Whatever Happened to Jessica Jones?
Unfortunately, Jessica Jones hasn’t had a solo series since The Pulse was cancelled in 2006, except for a special one-off for 2015’s New York Comic Con. She’s had stories featuring her as the lead character in Brian Michael Bendis‘ New Avengers, had a solo story by Bendis and her co-creator Michael Gaydos that is all but a pitch for Alias II in the Marvel 75th Anniversary Special, and even was a co-headliner in Chris Yost and Mike McKone‘s Spider-Island: The Avengers with Carol Danvers, but there have been no ongoing or miniseries with her as protagonist.
Also, even though Bendis gave her the semblance of an arc through six years of New Avengers as she went from mom to superhero and back to mom, Jessica has sadly become defined by her relationship with her husband Luke Cage and her daughter Dani. However, along the way, he has developed her relationships with Carol Danvers, Daredevil, and even Spider-Man, who she used to have a crush on back in high school and inspired her to first put on the Jewel costume. (This story is told in a wonderful backup drawn by former Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada.) And when Bendis was running the Avengers (and by extension) and the main Marvel events, she made appearances in such high profile storylines as Secret Invasion, Siege, and Fear Itself and the tie-ins to Civil War and Avengers vs. X-Men. With Hickman in charge of the Avengers the past couple of years and Bendis focusing on the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy, she hasn’t appeared in any recent Marvel events, but this is going to change with Bendis penning Civil War II with artist Dave Marquez. Finally, Jessica is a consistent source of sarcasm and one-liners in the Marvel Universe making her a natural fit for the quip-heavy back and forth of the New Avengers team.
The first defining post-Pulse event in the life of Jessica Jones as a character is her marriage to Luke Cage in New Avengers Annual #1, which acts as kind of an epilogue to The Pulse. Also, it ensured that thousands of more readers would be exposed to the relationship between Jessica and Luke, and it gives their wedding an “event” feel, like the previous high profile Marvel weddings between Reed and Sue Richards, Vision and Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson. Luke and Jessica were separated once when she decided to sign the Superhuman Registration Act to protect her and her baby, but they still remain married after 10 years. Bendis also doesn’t give into cliche in this issue and has the New Avengers fight the Super Adaptoid before the big day instead of having Black Widow’s replacement ruin the fun. Jessica also makes her own vows and says that Luke has inspired her and helped her not be stuck in her own head all the time, like the early arcs of Alias. It is touching climactic moment in their relationship, and artist Olivier Coipel captures it in usual clean art style and gives her a really poufy dress.
The next big Jessica Jones moment (Sans her final guest spot in Young Avengers as team mentor where she gives Hawkeye’s bow to Kate Bishop and a couple appearances in Black Panther with Luke) is in New Avengers #22, which is a Civil War tie-in focused on Luke Cage deciding to not sign the Superhuman Registration Act. Bendis uses lots of loaded language and metaphors about the KKK and Jim Crow laws, but basically Luke wants to protect Harlem on his terms, not the government’s. Plus Jessica gets to call SHIELD, “the United States of corporate sellouts”. She shares a sad moment with Carol Danvers as it looks like the superhuman Civil War is going to fracture their friendship for a while, and she ends up not taking part in it going to Canada with her still unnamed daughter in tow for the duration of the event.
After the war, Jessica ends up on the run with the New Avengers, but instead of going on cool missions with them in Japan and fighting Japan, she stays cooped up in the Sanctum Sanctorum with Dani. Wong or Luke even does her shopping for her because of the Registration Act. Of course, this leads to some major cabin fever, and she snaps in New Avengers #33, which kicks off “The Trust” arc when the New Avengers decide to work with the Mighty Avengers to take on the Hood and a consortium of supervillains, who want to blow up Stark Tower. As a stay at home, she feels like she is suppressing who she really is, and this is confirmed in New Avengers #34 when Doctor Strange does an “imagery” spell on the team to see who they really are on the inside (and if they’re Skrulls.), and Jessica’s image is her in her Jewel costume. Bendis is foreshadowing her possible return to the superhero life, but she won’t join the New Avengers for quite a while. She does get to name her daughter, Danielle, after Danny Rand even though she jokes that the baby was named after Danny Partridge and empathizes with Luke’s paranoia that Dani is a Skrull in light of Elektra being outed as a Skrull in a previous arc.
