It’s no secret that superheroes currently dominate pop culture. The biggest box offices smashes from Hollywood all feature our favorite heroes and villains comics. Television is getting its own wave of superheroic shenanigans. And even video games are having their fair share of spandex-clad adventures. It’s to the point where I never would judge anyone for tapping out, feeling over-saturated and actively avoiding any more superhero media. But, I have been a lifelong fan of superheroes, and thus have become a real sucker for them. Meaning that I usually check out a majority of superhero entertainment, at least willing to give it a shot, even sometimes if it’s a character that I don’t have a whole lot of familiarity with. Which, is what brought me to Amazon’s attempt to throw its hat in the ring of superhero properties, the Tick. An adaptation of Ben Edlund’s satiric superhero character, this isn’t the Tick’s first foray onto the small screen. He and his colorful adventures had been portrayed previously both in animation and live-action, and has generally become a cult favorite. And, while I certainly had a passing familiarity with the character and his world, I went into the first season relatively blind, which worked in my favor I suppose, since that season wasn’t really the strictest adaptation in what the characters have been before. But, I really found myself connecting to the oddball parody of the show, which managed to deliver a fun superhero show that was simultaneously mocking the genre while providing a pretty solid version of it. So, I of course gave the second season a look, and found myself even more on board with the show’s weird world and unshaking sincerity.
The Tick follows the adventures of the titular superhero, a large blue-clad man with no memory and a vast amount of strength and invulnerability, and his neurotic best friend and partner, Arthur. In the last season these somewhat bumbling heroes managed to help save the world from the evil machinations of a supervillain known at the Terror, and managed to keep an incredibly powerful superhero, Superion, from dying. The world now knows about the pair, and they’re forced to acclimate to something approaching a normal life, as open superheroes. Which, generally doesn’t go well. It puts a strain on Arthur’s already problematic relationships with his sister, mother, and step-father, while also trying to deal with the Tick’s over the top personality and near-constant need for attention and gratification. But, things looks like they’re going to take a bit of a turn when Tick and Arthur find out that they’re being asked to audition for a world-wide crime-fighting organization known as AEGIS, specifically to join a new version of the Flag Five, the world’s preeminent superhero team.
So, against the advice of their vigilante acquaintance Overkill, Tick and Arthur throw themselves into the AEGIS lifestyle, submitting themselves to a battery of tests and evaluation to find their role in the organization. And, thanks to the Tick’s incredible powers, the pair are invited to join the Flag Five and help keep the world safe. Which just gives them more problems to deal with. They’re on the trail of a new supervillain known as Lobstercules who ends up becoming more than they assumed, they have to deal with the re-appearance of a villain from the first season, Ms. Lint, who is now masquerading as a hero, and they have to navigate the generally ominously Orwellian AEGIS organization. And, while all of that’s going on we get to bounce around and live in the increasingly absurd world that the first season set up, spending time with Overkill and his friendship with Arthur’s sister Dot who may be developing superpowers of her own, we see Superion’s conflict with his own ego and sense of importance after his brush with mortality, we learn more about Overkill’s sentient boat and Arthur’s love-inteerst Dangerboat. And, much like the first season, it all comes together to create a massive climax that sees Arthur and the Tick proving themselves once again to be true heroes, all while resetting the status quo and setting up continued adventures, possibly more insane than those we’ve already seen.
I enjoyed myself quite a bit with the first season of the Tick. It had to do its fair share of heavy lifting, and the strange release strategy certainly made for a potentially frustrating viewing experience, but overall I had a good time with it. And, this season took all that goodwill and built something really special on it. The idea of a comedic superhero story, something to take some of the wind out of a potentially self-serious genre, is certainly nothing new. For as long as there’s been people demanding that superheroes and comic books be taken seriously there have been stories to poke fun at that and remind us that this is still mythic stories about people in tights. And, honestly, I think that the Tick has become one of the most successful sources of superhero satire available. Each iteration of the Tick seems to have set its sights on a different era of superheroes in pop culture, and this show is certainly taking its point of view from the modern rash of superhero movies and television shows ,and as a result has quite a bit of material to lampoon. And it manages to do so without ever seeming mean-spirited. I have not been a fan of the Deadpool movies, and it really does seem like everything those movies are trying to do is being done much better by the Tick. We get high-flying superhero action, with a solid amount of gags and satire that come together to create one of the more legitimately entertaining superhero TV shows available.
And, like any good piece of satire, the Tick is able to lovingly mock the very idea of superhero fiction, while also telling a very solid superhero tale. It’s full of the sort of fun action and adventure that we all crave from our costumed heroes, while also getting to the heart of a very important dynamic that I feel often goes undervalued in most modern superhero stories. The relationship between partners. This is something that I feel often gets left out of modern stories, primarily because the very idea of sidekicks has become untenable for whatever reason. Whenever we get a movie or television show about a superhero who traditionally would have a sidekick they’re either removed completely or aged up to create a more combative relationship. People apparently don’t want to see Batman and Robin have a father/son relationship, they want to see them as two bitter family members who have spent too long together and constantly snipe at each other about their relationship. But, this show takes a very different approach. Now, Arthur isn’t a traditional sidekick in the Robin fold, being a grown-man himself. And also kind of the lead of this show. But, the relationship between Tick and Arthur, especially in this season, really is unlike anything else I’ve seen in a live-action superhero adaptation. These are two people who really respect each other, and are better together. The Tick makes Arthur better, and Arthur makes the Tick better. On their own they’re their own people, but put together they become an unstoppable team, two friends whose relationship is continuing to evolve and really becomes the emotional basis of this entire show. They each have their strengths, and are able to play off each other, giving affirmations and the knowledge that no matter what they each have each other’s backs, creating one of the more satisfying superhero partner dynamics I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what the future of this show holds, but if we get to see Tick and Arthur continue their bond and become an even stronger duo, I’ll be there.
The Tick was created by Ben Edlund and released by Amazon Studios, 2019.
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