Current Reviews


Alias #17

Posted: Monday, December 9, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with Jessica telling Scott Lang about the horrid day she just went through. We then jump back to where we left off last issue, where we see Jessica's conversation with J. Jonah Jameson went completely sour, when Jonah started demanding answers about Mattie Franklin's situation that she was unable to answer. After Jonah stops just short of accusing her of kidnapping Mattie, we see he does make it clear that if anything bad happens to Mattie he'll make her pay, before he kicks her out of his car. We then see this threat was enough to encourage Jessica in her search for Mattie, and to this end when the persistent young Malcolm comes a calling she offers him a part-time job if he is able to dig up any information on Mattie's whereabouts. However, Jessica gets a bit of a surprising break in the case when she receives a call from Madame Web, and the elderly prophesier sets up a meeting with Jessica to discuss Mattie. However, during this meeting we see Madame Web sees several dire future possibilities await Jessica if she continues her search for Mattie, as it's very likely Mattie will kill her, or Jessica will kill Mattie. We then see Madame Web gets a glimpse at the tragedy that made Jessica leave her life as a super-hero, and this unwanted intrusion into her past leaves Jessica outraged.

This issue takes Jessica a little bit deeper into the new Spider-Woman's world, as we see she has herself a meeting with Madame Web, who offers up several ominous sounding previews of Jessica's possible futures. We also get treated to a conversation with J. Jonah Jameson, where we see his dislike of costumed heroes casts Jessica as creep looking to profit from a missing child. Now as seems to be the case in the early issues of this book's arcs, now that the mystery has been introduced the investigation will now proceed at a fairly deliberate pace, as all this issue does is establish the reason why Jessica is going to take on this case, and the visit with Madame Web suggests that her involvement with the missing Mattie Franklin is likely to be pleasant. Now truth be told I've come to accept that Brian Michael Bendis operates at a slower pace than most comic book writers, but as long as he leaves room in his stories for his trademarked back and forth exchanges that comprise most of this issue, then I'll happily accept the idea that the mysteries he offers up never get too complex, as thus far only the first story involving Captain America had what I would call an interesting twist to it.

This issue finally draws a clear mark in the sand that there was a tragic event that triggered Jessica's departure from her life as a super-hero, and from the sheer rancor of her reaction when she discovered Madame Web had picked up on this moment from her past, it's clear that whatever this event was it was quite momentous, and Jessica is still deeply troubled by it. Now of course thanks to this little exchange my expectations regarding this moment are now sky high, and when the information is revealed, if it doesn't leave me with a jaw hanging open then I'm going to be quite disappointed. Then again, I don't expect Brian Michael Bendis to be telling us this story anytime soon, as part of this book's charm lies in the fact that Jessica's past hasn't gotten much attention, and as such the character has an element of mystery to her. It's clear she's damaged goods, but the events that left her this way have yet to be revealed. This issue also adds Malcolm to this book on a more permanent basis, as we see Jessica gives into his pestering, and agrees to give him a job if he helps her locate Mattie Franklin. This in turn adds another avenue for learning about Jessica's past, as it's been established that he took an active interest in her career as a super-hero.

Michael Gaydos turns in a pretty impressive issue, with the scene in Jameson's car being the highlight of the issue, as one can actually see the point when the conversation turned ugly, as Jameson shifts from a concerned father figure, into his more familiar crusader against the costumed vigilantes persona. The one page shot of the deflated Jessica, after she's kicked out of Jameson's car is also a very powerful visual. There's also a great little moment in this issue where Jessica discovers that she's on the phone with Madame Web, as this series of panels does a wonderful job running the character through the various emotional states that this conversation produces, as we go from disinterest, to delight, to confusion, to skepticism in a span of five panels. The art also does some nice work introducing the reader to Madame Web, as while she is hidden in a world of shadows, there is a sense of frailty to the character, that is nicely contrasted by the powerful predictions that she's makes, as well as the enraged reaction that she manages to triggered. The art that details Jessica's reaction when she learns her secret has been exposed is also a great display of how deeply trouble Jessica is by this event from her past.

Final Word:
The search for Mattie Franklin is doing a pretty solid job of drawing upon the scant bits of continuity that were established during the character's monthly title. We get a nice visit with J. Jonah Jameson who uses the situation to advance his crusade against costumed vigilantes, but the book also makes it clear Jameson is deeply concerned, and his outrage is largely designed to browbeat Jessica into taking on the case. We also get a visit from Madame Web, and I have to give Brian Michael Bendis full marks for the way he detailed how her powers work, as the explanation offered up in this issue is easily the best I've ever heard it describes. This visit with Madame Web also served to add some much needed tension into this current mystery, as we see Jessica's future sounds quite dire. We also get a little peek at Jessica's past, as Madame Web manages to strike a very raw nerve when she makes mention of an event from Jessica's past.

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