The Alias Omnibus, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos is the collected comics which follow a minor superhero in the Marvel universe named Jessica Jones. Many people will have heard of the recent Netflix show, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, which is based on these comics. After watching the Netflix show, I ordered the omnibus expecting some good action. I was surprised by the level of character development and the smart humor. While the first season of the Netflix show focuses solely on the main villain from Jessica’s past, who is referred to as The Purple Man in the comics, and Killgrave in the Netflix series, only a small section of the Jessica Jones comics deals with this villain directly. The main focus of the comic series is on Jessica Jones PI jobs, her reluctant interactions with the Avengers, her alcoholism and her contradictory feelings about being a hero. The comics have a very noir feel, and are surprisingly deep. Don’t get me wrong: don’t come here for a literary treatise on the American condition. But if you ever wonder, can a superhero comic ever achieve the depth of character development and world building that a novel can, then Alias is for you (and if you already like superhero comics or graphic novels, then Alias is definitely also for you).
The Netflix adaptation of Alias, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, centers around the abusive relationship between Killgrave, who has the power of mind control, and Jessica, who has super strength and super speed, as well as limited flying abilities. Jessica suffers from PTSD and believes Killgrave to be dead. His return forces Jessica to decide whether to run or to play the hero. While addressing many of the same topics that Alias does, I found that Alias did a better job with presenting Jessica as a complex character whose toughness is consistently softened by loneliness. Nonetheless, Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the best thing to come out of the Marvel cinematic universe to date. While some have criticized the show for its pacing, and its decision to focus on the storylines of more minor characters in seemingly pivotal moments, I found it provided a much needed opportunity for world building. While both Alias and Marvel’s Jessica Jones have a lot of action, the story of Jessica Jones is really a thrillingly fucked up coming of age story- it is the story of how Jessica learns to be unrelentingly Jessica despite a world that wants her to be so many other things (and now and then, nothing at all).