Jessica Jones: Alias

I started out watching the TV series, not realizing it came from comics. Jessica is a former (minor) superhero turned private detective.

The genre of retired superheroes who function mostly as normal humans, but occasionally dip into their superpowers, is fertile, partly because superpowers can be a metaphor for extraordinary human abilities, like those of an artist or an athlete. Watchmen has several such crossover characters.

I read the recently published collection of the 28 original comics into four trade-paperback volumes. They came out in Marvel’s MAX series of R-rated comics. They are comics for adults. The first word in the first volume is “fuck.”

Jessica is typically flawed P.I., with personal issues that haunt her and multiple vices. But, like Chandler and Hammett heroes, she has a solid moral compass and gets the job done.

Like other noir P.I.s, Jessica uses violence when she has to. She can beat people up because she’s a superhero. Violence is a staple of the noir detective novel. Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, and Lew Archer are all tough guys. Maybe in reality being so tough isn’t required for good P.I. work, but being tough enough to be invulnerable is an archetypal male fantasy. There’s a deep-seated fear in our DNA of annihilation by violence that hasn’t been banished by just a few short millennia of living in society where violence is relatively rare.

Each of the four collected trade-paperback volumes covers one story arc.

The issue covers are painted in a great abstract style. I assume this is the work of David Mack, who is credited with cover art.

Michael Gaydos’ art style is appropriately noir. It works really well in places where it can tell the story through pictures. But there are several long dialogues where the repeated drawings of the speakers are too redundant. This is one place where the comics convention of putting dialog only in balloons on pictures should probably be changed. A page of text with the dialog, and a couple inset illustrations of key moments would be more effective.