Current Reviews


Alias #14

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos

Publisher: Marvel

The book opens by showing us that the girl that Jessica was hired to find is in the next town over where she is busy reading a poem she wrote about the darker heroes of the Marvel Universe. As Jessica arrives to bring her back home, we see that on ride back she gets an earful from this young runaway, who views her town as a collection of close-minded bigots who discourage any form of free thought, or individuality. However when they get back Jessica discovers that it might have been for the best if she have left the girl where she found her, as we see that the girl's father who was murdered last issue, was killed by the girl's aunt. What's more the reason the woman used to justify her murderous actions is that she thought the man had done something to his missing daughter, so when the girl turns up unharmed, the girl's mother blames her for driving her sister into a murderous rage. As the girl's mother lashes out at her, we see the girl runs off, but Jessica is able to figure out where she ran off to thanks to her diary. As Jessica makes sure that the girl gets off okay, back to the happier situation she had found in the next town over, we see a dejected Jessica returns home.

For a book with a private investigator as its lead, Brian Michael Bendis hasn't really played up the investigative skills of Jessica. I mean in the last arc she stumbled across the location of the false Rick Jones when she happened across a person in the park who knew where he was playing. Now we have this arc where she discovers the location of the missing girl, after she's instantly able to figure out that the person standing next to her in the crowd knows where the girl vanished to. Now I realize that dumb luck likely plays a role in many investigations, but it would be nice to see one of the many times that Jessica gets involved in a conversation, the end result wouldn't simply be red herrings & false leads to keep us from guessing the rather obvious final solution. I mean Brian Michael Bendis is one of the best writers I've ever seen when it comes to his dialogue crafting skills, and as such I'm sure he could make an issue interesting if it was simply twenty-plus pages where two characters discussed their favorite sandwich spread. However, it would be nice to see these conversations crafted around some more interesting mysteries, as the ones we've gotten thus far have been pretty tame.

What this issue does have going for it is that it does manage to establish a tragic situation that has a nice sense of realism to it. I mean I believe every teenager goes through a stage where they look at the world around them and they can only see the flaws, and as such the girl's rant on the car ride back home was a very easy to understand bit of reasoning. What makes it even more tragic is that most of her comments look to be fact, as we saw Jessica interacting with the people in this town, and as such we know several of its prominent citizens nicely fit the unflattering labels that the young girl used to describe her town. The issue also delivers a very intense moment later in the issue, where we see the mother isn't the kindhearted soul she pretended to be earlier in the story, as she lashes out at her daughter for the drunken behavior that her sister engaged in. In the end this case is a decidedly tragic situation that really would've been better off if Jessica hadn't even become involved, as we see this family was messed up long before the daughter decided to run away, and Jessica's involvement only allowed the mother to make another twist of the knife.

While there's no David Mack pages in this issue, I did have to smile at the scene where Brian Michael Bendis works to justify their presence in the earlier issues, as we see that after reading those pages, Jessica was able to figure out where the girl would run off after her mother tore into her. I mean I was questioning whether Brian Michael Bendis was showcasing Jessica's detective skills, but having her able to pull this information out of that dairy is a deductive feat that would do Batman proud. As for the art that is actually in this issue Michael Gaydos turns in his usual impressive effort, as once again he makes a largely talking heads affair into a visually engaging read. From the opening sequence where we see Jessica has located the missing girl, to the cute scene during the car ride back to town where we see the girl's scowl is replaced by stunned amazement as Jessica takes a call from Matt Murdock. There's also the cute scene where Jessica's Dirty Harry style threat becomes a reality as we see she's not above fighting dirty, and the sudden shift in mood where we see the joyful mother suddenly becomes a hateful creature, who tears into her daughter with merciless abandon.

Final Word:
Another solid issue if all you're looking for Brian Michael Bendis' trademark dialogue, but if you're entering this book hoping for engaging mysteries, or clever plots then you're likely to be a bit disappointed, as Jessica's cases are pretty run-of-the-mill once you're done being led astray by the wealth of red herrings & false leads that Brian Michael Bendis' litters the path with. I mean we've had a political scandal that attempted to tar Captain America as a killer, a Rick Jones wanna be who went missing, and now a teenager who decided to runaway from home. I'm starting to rather dislike the current trend that has writers tailoring their stories so they can be readily collected in trade paperback form, but Brian Michael Bendis is the worst offender, as his stories simply don't pack enough punch plot-wise to justify their expanded lengths. Still, the splendid dialogue does do a great deal to make up for the simple plots.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!