'The Tick': The big blue avenger is back, and new

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Griffin Newman and Peter Serafinowicz in “The Tick.” (Photo: Amazon)

I was a huge fan of the 2001 TV version of The Tick — the one with Patrick Warburton as the big blue crime avenger — which tragically aired for a mere nine episodes on foolish Fox. So I came to the new one, now streaming on Amazon Prime, with a show-me-what-you-got attitude. Turns out the latest version of The Tick is very enjoyable; it’s smart and visually imaginative. The show is overseen by Ben Edlund, the man who created Tick in the 1980s as a comic-book character. It stars Peter Serafinowicz as the Tick, and the series follows its own absorbing mythology.

This Tick places much of its emphasis on Arthur, the mild-mannered accountant who becomes the Tick’s sidekick, the Moth, and is played by Griffin Newman. A neurotic fellow haunted by the murder of his father by a villain — Jackie Earle Haley’s the Terror — Arthur spends his spare time tracking the existence of the Terror (he’s initially believed dead) when Tick comes upon him. It takes some convincing to get Arthur to don the Moth costume, but the young man eventually comes around and accepts his flying fate.

Edlund wrote two of the six episodes made available to critics (it’s a 12-episode season), and they’re full of the funny bombast the writer puts in Tick’s mouth. (Asked to define his superpowers, Tick says, “I have the strength of 10, perhaps 20, men, but my greatest power is this: When Destiny speaks, she speaks to me!”) The show has some fun villains. Haley’s the Terror is like a fussier Magneto — imperious and full of himself. Yara Martinez, from Jane the Virgin, is excellent as Miss Lint, who can shoot electrical charges from her fingertips even as her crackling energy tends to attract unappealing lint to her black clothes. (Miss Lint isn’t as great a character as my beloved Captain Liberty, embodied in 2001 by the wonderful Liz Vassey, but Lint/Martinez gets some of the new show’s best chuckles.) Serafinowicz’s performance in the title role is deft — he never imitates what Warburton did, but instead applies his own take on the character. He speaks in grand, stentorian tones, as though a pretentious Shakespearean actor had decided to be a superhero.

You can tell when Edlund isn’t writing the show — the Tick’s bombast goes a little over the top. But for the most part, this new Tick moves along with efficient gags. At a time when TV superheroes are beginning to take themselves far too seriously (just wait till you get a load of this fall’s ABC show Inhumans), The Tick is a welcome satire of the genre that nevertheless plays by its fanboy rules.

The Tick is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

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