If New Avengers Annual #1 was the happiest moment for Luke and Jessica’s relationship, then New Avengers Annual #2 and its followup issue New Avengers #38, which is drawn by Michael Gaydos, is its darkest hour. In a frightening sequence of events, the Hood, who is majorly overpowered, overcomes the defenses of the Sanctum and Sanctorum causing Jessica to give Dani to Spider-Man while she runs away. She and Dani almost get sniped by Punisher villain Jigsaw, but Spidey saves them with his webs. The trauma of this attack causes Jessica to go to Avengers Tower and sign the Registration Act to protect Dani from both supervillains and Skrulls. She and Luke have a long argument where she tells him that he put his principles before being a father, and that all she cares about is Dani’s safety. He even almost gets arrested by the Mighty Avengers, but Carol does Jessica a solid and lets him go if he “thinks” about registering. Because Luke put his ideology before his family, Jessica and him separate with her staying in Avengers Tower, and him in an apartment owned by the Rand Corporation with the other New Avengers.
However, thanks to a Skrull invasion and crossover event, Jessica and Luke reunite as she joins the fray in Secret Invasion #7 leaving Dani with Jarvis in Avengers Tower. This is the first time Jessica has been in action since she fought Norman Osborn in the first arc of The Pulse, and there’s nothing like a big group superhero fight to rekindle a relationship. Unfortunately, Jarvis is a Skrull and kidnaps Dani. In spite of this momentous event, Bendis even takes some time away from the action to tell a flashback story in New Avengers #47 with Michael Gaydos from her days in Alias Investigations when Luke hired Jessica (His third P.I. choice after Jessica Drew and Dakota North.) to find his dad so he can tell him that he’s not a criminal, but a hero. The flashback part is paced much like an issue of Alias with silent opening sequence and a dialogue heavy interview sequence shot with Luke emoting while Jessica is quiet and listens. Jessica does track him down and meets Luke’s step mom, who reads about his exploits as Power Man in the newspaper, and tries to show his father Luke’s good side. Sadly, they aren’t reunited, and Gaydos puts a literal screen door between them. However, Luke and Jessica grow closer and share a joke about Luke’s costume choices during the Bronze Age, and it cuts to the present where they talk about how Dani won’t have a normal life because they’re both superpowered people, but at least she’ll see the world.
Bendis uses Dani’s kidnapping as an opportunity to make Jessica and Luke the focus of the first post-Secret Invasion arc of New Avengers during 2009’s Dark Reign when the US government thought it was a good idea to put Norman Osborn in charge of SHIELD. After being just a mom and wife for most of his New Avengers run, Bendis and artist Philip Tan give her a more active role in the plot as she, Luke, and Wolverine interrogate a SHIELD agent, who is a Skrull after Jessica gets a Skrull detector from Invisible Woman. Then, Luke shows that he is willing to put Dani first and teams up with Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers to get her back from the Skrulls. However, he beats up Venom and Bullseye with a crowbar to show them that he doesn’t work for Osborn, which creates a tension leading to a conflict between the New Avengers and the government sanctioned, yet utterly evil Dark Avengers.
At her new abode of Bucky’s apartment (He’s the current Captain America.), Jessica doesn’t get to play superhero, but she has more input in the New Avengers plans, like telling them to keep their battle with the Dark Avengers out of the apartment, and starts to forge a platonic relationship with Spider-Man after he reveals his secret identity to the team. Bendis and Tan mine a lot of humor out of Jessica’s high school crush on Peter, Luke’s feigned (Or is it.) jealousy, and the fact that he only knew her as “coma girl”. Bendis and Joe Quesada explore their relationship in more depth in a backup story in Amazing Spider-Man #601 retconning a background girl in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man #4 to be Jessica Jones as she watches Spider-Man beat up Sandman. She also gets a great line about Spider-Man starting his own religion with “With great power comes great responsibility” and says she’ll teach Dani about that. Spider-Man talks to Jessica about showing Dani her best side, and maybe that means a return to superheroing. It’s a great backup that gives Jessica another relationship outside of Luke and Carol, but Quesada’s art is overly posed and not his best work. Jessica Jones also looks like Mary-Jane Watson with brown hair for some reason.
