When Marvel first announced their Defenders line-up, Marvel fans were thrilled to hear of Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist each receiving their own Netflix series. The big question on everyone’s mind, myself included, was who the heck is Jessica Jones? That’s a question that many Marvel fans will be asked in the coming days as we approach Jessica Jones and her own series. Over the last month or so, I’ve been reading Jessica Jones’ solo series, Alias and The Pulse.
First off, fair warning. Just as a little background into any character may make spoilers for the show, Jessica Jones is not an exception. In fact, because she has very little published by herself, it’s more likely that the stories we see in comics and discuss here will make their way into the show. So fair spoiler alert.
Also, I would highly recommend NOT reading this article, but rather going out and buying Alias Omnibus and The Pulse Complete Collection. They’re good reads and this is one of the few times that it is remarkably easy to read most of a characters’ comic history before they debut on screen. Still, that’s about forty issues total and about a hundred dollars to drop, so if that’s not your thing, read on in this article. I write articles like this so you won’t have to read all the comics, so let’s begin.
The Origin of Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones is the brainchild of Brian Michael Bendis, one of the premiere writers in Marvel today. Bendis’ touch has been on numerous popular works, such as the New Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, and even Avengers Disassembled.
In the early 2000’s, Marvel was thinking about creating their own brand of R-rated comics. While not to be confused with comic porn, these stories did take sexual content into a more mature realm, as well as replacing all the “$#!%” in comics with the actual words… and probably increasing their uses as well. This new brand of comics would be called Marvel Max. Many characters, such as the Punisher or Deadpool, were featured heavily in Marvel Max due to their more violent nature. Jessica Jones was one of the first stories of Marvel Max, and some say one of the reasons they did it in the first place.
Alias #1-#22: The World of Superheroes
Our first appearance of Jessica Jones is that of a ticked off private investigator. Often hired by wives to catch their husbands cheating, Jessica occasionally gets more interesting cases. Occasionally, she runs into conflict with characters such as J. Jonah Jameson. Many times her cases will run interact with superheroes in some way (her first case led her to the accidental discovery of Captain America’s secret identity).
Jessica Jones used to be a hero, however. It’s revealed early on that Jessica was a hero named Jewel for a little while. She wore purple hair and a big grin most of the time. Her appearance in the flashbacks to her superhero days is often satirical of the stereotype of women heroes, with a tight costume on a well-endowed body, but her actual story runs contrary to this stereotype, some would say attacking this stereotype. She even has superhero contacts, having met the Avengers, dated an Agent of SHIELD, spends a night with Luke Cage, and beginning a dating relationship with Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man.
Alias is, when you get down to it, the view of a world with superheroes. We see how heroes are treated in media, in news, in common conversation. Most people only know the big names and never even heard of “Jewel”. People lose track of how many Spider-women there were. When admitted to a hospital, it’s asked of the patients if they are mutants. It isn’t a big deal to have powers of some sort. Alias paints a beautifully real world of Marvel’s heroes and what it would be like to live within it.
Alias #22-#28: The Secret Life of Jessica Jones
In the last story arc of Alias, things get pretty dark pretty quick. Jessica is hired to confront the Purple Man. While early in her stories, we heard veiled references to her past, we didn’t really know what horrible thing happened to cause her to quit her superhero life. Here, we learn it.
Once again, possible spoiler alert, but also fair content warning. This is where Marvel Max used its extended boundaries. I was disturbed when I read the issues.
During her hero life, one day she answered a call for help from a diner. Once inside, she found herself in the control of Purple Man, a man who has mind control abilities of those around him. He used her to protect him from police, but also exact his vengeance on heroes at large. Although he never slept with her, he made her want it. He would torture her by commanding her to want to have sex with him while she was made to watch him have sex with other young women. He commanded her to beg him to have sex with him, to the point of tears on numerous occasions. Jessica lived this way for eight months, under his control, breaking down her psyche by making her into a desperate, yet unfulfilled slut, all for Purple Man’s vengeance on the superhero world.
One day, during a fit of rage, Purple Man commands her to go kill all the heroes at the Avengers Mansion. She goes to the mansion and attacks the Avengers. As soon as she strikes, however, she finally shakes free of his control (being out of range), and flees. The Avengers, having just been attacked, chase her and put her in the hospital. While under SHIELD’s care, she is offered a position within both SHIELD and the Avengers, which she declines.
When hired to confront Purple Man again (through a screen, therefore safely), she breaks down and tells all of this to Luke Cage, while drunk and in tears on his couch. He offers kindness to her.
Purple Man breaks out of prison shortly thereafter and returns to Jessica, putting her once more under his control. She is able to fight it this time, and punches Purple Man out.
Alias ends with Jessica Jones telling Luke Cage that during the one-night stand in Issue 1, she got pregnant. The child is his. They agree to begin a relationship.
Alias: What If?
There was also a what-if issue of Alias, indicating what would have happened if she had taken the position within SHIELD and the Avengers. In short, due to her distance from the Avengers, she would have been able to notice the Scarlet Witch’s downfall early, prevent the dissolving of the Avengers, and therefore probably the Civil War. It provides a nice weight to the character, as her choices evidently did make a difference in the Marvel Universe.
The Pulse: R goes PG-13
Due to the success of Jessica Jones in Alias, her character was brought over to the normal PG-13 level of Marvel comics in a new series: The Pulse.
Jessica takes on a position with the Daily Bugle working as a super-powered advisor in a new super-hero centered column in the Bugle. Through two major story arcs, Jessica is partially responsible for uncovering the identity of Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin to the world, which puts him in bars finally after 40 years of comics and him always slipping away. She also lives through the events of Nick Fury’s Secret War, in which SHIELD rejects Fury and the superhero culture of Marvel has a brief crisis. Think of it roughly the same as the downfall of SHIELD in the MCU, with similar implications.
The story was shared evenly by Ben Urich, who was the writer of the column. The dynamic between Urich and Jones was wonderful and it’s unfortunately that we will not be seeing it in the MCU.
The series ends with Jessica giving birth to her child and accepting Luke Cage’s proposal for marriage. The actual wedding is recorded in the New Avengers Annual 1, because Luke Cage was a member of the New Avengers at the time.
It’s important to note that Jessica’s story has very little to do with her actual abilities. Whereas many of the heroes in the MCU deal heavily with their own abilities, especially Daredevil and Hulk, Jessica’s abilities are basically inconsequential to her story. She very seldom uses them. She is a post-hero, trying not to be a hero anymore.
That being said, yes, she does have powers. When she was a child, she was in a car accident involving radioactive materials. This accident put her in a coma and killed her family, making her an orphan. The accident is almost a parody on every origin story, brushed past by the writer.
Her powers include super-strength and some flight. As Jessica puts it, she can take off, but not really land very well.
After the Pulse ended, due in large to the Civil War and its implications on the Universe, Jessica Jones was featured in many New Avengers comics, becoming a regular in those stories.
In many ways, Jessica Jones represents the character that the rest of the heroes failed. Her story is a tragic one, but also enlightening. Whereas most comics finish with the happy ending, Jessica Jones shows the cost of happy endings and what happens when the heroes don’t exactly win. Her stories embody a real look at the world of heroes in a far more human way than other comics. Her story is not told from the view of the hero flying through the sky, but rather through the eyes of the citizen in the cafe below.
So what will this look like through the rest of the MCU? Well, this article alone is about three times as long as I try to keep most articles of mine, so I sign off of this one. In the next few days, be on the look out for “Jessica Jones – Comic Story Adapted”, where I will look at the different approaches this comic background may take in the MCU. As for now, well only time will tell.