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Comics You Should Own flashback – Alias

Instead of so many Grendel-related posts in a row (I have at least two more to go, and possibly more), I thought I would again get in the Way-Back Machine and update another of my old posts in this series.  This time it’s the excellent Bendis/Gaydos comic, another of those books, like Fury, that came out early in this millennium, when it seemed like anything was permissible at Marvel.  I know our own MarkAndrew does not like this series, but maybe I can convince someone else that it’s worthy!

(I should point out that I usually include SPOILERS in these posts, even though this one has fewer than usual.  It does, however, contain coarse language.  You’ve been warned!)

Alias by Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Michael Gaydos (artist), Bill Sienkiewicz (art, issues #7-8), David Mack (art, issues #12-13), Mark Bagley (penciller, issues #12, 21, 25-26), Rodney Ramos (inker, issue #12), Al Vey (inker, issue #21), Art Thibert (inker, issue #26), and Rick Mays (penciller, issue #26), with covers by Mack.

Marvel, 28 issues (#1-28), cover dated November 2001-January 2004.

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I love Marvel MAX.  I love the idea of it, and think it’s a shame that it hasn’t been more popular.  The idea that Marvel characters curse and fuck was, apparently, too much for some hardcore Marvel fans, and these days it’s a shadow of its former self.  It was a grand idea, created mostly for Brian Michael Bendis so that Marvel could keep him happy as they gave him the keys to the kingdom.  His Alias is the crown jewel of the MAX line.  It reminds me of a time when Marvel truly was churning out some of the best comics around.  In the Jemas years, from about 2000 through 2003 or so, Marvel was really publishing some good stuff.  Unfortunately, it couldn’t last.  But we can always re-read the comics, right?

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Alias is the story of a superpowered private investigator (Jessica Jones) who gave up the superhero life because she wasn’t really suited for it.  She still has powers, but doesn’t use them.  This series is a way for Bendis to do what he does best, write noir crime fiction, but in the Marvel Universe (and, presumably, for more money than he got working for Image).  Bendis made his name writing Powers, and before that he wrote such non-superpowered stuff like Jinx, Torso, and Goldfish.  Alias follows along from those titles.

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Before I examine this and tell you why you should own it, I’ll break it down into its component stories (it ran 28 issues, after all):

Issues 1-5: Jessica is tricked into filming Captain America when he changes from his civilian identity into his costume.  Murder, a complex frame, appearances by Luke Cage and Matt Murdock, and presidential politics are involved.  It set the tone for the series with a brilliant concept, gritty art, and Jessica making bad choices.  It was unlike almost anything we had seen from Marvel before.

Issues 6-9: Jessica is hired by Rick Jones’s wife (and it’s not Marlo!) to find her husband.  She tracks him down in Greenwich Village playing guitar at small clubs.  Mayhem ensues, especially when he thinks she’s a spy sent to kill him for his role in the Kree-Skrull war.

Issue 10: A hilarious stand-alone issue in which J. Jonah Jameson hires Jessica to find out Spider-Man’s secret identity and gets more than he bargained for.  Funny stuff – the best issue of the run.

Issues 11-14: Jessica is hired by a woman in upstate New York to find her daughter, who has disappeared.  The girl, a high-schooler, was giving everyone the impression that she was a mutant, and in this God-fearing community, mutants are an abomination.  The girl’s not dead, but Jessica doesn’t expect what she gets when she finds her.

Issue 15: Another stand-alone issue, as Jessica argues with Luke Cage (with whom she had a memorable one-night stand in issue #1) and goes on a date with Scott Lang.  Another very good issue, as it allows Bendis to do what he does best – write lots of revealing and realistic dialogue.

Issues 16-21: A story about a girl dressed in a Spider-Woman costume who shows up in Jessica’s apartment one night.  She disappears, but Jessica feels obligated to find her.  Drugs, sex, a desperate J. Jonah Jameson (the girl’s guardian) and a fighting mad Jessica Drew (the original Spider-Woman), plus an appearance by Speedball, of all people.

Issues 22-23: The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones.  Not a bad story, but kind of pushing the coincidences of the Marvel Universe.  Jessica has a crush on Peter Parker, but he doesn’t notice her before he wanders into a science experiment.  She almost gets run over by a truck carrying radioactive material, which has a date with destiny (and Matt Murdock).  She’s in a coma and wakes up just as Galactus arrives the first time.  Cute, but a little too cute.

