When we think of superheroes, we think of brightly dressed people with amazing powers. The fight to save the world so often we wonder how they could possibly have a personal life. Jessica Jones: Alias: Volume 1 takes the reader down to earth and shows what happens when a hero tries to live like the rest of us. A former Avenger, Jessica Jones used to go by Jewel, but she retired from the team and opened up a private detective agency. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Alias is an influential graphic novel because it inspired Marvel’s MAX comic line. There’s violence, profanity, sex and people doing questionable things for what they think are the right reasons. When the first word is ‘fuck’ you know you’re in for something gritty.
The story begins with Jones listening to a client in her office. The man hired Jessica to spy on his wife because he suspected she was cheating on him. After seeing the photos, the man gets angry and starts being aggressive. He grabs Jones by the throat and she throws him through the window. Jessica calls the police and they notice she has a picture of the Avengers on the wall. They ask her which superhero she used to be and Jones clearly doesn’t want to talk about it. This scene sets up one of the major themes of the graphic novel. What does it mean to be a superhero? What happens when you believe you’re not good enough and try to live as a civilian?
“Lucas will feel guilty about this. He’s a decent guy and a buddy and he’ll feel bad about this. But that feeling will pass. Because he’ll also look back and remember this was the one night that I let him do anything he wanted. And even though he’ll know it’s wrong, he’ll smile to himself. He just won’t be able to help it. Then he’ll feel bad again. But I can’t say that I care, really. I don’t care what he feels. I just want to feel something. It doesn’t matter what. Pain. Humility. Anger. I just want to feel something different.” – Jessica Jones
Feeling self-destructive, Jones drinks herself into a stupor and meets Luke Cage at a bar. He goes back to his apartment and they have sex. The next day, Jones is hired by a woman to find her sister. The job soon leads her into a conspiracy, which sees her film Steve Rogers changing into his Captain America costume. Jones realises she’s been set up and reaches out to Ms Marvel for help. Their relationship has been strained over the years, but they reconnect and Jones is able to open up more.
Jones discovers that she was used as a pawn in a smear campaign against Captain America and the President. She confronts the man who was responsible, but is left feeling shaken by the encounter. Instead of selling the tape as she was urged, Jones holds onto it. Captain America comes to her apartment and thanks her for looking out for him.
“I’ve met a million people in my life. And I honestly can’t think of three who would have done this for me. What you did? You protected me when I needed it most. You did it. And that’s – Hey, that’s the stuff.” – Captain America
Jones’ next case involves looking into the whereabouts of Rick Jones, a sidekick of The Hulk. When she finds him, it becomes apparent he’s not who he says he is. Jarvis, the butler at Avengers Mansion, informs her that the real Rick Jones is safe in New York. The person she found was a look alike who wanted to believe he was Rick Jones to live a life of fame. It’s an interesting parallel to modern society and how some people with do anything to get recognition.
“People – they’re desperate for the excitement. They just want to know famous people. People like to have a bit of the fantastic in their life. And they want it so bad that they’ll put on hold any rational logic so they can hold onto it. They’ll believe any crap you tell them – so badly do they not want to be ordinary. The peasants want the kings to come down and play.”
Bendis brings all of Jones’ flaws to the surface and makes her into a sympathetic protagonist. She has a good heart, but her bluntness and self-doubt lead her into situations where she gets in over her head. She’s drawn brilliantly by Michael Gaydos, whose shadowy art style works well with the noir setting of the graphic novel.
Jessica Jones: Alias: Volume 1 is an awesome introduction to the character and acts as source material for the Jessica Jones Netflix show. You can buy the graphic novel on Amazon.