Investigating Alias #28

Alias (2001-2003) 028-000Investigating Alias is a weekly issue by issue look at the source material that inspired the popular and critically acclaimed Jessica Jones Netflix show.

In this installment of Investigating Alias, I will be covering Alias #28(2004) written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Michael Gaydos, and colored by Matt Hollingsworth.

In Alias #28, writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist Michael Gaydos, and colorist Matt Hollingsworth wrap up the story of the superhero turned P.I. Jessica Jones as she faces Killgrave one last time and proves without a shadow of a doubt and in front of all the Avengers that she is a hero. She also reveals that she doesn’t like fighting (Even though she is good at it withe her superpowers and everything.), which is in line with her actions throughout the series as she tries to use her words and sleuthing skills to solve cases instead of just bludgeoning people into submission. Bendis also once and for all shows that Scott Lang is a slut shaming jerk (Not on Killgrave’s level though), and that Jessica Jones and Luke Cage were meant to be. Hollingsworth’s colors add some nice atmosphere to their tender romantic chat that closes out the series. And it’s fitting that this book ends on a conversation when some of the greatest battles in Alias weren’t punching brawls, but wars of words.

Alias #28 opens with Killgrave in Scott Lang’s bedroom gloating over him and taunting Jessica while still breaking the fourth wall and playing the critic calling her comic “mainstream with just a touch of indy”. In admittedly what is a cheap twist, Killgrave is actually using his mind control abilities on Jessica to make her see a dead Scott. Then, he manipulates Jessica even more by forcing her to see an image of her friend Carol Danvers snuggled up suggestively between Luke Cage and Scott. This is while he is slut shaming her, and then he walks out and makes her watch as he tells people to beat their neighbor to death. Then, a plot element from Alias #26 comes into play in that it’s revealed that Jean Grey left a psychic trigger for Jessica to overcome Killgrave’s mind control if she makes the choice.

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The Avengers fly into the street to apprehend Killgrave, and Killgrave tells Jessica to break Captain America’s back in a scene very similar to the flashback where he told her to kill all the superheroes to get at Daredevil. However, in what is basically the most epic moment of the series, she beats the crap out of him for entire page as the Avengers watch and admire her. She talks with Scott after the battle about how she feels and says that she is pregnant with someone else’s baby. He runs away. And Alias ends with Luke Cage telling Jessica how much he has begun to care for her after she opened up to him about Killgrave. She tells him that she is pregnant with his baby, and he takes it in stride saying, “Alright then. Next chapter.” Their relationship is further explored in The Pulse where Jessica Jones finally takes a job at the Daily Bugle for J. Jonah Jameson, who is a big fan of hers after she rescued his foster daughter, Mattie Franklin, who used to be Spider-Woman.

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After seeming a little jarring in Alias #27, the plot device of Killgrave having the ability to break the fourth wall is ingenious at showcasing his evil and powers in a unique way only comics can. His dialogue has a theatrical smarm to it, which means that getting an actor like David Tennant, who is renowned for addressing the audience directly in his soliloquies in Hamlet as well as his monologues in Doctor Who, was a clever bit of casting. Killgrave thinks he plays both author and critic about the world around him giving a short critical assessment of Alias as a comic, predicting future events, and then calling Jessica a “whore” over and over again and shaming her for enjoying sex. Unlike most superhero villains, he has no larger plan to take over the world or gain power just to do what it wants even if that involves rape or murder. Gaydos is the secret weapon here with Killgrave’s casual expression and toothy grin standing at odds with the killing going on around him. And because Jessica isn’t immune to his powers (unlike the TV show), overcoming him is a much tougher challenge.

Killgrave hogs most of the dialogue for the first third of Alias #28, but this comic is all about Jessica Jones’ triumphCapAdmiresJess over him, her PTSD, and making a conscious choice to not be a victim. That’s why the climax of the comic is five, almost silent, vertical panels of her beating Killgrave to a pulp. It is a truly cathartic reversal as she beats up the man, who told her to beat up other superheroes while the aforementioned superheroes watch and are impressed by her. Gaydos cuts away from Killgrave vs. Jessica for a single panel to show Captain America’s reaction as he realizes that his motivational words to her in the first arc where she protected his secret identity weren’t in vain, and that she is truly a great hero even if she hates violence, doesn’t , and isn’t interested in being some kind of a role model. Her beatdown of Killgrave isn’t just a typical end of arc superhero vs. supervillain slugfest, but a personal victory for her as she puts on a mantle of a job she doesn’t want (superhero) to take control of her narrative away from Killgrave, whose metafictional asides are getting a little annoying. And the hug she gets from Carol adds to the catharsis along with her tears as she looks as the incapacitated Killgrave. She has found a kind of peace for now.