Issues 24-28: The big fight with the Purple Man, who can make anyone do anything he wants.  Jessica has big issues with him, and we find out what they are in a series of flashbacks featuring art by Mark Bagley, whose style jars with the serious tone of the flashbacks (which is the point).  Jessica finds out she’s carrying Luke’s child, she has a big confrontation with the Purple Man, and Bendis engages in some breaking of the fourth wall that’s not as effective as, say, Morrison’s in Animal Man.  Still, a good story and a good way to wrap up the series.

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These are just short little overviews.  Alias works so well because the general themes are present throughout the series without Bendis really beating you over the head with them.  The major themes are identity and power.  I’ll get to identity in a minute (the series is, after all, named Alias).  Power is always a trope in a superhero universe, and some writers handle it better than others.  Bendis does some interesting things dealing with how superheroes and people in general handle power.  Jessica is a very strong individual who flies.  She’s a superhero.  Throughout the book, “normal” people ask her why she’s not a superhero anymore – it’s kind of a running joke.  Bendis shows us the dark side of having power differently than some other writers.  Jessica, simply, does not have a heroic personality, yet she has powers that enable her to be a superhero.  People who have read the book might say, “Well, she’s a good person,” but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Of course she’s a good person, or she would have become a supervillain.  She’s not heroic, which is different.  She even admits she’s not heroic.  Bendis created a complicated person who smokes, drinks too much, has more than one one-night stand, and is rude to people who help her, and then gave her superpowers.  This is much more interesting even than Peter Parker and his attempts to pay the rent and stay in school.  Jessica rejects the lifestyle her power could give her because she’s not that kind of person.  In her own way, she is taking control of her life by refusing to use her power.  The powerless in Alias don’t, and can’t, understand this.

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Bendis contrasts her rejection of power with examples of others either rejecting it too or abusing it.  Carol Danvers, Jessica’s best friend, abuses her power as an Avenger in minor ways to help out her friend (and Jessica often treats her poorly).  Clay Quartermain also abuses his power in S.H.I.E.L.D. to help her out.  Neither of these abuses is that serious, but it shows what connections in the world will get you.  Jessica knows people who are willing to ignore her abrasive personality to help her, which is handy for her.  Matt Murdock gets her out of a murder rap in the first story.  He later employs her as his bodyguard when he’s outed as Daredevil by the media.  The “bad guy” in the first story abuses the power that he has to try to manipulate the presidential election.  Of course, the Purple Man uses his power for cheap sex and humiliation.  The relationships between people are often based on power, even in seemingly innocuous ones, and Bendis milks that dynamic fully.  As you read Alias, it’s interesting to note when Jessica has the power and when she doesn’t.  When she has power, she is often brutally mean – and this is usually when she’s dealing with men (but not Luke Cage – damn straight!).  She fucks a sheriff in the story about the missing girl, then treats him like dirt (true, he made her sleep off her hangover in a jail cell, but if that’s as bad as she’s been treated by a man, she’s lucky).  She gets real pissed at Scott Lang whenever he tries to help her, not trusting him even though he’s given her no reason not to.  She doesn’t act this way only with men, but obviously the Purple Man and his lurid manipulations really did a number on her.  When she doesn’t have power in a relationship, she lashes out with anger or acts pathetic, trying to whine her way out of a problem.  Soon after sleeping with Cage, she shows up at his apartment, but he’s with another woman (Cage is totally a playa).  She whines, he rejects her, because that’s how he rolls.  Later, she gets in a big argument with Cage, but he points out that they’re not dating, so she should shut it.  Jessica comes off poorly in the whole thing, and Bendis again reminds us that when people don’t have power, they act petulantly.

