Marvel Netflix

The Netflix Marvel team up started with such high hopes and genuine success that the sorry state it ended up in as it winds down with Jessica Jones’ third season is really disappointing. Well, Jessica Jones S3 is not all that disappointing; it is a good deal better than the kind of miserable second season and a solid, if still flawed, grace note to end this whole endeavor. But the project ends up feeling kind of disappointing.

Netflix’s Marvel partnership started strong with Daredevil, but the problems that would hamper everything going forward were already present. It was too long, with 13 hour long episodes to tell a story that did not need to be anywhere near that long. It was also pretty dour, fitting for that season of that show but still true. These loosely connected shows, though, exhibited an uncanny ability to lean into their flaws. It seemed like anything that was a problem in a previous show would be doubled down on in the next show or season. That is how we got to the nadir with the first season of Iron Fist, a good four or five hours of story spread thinly across thirteen, done with seriousness and grimness entirely unfitting for a show about a man who grew up in a city of magical martial artists and can conjure mystical powers in his fist. I have no idea what the streaming numbers look like, but I know my interest was already well and truly waning at that point. I faded a bit more with each season down the stretch, though I would rate Jessica Jones season 1 a little better than Daredevil’s first, and eventually I kind of lost interest in each show. I hoped Iron Fist would be the one to pull me back. Of the four characters originally chosen for this Defenders project, he is the only one that is the most consistently fun in the comics. Daredevil is almost never fun. Jessica Jones can be fun, but her stories tend to be more serious noir detective stories. Luke Cage is kind of in the middle; he can be tremendously fun, especially when teaming up with Iron Fist, but also lends himself to serious work.

One thing all of these shows, save Daredevil, consistently failed to do was reflect what made their comics entertaining. The shows all seemed to shy from their comic roots. They pulled the characters and set ups, as well as bits of plots and stories, but left everything else behind. This was especially the relationships between the characters. I’ll be honest, seeing those develop was one of the things I was most interested in and it never happened. I am sure there are good, production related reasons for that, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing. I’d rather have had one season of Danny and Luke teaming up in Heroes for Hire than both shows’ season 2s. The fact that the two characters, most famous for teaming up with each other, barely interacted outside of Defenders, was a mistake and a disappointment. It is why seeing Luke Cage and Jessica Jones in Jessica Jones season one dissipate was disappointing. It is not that that is the only story about them that matters, but that it is the story I most wanted to see. The shows also did that in format. They all wanted to be important, “prestige” television, even when that was not the best fit for the characters. Jessica Jones is a private investigator, the fact that the show couldn’t find things to fill the dead space in seasons was sheer ineptitude. They could have taken some cues from mysteries or procedurals, but those shows aren’t “prestige” so that was not the route taken. It is also true with costuming. Daredevil had a Daredevil costume, but the other shows ran as far away as they could from their comic looks. That sort of mocking the comics bullshit worked with X-Men in 1999, but twenty years later it is pretty sorry. If you are going to make a show about Hellcat, have her dress like Hellcat. Iron Fist is a silly character, give him a silly costume.

Jessica Jones was the best series of the group. I had the best overall season, and its sophomore effort was not quite the unmitigated disaster that Daredevil season two was. Even that show had a problem with spinning its wheels with one interminable season long plot every time out. The biggest problem with all of the Marvel Netflix shows is that they were just good enough to keep me watching. There was always a scene, or a story or a performance that made me want to see more, even though I rarely walked away from a show actually enjoying it. And they started to figure things out at the end. The two shows that got season 3s improved from their season 2s. Iron Fist Season 2 was shortened. Maybe they were slowly righting the ship.

Now, the Marvel Netflix partnership is over. Most new Marvel shows are going to be on Disney+, and actually tied to the MCU, unlike the unfulfilled promise of the Netflix shows. Maybe they will be good, maybe not. Marvel also still has some other outlier TV shows going on some networks. Hulu’s Runaways, a show whose first season disappointed me and I have yet to get to the second, is still ongoing. There is also a Cloak and Dagger show that I think is still running. The interesting, but flawed, The Gifted has ended, as has the even more interesting Legion, which with Fox being bought by Disney opens up the X-Men for a completely fresh start. TV networks seem determined to find the absolute maximum amount of superhero content that can be created and they don’t seem to think they’ve reached it yet. Continue reading

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Superhero TV Show Round Up

Much like they have taken over cinemas over the last few years, superheroes are also taking over television.  This isn’t a new trend, some of the shows are starting their 3rd or 4th season, but last year marked the start of a full takeover and this fall shows the trend growing in strength.  The stalwarts of the genre are CW’s Arrow and ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, they were joined last year by The Flash, Gotham, and Agent Carter.  This year has already added Daredevil, and will see Supergirl, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Legends of Tomorrow and Heroes Reborn.  That’s a lot of TV superheroes.  To help out viewers that don’t have the time or inclination to sort through the chaff to find wheat, I will lend my largely non-existent expertise to point out the shows most worthy of your time.

