At the end of next week, Jessica Jones—and the Marvel Netflix adventure that began just four years ago—will come to an end. But if you’re already getting a Jess-level amount of pre-drinking in before you prepare to say goodbye, not all is lost when it comes to Alias Investigations: You really should check out her current Marvel Comics series.
Jessica Jones as a series is in an interesting place right now—with Brian Michael Bendis working at DC Comics in the wake of a blockbuster deal in late 2017, for the first time ever a new creative team has stepped in to handle Jessica Jones as an ongoing title, after Bendis and his long-time JJ co-creator Michael Gaydos bid farewell to her with a bittersweet final issue.
The new team—Captain Marvel, Mrs. and Mrs. X, and West Coast Avengers (and like a gazillion other projects) writer Kelly Thompson, alongside artist Mattia De Iulis and letterer Cory Petit—is working in a new format that’s practically laser-guided to appeal to fans of Jessica’s TV exploits, digitally releasing double-length issues in story arcs that only come to physical comic store shelves as complete trade collections of each arc. That format means there are currently only two complete “seasons” of Jessica Jones available at the moment—but considering you’re about to have no new seasons of Jessica Jones’ exploits on Netflix after season three debuts on June 14, that’s better than nothing. It helps that those two seasons are both really fantastic slices of superpowered noir character drama and some of the best stories Jess has had in the comics for years.
The two arcs of the series so far—“Blind Spot” and “Purple Daughter”—both reflect the two core aspects which have come to define Jessica Jones as a character over her lifetime. There’s the more straightforward (if still superhero-enhanced) noir mystery sensibility, as well as a re-examination of the key trauma that came to define Jessica’s life forever: her ensorcellment under the grim grip of Zebediah Killgrave, the Purple Man. Both stories also star a Jessica that balances a graceful middle ground that Thompson clearly relishes writing, neither a pale approximation of either Krysten Ritter’s performance on Netflix nor the wordy, cursive, world-weary woman Bendis wrote her as since her inception.
Thompson’s Jones can switch between funny hardass and dogged downbeat on a dime, and there is an almost jokey sensibility that, while never undermining the great traumas Jessica has gone through—and made peace with—as a character over the years, presents a woman who is not willing to be explicitly defined by that trauma.
That noir thriller vibe comes through a bit stronger in the first arc of the new run, “Blind Spot.” It’s a more traditional mystery caper case for Jessica to unravel, and its tight scope and only lingering connections to the wider Marvel world give the story a compelling playground that treads the line between classic private-eye adventure and superheroic storytelling that makes Jessica Jones such an interesting premise on the first place. With an all-new villain for Jessica to chase and a pretty spectacular partnership with the criminally underused Marvel monster huntress supreme, Elsa Bloodstone—a favorite of mine since the days of the ludicrously good Nextwave—it’s a story that completely leverages that the comics version of Jessica can call upon a unique place in the Marvel comics universe. It also shows she’s had much more time to grow and develop as a P.I., hero, and person over her 18-year comic history (which is fair compared to just three seasons of TV), too, as she shines a spotlight on Marvel’s often-grim underworld.
The other half of the Jessica Jones storytelling coin comes more to the fore in “Purple Daughter,” which, as the name implies, relitigates Jessica’s encounters with her most infamous, most unavoidable foe, the Purple Man. Given that Bendis’ final story arc with the character was a pretty final-feeling bit of closure on that particularly awful relationship, returning to that particular well so soon after that story felt like a terrible risk when it was first revealed—not just rehashing the one thing people know about Jessica’s idea of a “rogues’ gallery,” but also refusing to let the character move on from a trauma she has been forced to re-examine for most of her comic book life. But just like Bendis and Gaydos did in last year’s “Return of the Purple Man,” in “Purple Daughter” the relationship between Jessica, her past, and Killgrave is re-examined in a lens that speaks to Jessica’s growth over the years since Killgrave controlled her. It does so by revolving less around a seeming threat to Jessica but instead to her daughter with Luke Cage, Danielle, who has—as the title suggests, suddenly turned a sinister shade of purple.
Instead of simply bringing the mind-control threat back directly to Jessica directly, having the threat established through Danielle—raising the horrifying question for Jessica that her daughter may not be the product of her marriage with Luke, but the sexual abuse she faced while controlled by the Purple Man—makes for some distressing, emotional moments of anguish for Jessica that are fascinating to watch unfold. At several points in “Purple Daughter,” attempting to investigate her daughter’s mauve malady threatens to break Jessica in a way that feels so much more tragic, knowing how much she has gone through over the years making herself stronger (physically, emotionally, mentally, hell, just as a better person) in the wake of Killgrave’s control. And while I won’t spoil just how it connects to where Killgrave ended up at the end of Bendis’ time on Jessica Jones—once again, it’s worth seeing for yourself—the central mystery unravels in a way that adds a more interesting dynamic to Killgrave’s mythos in the comics than you’d potentially expect.
In just two arcs, Thompson, De Iulis, and Petit have guided Jessica Jones into a fantastic new era. They’ve proved that a fresh new perspective on the character—where, in the comics at least, so few people beyond her creators have really had a chance to work with her like this—can honor Jessica’s rich legacy while pushing the character to interesting new places. They’ve also shown that, even as we prepare to close the case on Alias Investigation’s current TV stories, there’s still plenty more avenues to chase down some great stories with Jessica, beyond what we have on Netflix.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.