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'Jessica Jones' solidifies Netflix's unique role in the Marvel universe

Marvel has created a stark contrast with their Netflix shows. While the shows and the movies exist in the same universe, they could not be further apart in style and direction.

Yes, superheroes are still taking over the world. Marvel Entertainment has created an empire based on expertly crafted, fun blockbusters, and that universe is ever expanding through television shows such as "Jessica Jones."

The Marvel movies, which still have a stranglehold on box office and pop culture alike, are overflowing with large action set pieces and witty dialogue. But Marvel has created a stark contrast with their Netflix shows. While the shows and the movies exist in the same universe, they could not be further apart in style and direction.

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Beginning with Netflix's "Daredevil," which began streaming in April, fans were brought to Hell's Kitchen, N.Y., where crime and corruption rule. Charlie Cox, as Matt Murdock, was as brooding and damaged as his environment. In "Daredevil," an antihero with a dark past and a fatal flaw faces an imposing yet refined villain with something to prove.

The newest show in Marvel's Netflix takeover is "Jessica Jones" starring Krysten Ritter. This show, which began streaming Nov. 20, offers nearly the exact same formula, but it also features so much more.

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Jessica Jones is a brooding, damaged antihero from Hell's Kitchen with a dark past and a fatal flaw just like Matt Murdock, just substitute orphanage for indoctrinated murder and blindness for alcoholism. She is put up against Kilgrave, played by the devilishly charming David Tennant. Kilgrave is an imposing, yet refined villain just like "Daredevil's" Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onfrio), just substitute business savvy for mind control and a love of art for a love of fashion.

The Netflix/Marvel shows have created a formula that can be recycled and delivered with rousing success, just as Marvel has done with their movies. This is taking nothing away from either medium. The shows and movies fully deserve their success.

While "Jessica Jones" is expressly similar to "Daredevil," it transcends the formula to tackle issues of rape and post-traumatic stress disorder through the guise of mind control. "Jessica Jones" also delivers a believable, strong female lead that is neither tied to her sexuality nor averse to it. This kind of main character has been missing from most Hollywood stories, Marvel included.

While the Netflix slate began with another white, male hero archetype in Matt Murdock, it is refreshing to see Marvel making a change in the way its heroes look. In April, Netflix will release "Jessica Jones" spinoff "Luke Cage," with the first black lead actor in a Marvel movie or TV show, played by Mike Colter, and its first major black villain, Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, played by Mahershala Ali.

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As a Marvel fan, it is encouraging to see the direction the Netflix series are taking beyond a diversity standpoint. Both shows, so far, have been significant departures from the episodic, campiness of both "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter."

Those two shows, which air on ABC, are directly tied to the films "The Avengers" and "Captain America," respectively, and almost become B-list continuations of them minus the all-star production teams, budget or star power. They are also hampered by the limitations of cable television in terms of action scenes and dialogue

The Netflix shows are not dropping f-bombs regularly, but they do feature curse words, blood and adult themes.

Additionally the Netflix shows stand apart from both the movies and, surprisingly, each other. They do mention the big-screen heroes, though indirectly by calling them "the green guy" or "the flag waver." They also keep referring to the battle of New York in "The Avengers" as "the incident." It does puzzle me why they never refer to these things by name as if they are not allowed to.

In general, the isolation of "Daredevil" and other Netflix/Marvel shows is a positive as it delivers a self-serving storyline that does not rely too heavily on the popularity of other creations. Just like "Daredevil," "Jessica Jones" boils down to a battle between two wills, littered with supporting characters that aid the battle in various ways.

The supporting characters in "Jessica Jones" are rather hit and miss in this show, just as they are in "Daredevil." Many of them, such as Mike Colter previewing his Luke Cage character and Carrie-Anne Moss of "The Matrix" fame, are compelling characters that drive the story forward.

Others, such as Trish, played by Rachael Taylor, and Will Simpson, played by Wil Traval, seem like devices to extend the length of the show.

Despite some drawbacks, the show is entertaining and the work that was put into making the show is truly reflected in the final product, leaving me, a huge Marvel fan, excited for the future.

The characters Jessica Jones and Daredevil are going to join together alongside Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Just as the Avengers had their own movies prior to their team up, each Hell's Kitchen hero will have their own series before they form the Defenders for a series. Each hero will continue to operate in solo and Defenders stories alike after that.

It is exciting that there will be a dark, brooding "Avengers" counterpart available on a different medium. It gives incentive to the Marvel fan to watch something aside from the movies that is of the same caliber.

"Jessica Jones" takes everything that works on "Daredevil" and makes it better, continuing a long streak of high-quality Marvel products. The Netflix shows should be watched by any Marvel fan and it will have serious implications on the future of the Marvel universe — especially when the bigger stars run out of contract.

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