To the millions of hardcore Marvel fans who eagerly await the publication of each new graphic novel set in this universe, Jessica Jones is fairly well-known. To the rest of the population she is a mystery, who is revealed in the Netflix produced original series based on the character. The Jessica character in the graphic novels has much in common with her television personality, but the stories do eventually diverge.
Let’s take a look at Jessica Jones from both points of view. According to Marvel.com’s description of her, Jessica:
“Possesses superhuman strength; the parameters of which are unrevealed, but she can lift an automobile with no discernible effort. Possesses an enhanced level of resistance to physical injury, although she is unsure of whether or not she is bulletproof and is able to fly, although she is out of practice in doing so.”
Jessica gained her superior abilities when her family was involved in an automobile accident with an army truck transporting experimental and possibly radioactive material. Jessica was the only survivor of the accident and was eventually adopted by the Jones family from whom she gets her name. She has an adopted sister named Trish (Trish is introduced as Jessica’s best friend in the series).
It at this point that the origin story told in the graphic novels begins to differ a bit from the story told in the series, however they both agree that Jessica spent some time experimenting with her ‘super’ powers and trying to be a hero in New York City. Jessica knows of other super heroes in the area both masked and unmasked and for the purposes of the series makes her way on her own.
The stories also agree that Jessica suffered greatly at the hands of a criminal with the ability to control minds. He is called The Purple Man in the novels and Kilgrave in the series. This person took control of Jessica’s mind for months, subjecting her to physical and emotional abuse, as well as humiliation, in order to retaliate for his perceived rejection by the super hero community. In both stories Jessica is able to break away from his control after she is forced to kill someone she considers an innocent.
The Netflix series begins with Jessica working as a PI for her own company called Alias Investigations. She believes Kilgrave to be dead, killed by a bus she threw at him after she broke away from his control. Despite his demise, Jessica is haunted by her actions while under his control and is content to drink her life away while looking for missing persons, catching adulterers in the act and process serving for a high-powered attorney who claims to be one of Jessica’s only friends.
The first episode brings Jessica a missing persons case that ends up turning her world on its head, while introducing her to some new friends and allies. The series consists of thirteen episodes; each building on the previous ones while moving the story along. The series is dark, film noir if you will, and slightly reminiscent of the great detective stories from the 30’s and 40’s; with sex, violence and plenty of adult language to set it apart from those earlier stories.
Jessica herself is at times brave and is certainly powerful but her self-loathing controls almost all of her decisions. This is something she’s going to have to overcome in order to survive the situation in which she now finds herself. The reluctant super hero is brilliantly portrayed by Krysten Ritter who makes you root for Jessica even when she’s at her paranoid worst. Her nemesis, Kilgrave is played by the suave David Tennant who is chillingly evil in this role. Jessica’s allies are Trish Walker (Racheal Taylor), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), Will Simpson (Wil Traval) and Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss). Each of these allies are profoundly affected by their relationship with Jessica and the actors portraying them are each outstanding in their own ways.
If you’re just now hearing the buzz about Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix, do yourself a favor and watch a couple of episodes. As a genre show based on a character in the Marvel universe the show may never win the awards that it probably should, but you will eventually be sorry you didn’t get a chance to try the story out while it is still available. Jessica and the series is a winner.