Alias #24-28 (2003-2004): Purple; series ends

Michael Bendis ends this groundbreaking, game-changing series with it’s most harrowing arc and it’s most lasting, sweetest development.

Much has been written about this story, and it was very ably adapted into a TV series as well, so I won’t spend a ton of time on recaps.

It starts with Jessica being asked by Ka-Zar to find Zabu, who is apparently missing in the Arctic Circle. She turns down the job because she’s a New York detective not an explorer. It’s a funny misdirect, but ultimately is not part of the main story.

The story involves survivors of Purple Man asking Jessica to join with them–all of them have been raped by his “hypnosis” powers in the past, and they are seeking closure. We learn that Jessica, too, was a victim of Purple Man–and it seems to be why she retired her costumed identity as Jewel.

This is the story Bendis has been building towards for all of the prior two years on this comic. He’s shown Jessica to be a woman who casually and regretfully has sex, often drunk. She demeans and devalues herself and her body. She’s also close friends now with Carol Danvers, who experienced rape in a way that few (no?) other Marvel characters have.

Carol Danvers is the one who puts Jessica on a case to find and capture Purple Man–knowing Jessica’s history with him. Carol’s seemingly callous indifference to that history is a parallel to how The Avengers treated her when she was raped–which led her to quit the team, much like Jewel did.

The survivors want her to persuade Purple Man to confess to his crimes. He’s in prison now, at The Raft, but won’t admit to his crimes against them. So at bottom, Jessica Jones–a woman who lacks confidence and regularly drinks her memories away is being asked to persuade the man with persuasion powers to confess to horrible crimes that Jessica, herself, wants to forget.

After agreeing to help the survivors, Jessica gets wasted and visits Luke Cage. She wakes up in his apartment, after blacking out drunk.

Ashamed of herself, this is where Bendis gives us the backstory via flashbacks to her Jewel days, drawn by Mark Bagley.

As it turns out, those survivors who contacted Jessica are all involved. Purple Man forced her to watch as he raped them, one after the other. Like I said, this is harrowing.

It’s told as a comic within the comic, narrated by Jessica as she is telling her story to Luke, who responds by holding her and letting her feel her powerful feelings–the one thing Carol and the other Avengers would not do for her. So, we begin to understand why she and Luke Cage work as a couple when both of them couldn’t find people to truly love before now.

Purple Man doesn’t appear (except in flashback) until the very end of issue #26, where Jessica finally visits him in prison.

What follows is what Bendis does best: A meta conversation. Killgrave points out that Jessica’s narrative doesn’t make sense–how could she have been with The Avengers when nobody heard of her until recently? It’s smart, and it’s also Killgrave’s own attempt to confuse her–using his persuasive skills even in the power-dampening Raft Prison.

After her visit, he escapes–and Jessica and Killgrave have their confrontation at last. Purple Man manipulates Jessica’s on-again-off-again boyfriend Ant-Man, forces her to believe she actually had a threesome with Scott and Cage, then has her watch while he forces bystanders to murder each other.

At this point, we learn that Jean Grey knows Jessica, and has been helping her all along.

This is awesome. Women banding together to fight the most evil male aggressor in Marvel history.

And then she kicks his ass.

In the aftermath, she breaks up with Scott Lang and reveals that she is pregnant…With Luke’s child.

Remember how I started this post saying it was harrowing but also sweet? Here’s the sweet part…

This is one of the best comic book stories ever told.

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