By Jim Sabataso
Coming on the heels of the dark heroics of “The Defenders,” “The Tick” is a welcome light-hearted palate cleanser. The new Amazon series is the latest TV adaptation of Ben Edlund’s comic series about an over-eager blue-clad superhero known only as The Tick, and his mild-mannered sidekick in a moth suit named Arthur.
Like the Saturday-morning cartoon and live-action network series which preceded it, the new series is a similarly playful take on the superhero genre, within a universe that winks hard at its own absurdity.
I wrote positively last year about the series’ pilot episode, which premiered as part of Amazon’s annual pilot season preview. The full six-episode season, which premiered last month, builds on that pilot, as it expands the show’s universe and delves deeper into its cast of characters.
Character actor Peter Serafinowicz plays the titular Tick, an unflappable optimist who eschews alter egos in favor of being a full-time hero. Serafinowicz has his character’s booming voice down, and his line readings are on point, as he delivers alliterative monologues full of extended metaphors.
Visually, Serafinowicz’s slim frame is now padded out thanks to a new, bulkier costume, which is a marked improvement from the pilot. The show acknowledges and waves away the glaring change in episode two with a quick meta joke.
Griffin Newman’s Arthur is a nervous, fidgety accountant who finds himself unwittingly and unwillingly thrown into the world of heroes and villains. However, it’s not entirely unfamiliar territory for Arthur. As a child, he witnessed his father die during a fight between supers. As an adult, he is still working through that trauma as he obsesses over a conspiracy theory that The Terror, the villain involved in that incident, is still alive. It’s that sleuthing that brings him into possession of his moth suit — here a high-tech weapon that becomes the show’s season-long McGuffin.
Arthur’s backstory is a sad one, but he’s not alone. Despite its frequent comedic beats, “The Tick” isn’t afraid to get dark. Throughout the season, we meet both heroes and villains with tragic and sympathetic stories. Like “The Venture Bros.” — another comedy about damaged and ridiculous heroes and villains — “The Tick” humanizes its characters and shows that people with superpowers are no less insecure, unhappy and screwed up than the rest of us.
That darkness also leads to some surprisingly violent scenes and no shortage of coarse language. The show has a TV-14 rating and takes it about as far as it can. However, levity is never far away. From The Tick befriending the grandmother of the neighborhood bodega to the sassy sentient boat voiced by Alan Tudyk, to the running gag of the Very Large Man — a giant, nude guy roaming the countryside — the show keeps the laughs coming.
At only six-episodes, the series left me wanting more — a rare feat for most streaming shows these days, which tend to be overlong. As superhero TV shows and films become increasingly self-serious, “The Tick” is not only a fun change of pace, it’s also a reminder that optimism and idealism still have a place in superhero stories.
CHECK IT OUT
“The Tick” is now streaming on Amazon Video.