This is not an overreaction. This is not hyperbole. This is as far as the eye can see, the best time to be a fan of comic book television. Starting with Marvel’s Dardevil on Netflix and DC’s Arrow on the CW, comic book tv has never been better, or more diversified for that matter. Not long ago, comic book fans essentially only had Smallville, and as much as that show may hold a special place in this writer’s heart, it definitely was a far cry from what we get to experience on TV today. Here’s a glimpse of some of the best shows on tv, streaming and why you should dive in if you haven’t yet. And if you haven’t yet it’s also high time you crawl out from under whichever rock you have been living under. Let’s start with the best.
************* Spoilers Below *************
Marvel’s flagship Netflix show Daredevil recently aired their highly anticipated third season. It was, in a word, glorious. The writer’s room for this season of Daredevil ought to be commended. Vincent D’Onofrio deserves an Emmy for his portrayal of Wilson Fisk. If you’re like me and you do not normally try to dive through Netflix seasons in binge mode, this season will definitely make you want to, and it would most certainly be worth it. (I legit knocked this out in under 24 hours).
As with Marvel’s other Netflix shows, the intention with Daredevil is to be a more grounded counterpart the out of this world nature of the MCU. The most recent season presents such an amazing presentation of Wilson Fisk, Daredevil/Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Karen Page and Benjamin Poindexter. This season was approached with a closer look at many of these characters – diving into their motivations, their demons, their aspirations. This was as much an ensemble show as anything else with each of these characters getting bright lights shone into the deep corners of their individual worlds and pulling the audience further and further in.
This show is leaps and bounds beyond its Netflix counterparts and is winning a tight race for best overall comic book series on tv.
The DC TV Universe, known as the Arrowverse, has started this most recent season of all its shows on fire. Arrow, the first of the universe and thus the show that gives this group of shows its name, is exploring new ground and new stories while revisiting last season’s big bad, Ricardo Diaz.
Unpopular opinion alert, Ricardo Diaz’s return as the big bad for this season is a great idea. First, there is definitely unfinished business between him and Team Arrow from last season. Second, in my eyes, Kirk Acevedo’s performance is captivating and, as with Fisk from Daredevil, the type of villain that you can’t quite look away from. My wife sat through a couple episodes of Arrow with me this year during the time frame when they were exploring Diaz’s past. She was pulled in by the story and the actor. So much so that when I told her he was this season’s big bad she was angry that I started watching without her. (Editor’s note, Alex’s wife does not watch any of these shows with him, ever.)
Outside of Diaz, the more grounded approach to the separation of Team Arrow feels more believable this year and has more stakes than last season’s OTA vs NTA shenanigans. Amazingly with all these positives we haven’t even broached the beauty of the story that is Oliver Queen, outed as the Green Arrow, in prison trying to keep a low profile but also trying to get info on Diaz. It has been a great watch so far.
This one surprised me and probably a lot of others as well. From the leaked set photos – reactions to Starfire Thotfire and Beast Boy come to mind – to the general idea that anything DC outside of the Arrowverse and Wonder Woman has been a sketchy proposition since Suicide Squad, there was much reason to not give Titans a second thought.
Then they dropped the trailer.
Then Robin said, “Fuck Batman.”
From there a renewed interest began to simmer and here we are.
The first three episodes of Titans have me hooked.
It is, as expected, a bit of a weird show. It is gritty but not grounded (I mean, Starfire’s scenes in the first three episodes alone ensure that you can not call this show grounded). It is dark and brooding, like its main character Dick Grayson. But most of all, it is engaging. It takes a big chunk of a lot of my generations childhood and young adulthood and thrusts it into a violent, vicious, decidedly dark adult world, which is probably what makes it so intriguing.
This is a show to get in early on because this could be a massive hit that starts to prop up DC’s online subscription service. This might just be in three years what DC’s fully realized version of Daredevil has become.
As a new dad, this season of The Flash has already resonated with me in a way I wasn’t prepared for. The dual new parent/parent life stories of Barry, Iris and Nora and Joe, Cecile and Jenna affects me as a new dad learning to balance and be present and be everything that a parent is supposed to be.
Add in the detective adventures of Sherloque Wells and Ralph Dibny, the fact that there is something fishy about Nora, the altered-timeline nonsense, Cicada, the search for the Killer Frost inside and everything else that typically makes this show fun and season 5 is already clicking on all cylinders.
There isn’t much to say about The Flash other than the CW has done a great job at positioning it to be the primary show if/when Arrow airs its final episode. The heart, the balance of lightheartedness and dire circumstances, The Flash has always seemed to do a slightly better job at managing the dichotomies of being a superhero show.
Legends of Tomorrow
Legends typically would get thrown in with the last group of shows, but between last season’s run and the fantastic start to this season, Legends is on a roll and is definitely worthy of being reviewed on its on as a big boy show.
First and foremost, Legends is entirely the most fun show in the Arrowverse – and not only do they know it, they love and embrace it.
To be clear, a show that decides that it’s going to take the villain of the week formula and have its first two villains be a unicorn and a fairy godmother knows damn well it’s being silly and fun and is confident enough it itself to not just do it, but to pull it off almost flawlessly.
This is a show that wants the audience to laugh as much at it as with it.
What makes Legends so special is the fact that it can be that silly while still telling a lot of important stories. In this writer’s opinion it continues to be the hallmark of all the Arrowverse shows for the depiction of LBGTQ lifestyles. (I note that I am not a member of that community so if you are and you are offended by the last statement, I ask your forgiveness.)
The show also deals with the messiness of family, loss, triumphs and failures and all of the crazy circumstances that life can throw at you. (No, we don’t have to fight murderous unicorns in our day jobs, but sometimes dealing with humans can come pretty close.)
The Rest of The Arrowverse
As I mentioned above, the Arrowverse has started this season in stride and seems to be already humming at its mid to late season best. Quick hits.
If you don’t watch this show or you watch it begrudgingly or you, like me, typically wait til the week before the crossover to binge and catch up so that you know what’s happening, start with episode 3 of this season. This episode is important for a number of reasons.
First, it provides a look at how an everyday citizen in National City has been affected by all of Kara and friends’ adventures over the years.
Second, it shows us just how little or much it could take an average human being to lose their way and be disenfranchised by the world around them – including its heroes.
Third, it acts as a back story for what appears to be a very interesting and nuanced big bad for this season,
I know that Supergirl isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but like Titans above, this might be a good season to jump back in on or jump in on for the first time.
Yes, the lead actor on this show can be a burden.
Yes, the SJW messages can be a bit heavy-handed for some.
Yes, some of the powers and situations can be a bit campy and confusing (looking at you Thunder).
But, Black Lightning, in its second season and honestly still trying to find its footing, remains an entertaining show. This is without even having to mention the importance of a (mostly) strong black cast and a focus on many of the issues facing the world today.
As with most of the other Arrowverse shows, Black Lightning is sure to have its ups and downs before it fully finds its place, but it seems poised to figure itself out.
In the meantime, feel free to stay for quite the group of attractive black women. Thank me later.
All the Rest
To be fair, there are a number of other comic book television shows on air like AMC’s The Walking Dead (which needs its own article to be fair), Fox’s The Gifted, ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger and others that range from okay to excellent. We live in a time now where basically no matter what your cup of comic book tea is there is a television show ready to serve it to you.
That, more than anything else, is a testament to how well the genre is doing. You can literally pick, choose and refuse from a vast number of options in the comic book tv space and be as satisfied or as disappointed as you want.
If this isn’t the golden age of comic book television then we are damn near close.
P.S. Nobody tell Andrew that I forgot Gotham. And Punisher.