Passing the Torch In Jessica Jones #1

by Tony Thornley

I really can’t imagine a more intimidating phone call than being asked by a beloved character’s co-creator to take the reins on her future. And that’s exactly what happened to Kelly Thompson with Jessica Jones. Add to that pressure this series launching a new line of digital first comics, and Kelly and artist Mattia De Iulis have a lot to live up to. They do it without even batting an eye, though.

Jessica Jones has an interesting place in the Marvel Universe. She’s technically been there since the beginning, even though she first showed up on page in Alias by Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos back in 2001. Very few characters are able to come into a comics universe, without an existing legacy connection, and are able to step into the universe like they’ve always been there. Jessica has not only proven that she’s one of the few, but she’s become an integral part of the universe.

That’s one thing that Kelly writes so incredibly well here. This is a fantastic detective story, and it can’t be told with anyone but Jessica. But it’s also deeply entrenched in the Marvel Universe.

In case you missed the announcement, this issue is also double sized and is actually two chapters (with cliffhangers and covers for each and everything). It’s kind of a different feel, but it was a fun way to get the story.

Someone has murdered one of Jessica’s former clients and left her in the Alias Investigations office to frame Jessica for it. After some grueling hours of interrogation (and a panicked Luke Cage at home after he bought Danielle the wrong cereal), Jessica is cleared, and returns to her office. After several hours of work, she’s attacked and killed!

In chapter two, Jessica is alive, but unwell, waking up in the hospital. She knows she was murdered (“I know what dead feels like” she says), and pushes through her feelings to figure out what the hell is going on. As she does so, she realizes she’s not the only one who’s been targeted and she rushes to one as the news breaks- Elsa Bloodstone is dead. When she arrives at Elsa’s flat though, she’s attacked by a very much alive Elsa!

This issue feels like Kelly has been writing Jessica Jones for years. There’s no real adjustment period here. Before we get into the mystery, she takes the time to establish Jessica as a person as well. She’s a great wife and great mother (the relationship between Luke Cage and Jessica is SO REAL). It’s key to what makes this issue work.

The mystery is so engrossing. At first, it seems relatively mundane and straightforward- a murder with a personal connection to the protagonist. However, the twists and turns in just these chapters quickly turn it into something that can only happen in the Marvel Universe, and that’s great. Kelly has embraced her comic book home, and knows how to write it.

Meanwhile, Mattia De Iulis is a revelation. I had never heard of his work before this issue. His style is a distillation of European sensibilities with a great grasp of American noir sensibilities. It reminds me of a mixture of Fraser Irving and Sara Pichelli, with a touch of Gaydos.

His character work is really great. He drives the action of the story forward, leading the eye to the important details on the page. He also takes time to pause on some very human moments, which really deepens Kelly’s script in some great ways.

His color art is fantastic as well. It adds a certain sense of reality. In one scene, Jessica walks through her office at dusk, and he shifts the lighting as she moves- not just in angles but the hue, tone, brightness and warmth of the light. It’s clear the light is coming from different sources, and adds a layer of realism. That’s just one example of many.

Compliments to letterer Cory Petit as well. A story like this is very driven by dialogue and narration. He not only handles it well, but does some fun things with the narration, and some of the internal tics Jessica has. It adds a lot to the story.

One last note, the all digital format really works. The joint chapters here feel like a Netflix binge- you reach the end and can instantly move forward from the cliffhanger. It does take the teeth out of the cliffhanger slightly, but that’s such a minor quibble. I’m sure that’ll easy be overcome as the team gets used to this different release format.

I know a lot of people are nervous about Jessica Jones in the hands of anyone but Brian Bendis, but I’m tell you, DON’T BE. This is a great first issue, and I will be back for more.

Jessica Jones #1 is available now from Marvel Comics, exclusively on Comixology, Kindle and the Marvel Digital Comics Store.

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