Before Deadpool was a mote in creator Rob Liefeld’s eye, beloved superhero parodies have long been a cult favourite. As part of Amazon’s latest round of original programming, The Tick returns to our screens, now played by Peter Serafinowicz, in a decidedly more complex adaptation compared to previous incarnations. The City is descending slowly into crime, its protectors, the Flag Five, have been blinded and brutally murdered by the Terror.
But the Terror is believed dead, and the neurotic, obsessive, and mentally traumatised Arthur Everest is the only one who knows otherwise. Fortunately, there’s the titular Tick. Written by Tick creator Ben Edlund, and produced by iconic Tick actor Patrick Warburton, this latest distillation embraces a tonal shift, being more serious, and ‘dark and gritty’. Now, normally, I shudder when I hear those words applied to a comic book adaptation (because God forbid superheroes not be assholes, right?), but here it feels earned. The Tick has always to-an-extent been a satire of superheroes, and consequently frequently been darkly comic. What’s more is that this ‘darkening’ is subverted slightly. The character of the Tick himself remains untouched. He’s still cartoonish, probably insane, and prone to long speeches riddled with mixed metaphors, in short, a classic superhero. The show cleverly inverts the usual comedic formula of a straight man in an absurd world, with an incredibly absurd man in a depressingly realistic world. The pilot does a fantastic job of establishing this new City’s status quo, and introducing us succinctly to the main cast. In particular, the decision to make the point-of-view character Arthur, instead of the Tick, is to be commended. In addition to grounding the viewers’ perspectives, it also adds another layer of intrigue; we can never really be sure if the Tick truly exists, or is just a manifestation of Arthur’s mental illness. Griffin Newman does an excellent job of balancing Arthur’s obsessive tendencies with his genuine desire to do good. The ever underrated Jackie Earle Haley puts in a typically solid and understated performance as the Terror. Serafinowicz seems to have a great time cheesing it up as the blue bug, and while he doesn’t quite match Warburton’s highs, he does an amicable job. I’m confident he’ll grow into the role, given the time. The series is a solid blend of satire, dark comedy, drama, and classic superhero cheese. If you’re a fan of any of those, do give this series a chance.