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The major theme of Alias is identity and a person’s quest for it.  Again, identity is an important part of much of superhero comics, but it is rarely explored with such depth as it is here, and Bendis goes past even that to examine what identity means to each and every one of us.  Jessica, obviously, rejected her former identity as a costumed hero.  Before that, she rejected a chance at a “normal” life when she became a costumed hero in the first place.  She is, of course, an orphan (her family was killed in the accident that gave her powers), and therefore a quest for “who she is” is part of her nature.  Each story reveals a bit more about a quest for identity.  Captain America’s secret identity is a crucial part of the first story.  Jessica has a chance to reveal it, but doesn’t.  Steve Rogers yearns for a “normal” relationship, and he realizes that it might never happen.  In the second story arc, Rick Jones is desperate to hide his identity, even though he’s not actually Rick Jones.  The idea of “becoming” a celebrity or someone else is explained at the end of the story by someone who is doing the exact same thing, but can’t see it.  Bendis springs stuff on us like this, highlighting the main storyline with small details.  Issue #10, when Jessica is hired by The Bugle, is ostensibly about the search for Spider-Man’s identity, but Jessica turns this on its ear and shows that identity might not be all that important.  This is the first time in the title that Bendis introduces an element of doubt to his theme.  How important is our identity?  Jessica is searching for an answer to her life – it didn’t work as a costumed hero, and it’s not working too well in her private investigator life either.  Even as she discovers Captain America’s identity, reveals that Rick Jones isn’t who he thinks he is, finds a runaway who has changed (or finally understood) who she is, helps Mattie Franklin (the teenage Spider-Woman) break out of a spiral of not only drug abuse but even more twisted things, and overcomes her past by confronting the Purple Man, she is always looking for an answer to her problems, despite avoiding them for most of the book.  But how important is it?  Bendis never answers this question, leaving it for us to decide.  That’s the way it should be.

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Michael Gaydos, who drew every issue, was a good choice for the book.  His style is very rough and gritty, and fits well with the noir tone that Bendis is working on.  He doesn’t do as well with the superhero parts of the book, but luckily, Bendis doesn’t make him do those that often.  When Bendis shows Jessica in flashback as Jewel, her costumed identity, he gets Mark Bagley to draw the scenes, which works perfectly, as Bagley’s bright look is great for the superheroic Jessica, and it contrasts very well with the darker tone Gaydos shows.  Gaydos’s strength lies in the fact that Jessica and the people she interacts with look “real” – they don’t have perfect bodies and perfect faces, and it emphasizes the fact that they’re in a morally gray pocket of the Marvel Universe.

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Jessica is not necessarily a nice person.  She’s sympathetic, but with an emphasis on the “pathetic” part.  She makes some good choices and some poor ones.  Bendis doesn’t ask us to like her, just understand her journey.  This we can do.  Bendis also wants to play with the Marvel Universe in a new way, and that’s partly what the MAX line can be for.  This is a Marvel Universe where bad things happen, and the good guy doesn’t always win.  Jessica usually solves the case, but she doesn’t always understand why things happened the way they did.  Bendis ended the series with Jessica pregnant with Cage’s child, setting the stage for The Pulse, which features Jessica going to work for Jameson at The Bugle because she needs health insurance (a great reason, by the way).  The Pulse, unfortunately, was never as good as Alias.  Alias is a gem of a comic, and again, it’s a shame that the Marvel U. can’t stand up to this kind of scrutiny.  The title is out in trade paperback (including a big omnibus volume containing every issue), and if you’re a fan of the Marvel Universe, you should check it out.

45 Comments

This is a great series. This era of creativity was incredible at Marvel, and one of the reasons why I will always give Quesada the benefit of the doubt despite his recent weird moves. Or maybe Jemas was to credit for these great comics, who knows? It sucks that Marvel has fallen so far from these storytelling heights,

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 21, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Now that that’s all over and done with … please do get back to GRENDEL, or MAGE!

IF you haven’t gotten Bendis out of your system, then may I suggest TORSO, or even SAM and TWITCH for reviewing purposes.

Go forth, and review.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm

His Alias is the crown jewel of the MAX line.

No.

Punisher Max is the crown jewel of the line.

It’s not only lasted longer, but is more mature in it’s themes and characters, and features a writer at the top of his game.

It’s also not some late 70’s/80’s throwback of ‘look how serious this super powered book is – she has anal sex!!!’.
Alias is the sort of thing Greg Hatcher writes about from his youth, when comics were desperate to be taken seriously.

You have to remember, FGJ, that I wrote this early in 2005, and edited it very little for this post. So I would probably agree with you now, but back then, I think I was right.

I’m working on the next Grendel post, Tom, I promise!

Alias is great comics.

And is it true that you haven’t read Punisher Max, Burgas? If true, that’s inexcusable for a Marvel Max fan.

this was one of the series that brought me back to comics. still love it.

well… i was never crazy about the plots per se, but the character work/dialogue? *kisses fingers*

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 21, 2008 at 7:06 pm

The major theme of Alias is identity and a person’s quest for it.

