Another day, another major superhero property making the dramatic leap from page to the silver screen! Of course,this isn’t the first time The Tick has made said-leap, with a popular 90’s cartoon and a short-lived 2001 TV series starring Patrick Warburton already cementing the titular character in the minds of hardcore superhero fans.
Created by cartoonist and writer Ben Edlund (Supernatural, Angel), the big blue bug of justice has long stood out from the crowd as a wacky, offbeat, satirical take on the superhero genre, whilst simultaneously serving as an engaging comic book tale in it’s own right. Now, with the aid of Amazon Studios, a team of talented TV creatives and slick production values, The Tick has been re-imagined for the 21st Century superhero boom.
Early evidence suggests The Tick has what it takes to entertain and enthrall in a media-sphere dominated by other, bigger superhero properties from the likes of Marvel Studios and DC. The pilot episode and the second installment, Where’s My Mind? are both action-packed and directed with all the verve and spectacle befitting a screen superhero extravaganza. Filmmaker and regular Christopher Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister gives each episode a big blockbuster feel without compromising the ridiculous or irrelevant tone of the story, skillfully blending huge CGI action set pieces with oddball, comedic antics.
Of the two episodes previewed, Episode 2 is the stronger installment, free to build on the brief introduction to the world we glimpse in the show’s pilot. The central story of protagonist Arthur (Griffin Newman), a conspiracy theorist reluctantly pulled into the world of superheroes and villains, is intriguing enough but only kicks into gear once he properly encounters the Tick at the tail end of Episode 1. From then on, the show begins to kick into gear, blending eccentric humour and superhero spectacle with violent encounters and off-beat situations.
The more screwball elements of the premise are mostly underplayed, with the tone taking an altogether darker direction then previous incarnations have dared tread. And yet Edlund‘s scripts are still chock full of wild ideas, biting wit and characters bordering on the right side of ridiculous – no more so then the Tick himself, played to perfection by the comedic-genius that is Peter Serafinowicz. Channeling the style and mannerisms of the late-great Adam West, Serafinowicz is a delight throughout these opening episodes, providing plenty of snort-inducing moments with his over-the-top delivery and campy superhero exclamations, many of which wouldn’t feel out of place in an episode of 60’s Batman.
Griffin Newman is the perfect straight man to Serafinowicz‘s more extreme superhero persona, breathing warmth and vulnerability into the character of Arthur and the series itself. His journey from neurotic, traumatized geek to slayer of supervillains is intriguing, engaging and often-hilarious, a lot of which is a result of Newman‘s excellent down-to-earth performance.
As for the other characters, there’s little to go on from these opening episodes, but Arthur’s sister Dot (Valorie Curry) promises to be a more rounded and important presence then previous versions of the show have previously allowed, with Curry delivering plenty of empathy in the few scenes she has. Yara Martinez cuts an imposing figure as the villainous yet unfulfilled Ms. Lint, offering a hint of compassion to the bad guy’s side of the story, whilst Jackie Earle Haley is wonderfully monstrous as The Terror, the show’s (supposedly) central villain! Whilst the episodes here concentrate largely on the Tick and Arthur, it suggests we have plenty more to see when it comes to the show’s talented supporting cast.
Not overly hilarious but brimming with potential, The Tick is a perfect antidote to the more serious superhero dramas currently streaming. Dark but never brooding, the show offers plenty of black comedy and slick action set pieces that wouldn’t feel out of place in a regular superhero epic. Coupling all this with a talented cast and the perfect leading man in Peter Serafinowicz, there is certainly plenty of scope for a solid superhero satire loaded with laughs and originality.
The Tick premieres on Amazon Prime Video from 25th August, with a second batch of episodes following in 2018.