Then there is the storyline revolving around Jessica Jones’ baby. Throughout the comic, superheroes are confronting or asking her about what happened to her baby and Jones refuses to answer at all. Now there’s obviously a mystery going on here that Bendis is setting up, but the problem is that the characters are portrayed badly here. None of the heroes that show up to ask her are doing it in smart ways, coming across as jerks or idiots who don’t know how to approach a potentially sensitive situation. They are constantly making things worse by trash talking Jessica, being condescending, or agitating her, especially the second person. Then there’s Jessica Jones herself, who seems to have regressed back to her character from the original series and TV show. Now, it made sense back in those appearances for her to be like that, since she had a lot of obvious problems. However, it seems like several years’ worth of character development were tossed away to bring her back to this point in her life. Maybe Bendis has a reason that’s perfectly rational, but I hope he explains it soon since this first outing makes Jessica look bad.
There are also a lot of other small little problems that seem to be throughout the comic. There are some logic/plot holes every once in a while, like the opening bit when Jessica leaves the prison after being bailed out. Given how many people want to know what is up with Jessica’s baby, you think somebody would have shown up to greet her when she left. There are quite a few dialogue exchanges or inner narration that sounded rather stilted or goofy (one bit reminded me of
Is It Good?
Jessica Jones #1 should have been a smash hit with the same creative team that made a spectacular series with the same character in the past. However, while the side mystery is intriguing and the art is as good as ever, the writing is just not there. It lacks the edge of the original, the characters are badly written and presented, and there are quite a few flaws in the writing and story. While certainly not an awful comic, for the fans of the original, this is probably not the return you were expecting.