Which she finds at the end by getting pregnant and finding a man to love her.
Groundbreaking stuff.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 21, 2008 at 7:09 pm

You have to remember, FGJ, that I wrote this early in 2005, and edited it very little for this post. So I would probably agree with you now, but back then, I think I was right.

Missed that bit at the start.
Sorry Greg.

Still totally disagree with Alias being at all groundbreaking*, but I guess two years ago it was a different world, or some such.

*More an attempt for the author to keep his darker roots whilst still writing about Spandex and stretching out stories longer than they had any right to go.

Can someone sell me on Punisher MAX? What’s so good about it? I haven’t read Punisher since way back when. I read the original Zeck mini-series and the first twenty-five issues of the Mike Baron series and maybe the first seven issues of War Journal. It was good fun while it lasted but it always seemed so very juniour high.

I hear a lot of praise for the MAX title but it’s never substantial enough for me to know why the kudos. It always comes down to something like “Punisher MAX is awesome!” (which is fair enough, but not very informative) or “How can you say you like comics if you haven’t read Punisher MAX?! (which is less fair and more just boring elitism).

So really then, what makes Punisher MAX as good as all that? How does the series take Castle from the one-note, infantile maniac he was in the good ol’ days to something worth consideration? Or does it just present the one-note version of Castle, but do so astonishingly well?

I’d like to read the series if it’s worth it, but don’t have the discretionary funds to indulge if it’s not.

p.s. Alias (in conjunction with Bendis/Maleev Daredevil) did give me hope that Marvel could turn it around. Unfortunately, they’ve mostly long since squandered any good will built up in me by those titles.

Regardless of the naysayers, Alias was a damn fine read each and every month when it was coming out. It may not be Punisher Max, but what is? Marvel puts out maybe two or three interesting books (from a storytelling viewpoint, I guess there are people who are interested in which X-men are dating, or what that dastardly Iron Man will do next) per year, and they often get cancelled.

I always thought Jessica Jones going to high school with Peter Parker and having a crush on him was a nice touch. I really wish we could have gotten the story of her reaction once she learned her was Spiderman. I mean, she found out when he and Luke joined the Avengers, so I really can’t believe Bendis wouldn’t have done a whole issue of decompression based on that fact.

Oh well, magic has taken away the magic that could have been that story…

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 21, 2008 at 8:38 pm

So really then, what makes Punisher MAX as good as all that? How does the series take Castle from the one-note, infantile maniac he was in the good ol’ days to something worth consideration? Or does it just present the one-note version of Castle, but do so astonishingly well?

It’s just plain scary.

The bad guys are horrible people, doing horrible things to innocents and each other, and you do want to see them get killed, but Frank is written as so scary that you actually dread seeing them get it, even though you really want them to.

Just pick it up and have a flick through at the shop and you should be able to see what the fuss is about.

(Also, the storytelling is excellent – Ennis may be sticking to six issue arcs, but there it isn’t decompressed.)

I have read a few issues of Punisher MAX, but I’m just not interested in the character, and I find the stories, as well-written as they are, to be somewhat dull. Frank gets pissed and kills everyone in horrible fashion. Repeat.

I know you’re saying that Jessica is defining herself by a man, FGJ, but I do think the ending of Alias is a bit groundbreaking, at least in the context of the Marvel Universe. She gets pregnant, decides to keep the baby, tells the father about it, Luke Cage stays with her, and they form a weird nuclear family, which is a rarity in comics. She finds a reason to stop being such a bitch, and having a child does change you, if you’re willing to grow up a little. Most comic book characters remain juvenile, but Jessica doesn’t. So although it’s not the most “feminist” ending, it’s still an ending that gives her a reason to change and become a better person.

I think the problem with the Max line is, they’re not really sure what to do with it. Vertigo, for example, quickly grew away from its status as “DC Universe with sex and swearing” and became a home for DC’s prestige, adult, mature readers projects. Max still seems to be, “Marvel Universe with sex and swearing.”

I remember all sorts of Max projects being announced that never materialized. There was that Ant Man series (as far as I heard, completed but shelved), and something tentatively referred to as “X in the City” that would have made Northstar into Sue Richard’s “Gay Friend to Talk About Intimate Stuff With” where they said that characters would be talking about such long-snickered-over-by-fans questions as what the Things “thing” looked like and what Reed could do with his powers in bed. Anyone else remember that?
I’m hazy on the exact timing, whether Max starts to peter out in line with Jemas’s departure, or whether there were any stories about Marvel’s corporate masters freaking out and clamping down, does anyone remember hearing anything in particular about it?
All that’s left (correct me if I’m wrong) is Punisher. I could sense Max was drifting from focus when they used it to put out a Squadron Supreme comic under the imprint, apparently just so they could color the blood in the gory bits red instead of black, and people could say “shit” a couple of times.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 21, 2008 at 11:49 pm

So although it’s not the most “feminist” ending, it’s still an ending that gives her a reason to change and become a better person.

