Monday, April 20, 2015


Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, Avengers Assemble, Beware the Batman, Constantine, Daredevil, Gotham, Hulk and His Agents of SMASH, iZombie, The Flash, Ultimate Spider-Man. I knew I watched a lot of TV shows based on comic books, but this is the first time I made a list of the shows I’ve been watching over the past couple of years. Okay, technically, I haven’t watched iZombie yet, but I have the first five episodes waiting for me on my DVR. I’ll be writing about all of them over the next several weeks.

Today, under a “spectacular” cover created for the bloggy thing by the sensational Shawn Williams, I’m going to look at four current or concluded series from DC Comics.


Oliver Queen is a self-centered prick in the earliest flashback to his misspent youth. He’s dating Laurel Lance, but sneaks her sister Sara onto his father’s yacht for sexy fun times. The yacht doesn’t survive, neither does Oliver’s father or Sara. Though, as it turns out, Sara did survive. Oliver is stuck on an island for five years, developing the skills that will serve him well when he returns to Starling City on a mission to save it. Though, as it turns out, he wasn’t on the island for the whole five years of his absence from his city and family.

Flashbacks play a major role in Arrow. I found them annoying in the first year of the show. Now I find them fascinating. The back story on this series is pretty cool.

The Arrow, as Oliver is known in his hooded vigilante identity, is a killer. I’ll argue self-defense the first time we see him kill in Starling City, but it’s a thin line he crosses. He is redeemed by Felicity Smoak and decides he must be better than a killer if he’s to save his city. He takes the “no killing” rule too far because there’s at least three villains he should have put away for keeps: Slade Wilson, Malcolm Merlyn and Ra's al Ghul. Especially Ra's al Ghul, who has become as tiresome in this series as he has become in the comics. By the way, that “tiresome” part can be applied to just about every one of  DC’s overused comic-book villains.

The best part of the show is the regular cast. Stephen Amell plays Oliver as a conflicted hero who sacrifices his personal happiness time and time again. David Ramsey is John Diggle, his ex-military second. Emily Bett Rickards is a wonder as Felicity, whose respect for Oliver turns into unrequited love. These three are the heart of the show.

I wasn’t impressed by Katie Cassidy as Laurel for the first couple seasons, but the actress has come into her own now that she’s had assumed her sister’s identity as the Black Canary. Paul Blackthorne has been very good as Detective (now Captain) Quintin Lance, but, of late, his character is caught in an unappealing storyline that has him going after Oliver and company like a mad dog. The writers may have dug Blackthorne into a hole they won’t be able to get him out of. John Barrowman is terrific as Malcolm Merlyn, but that is not sufficient reason to keep that played-out character around.

Brandon Routh did not impress as Clark Kent and the Man of Steel in the 2005 movie Superman Returns, but he’s become a bright spot in Arrow as Ray Palmer aka the Atom. Despite personal tragedy, he has become one of the most upbeat characters in the series and “upbeat” is something the show needs. I still think Felicity jumped into bed with him too quickly, but, hey, cheerful, handsome, rich, smart as all get the right circumstances, I might jump into bed with him. That being more than enough sexy talk for one review, I won’t discuss the brilliant Charlotte Ross as Felicity’s mother.

Arrow has been ramping up the dire situation - Ra’s wants Oliver to take his place as head of the League of Assassins - and seemingly making it impossible for the Arrow and friends to continue to live in Starling City, much less save it. With just four episodes left in this season, I’m well and truly hooked.

The writing and acting on Arrow are rock solid good. The villains, when not overused, are decent takes on the DC Comics originals. The cast and recurring characters need a bit of trimming, but I think that’s coming. Overall, if I were to rate Arrow, I would say that the show’s quiver is 90% full.


This animated series started circling the drain from the moment it made its debut. It was bounced around the schedule and, ultimately, its final episodes were burnt off in a late-night Cartoon Network marathon that received no promotion that I ever saw. I liked this series better than most, but that’s faint praise. My thoughts on it come down to these:

I stuck with the series through the end to note which episodes used Tobias Whale, a character I created during my initial run of Black Lightning. Honestly, Tobias was why I kept watching the series and I didn’t like how he was portrayed. To no one’s surprise, DC Comics has yet to pay me for the use of this character.

While I didn’t mind the show’s odd animation style - the handful of comments I saw indicated most fans hated it - I didn’t think it was ever particularly effective.

I kind of sort of liked Alfred and Katana in the series, though I thought giving Katana high heels in her costume was just about as stupid a visual as I could imagine. I loved the use of Metamorpho and Man-Bat in the series.

Batman was a prick in the series, but then most of the characters were less than their best selves. I thought the show did a terrific job with Barbara Gordon.

The villains? It was as if the show decided to use some of the very worst villains in the Batman archives. Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad were particularly annoying.

