A Difference in Alternate Realities
As crazy as this might sound, I am going to go on record now and state without a doubt in my mind, I hated the Jessica Jones series on Netflix. I was disappointed and I had my reasons but I never fully gave voice to those reasons outside discussions with my wife for a long time. See, for the longest time all I have heard is how much others have loved the show, for whatever reason. I can’t speak for them; all I can do is talk about what didn’t work for me.
The presentation of the show was one to follow in the vein of Daredevil (which I love the two seasons they have given us so far. But that is something for a different time). As crazy as it might be, we are faced with a world very similar to the gritty outlook that was first brought to us via the Watchmen comics. Don’t misunderstand me here. I love the nitty gritty dimension that we find in some comics now. It gives a feeling of something just a bit outside the reality we live, while at the same time teasing at some of the more grim realities we see around us.
No, it wasn’t until I spent some time reading The Boys (Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson). These comics follow the similar path laid out by the Watchmen series. There is a grim reality that supers exist in and we the unpowered have our own place in the world. Now, one of the first things that made me fall in love with this series was the whole idea of “The Boys.” They are essentially a group set to keep those with powers in check. This all follows the line of “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This is where everything comes together for me. It was in volume 2 of the series (When taken to graphic novel the differing volumes contain a set run of the series of comics). This volume contained issues 6 through 14 and is titled Get Some. Aside from being the catch phrase of 3rd Battalion 5th Marines (I have some shirts with that printed on them still) we can take the secondary meaning of that phrase and it perfectly sums up what this section of the series covers.
Yes, I am referring to sexual deviancy and other bits of weirdness. These are not stories meant for children. Or maybe they are. The themes in question are things that need a format to explore their implications. But I digress…
What we are talking about here is a story line that starts with a super powered individual sitting in a shrinks office discussing his need to stick his nether region into things, and people, and things, and animals, and did I mention things? And as crazy as that may sound, this storyline actually works through a discussion of homophobia and sexual acceptance. Which brings us back to the show Jessica Jones, which has nothing to do with homophobia.
Instead the focus, the main storyline that ties everything, together in Jessica Jones is her battle against the man who sexually assaulted her. Not only did he do that but he controlled her life and her mind and made her do things she would never have chosen to do on her own. The whole story line was essentially a lifetime movie about a woman attempting to free herself from her abuser and save those who he came in contact with. On the surface this is a grave situation, as important to discuss as the situation in “The Boys” storyline.
And this is also where the show failed and the comic succeeded. If they had made Jessica Jones into a lifetime movie or even a series, they would have just as much impact in the storyline if they completely removed the super powers. If the super powers, no matter how they manifest, are not essential to the story itself, then it isn’t a super hero story. The worst crime this show has done is to bring in the super powers and make Jessica Jones still completely helpless against her assailant.
In our world, those who are going through this situation already feel helpless. Imagine the pain of it if they had abilities that pushed them beyond human and they still could do little to nothing to remedy their situation. That is the sense of hopelessness I gathered from every episode I watched. And even then I feel like I gave the show a fair shake. I made it through 5 episodes of first season before I gave it up in frustration.
And so we circle back to The Boys. In the Get Some storyline, we find the group investigating a murder. Incredibly mundane, something that happens in the world we live in so it would seem nothing out of the ordinary. Even as we find out the man happened to be gay and through the investigation it appears more and more to be a hate crime, this is still something that could happen and does happen in our normal world.
The difference between this story line and the Jessica Jones story line is how the supers are handled. With The Boys, how everything takes place, the powers involved add flavor and context to the story itself. Instead of being something that is added as an afterthought, they are there as part of the world itself. We have been given context that the supers think themselves beyond our mortal laws and lives.
The character of Kilgrave (David Tennent) from Jessica Jones is evil. We see that in his actions and how he interacts with the world around him. But it is the evil of melodrama. His motivations are so distinctly evil that we as viewers have little reason to feel anything about him or how the world reacts to him. This is indicative of the other characters within the storyline. They are steeped so much in their melodrama that we are not given a chance to connect with them as people and in turn we lose the one driving force that grips the audience over multiple seasons of a show.
In contrast, in The Boys, we are given absurdities within the super powered individuals that highlight their humanity. Through their portrayal we are pushed toward their human failings. It is through their absurdities that we are given a sense of hope, a sense that their humanity is still there and we can see that their failings are ours as well. At the same time there is a sense of hope that comes from the main characters. They are trying to make sense of a world gone mad. At times they embrace a bit of the madness themselves while doing their best to maintain a balance between the forces we might never understand and our own perspectives of the world around us.
The Boys is on an over 80 issue run with many already collected in graphic novel volumes. Some great storylines that don’t all run through real world issues (at least not all issues we see everyday). I couldn’t put them down when I started reading them.
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