Yeah, but then it continues into an all ages book.

That’s just plain weird.

I think the problem with the Max line is, they’re not really sure what to do with it. Vertigo, for example, quickly grew away from its status as “DC Universe with sex and swearing” and became a home for DC’s prestige, adult, mature readers projects. Max still seems to be, “Marvel Universe with sex and swearing.”

I think the difference is that Vertigo didn’t start as a line, but came naturally from several books they had going, which all came about after the success of Moore’s Swamp Thing.
Also, DC had ‘suggested for mature readers’ books before this, and it was awhile into Vertigo that swearing became alright, as well as the more ‘adult situations’ – originally they were just hinted at – and by that time, it had little to do with superheroes.
MAX came about because someone decided Marvel should have a mature readers line, and then they tried to create books to fit that idea – unfortunately they tried to put superheroes into those stories straight off, and it was a pretty awkward fit.

I think there’s some mistake. The “Alias” book that we all SHOULD own is the one by NOW Comics in 1990.

Nothing’s cooler than a spin-off from Racer X about an assassin.

Or does it just present the one-note version of Castle, but do so astonishingly well?

Yeah, basically that one.

Ennis mostly achieves the feat by surrounding Frank by great supporting characters and/or villains (for the personality part of the comic) and intriguing plots.

It’s also one of the few good comics out there that is actually building off its previous issues. Most comics who do that are lame, but Ennis manages to both have strong isolated arcs, but still have the stories all tie in together, so that you get extra enjoyment if you’ve been following the book for awhile.

She’s sympathetic, but with an emphasis on the “pathetic” part. She makes some good choices and some poor ones. Bendis doesn’t ask us to like her, just understand her journey.

This, in the end, makes her even more likable imo because she’s a real person, flaws and all. That and the fact that she eventually grows as a person towards the end of the series make it a great read with lots of intigue in between. It was great while it lasted, The Pulse was fun, though it never attained the same level, but Jessica Jones still is one of the most interesting characters in the MU.

My life will be empty when Ennis leaves Punisher Max, and it’s coming soon :-(

tom fitzpatrick

January 22, 2008 at 6:22 am

Bdaly: All things (good or bad) must end.
I was just as sad when Preacher ended.

There’s also Dan Dare and The Boys. ;-)

Maybe it was coming to Alias for the first time in 2007, after I’d gotten fed up by Bendis’s too-cute conversational style and swarms of little talking head panels, but I really didn’t care for it when I read it last year. A large part of that is the aesthetic impression made by Bendis’s endless interlocking speech bubbles and the frequently reused headshots. It just makes the comics page look very ugly to me, and as someone who got into comics through Watchmen, I want the page to be a work of art, not just the dialogue. (Compare this to the Morrison/Williams Club of Heroes storyline that I just finished, where I had very little idea of what was going on in the story, but I was blown away by Williams’ fantastic page layouts and art.)

I also really disliked Sam and Twitch, and the first Powers TPB left me indifferent, so maybe I just hate Bendis.

Replacing Alias with the Pulse was like someone switching out your filet mignon with a Steak-Um. One of the worst creative/editorial decisions I’ve ever seen Marvel make. (They made this same mistake again with Supreme Power/Squadron Supreme.) They could have easily kept the Alias MAX universe separate from a regular Marvel U. Jessica Jones if they were so eager to have her interact with Spidey, New Avengers, etc. (After all, that’s what they do with the Punisher — maintain separate MAX and regular Marvel U. identities.)

And yes, everyone, Punisher MAX is just that good. One of the few titles I buy both in singles and in HC/trades. I’m really sad that Ennis is leaving the title soon but maybe they’ll get someone like Jason Aaron to replace him and continue the tone of the book. If you’ve never tried Punisher MAX, I recommend the “Slavers,” “Mother Russia,” and “Kitchen Irish” arcs. And of course, the original “Barracuda” arc. Ah, heck with it, just read it all!

