Is there room for another superhero show in the heaving roster so heavily populated by Marvel and DC titles? Amazon Studios certainly hope so. This August sees the release of The Tick – a reboot of the 2001 television series, which itself was adapted from Ben Edlund’s 1986 comic book of the same name (there was also a cartoon series in the 1990s, FYI). It might be a bit of a risk for Amazon to try and break ground in a marketplace that’s already bursting at the seams, but they’ve been playing hardball with their marketing campaign for The Tick, bombarding Amazon Video users with advertisements and fielding a heavy presence at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Peter Serafincowicz has taken over the titular role from Patrick Warburton, who played The Tick in its original TV outing. The pair have imposing stature and booming, unmistakable voices in common, but Serafinowicz is determined to reinvent the character rather than get lost in Warburton’s shadow. Given that the show is divided into half-hour episodes, it’s hard to glean much of his character’s backstory from the first two episodes, but Serafinowicz definitely sets up The Tick as an endearing chap. He’s refreshingly earnest for a superhero, bumbling and naïve with seemingly no concept of his own weirdness. It’s difficult to compare him to any of the other heroes currently on our screens – instead he’s something of a giant blue law unto himself.
But what’s a hero without a good sidekick? At the centre of the story is Arthur ‘Artie’ Everest, a luckless accountant who’s been tracking supervillain activity in his city following a traumatic event in his childhood, and soon finds himself recruited (albeit unwillingly) to The Tick’s crusade against wrongdoers. He’s played wonderfully by relative newcomer Griffin Newman – a self-confessed obsessed fan of the original comic and television series – who manages to portray a tangible vulnerability to his character without becoming completely helpless. Artie’s an underdog that audiences can root for, and the first two episodes also deal neatly with underlying themes of PTSD and psychosis – hopefully something the show will continue to handle in future episodes. He’s joined by Valerie Curry as his elder sister Dot Everest, who’s keeping a close eye on him following a troubled past. The show works hard to establish Dot as a presence in her own right, rather than a footnote.
Villains come in the form of Jackie Earl Haley and Yara Martinez. Martinez cuts a menacing figure as Ms. Lint, whilst horror veteran (and one-time vigilante hero in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen) Haley dons an impressive costume to play ultimate evil, The Terror. He is, as always, brilliant, at once terrifying and yet hilarious to watch – though there’s not an awful lot of him in the first two episodes. There is, however, a scene involving weaponised Syphilis that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forget.
It’s easy to understand why Amazon ordered a full series run of The Tick based on its pilot episode – there’s nothing else like it currently in their original programming line-up, and in fact, whilst Netflix’s fleet of superhero shows tend to take themselves quite seriously, The Tick laughs in the face of seriousness, and still manages to deal with some fairly heavy issues. There are shades of the criminally underrated BBC America/Netflix version of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency about it – it’s crazy, confusing, and yet, oddly heartfelt too. It’s difficult to say how the rest of the series will pan out, but the first two episodes were a riotous treat, and delivered in short-attention-span-friendly half-hour installments, there’s no excuse not to binge-watch.