Somewhere out in space and time there is an alternate dimension where Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” somehow wound up on network television in the 90s, and instead of Krysten Ritter in the lead role fans got Janeane Garofalo. That is one major obstacle dodged, but there is still a challenge — walking the tightrope between “dark” and “dark for the sake of being dark.”
I was first introduced to Jessica Jones in 2001 when I picked up Brian Michael Bendis’ “Alias.” The book was part of Marvel’s “Max” line (i.e., not for children). It was incredibly well-written for a long stretch. I always thought it would make for good television. However, the one major problem any producer of a “Jessica Jones” show will have is, “How dark should it be?”
There is a fine line between exploring evil that can lurk inside the human heart, and simply wallowing in filth just to get a reaction out of others.
Bendis, at his best, seems to be a skilled tightrope walker. Examples of failure in this regard may include Garth Ennis’ “The Boys” and the Mark Millar-Steve McNiven collaboration “Nemesis.”
Marvel and Netflix did a fabulous job with Daredevil, but it isn’t hard to imagine mindless producers saying, “Daredevil was dark and it was popular. Maybe we should go really dark with Jessica Jones!”
If Marvel and its creative partners avoided this trap, then it is likely “Jessica Jones” will be a show worth watching. At least for now, everyone can stand up and cheer for a.) the inclusion Mike Colter as Luke Cage, and b.) the absence of Janeane Garofalo from the finished product.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the final show is like. I think that stories that use darkness best often have some glimmer of hope at the end; basically following the old philosophical question: “Without the darkness as a counterpoint, how could we see the light?” Although the MCU has so far not been a place where the dark and gritty really works, dark grittiness is part of the private eye genre, so it could work. I do hope the show isn’t too disturbing, since it’s the most interesting sounding upcoming MCU project (outside of “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”).
The trailer did leave me wondering where exactly Jessica Jones’ story will fit in with the rest of the MCU. At one point, she and Luke Cage are agreeing that doing the whole superhero thing just gets a target painted on your back, hence indicating that superheroes are well established, at least enough for people to know that it’s a job that can suck.
However, the MCU’s internal continuity (as of 2015), indicates that public knowledge of superheroes and the like has only come out within the last fifteen years, despite S.H.I.E.L.D. working to keep it confidential and it’s a slow adjustment. The “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” pilot makes a big point of saying that with the Battle of New York (in “The Avengers”), people went from only knowing about Iron Man privatizing world peace to realizing that the world had changed overnight and their place in it might be shaky. In “Iron Man 3,” Killian has the opinion that the rules changed when Thor first came to Earth, which also started S.H.I.E.L.D. to preparing for higher-scale warfare. The mid-credits scene of “The Winter Soldier,” shows Baron von Strucker reacting to the news of S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA’s destructions calmly, since in his mind, the age of spies and heroes is over, and the age of “miracles” is beginning.
Hence, the superhero world seems to still be in infancy during Jessica’s present as a private eye. While its a fact that super-powered people were secretly living prior to public exposure that “the Gifted” existed, Jessica’s backstory of being victimized by a super-powered sociopath for an extensive period of time and having a dim view of superheroes like Daredevil and Spider-Man would seem to fit better in a world were they had been public for years, if not a generation, rather than at the time when the world is still in the stages of evolving to co-exist with them.
Out of all the Bendis I’ve read, the Alias stuff (and I’ve only read the arc where Mattie Franklin was being pimped for her superpowers by drug dealers) is really the only work of his that really impressed me, that made me think he was worth some of the hype he gets.
I think this series will be a decent watch, much in the vein of Daredevil. And I liked Ritter ok on Breaking Bad.
It’s funny, I actually took ages to read Alias, not because I was intimidated by the hype surrounding it, but because it came out when that Jennifer Garner television series of the same name was out and I had’nt watched it so I thought it was Marvel doing a tie-in to that (all the reason why it’s called Jessica Jones for Netflix to avoid confusion like that). That said, I may watch it because I was so used to David Tennant’s star turns as characters in this kind of role. Have you ever seen that drama “Secret Smile?”, he’s sublime in that.
I read “Alias” for just over a year and thought it was good, but somewhere along the line it sort of got off track and I dropped it. I think there was a Marvel “Max” version of War Machine that I checked out and didn’t really like.
Thanks for the heads up on “Secret Smile.”