Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2015 by Jacob Hall
Jessica Jones, Marvel Studios‘ second outing into the world of streaming television, is a triumph. More consistently paced than Daredevil and more confidently produced than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s easily the best small-screen Marvel story yet. Not bad for a character the average non-geek knows nothing about.
Although she has since become a major player in the larger Marvel comic book universe, the character of Jessica Jones originated in the pages of Alias, a wonderful 28-issue series from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos. The basic template is the same: Jessica was a superhero, bad stuff happened, and now she’s private investigator. Alias was a Marvel “Max” title, an offshoot that publishes frequently non-canonical stories starring Marvel characters for adult readers, but it has been absorbed into the larger Marvel world. The events of the series are now canon, by and large, and Jessica Jones is one of the best and most vital new Marvel characters of the past two decades.
While Jessica Jones borrows the set-up from Alias, much changed on the road to Netflix. The comic’s climactic arc became the show’s first season. Characters were radically changed, while others were dropped altogether. The differences between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel comics universe demanded modifications in tone and story. In the interest of pure, geeky curiosity, I spent the week before the premiere of Jessica Jones revisiting Alias, and the weekend of its release watching all 13 episodes for one reason only: to compare the two, and see where they connect and diverge.
This post contains SPOILERS for all of Alias and all of Jessica Jones. If you have an interest in either and aren’t caught up, please bookmark this article and come back later.
Jessica Jones and Her Archenemy
In both her Netflix and comic book incarnations, Jessica Jones is abducted and held captive by a supervillain with the ability to command anyone to do whatever he says. In both cases, Jessica is traumatized by her months spent as a mind-controlled slave and battles psychological scars and a drinking problem brought on by PTSD.
The similarities mostly end there. In the comics, this villain is Zebediah Killgrave a.k.a. the Purple Man, a sadistic mass murderer whose history with Jessica and his later attempt at revenge is the subject of a single story arc. On Netflix, this villain is Kilgrave (only one “L” and no first name), a more subtle, more quietly terrifying psychopath who has traded in his comic book counterpart’s purple skin for a purple wardrobe. In his transition to television, Kilgrave has also picked up a few layers. While the on-paper of this version is terrifying and has been the subject of more than his fair share of great comic storylines, David Tennant transforms him into something far more pathetic and compelling. Kilgrave’s obsession with Jessica is less that of a bad guy wanting to hurt a good guy, and more that of jilted ex-boyfriend refusing to move on after a bad break-up.
Tennant plays Kilgrave as an unfeeling, calculated little boy. His powers have given him everything he could ever want, so he aggressively pursues the things he cannot have. His selfishness, his petty plan to hurt the girl who hurt him, is more personal and terrifying than his actions in the pages of Alias. Hell, he’s the best villain in the entire MCU so far.
Jessica Jones and Luke Cage
In Alias, Jessica Jones and fellow street-level superhero Luke Cage are already hooking up when the story begins. They are well aware of each other’s reputations and have no qualms about sharing a bed on occasion. Since Luke is a long-established Marvel character, this is the right choice. It’s only in the last few pages of the final issue of Alias that Jessica and Luke get serious – she’s pregnant, she’s keeping it, he’s the father, and he couldn’t be happier.
While Jessica and Luke are long-married parents by this point in the Marvel Comics world, we probably won’t see them getting together permanently on screen for some time. In the TV series, Jessica is overjoyed to discover that Luke is a fellow “gifted” individual, but their passionate affair is cut short due to all kinds of plot drama (none of which is present in Alias). It’s a decision that makes perfect sense. In the MCU, Luke is a new character and he’s got to establish himself in the bigger picture before his relationship with Jessica can mean anything. Mike Colter, who is so very good as Luke, is currently filming his own Netflix series to debut in 2016. These two will probably follow the comic book trajectory at some point, but Jessica getting knocked up before a big wedding is probably a few years away.
Perhaps the upcoming Defenders crossover series will give them a chance to finally get together in a more serious fashion. Or not. Marvel could drag out the will-they-or-won’t-they tension for years.
Jessica Jones and Her Best Friend
Jessica doesn’t have many friends in any of her incarnations, but in both Alias and Jessica Jones, she has a blonde-haired best friend and confidant. On Netflix, this is Patricia “Trish” Walker (Rachael Taylor), a former child star and current radio talk show host who may eventually become the superhero Hellcat, if she follows her comic counterpart. After all, why would the series establish this enthusiastic do-gooder of a sidekick as being a capable martial artist if they weren’t planning to stick her in a costume at some point? In any case, Trish is one of the best characters on the show, even though Marvel diehards will grumble that her proper comic name, Patsy, is disregarded on the show as a childhood nickname.
Trish/future Hellcat is a stand-in for Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel who is Jessica’s long-suffering buddy in Alias. However, Marvel Studios has big plans for Captain Marvel (a feature film in 2018), so she probably wasn’t even an option. Promoting a wonderful C-lister like Trish/Patsy to this vital role is the kind of change we can get behind. After all, we’re never going to get a Hellcat movie, so getting to see her on Jessica Jones is a great consolation prize.
In any case, Trish is the warm and effective best friend/sidekick character that Daredevil desperately needed. Trish is the anti-Foggy – everything that didn’t work about Matt Murdock’s best friend (acting, writing, importance to the central story) works here.