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Amazon's "The Tick" is a Darker But Triumphant Return [Review]

I'm a huge fan of the Tick. I started out reading the original comic books back in the eighties, watched the cartoon show in 1994, and watched the live-action show in 2001. I was really excited about seeing the Tick return in a new Amazon Pilot. But this is not the Tick I knew and loved. In some ways, it's better. In some ways, it's lacking.

In case you're not familiar with it, Amazon creates original TV shows like Netflix and Hulu, but they work differently. Instead of creating a full season, they work more like traditional TV in creating a pilot to see if it works. But the network doesn't decide if it's worth making a full season, viewers do. Viewers submit feedback, and the shows that get the most positive reviews go to series. It's more interactive than both models. This is a review of the half-hour pilot without knowing if a series will follow.

The episode opens with an alien spacecraft arriving in Siberia in 1908, bringing with it the arrival of "not-Superman" superhero Superian. Cut to an online TV show starring Whoopi Goldberg (yes, it's really her) interviewing Superian about the death of his nemesis, the Terror. There's a persistent conspiracy theory that the Terror isn't really dead, but they found his teeth after the crater Superian left him in. That's a running joke in the show, that everyone insists his teeth proved he's dead.

But one person doesn't believe it, and that's Arthur Everest. Unlike other iterations of the Tick, where Arthur is just a comic foil for Tick, this show is all about Arthur. Arthur is obsessed with the Terror for reasons I won't give away, and insists he's still alive. But everyone thinks he's crazy, and pities him for the incident that traumatizes him. Arthur isn't a superhero, but wants justice by staking out a mysterious shipment of weapons.

And then literally the Tick walks up to him, introducing him to the world of superheroes. There's no explanation for who he is or where he came from, but he's still the same non-sequitor spewing optimist of the original series. He's played very well by Peter Serafinowicz, who makes you forget about Patrick Warburton's iconic performance within seconds. He's less goofy and more straight-laced, but just as funny. From there, Arthur finds himself pulled kicking and screaming into the Tick's world, and becoming his sidekick. The episode ends with a cliffhanger, so I hope they end up making it into a series.

The new Tick pilot is a very different tone from the original comics and even the TV shows. The Tick has always been a bizarre and quirky riff on superheroes with parodies of superheroes and the superhero community, and a G-rated sensibility. In Amazon's The Tick, there's more of a realistic feel, like it's more a parody of our world and fame than superheroes. There's also death and mutilation, which was hard to watch sometimes. But the original comic had characters like the Man-Eating Cow, so I can't say it doesn't fit the concept. But when the Tick walks into a scene, the whole tone of the show changes for the better.

Arthur is played by Griffin Newman as a wonderfully complex and deep character that you really sympathize and root for. As the Terror, Jackie Earle Haley is fantastic. I really loved how Haley chewed the scenery with menace. With conspicuously large teeth.

Slight spoiler: if the flashback showing Arthur's "voices" is true, it points to an intriguing connection between Arthur and the Tick.

Thing I didn't like: I missed the off-the-wall craziness of the original Tick. Der Fleidermaus is my favorite Batman parody, and Batmanuel is a close second. I'd love to see characters like Chairface and The-Evil-Midnight-Bomber-What-Bombs-At-Midnight, but this show will probably never go that far. I know the dark tone is intended to make the show fit in with superhero TV shows like "Daredevil," but I think it will turn off some viewers who would prefer more light and optimistic fare.

I also thought the Tick costume looked too much like a suit of armor like "The Dark Knight." There's all sorts of textures and patterns on it that I found distracting.

In the end, I decided this show is still worth seeing, and I want to see more. I hope it goes to series, and lightens up a little bit to make it more fun. If you have Amazon Prime, it's definitely a must-watch for any comic book fan.

Would you see the Tick? If you saw it, what did you think?

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