Or – “Remember What I Said Earlier About Marriage In Comics?”

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Luke Cage and Jessica Jones have been one of my favorite comic book couple for some time now, combining her neurotic brand of crazy with his tough-guy with street smarts attitude.  When the semi-controversial issue of Alias exposing their vaguely sordid sexual relationship first came out, I remember thinking that there were long-term possibilities in the coupling that people were missing.  Post-Civil-War, after marriage and a baby, Luke and Jessica have hit a rocky patch, and the question of whether either of them is who they claim to be really isn’t helping things.  Where the hell is Mephisto when you really need him?

NAC.jpgActually, I suppose the answer is right there in the question, isn’t it?

Previously, on New Avengers:  There was the loosing of all hell.  The Civil War went badly, Captain America died, Aunt May got shot, the team went underground, they nearly got killed in Japan, Elektra was a Skrull, they were in a horrible plane crash, Spider-Woman defected, they got the hell kicked out of them by The Hulk, The Hood attacked with a hundred idiots they’d already beaten thirty or forty times…   In the midst of all thie superhuman wreckage, I suppose it was only natural that some things might get away from them.  One of the events that might have fallen through the cracks was the defection of Jessica Jones to the Registration Side.  Tired of living in an essentially abandoned collapsing building, with no more Dr. Strange to cover their needs mystically, she took her newborn daughter to Stark Tower for safekeeping.  Now, Luke has come home to find his family gone…

As the issue opens, we see Jessica’s old ‘Alias Investigations’ offices, and it’s great to see Michael Gaydos drawing Jessica again.  Luke finds the building empty, and is confused until he steps out the door and sees Stark Tower (didn’t the Hulk rip it down?) in the distance.  We cut to Jessica, having breakfast in a literal Ivory tower, as her cell phone rings.  “Here we go,” says Jessie.  “Are you @$#&ing kidding me?” says Luke.  As every married man knows, those two phrases mean ‘Fight’s On.’  Jessica takes the passive-agressive type, gently replying “The baby’s okay.”  Luke’s anger burns higher and higher, as Ms. Jones explains that, for the sake of their kid, she flipped.  He angrily asks her why she ran straight to the man he’s been opposing for the last however long it has been (knowing Marvel time, about half an hour) and she starts to lose her cool.  “Wasn’t your call, Jessica,” Luke chides, and she icily cuts back with “Actually, it WAS…  WE HAVE NO HOME!  THE WAR’S OVER!  YOU LOST!  LOSE LIKE A MAN!  PUT YOUR KID FIRST!”  All she hears in response is the sound of a phone handset exploding in Luke’s furious grasp.

I marvel at how realistic this fight is, as Luke stalks the several blocks to the Tower, and Jessica meets him in the street.  She warns him not to walk in, for fear of being arrested (like they can’t arrest him in the street) and the fight continues.  Luke wants his daughter, and Jessica reminds him that HIS actions endangered the whole family, and offers to let him see first hand what happens if an army of supervillains crashes through the door (as happened to them at Dr. Strange’s home in the New Avengers Annual.)  Luke makes the point that Tony Stark is probably a Skrull, and Jessica says no.  In so doing, she pretty clearly exhibits to me that SHE is the same Jessica Jones I know and love from “Alias” and “The Pulse.”  “If the little green men ARE coming to get us, THIS is the place I’d like to be!” 

Luke gets straight to the point, and baldly stated what he feels is obvious.  “So, we’re done.”  She argues that they’re not, and he tells her that if this is what’s happening, they ARE done.  As the fight continues (and it’s really awkward to watch, reminding me of an old college friend and his wife when I foolishly lived with them years ago) as the Mighty Avengers return from some mission or other.  Luke threatens to get a lawyer, and Jessica reminds him that “homeless fugitive from justice” probably won’t cut much ice with the judges.  As they try to work it out, Carol “Ms Buttinsky 2008” Danvers arrives, and intervenes.  She tells Luke to go home, reminding him that the only reason he’s not in jail is because of her, and subtly threatens him as her pseudo-boyfriend Wonder Man shows up, then the entire team.  Staring down the barrel of the over-powered (yet somehow lacking in personality) first team, Luke Cage calls them out.  “Any of you Skrull shape-shifting #$&@s touch Jessica or my baby, I’m going to kill you and everyone you ever met!”  And I believe him.  Luke walks away, after sowing the seeds that Jessica Drew and Iron Man are keeping secrets from them, and the questions immediately start flying.