After letting Jessica Jones triumph over her demons, Bendis and Gaydos provide the final word on her romantic relationship with Luke Cage and Scott Lang that have been brewing and burning throughout the series. First, Scott Lang is super cold, and his immediate leaving of Jessica after she says she’s pregnant with another man’s child make come across as deeply unkind for fans of Paul Rudd’s charming everyman in the Ant-Man film. But it definitely makes sense in light of his previous comments about her drinking on their first date, his prying into her past and even asking if she got raped, and finally shape changing into Ant-Man when she obviously wanted to be left alone. Even though he is ostensibly nice and heroic, Scott’s relationship with Jessica has been dictated on his terms, and he didn’t like the fact that Jessica slept with another man so he walks out not caring about her feelings in light of her confrontation of Killgrave.

Luke Cage’s relationship with Jessica Jones has been all over the place in Alias. It’s “frustrating” as he tells her in the closing pages of this issue going from passionate sex in Alias #1 to Jessica calling him out for being a “cape chaser” to awkwardness when they both were bodyguards for Matt Murdock and most recently, Jessica opens up to him about her past with Killgrave. This is something she didn’t do for Scott, and Luke listens to her experience and is physically present for her without prying or judging. This simply being there continues in Alias #28.

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Hollingsworth’s colors might be darker alluding to their first night meeting, but Gaydos’ layouts are closer together. There are also plenty of silent, beat panels from Gaydos like when Jessica tells him that she’s pregnant with his child. Instead of running away, Luke sheds a single tear and then smiles. He is ready to make some kind of a life and have some kind of relationship with Jessica Jones. Her face is pretty tensed up through this whole scene, but relaxes just a little bit at the end. And, in 2016, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are still a couple (Happily married since 2006’s New Avengers Annual) and appearing in Power Man and Iron Fist. The chemistry in this touching moment and the earlier one involving Jessica’s past can be definitely be seen in Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter’s interactions as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage even if he disappears and gets used as Killgrave bait towards the end of the season. Maybe, we’ll get closure in his show or Defenders.

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By the time we roll around to Alias #28, we have a real idea of what makes Jessica Jones tick thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, and Matt Hollingsworth. The “Secret Origin of Jessica Jones” and “Purple” arc are especially valuable for providing concrete evidence to why she mistrusts superheroes and their punch first, listen later tactics. There is also her paranoia present from the first arc that is born out of her fear of Killgrave escaping prison and manipulating her to try to kill superheroes or watch him rape young women. Her defeat of Killgrave in Alias #28 is well-earned as she makes a powerful choice to overcome her past, defeat him, and find some kind of closure.

And like all good comics creators, Bendis leaves a couple threads hanging for future developments in the arc of Jessica Jones. First, there is her pregnancy and closer relationship with the father of her baby, Luke Cage, and second, there is her pending job offer from the Daily Bugle, which gave her an honest and worthy headline when she defeated Killgrave. Both of these threads are explored in The Pulse, which places her more in the mainstream Marvel Universe than in the sexy, sleazy, and artistically bold MAX imprint.

Because Jessica Jones is such a compelling character with her unorthodox, yet relatable approach to heroism and has an excellent arc, I will be following her over to the Daily Bugle in The Pulse series in a new series of features of called “Feeling the Pulse”. Fuck yes! (Sadly, that favorite word of Jessica’s isn’t allowed in The Pulse.)

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I would also like to thank Kori and Emma at The Rainbow Hub for publishing the first installments of the series, Brett and Elana for helping me find a new home for Investigating Alias at Graphic Policy and letting me guest on their Jessica Jones podcast, and finally to Julia Michels for being the first Jessica Jones fan I met in real life, the best Jewel cosplayer ever, and for rekindling my love for Jess and Alias by taking a night bus to New York Comic Con from Washington DC just to see the Jessica Jones panel. (And snap a selfie with Krysten Ritter!)