Back in February, we took a look at how the landscape of comic books is evolving to great new heights thanks to the strides of the women behind the scenes—and those women they create. While Marvel's Captain Marvel, Thor, and Ms. Marvel were all included, one name was left off: Jessica Jones. Knowing what we know now (i.e. Netflix has a dark, amazing show featuring this private eye with super powers), that sounds crazy; this is the next big portion of Marvel's grandiose Cinematic Universe... but back then, who knew? The emergence of this female powerhouse is even more remarkable when you consider that Jessica Jones has only been around in the MU since 2001, and hasn't made as huge of an impact as Ms. Marvel or the new, female Thor.
And therein lies the beauty of Marvel's Jessica Jones (which premieres on Netflix on Nov. 20), and the next step in their overall progression as a multi-platform entity.
Jessica Jones takes place in the same dark, gritty Hell's Kitchen as Marvel's Daredevil, a perfect setting for this tale, which is more frightening and tethered to the real world than anything Marvel has dropped before. The story focuses on Jessica Jones, a private investigator with a dark past. For those who aren't up her origin, it's a complicated one: "The Purple Man," a.k.a. Zebediah Killgrave, has the ability to control people's minds to do his bidding—and he's never exactly asking them to sell Girl Scout cookies for him. Killgrave found Jessica Jones early into her time as a costumed superhero, took control of her mind, and forced her to do his biddings, which included everything from stripping naked in a restaurant to going on a mission to kill other costumed superheroes. His mind control is at the heart of what Jessica Jones dealt with when she first debuted in Alias, the Brian Michael Bendis-and Michael Gaydos-created series for Marvel's MAX imprint, and it's at the heart of Jessica Jones. What does that mean, though? It means we're delving into some heavier waters than ever before, including everything from sexual assault to PTSD.
Jessica Jones has been through a lot, and Jessica Jones isn't shying away from it. Rape, and what Jessica went through specifically (ranging from the rapes she witnessed as a bystander to what many assumed to be Killgrave actually raping Jessica), was always an undercurrent in the comics, but the show is approaching sex in a different nature entirely. Things get hot and heavy rather quickly, and it doesn't stop after that initial romp. The show also features the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first major gay character, who is portrayed by Carrie-Anne Moss, and there's no ducking from two women kissing at all. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe—which encompasses everything from the main series of films to Agents of SHIELD on ABC—has shyly hinted at romantic links between its characters (most notably whatever you want to call what the Hulk and Black Widow were doing in Age of Ultron), Jessica Jones takes it there without batting an eye. Steamy bedroom sessions with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage go down very early into the series—making for what's quite possibly the first time we've seen two superheroes having sex on-screen—and while it isn't raunchy or full of nudity, it blows way past the simple caresses and extended make-out sessions of past Marvel fare. Their sex is as raw as the streets of Hell's Kitchen.
With any superhero movie/film, the characters are defined by their powers. The Hulk is this green monster you don't want to piss off, while Thor is the thunder gawd. Jessica Jones has superpowers (ranging from super strength to limited flight capabilities), but Jessica Jones doesn't ever come close to being a "this girl is strong as hell and trying to solve cases" procedural. That's definitely part of it, but Jessica Jones is much more about a woman who can flex on you if need be. It's is a modern noir in which Jessica uses her intelligence and investigative muscles just as often as she gets physical with people. It could be easy for her—and the show—to just press slam people into submission to get the clues she wants, but that's not what private eyes have ever done. Jessica's out there with the best of them, in disguises, infiltrating her way into places she's not allowed.
One has to think that part of the appeal of this show is that Jessica Jones wasn't a part of the Golden Age of Marvel. The MCU has been built on the backs of the characters that established Marvel Comics as a major player (Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, etc.), and while it's thrust new(er) characters into the mix, Jessica Jones is the first time that a character who isn't even 15 years old—or a major player in the comics—has been given the rock. Adding onto that, Jessica's story isn't one of "she acquired these powers and went on to fight for good"—her story is darker, and more in tune to the insanity that pervades the streets of New York. There are a number of screwed up circumstances that turned Jessica Jones into the dark, reserved individual who spends most of her time getting drunk and using her knack for investigations to survive. Jessica Jones has no hope for the future, just the survivalistic desire to be less fearful tomorrow than she was today. This character has layers, layers that aren't particularly eager to reveal themselves. The fact that she's a female character who isn't just a "sexy strong girl" further proves how unafraid Marvel is to experiment and evolve.
While it's hard to say how much of an impact the TV and Netflix properties will have on the MCU in the long run, Jessica Jones highlights just how far Marvel is willing to push their Cinematic Universe.