Current Reviews


Alias #18

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with Scott Lang asking Jessica what was the tragic event Madame Web unearthed that made her up and quit the hero game, but we see Jessica is still not ready to discuss this part of her past, and she storms out of his apartment. She then returns home where she finds that she is still a bit uncomfortable staying there alone in the wake of Mattie Franklin's break-in, but the next morning Jessica stumbles her way to her day job as Matt Murdock's bodyguard. As she discusses the her recent troubles with him, we see that Matt is able to ease at least one of her concerns, as he'll make J. Jonah Jameson back off from his hostile stance, She then returns to her office where she finds Malcolm has managed to unearth a young woman who claims her older brother is dating Mattie Franklin, and while she doesn't know where her brother currently calls home, she is able to offer up the name of a club where he spends most of his time. As Jessica gets herself prettied up so she can make it past the club's highly selective bouncer, we see Jessica is able to get herself into the back room, where she finds a stoned out Mattie Franklin, and her decidedly hostile boyfriend.

I have to say I'm a bit disappointed with this book, as out of all the Brian Michael Bendis titles that I currently read this is the one where I'm constantly wishing he was pushing the envelop more. His work on Daredevil grabs your attention as he's made some big, fairly daring moves on that title, and his work on Ultimate Spider-Man is a tightly written mix of sparkling characterization & intense action. However on the one title where Brian Michael Bendis is free of any restraints on what he's allowed to do, there's feeling that he's still standing on the edge of the pool, dipping his toe in the water. There's also the simple fact that his plots have been pretty ordinary, and the investigative work that is being done by Jessica basically consists of her chasing red herrings until she's approached by a character who pretty much steers her directly to the person she's been looking for. I also have to question the sheer coincidence of Malcolm going to school with a girl whose older brother just happens to be dating Mattie Franklin, as the coincidence is a bit much to accept. Still, the little sister's story is a pretty solid sample of Brian Michael Bendis' talent at crafting engaging dialogue.

As seems to be the case an awful lot on this book, we get an enjoyable read in spite of the rather average plot, as Brian Michael Bendis is one of the best in the business when it comes to delivering dialogue that holds one's attention. From the heated exchange between Scott & Jessica that opens this issue, to the comical scene where Jessica attempts to talk her was past the bouncer, it's the dialogue that keeps me coming back month after month. I also enjoyed the little sequence where the little sister is laying out the situation to Jessica, as Brian Michael Bendis perfectly captures the animosity that this teenager feels, and you get a very good read on what we can expect the brother to be like. The scene in the ladies room was also rather cute with the floating barrage of word balloons that filled the air being a wonderfully chaotic brand of comedy. My only quibble with this issue's dialogue would have to be the last page, where it seems like we get a steady stream of expletives and empty threats that made for a rather weak cliffhanger. Still, this issue is a pretty entertaining read, and one can only imagine how good the book would be if it had some real plots to back up its dialogue.

Michael Gaydos work has become a very key part of my enjoyment of this title, as his style brings a nice sense of realism to these pages, and it does a great job of capturing the emotional moments of the script. From Jessica's anger in the opening pages after Scott continues to press the issue of why she quit being a hero, to the big reveal shot where we see what Jessica looks like when she all dressed up & ready to "party", the art does a wonderful job of delivering these key moments. The art is also doing some very nice work on it's backgrounds, as one of my problems with the early issues of this book is that far too often the backdrops consisted of heavy shadows & simple design work, but now we get a wealth of detail behind the characters. I also like how the art shows the reader the passage of time, as there's a great little moment where Jessica & Matt Murdock are walking down the street, and the objects & people drop back into the foreground while Matt & Jessica's forms are only slightly altered. One also has to love the wonderful smarmy look that Michael Gaydos perfectly captured on the face of the club's bouncer. I also must confess that I rather enjoyed the solemn look of this issue's cover, even though it tells one next to nothing about the story inside.

Final Word:
The plot for this arc still hasn't convinced me that I should invest much interest in it, and once again Brian Michael Bendis offers up one of those irksome moments where Jessica's investigation takes a huge leap forward thanks to a character who arrives in the story with the exact information she needed, but made next to no effort to discover herself. Now the book continues to offer up some very enjoyable dialogue exchanges, but it's coming to the point where I'm starting to wonder why Brian Michael Bendis is offering up such conventional plots on this title, as he's proven on his other titles that he can deliver his engaging dialogue alongside equally engaging plots. Now the mystery regarding the tragedy in Jessica's past looks promising, and I'll admit I'm mildly curious what Jessica's next move is going to be in this story, but I can't shake the feeling that this book could be so much more than it is.

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