Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel Comics, collected volume 2017
GRIT-TONED SEPIA CITY SCENES need a good story to keep you glued to the grime. I continue to be amazed how Brian Michael Bendis pulls it off as in the volume of Jessica Jones Uncaged!, collecting issues 1-6, where people have real conversations that go on for pages of up-close panels that feel active, probably because Jessica’s inner turmoil incessantly sloshes and spills out over everyone. The threads of reality never weave together quite right, and she is always having sloppy second thoughts to just torch it and be done. This weakness turns out to be central to the unfolding plot.
The immediate subplot is that Jessica cannot fly. She shows us what she has early on, and keeps trying, but always claws her way over the last ledge she missed on landing. It is not funny, but not sad either. Jessica does not loathe herself, she is too busy loathing other people and the mess of it all. The message is, she wants to fly, just fly away, here I go, here I go, here I go. Having no wings hurts.
The overall point for the story may be that Jessica inhabits a no-fly zone, no big smash-up fate of the universe here with every superhero in creation showing up as Bendis sometimes throws out with maniacal bombast. Instead, action comes in small surges, maybe not heroic, just necessary at the time. Other powered beings inhabit the cityscape like it’s normal having them around. Jessica has one good girlfriend, Captain Marvel, who shows up as an essential part of the plot, especially if we consider keeping Jessica sane as a principal objective.
Shadowy art by Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth plays with panels to maintain propulsion typical in Bendis stories, reading one way down and then across or in leaps across a white chalkboard. What startled me in this series was the watercolor paper art covers by David Mack as in the Issue 2 cover shown here: looks like magic, but it’s just Jessica with lots of swirling and little flimsy wings flapping helplessly behind her against an auburn-skylined city that looks like it should have been harvested some time ago.
Her aura keeps the Jessica saga moving, pedestrian and all. Thanks to Rosalie van Leer and PJ Proby for the flight epiphany in “Eddy” (1978), lyrics made for Jessica:
… When I come home in the morning
Softly as I tread the dawn
I know things that are important
That have only just begun
I’m gonna fly away
Here I go, here I go, here I go