Fans of The Tick have been privy to a surprising collection of various “Ticks” over the course of the last few decades or so, most notably in the Fox Animated and live action series of 1994 and 2001, respectively. It’s notable that for nearly every era of modern superhero fiction, a version of The Tick exists that parallels and mocks the superhero tropes that are prevalent in that era. The newest version of The Tick is a modernized re-imagining that manages to critique many of the now heavily laden cliches in superhero media, while forging its own brand new identity, even within the confines of the established lore of The Tick.
For the uninitiated, The Tick is a tall, eccentric, invulnerable man in a blue suit with funny waggling antennae. Everything else about The Tick is a mystery, even to himself, and in that way, The Tick represents a kind of pure heroism. The unquenchably thirsty throat of the superhero’s ID come to life and made flesh. It’s this representation of heroism that’s needed by this series main character, who is not the titular Tick, but in fact is longtime franchise sidekick Arthur, played excellently by Griffin Newman. In previous versions of The Tick, Arthur is and always has been a secondary, sidekick role who’s meant to be our point of entry for the story. This adaptation takes that to the extreme, involving the viewer in the deepest parts of Arthur’s psyche, and even his own, half denied, reluctant call to heroism. A call he initially steadfastly refuses, as pointed out by The Tick, whose character has been subtly tweaked by the brilliant Paul Serafinowicz. Previous versions of The Tick were more or less passionate buffoons, while this version of The Tick is not lacking for passion, but his buffoonery is kept to a minimum, mostly played off the lack of his impulsivity. He’s a Campbellian monomyth spouting Adam West caricature in this incarnation, and while he’s no Einstein, he’s markedly more astute in his everyday observations and motivation.
Overall, the show is about reinventing the world of The Tick for a modern audience, who has long become accustomed to franchised out stories of heroics that amount to little more than trumped up morality plays, advertising other trumped up morality plays. From the first episode the villains of The Tick are portrayed as equally deadly as they are humorous, and the overall tone of comedy is far drier than the previous iterations of the show. Fans expecting the witty exchange of dialogue between multiple superheroes may find this disappointing at first. While The Tick’s infamous similes and bizarre monologues are preserved, almost every single other character you might be familiar with is not present in this. It’s wholly designed from the ground up to stand alone, and in no way connects to any previous versions. In fact, it goes as far as to create a plausible reason to even doubt The Tick’s existence, before quickly doubling down on his concrete presence amongst people in the cast.
Instead of a retread or remake of older storylines, what we have here is instead a true reimagining, in the original sense of the word as Tim Burton originally intended for that awful Planet Of The Apes movie so long ago. This is Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick, updating and reintroducing us to this wonderful creation of his. We’re given a modern Arthur, with his own Spider-Man/Iron Man-esque super suit, along with a new female villain with a deadly superpower that has a hilarious side effect I won’t spoil for you. There are a few other standouts, like Overkill, a Batman/Deadpool parody with a snarky, wisecracking boat for a sidekick. There’s Rameses, the underboss, (a subtle jab at Watchmen that totally works), and finally Jackie Earle Haley as The Terror, a super villain who may or may not be dead. All of this comes together to create a rather simple story of Arthur obtaining, and learning to use his own super suit while convincing himself and those in his life that helping The Tick is the right thing to do.
My only real complaint is that clocking in at 25-30 minutes an episode, and with only 6 episodes, this is barely a new “series” and more of an extended 3 hour long The Tick movie. It functions fairly well as the first half of a much longer, probably 6-hour long movie, and looking up some quick info about the release shows that the first season is 12 episodes long, and the second group of 6 episodes are to be released next year. Knowing this beforehand helps a bit, as once you find yourself nearing the “end” of the series, you’ll notice that the story is nowhere near any sense of resolution. While it’s fitting, since this is technically only half of the first full season, this still functions well as a mini-season, or as I prefer: The Tick Movie, Part 1. It’s as close as you’ll get to an original Tick movie, built from the ground up for new audiences, and I’m glad we’re going to be getting a Part 2. Fans of the original animated series and live action series will find themselves perhaps missing some favorite characters, but there’s a group of new ones to grow to love here, along with the irreverent, aggressive positivity of Serafinowicz’ Tick, who really steals every scene he’s in, as he should.
So is The Tick binge-worthy? Absolutely. At the very worst you’ll probably not find it as funny as it’s trying to be, and at its best, you may find it a perfect modern complement to Ben Edlund’s Tick oeuvre. If for some reason you hate it, it’s also only 3 hours long, something other superhero shows cannot claim. I’m looking at you Iron Fist, Defenders, et al. The Tick is the show for everyone who’s kind of sick of superhero shows, and it’s been sorely needed.
GEEK Rating: A-
Images: Amazon Studios