Editor’s Note: Minor plot spoilers for The Tick below!
Let’s just get this out of the way: making fun of something doesn’t mean you dislike it. In fact, imitation—some have said—is the sincerest form of flattery. And in that sense, Amazon Studios’ new live-action version of The Tick is the greatest homage to the genre. There is a bounty of absurdity in a world where superheroes exist and try to take on those painted as “the bad guys.” Though existing in a slightly darker (read: more grounded) universe, there are still flickering, glimmering moments of The Tick‘s past versions, from comic book to cartoon series to its live-action pan flash. But this is not a series bit so hard by the nostalgia bug that it’s drugged up on that brand of toxic venom—though that may make it a tougher sell for some.
Though it has yet to truly find the balance between pithy one-off comments of the live-action iteration and the absurdist charm of the cartoon version, The Tick has a lot to enjoy. Peter Serafinowicz may not have the bravado of Patrick Warburton, but what his version of the superbug lacks in absurdity, he makes up for in earnestness and a few winking jokes—something the first series’ lacked. Much of this is found in the story’s emotional heart, Arthur (Griffin Newman).
Where Warburton (and his cartoon counterpart, Townsend Coleman) would dive headfirst into The Tick’s arrogance, Serafinowicz uses a far lighter, more sincere hand. And his origin story feels engineered for primo Marvel/DC cinematic universe skewering in the future (Oh, look: the good guys murdered someone quite needlessly—woops!). In this way, The Tick feels like a grower rather than a shower. Serafinowicz brings a chalky (or maybe that’s just British?) indifference to his Tick’s understanding of the situation at hand where others have previously hulked up on winks and nods and the meta-absurdity of it all. (So if you’re looking for the comic book SLAM KAPOW ethos, look elsewhere.)
Set in New York City (with some seriously dark and gritty visual vibes), The Tick‘s main character isn’t actually The Tick at all: it’s actually his to-be sidekick and future Moth Man, Arthur (who has a last name this time! It’s Everest). Set up with the sort of origin story that’d make for a great supervillain, Arthur watches his father get crushed by The Flag 5 superteam’s falling plane and is left with a couple prescriptions and a seriously concerned older sister, Dot (Valorie Curry). Probably doesn’t help that he’s got a case of the Carries (as in Mathison from Homeland. I see you, crazy conspiracy wall).
But while Arthur has found a desire to simply fit into the world, The Tick means to disrupt all that, insisting on fate and heroism-to-be and the fanciful notion that yes, one person can stop the bad guys. It’s the sort of endearing cheese that makes superheroes into the revered figures they are, and funnels The Tick‘s comedic energies in a much different direction than its previous iterations.
This isn’t a bad thing, it is just very different. This new version of The Tick will appeal to many people from its first moments. Does it still need to impress upon us a sort of freshness that’ll prove why this is a necessary reboot right now? Absolutely, but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, its attempt to break out as its own thing in this way will likely lead us to that conclusion through the journey of the series itself, rather than the end of the pilot.
Let’s just, y’know, maybe amp up the absurdity a little bit? It’s OK to be silly– it just means you really love the thing you’re joshing on.
3 out of 5 spoon-fed burritos:
Are you going to tune into The Tick pilot? (You can, y’know, right here!) Let us know your thoughts about it in the comments below!
Images: Amazon Studios