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Alias #12

Posted: Monday, July 22, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos, David Mack, Mark Bagley & Rodney Ramos

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Jessica questioning the young lady who approached her at the end of the last issue & stated that the missing girl that Jessica's been hired to find is a mutant. As Jessica finds out that no one has ever seen this girl demonstrate any mutant abilities, and that this belief is based entirely on her refusing to deny it when she was accused of being a mutant, we see Jessica finds her one lead has more holes in it than a spaghetti strainer. We then see her turn her attention to the unusual journal that the missing girl kept, but it also fails to offer up any answers, and Jessica's attention is diverted by the local cop. After this officer protects Jessica from the anger of the missing girl's drunken father, we see Jessica has managed to down enough drinks that she's in a rather promiscuous state, and she turns her attentions toward the friendly cop. The next morning she wakes up in the town's jail cell, where she learns that the local cop was a bit fearful of her when she was in her inebriated state, so he locked her up to keep her from harming anyone. We then see Jessica pays a visit to the local church where she makes a rather unsettling discovery.

Comments:
My main problem with Brian Michael Bendis' work on this book would have to be that while he's able to come up with a fairly engaging scenario to base a story around, after he's done laying out the original idea, he slows the book right down to offer up a more involved exploration of the idea. Now I realize that this is his writing style, and his strength as a writer is handling dialogue between his characters. However, after the opening scenes at the school, where Jessica explores the rumor that the girl she's looking for might be a mutant, the story then shifts it's attention to other material, like Jessica's romance with the town's police officer, and an entirely pointless second encounter with the missing girl's father. Now the last page does get the attention back where it should be, as we see Jessica uncover a rather disturbing suspect, but over half the issue is handed over to material that I found only acted to grind what had been a fairly compelling mystery to almost a dead halt. What's more this middle section doesn't even have itself a dialogue exchange that normally serves to enliven these lulls that occur in his other books.

To tell the truth there wasn't much about this issue that really grabbed my attention beyond the final page revelation that the town's minister is preparing to deliver a sermon with a decidedly anti-mutant slant, while Jessica is investigating the idea that this girl may have been targeted because she was believed to be a mutant. The scenes at the school were also quite engaging, as Brian Michael Bendis perfectly captures how the rumor mill at a high school operates in Jessica's opening exchange, and her exchange with the curious reporter also made me smile. However, the rest of the book is pretty forgettable, as except for once again presenting the idea that Jessica is prone to drink too much & hop into bed with anyone who expresses an interest in her when she's in this drunken state, I'm not sure what else were suppose to take away from this exchange. Now the little peek at her encounter with Thor was revealing in that I didn't know Jessica could fly, but this isn't all that much to take away from this middle sequence. In the end, the little bit of forward movement that was made on the mystery was enough to keep me interested, but I found this issue to be a little too padded for my liking.

I do believe I'm one of the unenlightened masses when it comes to David Mack's work, as while I've come to accept the idea that his covers will rarely give the reader any clue of what to expect from the story inside, the fact that three pages of interior art are handed over to him does have me a bit annoyed. Now I did take the time to study what's on these three pages in a bid to see the hidden message that seems to delight Jessica, but if there is supposed to be a message here then I congratulate David Mack for his ability to obscure it to such a degree that I simply don't see it. This issue also offers up a little teaser scene that is handled by Mark Bagley whose expressive art does a nice job capturing the emotions of this two-page sequence. As for the rest of the book, Michael Gaydos offers up his usual bag of tricks, but they continue to prove quite effective at delivering the conversations that Jessica holds with other characters, and the scene in the parking lot acts as a nice lead in to the Mark Bagley sequence. However, the art does offer up another one of those scenes where the dialogue refers to something the art never seems to show, as what exactly does Jessica see in the jail cell to make her understand why she woke up in it?

Final Word:
A book that contains the worst excesses of Brian Michael Bendis' writing style, while it also sports very little of his work's saving graces. Now up until the book hits the David Mack sequence the material is very readable, with the conversations with the young girl, the jock & the reporter all being quite engaging, not to mention fairly amusing. The final couple pages of this issue also grabbed my interest, as they set up what looks to be a rather disturbing answer to what might've happened to this young girl. Everything in-between these two points however is pretty forgettable stuff, as the collage book is David Mack at his indecipherable best, while the follow-up material is basically Brain Michael Bendis killing time by exploring a relationship that doesn't really go anywhere. I get that Jessica is a flawed character, but is it too much to ask that her flaws be a sight more interesting than the idea that she has the ability to get drunk.



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