  • Agents of SHIELD:  This show is starting its third season and has yet to show any of the energy or excitement that makes Marvel’s movies so popular.  It gets by on a tenuous connection to those movies, but is otherwise completely dull and forgettable.  I guess you can give a shot on Netflix, but I would recommend skipping it.  Watch it: No
  • Agent Carter:  Unlike the show that this spun off from, Agent Carter does possess much of the energy of its big screen cousins.  Hayley Atwell does a great job with title character and the period setting gives it a hook.  The first season was a solidly interesting mini-series; hopefully this year’s will be more of the same.  Watch it: Yes
  • Arrow:    Starting its 4th season, Arrow is the elder statesmen of this crop of superhero TV shows. It has its strengths, like surprisingly well shot fight scenes for broadcast TV and some interesting original characters; it is also a show that occasionally (i.e. frequently) overplays the melodrama.  Last season was considered by many to be the show weakest, though it did have its moments, but this season appears to be somewhat brightening the tone and changing things up a little.  I don’t know how attentive I will be.  Watch it:  Yes, probably
  • Daredevil: Season 1 is already up on Netflix and Season 2 is due sometime in the first half of next year.  Much like the Daredevil comic, the show is self-serious and almost comically dark, but it also is easily the best made show on this list.  This feels like a superhero show with prestige budget of something like Game of Thrones, as opposed to The Flash’s Dr. Who-like cheesiness.  If that is your thing, go for it.  Watch it: Yes
  • Flash:  The Flash is doing true superheroics, not just costumed karate-man stuff like Daredevil and Arrow, on a limited budget. Instead of trying to mask its cheesiness, it revels in it, making it one of the most entertaining shows on TV right now.  This is the show that best captures the blue skies heroics that make best comics so much fun.  Watch it:  Yes
  • Gotham:  A Batman show without Batman. That should tell you all you need to know about this show.  Despite some solid acting performances, the show can’t hide that it is all prologue.  The end is that Bruce Wayne becomes Batman; everyone knows that.  While a good show could be crafted out of this, so far there is no fun to be had watching the sausage being made.  Watch it: No, aside from some hate watching
  • Heroes Reborn: Didn’t we all learn our lesson last time as the solid first season imploded at shocking speed?  There is no reason for this, the first show thoroughly eradicated any goodwill anyone felt for it.  Watch it: Not a chance
  • Jessica Jones: This is Netflix’s second dose of Marvel goodness and despite some reservations I have about Daredevil’s tone I see no reason not to expect this to exhibit a similar level of quality.  I do wonder how well the shows will connect, considering that the original plan was that they would be 4 mini-series leading to a Defenders show, but when this hits in November I will be jumping right on it.  Watch it: Yes
  • Legends of Tomorrow: The third of the CW’s superhero shows, this one looks to be the most ambitious.  All of the other shows either star one hero or even a team of not actually super powered character.  This appears to be the first attempt at a genuine super team show.  Can they possibly do the Avengers on a CW budget?  Not likely, but the attempt will be interesting.  I also really like the proposed team they’ve set up.  It could be a train wreck, but it could also be great.  Watch it:  Yes, at least initially
  • Luke Cage: This one likely won’t be on until February or March, but much like the other Netflix shows, it should be at least well-made if not actually any good.  It also stars a better character than the previous two. (Yes, Luke Cage, Power Man is a better character than Daredevil) Watch it: Yes
  • Supergirl:  The early returns on this show make it sound very Flash-like.  That is a good thing.  Unlike recent Superman movies, this seems to actually be letting a Super-character be light.  This looks really, really good.  Watch it: Yes


That looks like a lot of TV watching, but only Arrow, Flash and Supergirl are full seasons.  The Netflix stuff is easy to marathon over a weekend or two and Agent Carter and Legends are both going to abbreviated runs.  It is more than likely that I don’t keep up with any of them beyond the Flash.  Still, it is a good time to be a superhero fan.  

Biweekly Comic Reviews 8-22-11

Time for another set of comic reviews, though only 4 reviews this time. Most of my stuff didn’t ship and I’m saving the Flashpoint stuff for the end of the month.

  • Mega Man 3. Ian Flynn and Patrick Spaziante.

This has been everything a person could want in a Mega Man comic. It is a brightly colored action packed all ages comic that also touches on themes like the horrors of war. Mega Man nearly loses himself to robot killer he has become, but he is pulled back from the brink by Dr. Light and Roll. I could read this book forever.   [****1/2]

 

  • Kirby Genesis 2. Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross and Jack Herbert

It is not often I wish a comic contained less than it does, but I feel that way with Kirby Genesis. It seems like Busiek and Ross have lost control a bit trying to flood all of these Jack Kirby characters onto the page. The mass confusion appears to be intentional and I have faith that they can rein it in or explain it sufficiently to ease the confusion and construct a satisfying story. It’s just that after 3 issues the plot is still lost in the cacophony of noise color and Kirby Dots. Still, this is a comic where a Sasquatch is abducted by aliens. That’s hard to top.  [***1/2]

  • Justice Society of America 54. Marc Guggenheim and Jerry Ordway.

I never learn my lesson with the JSA. The Johns/Goyer run is my favorite comic, ever. The relaunch was good even when it meandered. Then Willingham and Sturges took over and it took until they split the team for them to find their footing. Then came Guggenheim, who was terrible. Every time I picked up the book, it was terrible. But every three months or so I would try it again and it would still be terrible. Here we have some nice Jerry Ordway art, some actually snappy dialogue and as brain dead a plot as was ever thrown in the garbage in disgust. I’m a little sad that the JSA is not coming back (immediately) with the re-launch, but if it is going to be like this then good riddance. [*1/2]

  • Daredevil 2. Mark Waid and Paola Rivera

Continuing from last month’s stellar issue is another stellar issue. Few can craft a superhero comic like Mark Waid does. The fight with Captain America to start is a joy, and it is followed by advancing the other plots introduced in the first issue. The art by is as good as you can find on the shelves right now. Even for a Daredevil hater like me this book is an absolute delight. [****]

Quick Shot Reviews:

  • Superman 714.  Chris Roberson made some fine lemonade out of some rotten lemons. [***]
  • War of the Green Lanterns 2. Utterly pointless. A waste of time and money.  [**]
  • Xombi 5. Ethereal and odd, it is sad that there is only one more issue. [****]