And Jessica does return into action when the Dark Avengers kidnap Luke, and Stuart Immonen ups New Avengers‘ visual quality when he becomes the new artist on the title towards the end of 2009. After shaking off some criticism from her mother, who is keeping Dani, Jessica spearheads Luke’s rescue by saying, “You don’t fucking mess with Luke Cage.”, a one-liner that should definitely be said some time in the Netflix Defenders show. And, in New Avengers #59, she assembles her own Defenders lineup of Daredevil, Hellcat (First canon meeting between Patsy and Jessica.), Dr. Voodoo, Misty Knight, The Thing, Valkyrie, and of course, Iron Fist to spring him from Norman Osborn. They rescue him easily, but in action movie villain fashion, there’s a bomb on Luke’s chest. It doesn’t detonate when Spider-Man plays it cold and blows up Osborn’s summer home again. (He probably did Harry’s homework there.) These events cause Luke and Jessica to consider their mom’s advice about finding a more normal life about Dani, and they daydream about walking through the park with Dani in her stroller and finding a place to live where they don’t have to be in hiding.
Continuing the tradition of big Jessica Jones moments in New Avengers annuals, New Avengers Annual #3 features the return of the Jewel costume thanks to artist Mike Mayhew, who did the covers for The Pulse. The setup is reminiscent of DC’s Birds of Prey as the female members of the New Avengers: Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Mockingbird plus Jessica Jones team up to rescue Clint Barton from the Dark Avengers. They infiltrate Osborn’s helicarrier, kick around Mentallo aka the wannabe version of Mastermind, and grab Clint in a majestic fashion thanks to Mayhew’s painted art style. The successful mission has Jessica even more interested in being a superhero again and also features the return of Steve Rogers back from the dead to throw a wrench into everything as he becomes the head of SHIELD after Norman Osborn is arrested after the events of Siege, and the Superhuman Registration Act is repealed. This has a huge effect on the life of Jessica and Luke as they are no longer fugitives and take Dani on a simple walk in a New York City park in a gorgeous splash page from Bryan Hitch in New Avengers Finale #1.
But even if the happier times of the Heroic Age are upon Jessica Jones, she drew the short straw as Luke Cage got his own four issue miniseries called New Avengers: Luke Cage, written by BPRD‘s John Arcudi and drawn by Eric Canete (Martian Manhunter) and Pepe Larraz (Kanan). While Luke is off busting a crime and drug ring in Philadelphia, Arcudi writes Jessica Jones as a stereotypical nag constantly calling about him being back home instead of being sarcastically empathetic as a former superhero and private eye. To add insult to injury, Canete draws her like a teenage girl in a manga instead of an adult woman adding an air of creepiness into her all too brief scenes. Arcudi can spin a crime yarn, and Anete’s Philadelphia has real character, but their depiction of Jessica Jones is one note.
But even as she is turned into a sitcom wife in New Avengers: Luke Cage, Jessica Jones fared much better in the Heroic Age relaunch of New Avengers where Luke Cage bought Avengers Mansion from Tony Stark for $1 to house and support the New Avengers, who received a paycheck from SHIELD. Luke was still wary of getting a government paycheck because of his desire for independence, but Jessica accepted the check on his behalf and made a great quip about him being the original “hero for hire”. And she almost immediately jumps right back into battle when the Eye of Agamotto possesses Luke in New Avengers #2. Jessica punches it off him, and there is a lot of magic and possession genre stuff going like The Exorcist meets a standard superhero comic. She does get to punch ghosts and fly in Luke Cage to stop Agamotto (He’s a guy, actually.) opening a portal to scary dimensions along the way and rescue Carol Danvers from being incinerated by magical energy. You basically just want her to join the team.
