Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should marry. In this mini-feature, Bride-to-Be Rebecca Henely and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly… why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we look at the wedding of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage…
The Couple: Jessica Jones and Luke Cage
The Issue: The New Avengers Annual #1
Published: June 2006
Today: Married with a daughter, albeit having some troubles in Jess’ current series.
Rebecca: Say, how about that new Marvel Netflix series that just came out? Huh? Huh? Yeah, let’s skip over the Iron Fist implosion and go back to talking about the series and characters that people still like.
I was a big fan of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ Alias, and it was one of the few comic series where I started buying with the first issue and kept it up until the very end. I didn’t follow Jessica Jones closely as she became more integrated into the Marvel Universe, but she still holds a special place in my heart and I loved the Netflix show. Luke Cage is a character with whom I wish I had more experience — I feel bad for mostly knowing Bendis’ version of the character (especially since some of his characterization of Cage early in Alias is rough), but I generally like him and aside from the really, really irritating Diamondback character I dug his show, too. That being said, Jess and Luke aren’t exactly an OTP for me. I like them, but I doubt they’d ever be on a favorite couples list given that Bendis usually presented their romance as just a footnote to the hundreds of other things going on. Like in this issue, actually!
Kayleigh: I read Alias for the first time in preparation for Jessica’s Netflix show, and I was surprised that for a literal Comics Power Couple (see, ‘cause Luke Cage’s codename is….Power…Man… *ahem*), their relationship is a fairly small part of that run and much of their courtship would play out in later comics. I like Jessica and Luke together, and I’m still kind of pissed at Netflix for throwing the “Jessica killed Luke’s wife while under mind-control” wrench into what was a nice, slow buildup of friends learning to trust and love each other in the comics. There are comics where their baby Danielle grows up to be Captain America, so that’s cool, and I want them all to be happy. Please, Marvel, let someone be happy.
Rebecca: I feel like this wedding issue is a bit hard to talk about because … well, a lot of Bendis comics are like cotton candy. They’re fun, but they dissolve from the mind in minutes. This annual for Bendis’ “all of Marvel’s most popular characters in one place” version of the Avengers that followed the Disassembled storyline isn’t so much a story as a piece of some grand master plan for dozens of upcoming storylines and crossovers. It begins with a prologue of the other Black Widow (Yelena Bolova) — mummified in bandages that cover up her clearly-scarred face and recovering in a hospital — being given an impossible-to-refuse job offer from A.I.M. Next we get a big Avengers-hanging-out scene where they coo (or in Spider-Woman’s case, cringe) over Jessica and Luke’s baby Danielle that ends with Jessica accepting Luke’s previous marriage proposal. After that, there’s a fun but not mindblowing battle where the Avengers fight Yelena, now transformed into power-copying Super-Adaptoid. The issue wraps up with a short ceremony for Jessica and Luke presided over by Stan Lee. It’s fun, but my reaction was basically, “Oh, that’s it?” when I reached the last page.
Kayleigh: The transition from the end of the fight to the wedding ceremony was super abrupt. It feels right for Jessica and Luke to have a quick, small wedding, but considering how much Bendis loves these two, I expected more. Going into this column, I didn’t think “the wedding was barely part of the issue” would be a common complaint! Luke didn’t even have much of a role fighting Super-Adaptoid, and some sudden “What if this crazy superhero lifestyle kills me before I can get married?” angst would have been appreciated to bring the focus back on him, even if it wouldn’t be very original.Rebecca: A common criticism of Bendis is that all of his characters have the same voice, and while that can be problem in this issue — I can’t see Wolverine wishing someone “Mazel Tov” — I do think the best parts of this comic are the small character moments. As much as it hurts my shipper heart, I liked watching Mary Jane cooing over baby Danielle and asking Peter Parker when they were going to have their own baby, as well as Spider-Woman cringing over said baby. (Aw, remember when the Parkers had a baby? Or when Jessica Drew didn’t want a baby? Or Peter’s butt-ugly Iron Spider costume?) In terms of non-baby stuff, I also liked the end of the fight when Tony Stark took off his Iron Man suit and sent it — as well as a bunch of other armors — off to beat the Adaptoid. I know we’ve seen a lot of “Iron Man makes his suits into an army” scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point, but the reveal is still fun. As for Jessica and Luke themselves they’re … fine. I find some of the, “Grr, I have to do Mom stuff” humor at Jessica’s expense kind of broad and easy, but Luke getting the stars in his eyes when Jess accepts his proposal is cute. Did you have any moments you liked?
Kayleigh: Yelena aiming to insult Carol with “You’re still fat” was the Bendis Speak that broke me, though the team dynamic was fun–I remember the “New Avengers plus Mary Jane and Aunt May living in Avengers Tower” era pretty fondly. Mary Jane gleefully telling Jessica, “You’ll love being married! I love being married!” made me want to stand up and silently stare out a window with my hands clasped behind my back for a long time, though. I really enjoyed Jessica reciting her own vows–for those of us who remember how bitter and alone Jessica was when she first appeared in Alias #1, it was touching to see how far she’s come and how happy she is to start a new life with her husband and daughter.
Rebecca: And now for the fashion review. I guess it’s in character for Jessica Jones not to go fancy with her dress given that she’s basically a t-shirt-and-jeans gal, but I still feel a little let-down by the plain, detail-less off-the-shoulder dress she’s wearing, particularly since Olivier Coipel doesn’t seem to know where to put the dividing line when he draws her cleavage. On the other hand — the men look great! While I personally prefer Luke’s vest and tie look from the cover, the black-turtleneck with a gold necklace under a suit jacket looks modern and more in character. (A pink tie isn’t really him.) This is also one of the few issues we’ve read so far where every man isn’t wearing the same exact suit. I like the final page where you’ve got Steve Rogers standing at attention in an open jacket with a tie, Tony Stark with some buttons down and no tie, and Logan with his jacket already off and over his shoulder. It’s actually showing off their personalities through what they’re wearing! Carol Danvers attending in her military uniform was also a nice touch.
Kayleigh: I loooove Olivier Coipel, and he’s maybe my favorite artist we’ve covered in this column so far, but we don’t get a full-shot of Jessica’s wedding dress until the very last page! The simple design feels like a deliberate choice rather than a lack of imagination–can you imagine Carol taking Jessica wedding dress shopping? It was probably a big coup convincing Jessica to style her hair and wear a veil. But that last page is a great example of using fashion and body language to convey a character’s individuality. Wolverine posing for the picture with booze in his hand!
Rebecca: In the end, as I said, this issue’s inoffensive but a bit forgettable. It’s a lot better than the other wedding from around this time period (I am not looking forward to Black Panther/Storm), but it’s a bit too wrapped up in other plotlines without a clear storyline of its own to go down as one of the great superhero weddings. Also, I know this was a team book but … Luke didn’t invite Danny Rand, godfather of his child, to his wedding? Did he know that awful show would happen?
Kayleigh: I was also surprised Danny Rand wasn’t there, but maybe someone in the comments can “Umm, actually” us and say that he was dead at the time or something–sorry, not much of an Iron Fist fan. But I liked most of this issue. It has three solid acts (cute superhero downtime, a kickass supervillain fight, an emotional denouement) that are all beautifully drawn by Olivier Coipel–even though, honestly, I couldn’t care less about YelenAdaptoid. I wish the wedding had been more of a focus, especially considering long Bendis has nurtured this romance, but the wedding feels absolutely true to Luke and Jessica. *Warily eyes the new Jessica Jones and Defenders comics* But don’t be too hard on them in the future, please Mr. Bendis?