JESSICA JONES #16 by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, and VC's Clayton Cowles
There's not much going on in JESSICA JONES #16 other than a simple conversation. But what a conversation it is! It ends in one of the most interesting and surprising twists in recent memory. It's loaded, it's riveting, and it's thought-provoking.
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Delightful Twists

Once in a while, a comic totally surprises you. Avid comic readers don’t often get this delight. The stories we love tend to follow patterns. Characters who die don’t even stay dead for long. But JESSICA JONES #16 does something truly unexpected.

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Simplicity is Best

To be completely real, not much happens in JESSICA JONES #16. Killgrave uses Captain Marvel to make Jessica listen to him. He compels a bunch of innocent people to violently fight each other and forces an outspoken woman never to talk again to twist the knife. Then Jessica and her abuser have a long conversation.

Most of this comic takes place in one room, with two people, simply talking. It just goes to show that excellent writing and brilliant artwork can set the stage for wonderful storytelling.

Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This book always looks great. Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, and Clayton Cowles have an expert way of making JESSICA JONES look truly noir and unlike any other book on the market. Gaydos’ skill with facial expressions is still impressive to me. But it’s the hint of purples and cool colors on top of a dark frame that sets the tone. The fact that so much can be conveyed with the incorporation of one color is a true testament to Hollingsworth’s work in particular.

Characters at the Brink

What we’re dealing with in this book is high stakes for two incredibly powerful characters. We know what Jessica is dealing with when she sees Killgrave. This is the person who made her life a living hell and affects her every single day. She has spent a lot of time moving forward and healing from what he did to her.

And Jessica truly believes that she will die as a result of this conversation. She expects a fight, and she expects to lose. Jessica even says a goodbye to her husband and her daughter. She accepts defeat a couple of times. We truly get a picture of someone in utter peril, but someone who is facing it with admirable bravery.

Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

But JESSICA JONES #16 sets itself apart when it reveals that Killgrave is in peril, too. He’s been having a serious crisis, realizing he doesn’t fit in anywhere. He even thinks he may be a god! (Jessica sets him straight, though, because there has to be some justice left in this world.)

It’s always fun when villains have existential crises. It makes them more human, more sympathetic, and occasionally more likable. That’s kind of a stretch for an abuser like Killgrave, but it still makes for a captivating story.

It would be totally acceptable for writer Brian Michael Bendis to leave it there. Killgrave is having a moment. That’s interesting, right? Nah, not good enough for Bendis. His time with the book is winding down (#18 will reportedly be his last), and he’s going out with a bang.

The Twist in JESSICA JONES #16

Jessica tells Killgrave that he could have done amazing things with his powers. He could have stopped murderers and rapists and the like, but instead, he became that himself. To that, Killgrave simply says, “touché.”

Yes, the damn Purple Man agrees that he’s a jerk and wants to fix it. He wants to start improving the world.

Cool, Bendis is done now, right? NOPE.

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Let’s take it up another notch and have him ask Jessica for help. That’s a pretty intense thing for a survivor to have to respond to. Jessica’s abuser just asked her for help. He wants to do a good thing, but he’s still her abuser. He’s threatened her child for crying out loud. But she also knows he could do some wonderful things with that power.

And then Bendis steps it up one more time by having Killgrave say something no one would’ve guessed he’d say: “I will do whatever you say.”

It’s the literal definition of irony, and it is so amazing. But whether it’s genuine or not remains to be seen. I think the bravest thing Bendis can do is give Killgrave an actual, real identity crisis. However, Killgrave is a shifty bastard, so this could all just be a ploy. As much as I want this to be genuine because it would be fascinating, something is telling me Killgrave is simply being Killgrave.

Could This Even Possibly Work Out?

Absolutely not.

My prediction is that Killgrave will do some good stuff for a while, but maybe take it too far. He’ll start hurting criminals, which may be cool for a second, but Jessica will probably realize that they are still people. People need to have free will. That’s what makes us people.

Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Yes, there’s a criminal justice system (albeit, one that is sometimes extremely unfair) which punishes people for doing awful things. But you’re allowed to choose how you behave inside that system. Removing someone’s ability to choose, no matter how bad the behavior you’re eliminating is, is still an ethical nightmare.

This will probably play a part in Killgrave’s reverting to his horrid self. But my goodness is it going to be fun to watch anyway! Because let’s be real, the dude isn’t going to be a good guy.  But then again, Bendis has surprised me before.

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