This isn’t a show I would ever watch again. The only valid reason I can think of for its existence is to pay me for its use of Tobias Whale. Since DC hasn’t paid me for that use, fuck them and the dead horse they rode in on.

My rating: If this were a cup, it would be 90% empty.


This is a brilliant show in so many ways. The writing is top-notch. The acting is often among the best on TV. The characters are either appealing or interesting and sometimes both. I like the show a lot, but, as its first season comes to its finale, I fear the series is more about blight and corruption than anything else. There is not only no hope in Crime Alley, there is no hope anywhere else in this series. In this, the show mimics the worse aspects of DC’s current comics while maintaining a higher quality than most of those comic books could ever aspire to.

Gotham strikes me as being almost solely about innocence lost. The parents of Bruce Wayne wanted better for the city and were murdered for it. Their wealth is largely in the hands of corrupt corporate executives who consider murdering their son as easily as they might discuss what to have for lunch.

Detective Jim Gordon wants to reform the police department, but is more than willing to bend the rules to accomplish whatever good he sees as priority at any given moment. His one success seems to be Harvey Bullock, who, complaining all the way, often does manage to protect and serve the people of Gotham.

Selina Kyle, the future Catwoman, is an engaging young thief. Up to the moment when she kills a man by pushing him out a window to his death. That he was a bad man does not minimize the callousness of her act. It was a sad moment for this viewer.

Ben McKenzie (Gordon), Donal Logue (Bullock) and, especially, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot are all deserving of awards for the work they do in this series. Conversely, Jada Pinkett Smith ("Fish" Mooney) has become an embarrassment, trapped in a sub-plot notable only for its “ick” factor.

The women of Gotham are a mixed bag. Camren Bicondova is terrific as Selina. So are Zabryna Guevara as Capt. Sarah Essen and Morena Baccarin As Dr. Leslie Thompkins. However, in the eye-rolling bad division, we have Erin Richards (Barbara Kean), Victoria Cartagena (Renee Montoya) and, sad to say, Carol Kane as Cobblepot’s mother.

The male cast members fare somewhat better. John Doman as Carmine Falcone, David Mazouz as the kinder, gentler, younger, not yet bat-shit insane Bruce Wayne, Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma are all doing decent work. However, Smith is getting a little hard to take. Truth be told, I’d really like to see the series depart from the comic books in regard to the Riddler. Nygma is a smart if strange man. I’d like to see him face a real choice between good and evil...and go with the good. Gotham needs more hope.

Gotham is a great show. It might be the best of the DC Comics shows to date. I give it nine-and-a-half out of ten batarangs.


This is my favorite of the DC Comics shows for two reasons. First, it really does have the feel of a comic book and a fairly fun one at that. Second, my darling daughter Kelly likes it and we watch it together. One of the perks of fatherhood.

While there are certainly grim moments in The Flash - Barry Allen is driven by the death of his mother and the subsequent conviction of his father for the crime...and Barry’s mentor is a stone killer from the future...and some of the other villains are damn lethal - it has plenty of fun moments as well.

Grant Gustin is wonderful as Barry Allen. Just as good are Jesse L. Martin (Det. Joe West), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon) and Tom Cavanagh (Harrison Wells). I do like Candice Patton as Iris West and Rick Cosnett as Eddie Thawne, but those actors are handicapped by the current storylines. Iris is the only regular who doesn’t know Barry is the Flash while Eddie keeps having to re-figure his world as events unfold around him. But it’s a great cast.

Some other notes:

The villains, almost all drawn from the Flash and other DC comics, are very cool. I get a huge kick out of Cisco and other characters trying to outdo each other with the naming of these villains...and that they show no embarrassment over the comic book names they come up with.

The crossovers with Arrow have been delightful. I get a real sense that the two casts enjoy working with each other.

Firestorm is a recurring character. I can’t say I was ever a huge fan of the comic-book versions, but seeing how well the character was used here has me rethinking that. At this point, if DC did a Showcase Presents Firestorm volume, I’d buy it.

I’m a bit concerned over Barry cutting a deal with Captain Cold in a recent episode. The deal is basically that the villains won’t be killing or revealing Barry’s identity to the world while the Flash will not make them a high priority. This sketchy deal needs to be revisited, but I doubt it will happen this season.

I was also dismayed by the throwaway murder of Simon Stagg in one of the earliest episodes. Seems like a waste of a potentially good character. When I heard Stagg’s name, I was hoping it would lead to a down-the-road appearance of Metamorpho.

On my special Grodd scale of zero to ten, I give The Flash the full ten out of ten intelligent gorillas. Clearly, I have gone bananas for this series.

DC has more shows on the air and coming up. Look for my reviews of Constantine and iZombie sometime in the next couple months and of the new shows when they debut.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff. 
© 2015 Tony Isabella

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