When Marvel and Netflix announced that their next television series was going to be about Jessica Jones, even comic-book fans were left scratching their heads and asking “Who?” Jones is a character created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos for the series Alias. Her role is different from the Marvel heroes running around the silver screen: although she does have super powers, she relies on her intellect and detective skills instead of brute force and the ability to leap tall buildings in one or two bounds. Her character, and the tone of the Netflix series, share similarities to some of the neo-noir and female-lead mysteries that have appeared over the last 20 years. If you’re looking for more headstrong women solving grim cases, check out these four works of crime fiction.
Powers, written by Brian Michael Bendis, art by Michael Avon Oeming
Powers exists in the same weird universe as Jessica Jones. Also created by Bendis, this comic-book series follows two homicide detectives assigned to investigate cases that involve “powers,” or superheroes. It’s the police-procedural counterpart to the Netflix series, and fans will see similarities between Powers’ Deena Pilgrim and Alias’ Jessica Jones. For people seeking more female private investigators in comics, Greg Rucka’s Stumptown series is also an excellent choice.
The Annika Bengtzon series, by Liza Marklund
Annika is a crime reporter who takes her job seriously. Her dogged approach to her stories makes her a great sleuth, but not always the best woman. Throughout Marklund’s series, Annika attempts to juggle her professional career with family responsibilities and her own personal demons. Start with The Bomber (2001) and imagine Annika and Jessica bonding over a good whiskey while swapping stories. The dark, gritty tones of Scandinavian noir make for great readalikes, and Anne Holt’s Hanne Wilhelmsen is a good companion series.
The Miranda Corbie Mystery series, by Kelli Stanley
Dashiell Hammett made the seedy underbelly of San Francisco famous through his Sam Spade novels. What better place for a female P.I. to get her start? Miranda Corbie is a chain-smoking private investigator in the 1940s who has the same tenacity as Jessica Jones. Stanley’s first novel in the series, City of Dragons (2010), introduces us to the hardboiled hero. The Phryne Fischer books by Kerry Greenwood (starting with Cocaine Blues, 2006) are a milder alternative to Miranda.
The V. I. Warshawski series, by Sara Paretsky
V. I., or Vic to her friends, is a Chicago P.I. with a penchant towards helping the little guy. Her cases focus on white-collar crime, but her passion for exposing corruption within the system constantly leads her into trouble. She may not have superpowers, but V. I. can certainly pack a punch when she needs to. This series is well loved because of Paretsky’s unique feminist take on the crime genre. Indemnity Only (1982) is V. I’s first “case,” and fans can work their way through to Paretsky’s 2015 release Brush Back.