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What on Infinite Earths is Alias AKA Jessica Jones?

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on January 17, 2016

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Jessica Jones is the new Netflix show taking the world by storm. Following on from the ridiculous success of Daredevil, the show drifts even further away from the lycra and heroics of the Marvel cinematic universe to show the dark underbelly of a world with superhuman powers. While Daredevil took the Marvel universe and showed the life of a superhero through the lens of a gritty crime drama Jessica Jones masquerades as film noir while actually unfolding an extremely tense psychodrama. It is one of the best pieces of television that I have ever seen and that opinion seems to be shared by a fairly large portion of the world. Many of you will be watching this perfectly paced and tightly plotted story and thinking, “I need to go back and read the comic this is based off of!”

My suggestion: don’t.

The comic miniseries that Jessica springs out of is called Alias, for obvious reasons the television show couldn’t hold onto that name, and it revolves around the individual cases that she handles as a private investigator and the tangled mess of her social life. Jessica’s position is that of an outsider to the mainstream of superheroes but she is constantly interacting with the tangled mess of their lives, accidentally photographing Captain America and his girlfriend as he is meeting her in secret to protect her identity, rescuing one of the innumerable spider-women from a fate worse than death and trying to find the Hulk’s buddy Rick Jones when he goes missing in New York. She is trapped inside all of these interlocking stories and it is only much later that we actually get to experience any part of her story after we have waded through heaps of cross-over continuity designed to appeal to the comic fanboy. Her story is diluted and barely present.

Alias was the first title in Marvel’s MAX imprint, which basically took their core setting and turned all of the dark and disturbing possibilities up to eleven. There is a street gang getting high and getting super-powers by harvesting and smoking nerve tissue from a drugged up super-teenager. A preacher spreading hate-speech about mutants in a small-town gets somebody killed. The Purple Man story arc, arguably the basis for the whole season of the Netflix show, is compressed into the final issues with barely any hint beforehand. More insultingly it shies away from the very real trauma of rape for the main character by loudly declaring that while the Purple Man raped everyone else he could lay his hands on with his mental domination he merely dressed Jessica up in provocative outfits and had her stand around.

For the time, Alias was a very progressive attempt to bring reality and a bit of real life horror to the Marvel universe but it was so intent on announcing its involvement in that universe that Jessica barely gets a story of her own. Stick to the show, it distilled everything that was great about Alias without making us deal with an attempted romance by Ant-Man or a surprise pregnancy ending. 

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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