Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: N/A
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Michael Gaydos
Colored by: Jose Villarrubia
Editor: C.B. Cebulski
Publisher: Marvel Comics
My friend and I used to have a joke about “What if”¦” stories and it went something like this: our response to every what if was, “Everyone dies.” Anything from “What If”¦Spider-Man Had Joined the Fantastic Four?” to “What If”¦Venom Possessed Punisher?” the response was always, “everyone dies.” We laughed, to paraphrase Al Capone, because these jokes were funny but also true. Granted not everyone died in every What if”¦, but typically at least a few high profile folks ended up in the ground. Take a look at “What If”¦Karen Page Had Lived?” for an example of a fairly typical What If”¦ resolution.
This phenomenon makes this entry, “What If”¦Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers?”, unique. Bendis chooses a different route to take his character. Instead of this divergence in the path of the Marvel Universe results in destruction and death, Jones joining the Avengers makes the Marvel U a better, safer place and erases the bitter, drunk, self destructive Jessica that we all came to know and love in Alias. Without giving anything away, Jessica’s presence on the team diverts a pretty significant disaster and creates a relationship that would never, ever be possible in the “real” world of Marvel Comics. What makes this approach particularly interesting is that it has an even harder snap to it then the typical “everyone dies” stories of my youth. Knowing what we now know through this story, how Jessica (and many others) lives would have been so significantly and positively altered by one yes or no response going in a different direction, lends an even heavier tragedy to the way things really went. If only she had swallowed her shame, this story says, look at how much better everything would be. Sad, tough stuff there.
The real thrill of this installment for me, however, was seeing Gaydos back drawing Jessica. If I had any influence at all on who becomes superstar artists (which, by the by, I don’t), Gaydos would be as rich as can be. He is wildly talented and Villarrubia’s colors pick up those talents nicely. This is one great looking book.
The one strike against it and the reason this one does not get as high a grade as I would like is owed to the page count. The first nine pages of these comics are recaps of how it actually happened. It makes sense. Alias, while a critically well received series, was not a tremendous seller. This being a fifth week event and using “Avengers” in the title, many people who picked it up would not, necessarily, have been well versed in the world of Alias. So, in that way, I applaud the creative team for trying to make this story accessible. The problem is, in a 22, 23 page book, those nine pages are a pretty big chunk of story. Thus, we are never really emerged in the new reality that Jessica joining the Avengers has spurred. As I said before, there is a tragic quality to the tale, but it could have been deepened and enriched if the story was allowed the higher page counts of the “What If’s” of old. Instead, the world has to be set up in a few captions and a splash page or two. It does the best job it can with the space allotted, but it is, ultimately, a very surface job.