And she does take another step to being a full-fledged New Avenger by searching for a nanny in New Avengers #7, which features some funny Marvel D-lister cameos as Bendis and Immonen show they can deftly balance humor and action. She and Luke eventually settle on Squirrel Girl even though she has a bushy tail and a weird past with Wolverine because she can easily control her powers and is interested in working in childcare while she is a student at NYU. Getting Squirrel Girl as a nanny allows Luke and Jessica to go on their first real date possibly ever in New Avengers #8 as Daniel Acuna draws her at her most gorgeous. Luke thinks that Jessica would make a great Avenger as well as a mom and suggests the moniker “Power Woman” for her, which of course, she vetoes. In the issue, Bendis shows her torn between wanting to be present for Dani while wanting to inspire her as a superhero. And there’s a battle between her, Luke, and Doombot where she take the robot out with a fire hydrant. This is the spark that she needs to decide to join the New Avengers for real with Luke adorably saying, “Boo yah.” New Avengers #8 is the lighter counterpart to New Avengers #31 as Bendis focuses in on Jessica and Luke’s ever changing relationship and takes a break from villain plots or magical mumbo jumbo to give her a real milestone as a character even if she is technically a supporting character in the title.
Jessica’s first mission is a pretty fun espionage tinged one fitted for Mike Deodato‘s photorealistic, noir style of art as she and the New Avengers hunt down Superia, who they later find out has a briefcase with the Infinity Formula that Nick Fury alive, not too old, and strong. She gets a pretty fun moment as she actually drives a truck to take down Superia while Luke carries his with his super strength with Iron Fist in it because Danny doesn’t have a driver’s license. Later, as a tie-in to Fear Itself, Jessica gets to punch Nazi robots controlled by the Red Skull’s daughter Sin, who has godlike status. It’s nice to see Jessica have an active role in a Marvel event for once instead of running away to Canada in Civil War, or staying in some kind of domicile like in Secret Invasion and Siege. She also gets a mini-team up with Squirrel Girl, who surprises Jessica with her squirrel summoning abilities, and successfully sets up the Avengers Mansion safety protocols to protect Dani. Nothing climactic happens to her in New Avengers Annual #1, but Bendis remembers she has a friendship with Daredevil from his days as her lawyer in Alias and client for her bodyguard services in his run on Daredevil. This is why it’s fitting that she gives him an Avengers keycard and welcomes to the team for a short duration as Bendis basically gets to make the New Avengers a clubhouse of all his favorite characters.
However, Jessica Jones’ Avengers status is less than permanent, and she completely unravels as a superhero in New Avengers #16.1, a special issue drawn by Neal Adams. Jessica is part of an escort to transfer Norman Osborn to the Raft when he becomes the Green Goblin again and threatens to kill Dani until Wolverine forces him to stand down with his claws. However, he ends up escaping, and a few issues later, Jessica confides in Luke that she is afraid to leave Dani’s side because Norman Osborn on the loose. Jessica’s concern for Dani’s safety causes her to sit out of the team’s next mission even though Squirrel Girl is there to watch the baby. Later, she uses her status as a relatively unknown superhero and tries to speak to protesters who decry the destruction left in the wake of the Avengers’ battle, but gets called a spoiled princess. This causes her to go on the run yet again with Dani and Squirrel Girl and argue with Luke for putting their daughter in harm’s way by being at Avengers Mansion. This is basically a rehashing of what went down in “Dark Reign”, but with Deodato instead of Immonen art except with Jessica quitting the Avengers team. Bendis and Deodato also make a clumsy parallel between Luke’s participation in Avengers vs. X-Men with a soldier going to war and leaving his family behind.
Michael Gaydos makes his final (for now) return drawing the character of Jessica Jones in New Avengers #31, which is mostly a conversation between Jessica Jones and Carol Danvers, who has taken on the identity of Captain Marvel. Jessica feels like she has driven Luke to quit the New Avengers and is a “bad wife”, but Carol reassures her by telling her that it just took him a while to understand his responsibilities as a father and husband. Jessica is really happy with Carol’s new name and costume saying that it suits her as a great superhero and friend as she gets sarcastically sentimental. Even though some of the writing makes Luke seem flighty or a deadbeat dad, Bendis and Gaydos really capture what is great about Jessica and Carol’s friendship, and it’s a pity that they haven’t had much time to interact in issues after this arc of New Avengers. This is probably because Carol’s solo books, especially the past two volumes of Captain Marvel, are more concerned with cosmic threats and adventures than earthbound things. With Bendis on Civil War II, their lack of interactions will likely change, and it will be interesting to see if they resent each other after such a long absence.
