ALIAS #16-21 (2003): The Underneath

Brian Michael Bendis actually makes Spider-Woman 3 (Mattie Franklin) compelling.

After stopping a bodega robbery, Jessica gets home and finds Mattie in her bathroom, messed up and strung out. Before Jessica can find out what she’s doing there, Mattie flees.

Scott Lang, who had his first date with Jessica last issue, uses the minor home invasion as an exucse to invite her to spend the night somewhere safe–at his house. Which she does because Jessica Jones sleeps with everyone in this comic. Jones doesn’t have a good experience and tells Scott to stop. Then several times throughout the arc he tries to understand her and talk with her and she gets ornery and abusive. But at the end of the arc, he tells her he loves her.

Jessica resolves to track her down, which becomes the driving force for this arc. We learn that Mattie is much more interesting than we had been led to believe in her earlier appearances. She lived with J. Jonah Jameson for a bit, for example.

Jessica goes to see Madame Web as a former associate of Mattie, but Web elicits a vision of Jessica’s past that makes it appear as if she is a rape survivor. This matters because the trail to Mattie leads to a drug-dealing rapist.

That’s Mattie on his lap. What drug are they all doing? Pieces of Mattie’s own super-powered flesh, cut out, dried and smoked. Apparently, it has an effect similar to crack cocaine.

Ewwwwwwww. Also: Very original.

Jones then finds herself under attack by Jessica Drew–the former, original Spider-Woman. Drew is also looking for Mattie. After they fight, they team up and crack the drug ring (no pun intended)–with the help of Speedball(!)

Along the way there are several rather elegant ties between this unusual and fairly self-contained story and the greater 616 universe and they match with the “Alias” theme of this series. There are references to her work bodyguarding Matt Murdock during his lawsuit against tabloids who outed his identity. She’s also asked to comment on Steve Rogers’ recent self-outing as the true identity of Captain America–because Jessica Jones investigated that very suspicion several issues ago. Not to mention the use of Jessica Drew, who she has returned to a career as a private investigator. Just like Jessica Jones. These ideas of identity and secrecy are ongoing themes in this wonderful series.

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