I’ll be honest: before reading JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER, I didn’t know anything about the character. I’d never seen her show or read one of her solo series. Since she’s a semi-prominent character in Marvel comics, I knew a little bit about her background but compared to my knowledge of most Earth-616 characters she was a foreign entity.
I decided to read JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER because of Emma Frost. I’m a huge fan of the Ice Queen and, in the last five months, she’s been notably absent from any and every X-Men series. When I saw on social media that the newly appointed “Black King” pops up in this series, I pulled up the Jessica Jones Wikipedia page and bought the first and second issue.
Although I started reading the series for Emma, I couldn’t stop reading it because of Jessica. Don’t get me wrong: Emma Frost is pure perfection in JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER. It’s worth a read just for her. But the real star of the story is Jessica and, in a strange way, Purple Man.
Kelly Thompson tells a haunting story that reminds readers why Jessica Jones will never stop running. The unending horrors (and highs) of hero life manifest like never before in a Marvel comic. Thompson makes it clear that it isn’t the huge, world-ending events that push heroes over the edge: it’s the smallest change of color.
A Jessica Jones Primer
As it turns out, I really didn’t need Wikipedia to understand the complex ins and outs of JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER. Kelly Thompson knows Jessica better than most writers in the comics business (check out her first Jessica Jones series JESSICA JONES: BLINDSPOT if you don’t believe me). That might lead you to think that Thompson’s series wouldn’t be the best fit for novice readers. Fortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
There’s really only a few things you need to know about Jessica before reading the series. Firstly, and most importantly, the elusive Purple Man used to haunt Jessica, using his mind control powers to enslave her. She escaped his clutches, but he’s still an ever-present villain in most of her storylines. Secondly, Jessica is married to fellow New York crimefighter Luke Cage, and they have a daughter together, Danielle. Everything else you need, Thompson makes clear enough throughout the story. If only all comics could be that comprehensive…
Finding Certainty in Uncertainty
Jessica wakes up one day to find her daughter’s skin a saturated shade of purple. She knows, immediately, who is ultimately behind the change, but she’s unsure how Purple Man is orchestrating this since he’s supposed to be dead and gone. Jessica rationalizes two possibilities: either Purple Man is still out there or she conceived Danielle while still under Purple Man’s sexually abusive mind control. Both scenarios carry their own horrors, none of which are what Jessica is expecting.
Partly what makes this series so appealing is how it effortlessly deviates from the typical hero-saves-the-day equation. Yes, she saves the day, but did the day really need saving in the first place? The entire series, Jessica is fighting for her daughter, and yet, in the end, we find out Danielle was never truly in danger. Purple Man turned Danielle purple because he needed Jessica’s help and knew that would get her attention.
This bolsters the argument that Jessica can never truly feel comfortable in her assumptions. Danielle’s purple skin did seem harmless (as in, it wasn’t hurting the toddler) but Jessica, obviously, immediately assumed the worst. She also believed that Purple Man was dead, which similarly turned out to be untrue.
The perfectly placed 1950’s interlude, where Jessica and Luke are Benjamin’s pseudo-parents, pushes this concept even further, testing Jessica’s ability to tell the difference between physical realities. She breaks free of Benjamin’s psychic prison, but at the cost of a piece of her sanity. Nothing lacks the need for suspicion — from her husband and child to the very tangible world around her. Jessica has to doubt everything.
A Hero’s Life?
All of that sounds pretty terrible and, in many ways, it is. Jessica can’t live life without second-guessing everything. As normal people, we can imagine how miserable that sort of existence would be. However, I think Thompson is trying to show how, by fully accepting and understanding the nature of her own life, Jessica can master that sense of uncertainty. By always expecting the unexpected, Jessica can be prepared for everything. Purple Man and his son Benjamin put Jessica through hell, but in doing so, they crafted their own demise.
The awful shock that gives this series its namesake won’t be much of a surprise for Jessica next time around. She’ll be ready for it and for Purple Man. In a strange way, Thompson’s story is almost like a manual for heroes who want to find some semblance of inner peace in a world that’s constantly throwing them unpredictable hurdles.
The Black King Cometh
Like I said earlier, Emma (via Tumblr) brought me to this series in the first place. Although I know there are a lot of Jessica Jones fans out there, I imagine the Black King’s uncharacteristic appearance has something to do with the immense hype the series has garnered. For some reason, people on social media love Emma, and they’re willing to post about her all day long.
In this case, all those posts were perfectly warranted because Thompson and Iulis delivered the Emma Frost every fan wants and deserves. She’s not the focus of any single issue, but she somehow manages to make herself an essential aspect of the comic. She adds so much to JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER: a hint of humor, a dash of incredible loyalty, and a mutant presence outside of an X-Men comic. Her character, and Captain Marvel to a lesser extent, prove to Jessica that, although she prefers to work alone, she doesn’t always have to. When she needs help, there are other heroes (or kings) out there, willing to lend a hand.
The fact that Emma’s female (and all of Jessica’s fellow Defenders are male) also serves to heighten the significance of their borderline friendship. Jessica can never have normalcy, but she can have relationships with other, relatable female superheroes who also live in that realm of uncertainty. Having those kinds of friendships can help Jessica begin to understand how to live life without her hands on the wheel.
An Artistic Masterpiece
You can’t really talk about JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER without talking about the art and, more specifically, the artist. Mattia De Iulis pulls out what might be his best work for this series. Realistic, yet distinctive, Iulis has a style that naturally lends itself to darker comics (like JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER).
An artist with heavily stylized linework just wouldn’t have given the series the same weight and sense of reality. Part of the reason why we feel like Jessica’s life really is falling apart is because she has a relatable face. Iulis’ work is so realistic that it almost feels like readers are peaking into Jessica’s non-fictitious story. As emotions run high for Jessica, emotions run high for readers as well.
The second artist, Filipe Andrade, penciled the fake reality scene, where Jessica briefly thinks she’s an idyllic little housewife. Iulis’ realistic style definitely wouldn’t have worked for this portion of the story. Andrade’s heavily stylized linework perfectly emphasizes the distance Jessica has from reality at this point in the plot.
JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER Should Be On Your List
This series flew under a lot of comic fans’ radar. Since it’s an online-only series, it didn’t get publicity from LCBS or an array of variant covers. It’s not nearly as flashy as most of Marvel’s recent publications but, quality wise, it’s better. From the storyline to the art, this series excels in almost every way. If you’ve never read Jessica Jones, JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER is for you…and, honestly, if you’ve read tons of Jessica Jones’ arcs, JESSICA JONES: PURPLE DAUGHTER is still for you. It’s what so few comics are nowadays: complex, entertaining, and visually stunning. Don’t miss out on it.