After a magically caused battle between the New Avengers and Avengers team, Jessica Jones finally says her goodbye to the team in New Avengers #34 as she, Luke, and Dani are there for the unveiling of a statue of Victoria Hand, who went from Norman Osborn’s stooge to government liaision to the Avengers, and dying heroically. It’s a pretty touching issue filled with lots of jokes about the events of previous issues, and she even gets a warm hug from Spider-Man. Deodato draws a beautiful double page spread showing all their big moments from Alias onwards as Bendis tries to make an argument that they were the heart of his New Avengers run. I could maybe see that Luke Cage was the focal point of his nine years on the family of books as he went from being a barely used supporting character in Daredevil and Alias to a team leader of both the New Avengers and the Thunderbolts. (He was more of the Tbolts’ babysitter.) However, Jessica Jones, despite her showcase issues, ended up mainly being a mom and sarcastic comic relief. For every scene where she got to punch a Doombot or joke around with Spider-Man, there’s another one where she’s standing silently with Dani on her arm with a baby bottle.
But, at least, while Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers was a key book in the Marvel Universe and led to or tied into the big summer event books, Jessica Jones got panel time. This hasn’t been the case since Jonathan Hickman and other writers have taken over the books titled Avengers and New Avengers. Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Mike Hawthorne use her as a nagging wife stereotype in a couple of stories dealing with Deadpool’s team up with Luke Cage and Iron Fist against the racist supervillain, White Man. It’s a pretty funny parody of the old Power Man and Iron Fist comics, and Jessica Jones does get one great moment when she punches Deadpool out a window when he remarks on her “post baby body.”
Jessica later becomes a supporting character when Luke Cage starts yet another Avengers team in Mighty Avengers, but Al Ewing is careful not to tread on old Bendis plot points and has Luke have the team meet in an old theatre while Jessica and Dani have their own apartment. She doesn’t factor into the plot much except for a great scene where she gets to clock Superior Spider-Man (When Dr. Octopus’ brain was in Peter Parker’s body, and he was a pompous ass.), but continues to be occasional support and comic relief and gets past Blue Marvel’s hard shell to chat about his college age daughter. Jessica plays a similar supporting role in David Walker and Sanford Greene‘s Power Man and Iron Fist where she exists to say funny lines and get on Luke’s case for not spending enough time with Dani. Again, she hasn’t factored into the plot so far in the first three issues.
On a brighter note, Jessica made an appearance in the epilogue of Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #5 in an homage to her friendship with Patsy in the Jessica Jones television show, which is the equivalent of her friendship of Carol Danvers in Alias without the extra Avengers and cosmic baggage. Jessica Jones is a P.I. for Alias Investigations in Hellcat and is actually working for Patsy’s rival, Hedy, which should stir up some real drama as the comic continues. And hopefully this portrayal continues to seep into the other corners of the Marvel Universe as Jessica is supposedly playing a role in Civil War II and getting her own solo series in its aftermath, written by Bendis with art by Michael Gaydos and covers by David Mack.
Thanks to the high status Brian Michael Bendis has had in the Marvel stable of writers since in the mid-2000s, Jessica Jones had consistent appearances in the New Avengers titles as well as appearing in Avengers when she became a New Avenger during the Heroic Age. Because of her friendship with Spider-Man, she also appeared in some issues of Amazing Spider-Man, like when the New Avengers helped in the whole “Spider-Island” situation when random New York citizens all got powers, including Dani Cage-Jones, who promptly stuck Squirrel Girl to the wall. But her myriad appearances were mostly in support of Luke Cage or the New Avengers team with the exception of the occasional “solo” issue of New Avengers that Gaydos drew, or special annual that gave her a semblance of an arc.
Fans of Jessica Jones can only hope that Marvel’s heroic character who doesn’t want to be a superhero, overcame PTSD to be a great mom and Avenger, and might have the sharpest wit in all the Marvel Universe, but cares for the little guy and often helped out civilians while the rest of the New Avengers were punching things, gets a story of her own in the years to come and doesn’t have to play second fiddle to Luke Cage. The other Jessica gets a nuanced portrayal as mother, friend, and superhero in Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez‘s Spider-Woman, and I hope Jessica Jones gets a series like that soon, especially with the critical and commercial success of her Netflix show.