Late to the Party: Alias (the comic series)

Alias: Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 & 2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis – Art by Michael Gaydos
(28 issues originally published between November 2001 and January 2004)

A couple of years ago I picked up the two Omnibus editions of Bendis’ run on Daredevil.  I absolutely devoured them and was salivating for more.  It is easily one of the best runs of comics I have ever had the pleasure of reading.  In my search for more I kept coming across mentions of Alias. Other writers and people in the industry would sing the praises of this Eisner nominated comic.  It got to the point where I felt I couldn’t read an article about Brian Michael Bendis without Alias being brought up.
Recently I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  

Alias tells the story of Jessica Jones, an ex-superhero now turned hard-nosed, hard-drinking private detective.  The premise drew me in right off the bat.  While I enjoy Bendis when he’s writing huge Universe altering stories about the Avengers, I think I enjoy him even more when he’s writing the street-level heroes.  Guys like Daredevil, Moon Knight, and Ultimate Spider-man to name a few.  Jessica Jones, formerly Jewel, fit this mold perfectly.  I can say that I was very much look forward to reading this.

Alias tells a good story over the course of its 28 issues.  It has its detective elements and mixes them nicely with the super hero elements.  Jessica Jones is a fun character to read and there are plenty of cameos from other well-known characters in the Marvel Universe.  The art by Michael Gaydos is quite good, and there are also a few scattered flashback scenes drawn by Mark Bagley that are a treat.  Great writer, great art, great premise, it sounds like the perfect recipe, and I did like it.  I just wanted to like it so much more.

My main problem with Alias stems from the fact that it’s a MAX comic, the first MAX comic actually.  The MAX line of comics started in 2001 when Marvel ended their relationship with the Comics Code Authority and implemented their own rating system.  Ostensibly this was to give them the ability to publish more “adult” themed stories.  With Alias it seems that Bendis used this new-found freedom to see how many times he could fit the word fuck into his script.  Something that was supposed to make the story seem more mature, though to me, it seems decidedly immature instead.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I’m offended by the language.  People curse in real life, and they have sex too.  There’s the argument that something like this just makes the story more realistic.  Personally I’m not looking for that realism though. Luke Cage has unbreakable skin and Jessica Jones can fly.  No matter what you add to it, the whole thing is going to come off as being quite fantastical.  I don’t need to hear Luke Cage refer to himself as a “bad ass motha-fucka”, and talk about how he banged She-Hulk.  The whole thing just comes across feeling really awkward.

                When I say awkward, I mean *REALLY* awkward.

I do commend Marvel for starting down this road however.  Some MAX books really took advantage of the freedoms.  Things like Punisher, Supreme Power, and Fury stick out as being quite good, and it was Alias that helped pave the way for it all.  Who knows, maybe if I had read this 10 years ago when it was first released it would have had the intended effect on me.  As it stands, the series for me stands as an enjoyable, though slightly flawed read.

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