Wed
Sep 30 2015 3:30pm

Netflix and Marvel’s Jessica Jones: A Primer

Marvel's Jessica Jones brings the dangerous world of a super-powered private detective to Netflix. The feature film and television adaptations of Marvel Comics characters like Iron Man, Captain America, the Avengers, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been thrilling viewers across the world for years, primarily as science fiction tales or techno-thrillers where valiant heroes battle high-tech terrorists. Recently though, Marvel Studios has begun spinning tales with more appeal to crime fans. The film Ant-Man was pretty much a heist comedy, and the Netflix television series Daredevil took viewers to the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen, where a blind lawyer-turned-titular-vigilante with super senses battles a powerful crime boss.

This November 20th, Netflix airs its 13-episode Season 1 of Jessica Jones, a series with even more appeal to crime fans, chronicling the case of a costumed superhero-turned-private-detective and her battle with a monstrous villain from her past who’s resurfaced to torment her in the present. The fantastic comic series it's based on and the great cast means this is a series crime fans should get excited for.

These days, Brian Michael Bendis is one of Marvel Comics premier writers. He's had historic runs on their Avengers and X-Men titles, Ultimate Spider-Man, and is currently penning their Guardians of the Galaxy series and October's new volume of Iron Man. Back in 2001, he was still best known as the writer of creator-owned crime titles. So, it was no surprise that year saw the debut of Marvel's MAX imprint, which focused on comics for mature readers. Its first title was Alias, a crime series by Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos that introduced readers to Jessica Jones. Over the course of the series of 28 issues, readers watched Jones tackle the various high-profile cases that her firm’s clients brought to Alias Investigations. She had superhuman strength and durability, as well as a limited ability to fly, and her cases showed her rubbing shoulders and butting heads with characters like Captain America, Daredevil, the Avengers, and the X-Men. At the same time, she was wrestling with personal demons and trying to have a normal life, including friendships like the one with Carol Danvers (who, at the time, was the superhero known as Ms. Marvel) and her attempts to build romantic relationships with Ant-Man and Luke Cage.

In the final issues of the series, its readers finally learned why Jessica Jones gave up superheroics for detective work, because of a fiendish villain known as the Purple Man, who started off as a Cold War-era foe of Daredevil. The Purple Man's (AKA Croatian spy Zebediah Kilgrave) villainous moniker comes from his skin, which was turned lavender in the same accident that endowed him with the ability to produce chemical pheromones granting him total verbal control of a person's actions.

In Alias, Bendis and Gaydos redefine the Purple Man as an almost Hannibal Lecter-style monster and manipulator, revealing that Jones ran afoul of the Purple Man when she was operating as the superhero known as Jewel. He psychologically tortured her for months, and when she was finally able to break free from his control, she gave up superheroics all together. In the series’ final issue, Jones confronts what the Purple Man did to her and physically takes him down, also entering into a long-term romantic relationship with Luke Cage. She's appeared in a number of comics since then and remains a vital part of the Marvel Universe, not to mention the life of Luke Cage, to whom she’s now married with a daughter named Danielle.

That's a lot of source material to mine for a series and it looks like it's being put to great use. Melissa Rosenberg is the show runner for Jessica Jones and has been developing the series since 2010. ABC passed, but Rosenberg was given another chance to make an adaption a reality when Marvel and Netflix reached a deal for several television shows that would be more gritty than their usual fare, but still be connected to their “cinematic universe.” Brian Bendis has seen the first few episodes of Jessica Jones and praised the efforts of Rosenberg and her collaborators.

Another reason to get excited is the great cast that's been assembled. Kristen Ritter, who crime fans will remember as either Jane, Jesse Pinkman's girlfriend from Breaking Bad or high-school classmate Gia Goodman from Veronica Mars, portrays the title character. Playing the villainous Kilgrave, who has a purple-hued wardrobe here, but normal skin color, is actor David Tennant, best known for his beloved portrayal of the 10th Doctor on Doctor Who. Fans of British crime television might also know him as the haunted Detective Inspector Alec Hardy from the series Broadchurch.

SEE ALSO: Have you read the Broadchurch book?

Actor Mike Colter, who’s perhaps best known for his work on shows like The Good Wife and The Following, will debut the role of Luke Cage on Jessica Jones before moving on to his own Netflix series premiering next year. Actress Rachael Taylor, from Grey’s Anatomy and 2014 NBC series Crisis, plays Jessica's best friend Trish Walker, the cinematic version of a comic character named Patsy Walker. Rosario Dawson will also reprise her role of nurse Claire Temple, which she debuted in the Daredevil Netflix series.

SEE ALSO: If you've watched Daredevil, you'll want to read these comics!

This series will further lay the groundwork for more of the Netflix street-level Marvel shows like Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Season Two of Daredevil, and the eventual Defenders team-up series where the stars of all four shows join forces. But most of all, where crime fans are concerned, I expect Jessica Jones to be a fun, well-acted show about a private detective.

All 13 episodes of Jessica Jones debut on Netflix on November 20th. Will you be checking it out with us?


Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

Read all posts by Dave Richards for Criminal Element.

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