Captain Buttfeeler

January 22, 2008 at 8:25 am

I remember reading Alias during Marvel’s ‘rennaisance’ period.

Marvel were putting out some great comics and Bendis was being hailed by many within the industry as the second coming. I picked up Alias out of curiosity and stuck with it for quite a while, abandoning it around issue 15.

My main problem lay in the fact that Bendis didn’t seem to know how to end any of his stories. IIRC the first story arc ended when a bunch of heavily armed helicopters turned up at a golf course and basically just murdered all the bad guys. Likewise, the arc with the missing teenage girl. Jessica spent ages trying to track her down, finding out about her life, her family and then… she found her and brought her home. It all just seemed so underwhelming.

I couldn’t understand the fuss about Bendis. It seemed to me that all he’d done was taken the tropes and conventions of any number of TV cop shows and applied them to superhero fiction. The end result seemed rather lazy and derivative. Stripped of their superhero context, these stories could have come from any generic cop/detective show of the last thirty years. A private detective who smokes too much, drinks too much and has a messy personal life full of questionable relationships may be groundbreaking stuff for the Marvel Universe, but that says more about the stagnant, constipated nature of that fictional construct than anything else. Looked at in the broader context of pop culture, Jessica Jones was just one massive cliche.

I also resented having to shell out for stories that could have been told in half the issues. This seemed to be mostly down to the way the pages were laid out. Gaydos was presumably working from Bendis’ thumbnails and the end result is huge areas of the page going completely unused. Add to that the usual Bendis-related complaints about characters remaining ABSOLUTELY stock still from panel to panel, even though they’re meant to be engaged in a conversation, and characters constantly talking in parentheses (why the fuck would you put DIALOGUE in brackets?!) and Alias just didn’t work for me.

Vertigo, for example, quickly grew away from its status as “DC Universe with sex and swearing” and became a home for DC’s prestige, adult, mature readers projects.

Nah – Vertigo started off as the home for Sandman wannabes.

Why not. People sometimes slip in little side comments, and brackets seem totally appropriate for that,

[…] Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, mostly. […]

So really then, what makes Punisher MAX as good as all that? How does the series take Castle from the one-note, infantile maniac he was in the good ol’ days to something worth consideration? Or does it just present the one-note version of Castle, but do so astonishingly well?

Ennis’s version of Castle appears to be one-note at first read, but his whole run, including side projects like Born, presents a fully fleshed out character who has taken to severely expressing any sort of emotion. Though the earlier MU Punisher got by on a wacky supporting cast with some dark humor, most of that has been stripped from the MAX title. Ennis has instead resorted to stories based more upon the evils present in reality and used the wish-fullfillment aspect of superheroes in that context. After finishing a storyline, one almosts hopes for someone to rid the world of evil as permanently as the Punisher strives to do.

I’d also recommend “The Slavers” TPB as that is probably the best storyline out of Ennis’s run and it is one of the few comic stories that have left me so emotionally drained at the end.

True, Ennis’ Punisher isn’t literally one-note, but he’s nearly one-note. It doesn’t diminish the greatness of the book at all, though, as Ennis writes everyone else in the book wonderfully (and the plots are great).

Whoops, “taken to severely expressing any sort of emotion” should end with “other than his drive to eliminate crooks.”

I thought the whole point of Punisher is that he is “one note.” He is a man who lost everything and made himself into a weapon of war and nothing more. It is what sets him apart from all the other costumed vigilantes, with their sidekicks and teams and girlfriends.

Punisher Max has never been about Frank Castle. It’s about his victims.

“Why not. People sometimes slip in little side comments, and brackets seem totally appropriate for that,”

I have had the same problem as Captain Buttfeeler with Bendis’s prediliction toward parenthetical dialogue.

When you’re writing dialogue — I don’t know what you do, so I don’t know if it comes up or not — you’re supposed to use double-dashes for asides.

Parentheses in dialogue, it’s an interesting idea, but it’s unneccessary and it reads very bizarre to me. There are already commas, semi-colons, colons, double-dashes, and ellipses. What is being covered by parenthesis that these punctuations don’t handle?

Some images just stick with you, and I can’t shake the splash page of Jessica smoking a cigarette on the toilet. It set the tone for the whole series, I think.

And what a series. Probably my favorite piece of Bendis’ Marvel work (although I haven’t read any of his more recent stuff).

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 22, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Punisher Max has never been about Frank Castle. It’s about his victims.

