Jessica Jones made her first appearance in Alias #1 in 2001, a comic written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Michael Gaydos. She is the owner/operator of her own struggling P.I. business called “Alias Investigations.” She’ll take any case she can, but her speciality is with cases involving super powers.
Why Super powers? Because she herself has super powers. When she was younger, her family was in an accident on their way to Disneyland. They were all killed, but she was just in a coma for a couple months. The accident invoved radioactive chemicals and they all somehow combined to give her the powers of super strength, flight and almost unbreakable skin. As such, she’s capable of understanding how the super-powered community thinks and she has some connections to the Avengers, though she herself is not one.
But who cares? She’s just some other random character on the outskirts of the main Marvel universe. Let’s just skip her and move on to Luke Cage or Iron Fist, right?
Because Jessica Jones is awesome, her story is dramatic and riveting and, believe it or not, she fits very well into the world they are setting up.
First of all, Bendis really had fun with this character by inserting her into Spider-Man’s origin story, writing Jessica Jones to have a big crush on Peter Parker at Midtown High. The day Parker was bit by the radioactive spider was the day Jessica was going to finally talk to him. She grew up with a crush on teenage heartthrob Johnny Storm. She was in a coma until Galactus attacked for the first time. Bendis did a wonderful job of creating a character that was always there — we just didn’t see her. Just because she was in the background didn’t mean she wasn’t special or destined for something bigger and better the whole time. In some ways, she’s like the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the Marvel universe.
But maybe her origin story isn’t quite enough. Let’s talk about her character.
Jessica Jones is one of the more unique characters in the Marvel Universe for one distinct reason — she’s over it. She has super powers, she’s seen what they can do, she’s seen wonders and horrors and miracles and things that would turn your hair white — and she’s over it. Not only over it, but sarcastically over it, hilariously over it, “makes fun of it every chance she gets” over it. She can lift a car over her head and throw it. Meh. She can fly across the city for a dinner date. Meh.
The fact of the matter is that she actually, more than any other hero, just really wants a normal life. She just wants to find love, settle down, have a baby, establish a profitable career, buy a house, travel, etc. She longs for normality knowing that she’ll never have it, knowing that because she has these powers, she’ll always have to use them for the good of the people around her. Where Peter Parker embraces “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” like the golden child of heroes, Jessica Jones does so with a sigh and an eye roll, knowing it’s the right thing to do, but longing for a straight shot of bourbon and a movie.
All in all, in a lot of ways, Jessica Jones exemplifies the modern American, willing to do what’s right, but selfishly wishing they could curl up under a blanket to marathon Battlestar. We live in a society where, as Louis C.K. points out, we beam signals to outer space to talk to each other on pocket computers more powerful than anything NASA had when they went to the moon, and yet we still bitch about how slow our wifi is.
But her character isn’t the best part. The story of how she became the way she is — that’s the best part. She used to be bubbly and excited, in love with her powers and eager to save the world. She was all bright eyes and smiles — then the Purple Man kidnapped her.
Purple Man. Zebediah Killgrave. He has the power to control your mind and make you do whatever he wants. But it’s far worse than simple mind control — it’s control over your will. He doesn’t just make you kill your best friend Ricky, he makes you WANT to kill your best friend Ricky, so much so, that you can’t help but do it. He is absolutely one of the basest, most disgusting, most disturbing villains in the Marvel universe and he has become synonymous with Jessica Jones’s story because of what he puts her through.
Mostly, he makes her his sex slave. He never makes her actually do any sex, but he makes her watch him, makes her want to be in the room when he does whatever he does, makes her do his bidding and keeps her under his control for so long, six months to be exact, that she almost gets Stockholm Syndrome. Finally, in a fit of rage, Killgrave sends Jessica Jones out to kill Daredevil, but she attacks the first hero she sees, Scarlet Witch, which gains the ire of her then husband, The Vision, who retaliates just as she starts to snap out of Purple Man’s enthrallment. Her only real friend, Carol Danvers steps in and saves her. She ends up comatose, in the hospital, helped by Jean Grey to form psychic barriers against Purple Man’s powers.
It’s after this, after doing what she did, witnessing the dark side of super powers, that she decides she just can’t do this anymore. Super powers are great, but they are also awful and terrifying.
She and Luke Cage end up falling in love and working together, getting married and having a baby named Danielle. This is another big reason to bring her into the Marvel universe — we get to see a loving relationship endure the pressures and strains of life as a superhero, which is something we haven’t seen yet, at least not in a gritty, real way.
All this, and we might get to finally see Squirrel Girl, who becomes the nanny for their baby!
Jessica Jones, the next Netflix series, will air sometime later this year. It stars Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones,
Mike Colter as Luke Cage and
David Tennant as Kilgrave.
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