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Alias #26

Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2003
By: Shawn Hill



"Purple Part 3"

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Gaydos; Bagley/Thibert; Rick Mays

Publisher: Marvel MAX

Plot:
Jessica finishes telling her sad story to Luke Cage, but surprisingly the story isn't over. She still has her charge to the people that requested her help to fulfill; she has to talk to the Purple Man.

Comments:
The art is amazing this issue. Bendis continues his concept of using Bagley for the old four-color Jewel, and Gaydos for the modern dharma bum Jessica. But the script pushes Gaydos further than expected into the super-hero realm, and a very unexpected (but totally reasonable) special guest-star warrants a third sequence by Rick Mays. The art for this section isn't that different a style from Bagley's; not sure why Mays was needed. Both other artists are adept with dream sequences, which is what this amounts to.

The two-page bleed of Jessica confronting the Avengers of that era is as hilarious, in its way, as Gaydos' not too sympathetic look at Ka-Zar from a few issues ago. His attention to detail clearly sets the flashback sometime before Avengers 200. Gaydos offers up a very severe (but majestic) old school Vision, and the fashion-conscious Wasp and Wonder Man sporting the Perez-designed costumes of that era (pretty cool, since they changed almost month by month back then). And standing right there with Beast and Ms. Marvel, is Ultron's ersatz Frankenstein bride Jocasta, putting this story somewhere near the time of the Korvac Saga. Did Busiek sneak in and script this page?

The story is a great one, psychologically complex and subtle. There's little action this month, nothing but aftermath. But each word has great emotional weight. As Jessica says to Luke, she hasn't actually put this whole story into words before, despite the time that has passed. It's the horror show that has weighed on her as a burden since the series began, wounds that have never healed. Jessica is, in a way, confronting her arch-nemesis, and Bendis is savoring of minute of his version of such a "battle." IE, it's not really a battle at all, but instead a crushing defeat followed by a prolonged period of mourning and slow, hard-won recovery.

His mastery of characterization is evident even without the usual pages of talking head panels. He perfectly captures the simple competence of an expert consultant in psychic pain, one who explores Jessica's "astral plane" gently in order to bring her back to waking. Bendis deals with the fallout from Jewel's unwarranted attack on the Avengers as super-heroes would, using the characters' powers and lifestyles to determine their actions and viewpoints.

The offer of reparation the Avengers make to Jessica is laughable if you know her as we do by now; and new facets of her relationships to Ms. Marvel and a certain agent of SHIELD are pleasures to read.

All this, and the Purple Man face-off is still delayed till next issue. I'm getting a very Clarice/Hannibal feeling about this, not to mention Kira Nirees from DS9's "Duet." Ol' Purple is safely locked away; but he can still talk, and words have always been a weapon to Bendis.



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