Marvel immediately defined its brand of outsider superheroes with the bite of a radioactive spider and the birth of a web-slinger in 1966. But in 2015, would anyone call a hot straight white dude who is really good at science that much of an underdog?
While Spider-Man swings from the skies, Marvel’s real lone hero can be found in black-out sunglasses at a Hell’s Kitchen drug store, buying an IUD. Jessica Jones is unhappy, unfriendly and not welcome on any super-team. She’s the ultimate outsider and the most complex, fascinating Marvel character ever.
Based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ comic book series Alias, which ran from 2001–2004, Netflix’s Jessica Jones follows a former superhero (Krysten Ritter) who has gone off the grid and works as a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen. While handling seedy cases, she begins to reconcile with her own past trauma at the hands of a mind-controlling rapist called the Purple Man (David Tennant).
With the premiere of the entire 13-episode series this Friday, this formerly-obscure heroine will be busting down doors for women in comics and their TV and film counterparts. Here’s our rundown of why Jessica Jones is about to become your new favorite (ex) superhero.
5. She’ll never be “the girl” on the Avengers.
Jessica Jones doesn’t do costumes (at least, not anymore). Prone to hangovers, disillusionment with the male superhero establishment and a surly demeanor, Jessica would never fit in with a group of men who want to save the world. She can barely save herself from credit card overcharges.
4. She has complicated relationships with men and women
Not all heroines can be Wonder Woman, nor should they be. In Alias, Jessica gets into spitting fights and sweet reconciliations with her best friend Carol Danvers, A.K.A. Captain Marvel. She rarely has interactions with men that are sober, let alone healthy, and her hook-ups with the invincible Luke Cage (played on the series by Mike Colter) don't start off in a place of self-respect.
Female paragons in comics should lift up other heroines and fans to greatness and form equitable relationships with their male counterparts, but not all of them should be perfect. It's needed in the comic book, film and television landscapes for us to see a powerful woman with evolving, difficult, challenging relationships that don’t always get resolved; women who cause conflict and speak up for themselves, even ungracefully. Otherwise, these heroines can never truly fly off of the pages.
3. Trauma is her main villain
Though the primary antagonist of the series is David Tennant’s Purple Man, this isn’t a show about a woman getting revenge on her rapist. It’s about a person dealing with (or trying not to deal with) what past trauma has done to her. While an epic showdown with Killgrave is inevitable, the real stakes of Jessica Jones are of rehabilitation and self-forgiveness, not saving the good people of New York.
2. She has a voice
While Jessica Jones begins with arch narration out of a classic noir film, the pages of Alias are covered in neurotic thoughts of self-deprecation, paranoia and exhaustion. Jessica’s voice is that of any of us on our worst day, and she doesn’t get the chance to muse on her feelings from a cave or watchtower.
1. She belongs in New York
Marvel superheroes are supposed to be relatable, right? But when was the last time you saw Captain America on a walk of shame in the middle of winter, or fighting a hangover on the A train, or getting wasted and starting fights at dive bars? Lonely, feisty and barely able to pay her rent, Jessica Jones walks (and sometimes leaps) through Hell’s Kitchen in clothes that need to be washed, barely hanging on to her cool. She may not be a great professional superhero, but she sounds like a true New Yorker.
Alias (2001) by Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack and Michael Gaydos
All episodes of Jessica Jones premiere on Friday, November 20 on Netflix.