* (one of five stars)
Jackpot isn't Mary Jane. That's about all you need to know.
I wasn't really going to do a full review of the annuals, but I guess I am, at least for this one, if only because it's so bizarre. I mean, the issue itself isn't bizarre. It's a pretty average story, actually. I feel bad for giving it a one, because Guggenheim does his best here to craft a decent story. But, for all the reasons stated below, the way the reveal of Jackpot's identity is handled is so bad that I just didn't feel like I had any other choice.
So, we're told right off the bat, essentially, that Jackpot isn't Mary Jane, when the first page of the issue says, "Who is the mysterious super-heroine known as Jackpot?! (hint: she's not who you think she is!)" Way to ruin the reveal. Jackpot's identity and the strong hint that she was Mary Jane have been a long-running sub-plot since the start of "Brand New Day." It's weird that the editors just blurt out the fact that she isn't, in fact, Mary Jane. It's a basic rule of good writing: show not tell. They didn't show us; they just told us.
1) OK, so, I bought this issue when I found out somewhere that the Jackpot reveal was shunted to the annual. I'm putting it in the right chronological order in terms of these reviews, but I wound up reading it about 50 issues or so after it appeared. It's just bizarre to me that the editors decided to tell the story of one of the hallmark "Brand New Day" characters in the annual. I mean, I get that the annual is still part of continuity, but, at the end of the day, it's still removed from the series itself. It really seems weird to me that the Spidey Brain Trust decided to reveal Jackpot's identity here.
2) Equally bizarre as the decision to reveal Jackpot's identity in the annual was the way the reveal itself was handled. First, we never really see Alana outside her Jackpot identity. She's never unmasked, even after she dies. Second, we're never really given a motive for her wanting to be Jackpot. We're just told that all she ever wanted was to be a hero. Um, why? I mean, a lot of people want to be heroes. But, you've got to have a pretty compelling reason to pump yourself full of drugs and buy a secret identity. Third, we're never told how exactly Alana "bought" Sara Ehret's identity. I mean, how did she know Sara Ehret didn't want to be a superhero after she received the training? It's not enough that her identity was just public knowledge; Alana had to know she had changed her mind. Were they friends? Finally, let's address the whole dying thing: she just dies. I mean, that's it, she just dies. Given the number of drugs she was taking, it certainly makes sense. But, given the number of questions I outline here, you'd think the writers would've had enough material to keep her for a few more issues. Instead, BLAM-O, dead. Again, weird.