If anyone remembers Brian Michael Bendis’ series called “Alias” or his run on Daredevil from a few years ago, his return to a comic book superhero noir style story should be very exciting. This series has two things going for it in this respect, being reunited with ALex Maleev from his Daredevil run and also how the protagonist of Alias was supposed to be Jessica Drew (but was changed to a brand new character, Jessica Jones). The only thing missing is Bendis famous penchant for profanity, which creates a feeling Bendis has now been successfully neutered by Marvel Comics. However, this series, although quite different from both former series (Alias more than Daredevil), seeing Bendis return to what he is absolutely great at is a very good thing.
Bendis knows crime, especially investigative fiction like this. Add a dose of superhero and you have a very well thought-out concept which Bendis executes very well. There is a lot of convention in here. The dirty cops, the interrogation scene, and protagonist and namesake of the series Spider-Woman, aka. Jessica Drew, is a quintessential anti-hero, if she only recently decided to go the way of the good. Certainly Drew’s position is only quasi-ethical and existing very much in the grey, but the noir thrives on these sorts of conventions. But despite the conventions, the series reads fresh and entertaining. Bendis has certainly upped the action compared to his other previously mentioned series, with this issue having a full out fight and chase scene complete with a flying car with rocket launchers attached to it. However, I feel, if this series continues under Bendis’ direction for a while, it could become more dramatic in its focus, but the action is by no means unwelcome and certainly adds to the story rather than taking away, with Maleev’s art making the scenes enjoyable instead of feeling like page users. Bendis’ classic style of multiple speech balloons is largely abandoned in favour of an inner monologue, another convention of noir Bendis uses, which is of varying quality. The extended monologues give too much away in many cases, becoming a mode to tell the reader everything in a scene rather than letting the scene play out. But Jessica Drew is such an engaging character, it’s hard not to love the paranoid and super-spy inner workings of her mind. The series is off to an amazing start and, if Bendis continues to go back to his roots and strengths, it will only get better. I just wish he could swear.
Alex Maleev’s art is just simply very, very good. He has a habit of using the same panels multiple times, one he uses three times in two pages, and the context they are used in I feel even a slightly different panel would have had more of an impact. However, the same panel being used twice in the first two pages has a very good and cinematic resonance. His shading can become very melodramatic while keeping Jessica in the spotlight (emphasis on the word ‘light’), particularly in the interrogation scene, where the bad guy is almost completely obscured while Jessica is almost completely lighted. Also, I would like to point out how, when Jessica starts to use her seduction powers, there is a panel completely focusing on her breasts. However, despite these complaints, Maleev’s dark and cinematic yet expressive art adds to Bendis’ script in many ways, and the bars casting shadows on Jessica’s face completely recognizing the influence of the series and a quite welcome homage. I absolutely adored his colouring as well, reminding me very much of Dave McKean’s colouring in Arkham Asylum, which is a very good thing. Both have a horrific quality to them which serves to increase the tension. Visually, this book looks as good as it reads, with only some minor complaints.
8/10 A very good series playing the strengths of both creators. Amazing colouring!