Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book open with Jessica's arrival in the small town of Lago, New York where she has been hired by the mother of a missing child. After a brief encounter with the local police officer, who comes across as surprisingly amicable about her being brought into town to do his job, we see Jessica discovers that everyone in town is likely to know who she is, as the local newspaper made her impending arrival a front page story. After questioning the mother who comes across as a bit of a bubble-head, we see this conversation has Jessica paying a visit to the house of the girl's father, who we see is rather irate about the suggestion that he had something to do with his daughter's disappearance. However he is also quite willing to help Jessica find his missing daughter, and he allows her to search his home. After finding nothing to suggest the father is the guilty party, Jessica's next stop is the school, where she is met by an earnest, but largely clueless school administrator, who does manage to direct Jessica to the missing girl's locker. It is here that Jessica finds something that suggests this case might not be a simple abduction.
This issue currently stands up as my favorite issue of the series thus far, as it does such a solid job of setting up its mystery, and offering up possible suspects & motives, that it held my interest the entire time. The small town setting also helps to make Jessica into a fairly unique presence, as up until the final page revelation about the missing girl, Jessica comes across as the most unique thing to hit this town in quite some time. I mean in New York she's simply a retired super-hero/current private investigator, but in this small town her arrival rates a front page cover story. There's also some delightfully amusing about how the people in this town so neatly fit into the stereotypes that one expects them to, as we have the slightly batty mother, the drunken loser of a father, the super-helpful local cop, and the overly apologetic school administrator. Now if I had to pick a suspect I'd have to point my finger at the cop, as he's a bit too interested in what Jessica's doing. However, the Scooby Doo rule for mystery solving suggests that it's always the party that hires the investigator that committed the crime, thus the mother is also a valid suspect.
Now I'm not sure how much this book takes note of the continuity that's playing out in other titles, but given last issue's nod of the head to events occurring over in "Daredevil", I'm guessing that the book is firmly set in the Marvel Universe. So the last page revelation does beg the question at what stage of the game is Grant Morrison's work over in the "New X-Men", as if this book is up to date with that title, then we have another opinion open regarding her disappearance. Still, I'm going to assume that Brian Michael Bendis is going to keep this story within the confines of this town, and as such we've already been introduced to the guilty party, or at least been shown the reason why someone would want this girl to disappear. One also has to keep in mind that the cliffhanger to this issue does clearly make the father the most likely suspect, as his little rant about being proud of his little girl, does become a bit more unsettling once we get the additional information on the final page. So I guess what I've basically done is point out that I can think of a reason to suspect every character we've come across in this town.
Michael Gaydos turns in a unique issue for this book, as the small town where Jessica finds herself is bright & sunny, and the only section of the story that reminded me of the shadowy underbelly that this book operated in before, is Jessica's brief trip through the father's house. However, even this aforementioned scene is undone by a single turn of the page, as we get a look at the young girl's room. Now all the staples of his art are still present, as we get the floating panels, but they now sit on a background of white instead of black. We also have the talking heads, but they are free of the oppressive shadows that we received in previous issues. In the end what we have is art that is more open & expressive, and this nicely compliments the rather disturbing final note that this story receives, as we learn that one of these shiny, happy people is responsible for the young girl's disappearance. The art also allows Jessica to look a bit more cheerful, especially when she's interacting with the local police officer, though the seasoned mystery reader in me has me strongly suspecting that this guy is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
As I mentioned above this issue is my favorite we received thus far, as while the mystery isn't too far removed from the ones we've seen in the previous arcs, having the book shift to a small town setting made for a nice change of pace. It's also interesting to see Jessica dealing with such cheerful people, as one has to love Jessica's rather surprised reaction to the odd responses that the mother makes to some of her questions. There's also the too good to be true cop, the drunken father who's allowed to make a fairly stirring speech, and the mysterious teenage girl who gives Jessica a heads up about why the missing girl has gone missing. The final page revelation also adds a new twist to the story, as it pretty much makes everyone a suspect, and it also would seem to suggest that the young girl has been killed. Mostly though I enjoyed the cloying cheerfulness of the townspeople, as it's fun watching Jessica being forced to adapt to this odd behavior.
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