Except for the arcs where it is about him – like the one where his families grave was dug up, or The Tyger, or Born.

Parentheses indicated phrases that are not important or understated, whereas dashes set off items that are important and therefore need to be separated and highlighted.

So, yes, there is a difference of about 180 degrees. I know because I am grammar nerd.

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who answered my question. It sounds like it may be worth a look – especially if I can find time to read a couple chapters in Borders before dropping cash on the series. Thanks much.

I’ve read only the last volume of ALIAS, and that was after online discussions about Bendis’s superhero stories (“Avengers Disassembled,” etc.) possibly being misogynistic. So, I read the material presupposing that Bendis was a poor writer and quite possibly misogynistic to boot. The story material confirmed those suppositions. Jessica Jones came across as an ineffectual idiot. Bendis’s reliance on mind control as a plot device was repeated in other stories and he mishandled plot devices (there was no point in giving Jones a “psychic defense trigger” to use against the Purple Man if she had to be told it existed, etc.).

Since then, his AVENGERS material has only further strengthened the impression that if a plot isn’t pure crime fiction or have material taken from action movies and/or books, Bendis doesn’t know how to handle the material. His heavy reliance on mind control as a plot device might occur because he doesn’t know how to handle energy-manipulating powers or doesn’t want to write the material. When scientific topics come up in stories, they’re mishandled. In the MIGHTY AVENGERS arc, a computer virus, an electromagnetic pulse, and launch control centers were plot elements; Bendis thoroughly mishandled each one, even though they were all easily researchable. Compared to the editorial standards used by prose publishers, Bendis’s AVENGERS material isn’t publishable.

SRS

[…] Greg recently featured this one as a “Comic You Should Own,” and he is totally correct. […]

I am always amused at how Bendis just won’t let go of Jessica and keeps putting her in his work, like New Avengers.

[…] http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/01/21/comics-you-should-own-flashback-alias/Instead of so many Grendel-related posts in a row (I have at least two more to go, and possibly more), I thought I would again get in the Way-Back Machine and update another of my old posts in this series. This time it’s the excellent … […]

[…] http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/01/21/comics-you-should-own-flashback-alias/Instead of so many Grendel-related posts in a row (I have at least two more to go, and possibly more), I thought I would again get in the Way-Back Machine and update another of my old posts in this series. This time it’s the excellent … […]

[…] http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/01/21/comics-you-should-own-flashback-alias/Instead of so many Grendel-related posts in a row (I have at least two more to go, and possibly more), I thought I would again get in the Way-Back Machine and update another of my old posts in this series. This time it’s the excellent … […]

[…] http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/01/21/comics-you-should-own-flashback-alias/Instead of so many Grendel-related posts in a row (I have at least two more to go, and possibly more), I thought I would again get in the Way-Back Machine and update another of my old posts in this series. This time it’s the excellent … […]

[…] http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/01/21/comics-you-should-own-flashback-alias/Instead of so many Grendel-related posts in a row (I have at least two more to go, and possibly more), I thought I would again get in the Way-Back Machine and update another of my old posts in this series. This time it’s the excellent … […]

I never saw what the Bendis fuss was all about. His dialogue grates, I’d hardly call it ‘real’. And are we so desperate for the mainstream people and critics to accept comics books as ART! IT’S ART PEOPLE! that swearing and anal sex now count as ‘mature’ work? And what’s the the trend of raping/molesting female characters to give them ‘depth’? Ugh.

Someone mentioned something about Bendis takes Jessica Jones along with him to ‘New Avengers’…why not, he retconned/shoehorned her into Avengers continuity (so much so that in Secret Invasion, she’s one of the older heoroes who ‘reappear’…can we have both versions revealed as Skrulls already and kill them off? And please take ghetto-fab Luke with them also…

Wow, what’s with all of these “Marvel has fallen from grace” comments? With some exceptions, Marvel has been golden since the turn of the century, producing some of their best work in years, if not decades.

As for Alias…I really couldn’t get into to it. Maybe it’s because I had already read a lot of Bendis’ work before starting Alias and his kind of dialog was start to wear thin on me; maybe it was because I already knew about Jessica Jones and her thing with Luke Cage because of New Avengers. Whatever it was, I just didn’t find the book all that compelling; I was halfway through the second arc when I just lost interest in it. I might go back and read a few selected issues (#10 and probably the Purple Man arc), but I just don’t find the book all that interesting. Though I may have felt differently if I started reading it when it first came out.

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