The Flash is about the fastest man alive, and he does more things than run fast. He reads and learns fast, he metabolizes food fast, he even breaks the laws of physics and time-travels. While being the fastest does help him bring down criminals, Barry Allen learns that it takes more than speed to help him catch up with life in general.
Starting off as a spinoff from CW’s Arrow (with Barry Allen appearing pre-powers), the Flash is a strange adaptation of the comic book series. This show stars a much younger Allen (who, age-wise, matches Wally West more) and makes him a lot dorkier and less ‘cool’ than the original comic book hero. The show also adapts the newer “race inclusive” decision by DC to turn the Irises into people of color, and completely destroy Wally’s cheerful personality with that of a stereotypical bitter teenager. Despite all these changes, however, The Flash manages to be an amazing superhero show. And that is thanks to the amazing acting and chemistry between the actors. Barry and the crew at Star Labs is downright amazing, any scene with tech-whiz (and future hero Vibe) Cisco with Harrison Wells is TV gold. Simply put, no matter how badly they adapt the comic characters, they still manage to deliver a show that’s incredibly fun to watch.
CW does not hold back with the inclusion of familiar comic characters eithers. Aside from crossing over with Arrow, the show itself has seen Reverse Flash, Firestorm, Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold, and a lot of other major comic book characters (heroes and villains alike) also appear. The latest season even deals with the multiverse theory, allowing not only for the inclusion of the CW’s version of silver age Flash to appear, but also for Barry to cross over with Supergirl’s TV show.
Matt Murdock may have lost his eyesight as a child, but he also gained a more acute level of sensitivity for all his other senses, allowing him detect and hear things that no other people can. Combined with expert martial arts training, he uses his unique skills to bring a new kind of justice to the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen.
Drew Goddard’s Daredevil is currently the Netflix show that everyone should binge on. There are already two seasons out and both are incredibly fun and thrilling to watch. Of course, comic book fans more accustomed to CW and ABC’s more lighthearted approach will be surprised that Netflix takes comic undertones far more seriously than HBO does Mafia drama. The battles are downright intense, rivaling even some of the best martial arts fight scenes in movies (the director loves going all cinematic with fight scenes that involve very narrow spaces too, and often doing so in as few takes as possible –some of the best ones are done in a single cut).
But there is more to Daredevil than a blind guy performing incredible acrobatic fighting, he also investigates all sorts of strange dealings in Hell’s Kitchen, and his day job as an attorney for impoverished clients adds a unique dynamic in his life. Major Marvel characters such as Kingpin, The Punisher, Elektra, Stick, and others have been part of the show, and as the first season implied, Daredevil is part of the greater MCU (hopefully, it gets recognized by the films instead of being snubbed like Agents of SHIELD).
Private investigator Jessica Jones has a secret, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she has super strength and super durability. No, her secret is that for a brief time in her life, she was a slave to man named Kilgrave, who had the power to make people obey anything he says. While she managed to eventually escape that harrowing experience, it has left her too broken to form bonds. Now, when a new client approaches her practice, she realizes that the person her client is running from may be none other than Kilgrave.
Considering that Jessica Jones was originally part of the MAX Imprint (which was basically Marvel’s equivalent of Vertigo comics), many of the topics and themes explored in this show are very mature and graphic. While Daredevil had Netflix’s best action scenes, Jessica Jones was more of a psycho thriller. There is also a unique relationship between Jones and her powers. Despite the superhuman strength, her powers prove to be of little help when it comes to actual investigating –a job that she accomplishes with nothing but keen observations skills, sharp wit, and knowledge that only comes from experience (not to mention the fact that since she is dealing with an opponent who uses mind control, her very physical powers don’t give much help).
Several supporting characters that appear in Daredevil appear here too (which is not surprising, since she also operates in the area of Hell’s Kitchen), and there are some unique characters as well. Most notable of the appearances is Luke Cage (with whom Jones shares a brief relationship), who is also lined up to have a Netflix series of his own.
After five years on a island, Oliver Queen returns to Starling City as a changed man; gone are his philandering, spoiled-brat ways. Instead Oliver brings with him a personal mission, a quest of vengeance upon the criminals of the city, and the constant drive to hunt down those who aim to ruin it. While his actions are dangerous, he earns the trust and loyalty of people who share his sentiments, and together they do their best to keep the city safe.
Without a doubt, it was CW’s successful adaptation of the Green Arrow comics into a TV series that started the trend of other comic book shows. Not to say that there were no other shows before (even CW had their 10 year run with Superman in Smallville), but none of those other shows managed to create successful fanbase and generate a good level of interest (though some would argue that the success of movies helped). The TV Arrow is a lot more Batman than he is Green Arrow (especially the fact that the show takes a lot of enemies from Batman’s Rogues Gallery), and there have been a lot of really questionable alterations to the story and characters (worst of all would be their Oracle-substitute, which is played by an actress with an annoying voice pitch and a penchant for oversized earrings). Despite that, the show’s general pace is well done. Though recently, there have been changes to the show (which is likely caused by the movies wanting to not have conflict) that are very questionable in terms of storytelling (Deathstroke, Deadshot, and Amanda Waller being suddenly written out of the story).
Arrow has been the starting point for The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (which is probably the best of the three CW shows), and it has also had a brief crossover with the now-canceled Constantine series. And by itself, it has created a uniquely stable niche for comic book shows on TV.
We are giving an honorable mention to Gotham, which in its current shows, is doing a very efficient butchering of almost all of the Batman comic’s key characters. The show wants viewers to believe that by the time Bruce Wayne is old enough to fight crime, all the established villains will be old men. It has also introduced unforgivably scene-chewing characters like Fish Mooney, not to mention half a dozen fake-outs for the Joker. The only thing that we enjoy here would be thin Penguin slowly rising up the criminal underworld. Heck, this show should have just been a Mafia story revolving around Penguin and we would all be happier.
Wrap Up: the Future Looks Amazing
Aside from the five shows mentioned above, there are a ton of other TV shows right now based on comics (some very loosely, some well done). And that, by itself is a wonderful thing. As mentioned, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is incredibly well done thanks to its stellar cast, great acting, and impressive use of special effects. Marvel’s Netflix shows are on our must watch list, which consists of the third season of Daredevil (almost a sure thing), and the Jessica Jones-Luke Cage-Iron Fist triple crossover that is definitely in works (they are the members of superhero team, Heroes for Hire, and also, the Defenders). It is a great time to be a comic book fan (and have lots of spare time to watch TV).