Current Reviews


Alias #21

Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Michael Gaydos, Mark Bagley, Al Vey & Dean White

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with Speedball's power raging out of control, which in turn results in a highly chaotic environment as the room is filled with energy bubbles. We then see Jessica Jones is momentarily knocked unconscious by one of these energy bubbles, and we're treated to a brief flashback to Jessica's former life as a super-hero, where find her battling the Defenders. We then rejoin her in the present where after waking up, she attempts to bring Speedball under control by smothering the young hero under a handy thug who had been trying to escape the room. We then see her take on the main drug user, and thanks to a helping hand from Jessica Drew, we see Jessica is able to render the supercharged drug user unconscious. She then snatches up the semiconscious Mattie Franklin, and leaps out the window to an adjoining building, as the room was quickly filling with the cops that Speedball had called prior to his arrival. We then join Jessica about a week later as her offices are paid a visit by Mattie, who looks to be recovering nicely, and Jessica receives a heartfelt thank you from the young hero. The issue then ends with Scott Lang showing up, and essentially professing his love, which leaves Jessica somewhat taken aback, but she doesn't run screaming in the other direction so this may just be true love.

What can one really say about this issue that I haven't already covered in my reviews of the earlier issues in this arc. I guess I could make mention of the big climatic finish which thanks to the presence of Speedball is a highly chaotic, and occasionally confusing sequence. However, given the big fight doesn't really manage to deliver much excitement, this finish isn't much to write home about. However, I will credit it for showing the reader that Jessica is willing to fight with a degree of ruthlessness that we don't normally see from a hero, as her use of the television was a rather amusing bit of dark comedy. I also must confess that while I'm a fan of Speedball, this issue does manage to milk quite a bit of comedic material out of his rather annoying power, as his conversation with the two Jessicas in the aftermath of the battle was easily the highlight of the issue. This issue also offers up our best look at the extent of Jessica's powers, as we see she does have super-strength but feats such as ripping a bloted down television free from its mounting requires an effort, so I imagine hoisting a small car would be beyond her range. We also see her make a rather impressive leap from one building to the next, which effectively eliminates the idea that she's able to fly.

If I had to make one complaint about this book it's that Jessica is such a passive character when it comes to the action in these pages. Yes, this issue has her lashing out and effectively taking down the primary villain, but this type of action is such a rare occurrence within these pages that I found myself rather surprised. Now I realize not every character is going to rush into conflict ready to fight the good fight, and Brian Michael Bendis has established the idea that Jessica is a little reluctant to play the role of hero, thanks to a yet to be revealed incident that drove her out of the super-hero game. However, there's a difference between a character who's reluctant to get involved & a character who only becomes involved only when the story reaches its big finish, and Jessica is very much in the latter category. Now yes she got herself beat up earlier in this arc when she tried to act, but having her jump into action after she's drunk herself into a state where she's completely useless, is yet another example of this book's willingness to cast her into a role where the character essentially lets events pass before her without making a real impact upon them. Given she is the star of this series, I'd just like to see her playing a more central role in the action.

Michael Gaydos delivers some of his best work yet on this issue, starting with the opening sequence where we see the action playing out in a room where Speedball's power is raging out of control. From the almost psychedelic appearance that the floating bubbles manage to produce, to the cute sound effect that crowds the page & conveys a claustrophobic atmosphere, the art does a wonderful job of visually expressing the annoying quality of Speedball's power. The book also does some nice work on the scene where Jessica finally shows she can fight when she's called upon, and her attacks display a willingness to inflict damage that is almost darkly comedic, as how can one not smile at the television head panel. However, the highlight of the issue would have to be the sequence where Jessica makes her leap from one building to the next, as it's a very impressive visual presentation. There's also a very nice nighttime shot of Times Square, that makes great use of its shadow & light effects to convey a very realistic looking look at this famous cityscape shot. I also enjoy the coloring scheme on the final few pages, as the orange tint adds a nice subdued quality to this rather charming exchange between Jessica & Scott Lang.

Final Word:
A rather abrupt finish to this story, as the rescue of Mattie Franklin is handled with relatively few complications, with the notable exception of Speedball's rather amusing contribution to the action. Still, Jessica does get a chance to show what she can do, as we do get a fairly solid display of her ability to fight the good fight when called upon, and one has to love the rather unique attack that she finally employs to take down her opponent. On the other hand after five issues of buildup this issue does comes across as a bit anticlimactic, as the villains don't really mount much of a challenge, and while her leap from building to building was an impressive moment, it simply wasn't enough to make one forget how much buildup was spent getting us to this point. Still, as tends to be the case on this book, the issue is redeemed by an enjoyable final sequence, as Jessica & Scott Lang discuss their relationship.

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