The Big Goodbye: Jessica Jones #18

jessica jones

Jessica Jones #18

Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Michael Gaydos (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer)
Marvel Comics
28 March 2018

March 2018 marked the last ever (but this is comics, so “last ever”) Brian Michael Bendis-written issue of Jessica Jones. “The Big Goodbye” is issue #18 in this newest run that reunited the original author with David Mack as main cover artist, Michael Gaydos on interior pencils, and Matt Hollingsworth on colors.

jessica jones

Jessica has always been a complicated character. First created under the Max Marvel Comics imprint, as a former superhero turned private investigator, Jessica was brought into the greater Marvel Comics pantheon in The Pulse and in subsequent comics as Jewel, Knightress, Jessica, and (my least favorite) “Mrs. Luke Cage,” depending on what a particular issue required of her. Of the comics I’ve spotted her in, few comic authors truly capture the heart of Jessica Jones, which was why I decided to follow Bendis’ return to her story.

My personal relationship with Jessica began in 2008. Iron Man had just come out and I had a free summer between high school and college to explore the behemoth that was Marvel Comics via the library. While I wasn’t reading American comic books when the floppies were first published between 2001 and 2004, my library still had the Alias graphic novels and a friend’s stepdad had recommended Bendis’ work. It was the first Big Two series I ever finished and as an eighteen-year-old interested in comics but with no place to start, Jessica’s story was perfect. She was an adult woman, who felt like an outsider in a world where she should have been an insider, and was depicted like a real person. It showed me that American comics did not have to center men and that women did not have to be the glossy apple-bottomed, and stacked, personas I was accustomed to. Jessica was dark, relatable, powerful, and ugly in personality, action, and occasionally appearance. While ugly might not be the right word, Gaydos’ depiction of her in these series had, and has, range—plain, normal, pretty, ugly—that gives her character a sense of groundedness that few women comics characters are allowed to have, conveying reality without necessarily going for realism.

Fast forward to 2017-2018, where we return with the same creative team but in a new era for Marvel Comics. While overall this revived run was not completely satisfying, as I’m now twenty-seven and can see the holes in Bendis’ work, the arc of the series’ final issue gave me peace and peace of mind. There’s no cliffhanger ending, there’s no epic battle, there’s nothing that screams superhero bullshit, and it reminded me that those were the moments I always loved about Jessica.

Gaydos’ repeated Layout. Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 (top), 2 (second from top), 4 (second from bottom); Alias Vol. 3 (middle); and Jessica Jones #18 (bottom)

In many ways, this comes down to a particular layout that Gaydos repeats in Alias and Jessica Jones: a small image of Jessica listening, contrasted with a larger image below of another character talking. It’s not in every issue, it’s not for every client, but it’s used in this last issue and is what makes this series important. While she does punch her way into and out of trouble, conversation and dialogue are what sets her and her stories apart. Bendis’ thick prose combined with the Gaydos’ and Hollingsworth’s slight differences between panels takes the often choppy and frenetic lives that superheroes live and slows it all down. It reminds us of the daily lives, the seconds and minutes, that every Marvel comics character lives but that we rarely see.

I’m glad to have had Bendis, Mack, Gaydos, and Hollingsworth return to Jessica’s story after her rise into the pop culture stratosphere, as this run gave a new audience a taste of the lovable ugly trash fire that Jessica was before Netflix. But I’m also glad to see them go. I hope to see a new creative team that includes more women and stories that do more than re-explore Jessica’s trauma, which to my chagrin almost a third of this Bendis series focused on. I want to see her solve cases that explore the struggles of living in a world with the Avengers, but I also want to see her negotiate the complexity that is raising a biracial child as a working mom. I want to see her grow old, watch her relationships evolve, and get to know Jessica in a world where her traumatic past can take a backseat to the future and the life she wants to lead. This final-final (but once again, comics, so “final-final”) issue completes Bendis and Gaydos’ cycle in a satisfying way and leaves Jessica’s story open for a new team to take her into the future.

Paulina Przystupa

Paulina Przystupa

Paulina (aka @punuckish) is a Filipine-Polish archaeologist and anthropology graduate student who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and loves comics and pop culture. Her academic work focuses on how buildings and landscapes aid or impede the learning of culture by children. In general, she is an over-educated fan of things; primarily comics, comics-related properties, cartoons, science-fiction, and fantasy. This means she takes what she knows and uses it to critique what she loves. Recently, she has brought such discussions to the public by organizing and moderating panels at comic cons centered on anthropology/culture related topics.