Meanwhile, uptown Danny (Iron Fist) Rand leads his remaining Avengers (Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ronin, and Echo) to their new headquarters, formerly an entire office block floor rented to The Leader.  “Avengers Apartment,” quips Spidey.  “Doesn’t have much of a ring to it…”  Heh.  Luke enters, silently, and walks into his empty room, and the issue ends with Jessica and Luke contemplating what this means, as (a clearly brown-eyed) baby Cage coos cutely.  It’s a heart-rending moment, especially when I consider how horribly mean Bendis is to his characters…  Even so, it’s the best issue of New Avengers in a long while.  What lacks in superhero action, is more than made up in skillful drama and in-character dialogue.  To have a family so obviously torn asunder by the upcoming Skrullapalooza (because Secret Invasion has no FLAIR) gives us a look at the personal price these sort of conflicts would entail.  With the dreary “Hood as the new Kingpin” plot out of the way, we finally have a chance to actually show the Avengers ACTING, instead of constantly reacting.  And as much as I feel like a lone crazy man howling on a streetcorner wearing a Statue of Liberty crown, Gaydos art is so incredibly welcome after months of the sketchy, poorly composed, red-eyed rendering of superstar Leinil Yu.  THIS, my friends, is how you draw “gritty, street-level drama” without compromising the storytelling or clarity.  Combine that with Bendis’ clear understanding of Luke Cage and his Mary Sue, Jessica, and you have a 4.5 out of 5 star outing.  Nice stuff, and like the Captain Marvel tie-in before it, adds depth to the mystery of “Whom Can You Trust?”  (Marvel’s not strong on the grammar…)

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. Brother129
    February 20, 2008 at 9:19 pm — Reply

    I was really feeling this issue. But as one who has rooted for Luke and Jessica (sounds like General Hospital doesn’t it?) this was a bit gutwrenching because it was so real. I’m still wondering what the Skrull twist is here with Jess and the babie. I’ve been re-reading Alias and Pulse issues and I’m finding myself with new questions…..

  2. February 20, 2008 at 10:24 pm — Reply

    Brother129: A Luke and Laura General Hospital reference? Dude – you are old… :D

  3. February 20, 2008 at 10:44 pm — Reply

    This was a stellar issue by all means, I know I’ve been a vocal opponent of Yu’s since the start but like you said Matt … Gaydos art gives more breath to these characters. Luke Cage has been on the verge of becoming a leader for some time, and its curious to see whether this will (understandably) push him over the edge or will he chalk this up as part of the conspiracy and dig deeper?

  4. shamon
    February 21, 2008 at 12:08 am — Reply

    i did not know you were back up look the site and great reviews

  5. Sanlear
    February 21, 2008 at 7:03 am — Reply

    “And as much as I feel like a lone crazy man howling on a streetcorner wearing a Statue of Liberty crown, Gaydos art is so incredibly welcome after months of the sketchy, poorly composed, red-eyed rendering of superstar Leinil Yu.”

    You’re not alone. I haven’t read the issue yet, but the previews I’ve seen look far superior in the art department to me.

  6. February 21, 2008 at 12:44 pm — Reply

    “And as much as I feel like a lone crazy man howling on a streetcorner wearing a Statue of Liberty crown”

    …. I’ve seen 8 such dressed people in Chicago’s suburbs as of late. Your starting a cult.. aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?!

    (…ok I was serious on seeing 8 people dressed like that lately.. ‘cept the full outfit not just the crown..) ;)

  7. February 21, 2008 at 3:54 pm — Reply

    “And as much as I feel like a lone crazy man howling on a streetcorner wearing a Statue of Liberty crown …”

    Hang on. You mean to tell me you’re one of those people that’ve been standing around town advertising some low-rent version of H&R Block that’ve been curiously set-up inside One-Hour Photo and Auto Detailing shops all over town … ?

  8. Brother129
    February 21, 2008 at 9:19 pm — Reply

    “A Luke and Laura General Hospital reference? Dude – you are old… :D”
    Takes one to know one :)

  9. Jim
    February 22, 2008 at 12:08 am — Reply

    I liked this issue as it played to Bendis’ strength and was devoid of scratchy, Sharpie style art, but I wasn’t as keen on it as Matthew. It felt a little one-note to me. The Cage/Jones grudge match was good but it just kept going. Seems like it could’ve been a bit shorter. And the B-story with “Avengers Apartment” seemed like filler. What’s the point of Echo? She’s had, like, zero character development since the return from Japan.

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