In conjunction with my top 15 movies of 2015 list, I decided to tackle another genre that I hold dear, superheroes. More specifically, superheroes on TV. So without futher ado, here is my apologetically belated…
Top 10 comic book/ superhero tv shows to debut in 2015
10. Arrow: Season Four
I won’t lie, this one is kind of a placeholder. I couldn’t think of a valid ten, and the only other superhero show I watched was Gotham, and I refuse to put that on any “best list.” Arrow season four is an…adequate…season so far. The show has yet to completely recover from the abysmal soap opera that was Season three, but it is a step in the right direction. The singular entity in the show that accomplishes this in the new villain: Damien Dahrk. Ridiculous, faux-edgy name aside, Damien Dahrk, as played by Neil McDonough, is a fun, interesting antagonist, which is already a vast improvement over the third season’s terminally boring interpretation of the batman villain R’as Al Ghul. He squares off against the green arrow and his private army of vigilantes with charm, an air of mystery and brings a new exciting threat to show: Dark Magic. He, and the occasional ham flavored cameo by John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn, keep the show watchable.
9. Ultraman X
I’m a newcomer to the Ultraman franchise, but having been raised on Godzilla and Gamera movie and having recently decided to spring for the premium package on Crunchyroll, I decided to give it a whirl and jumped into the latest iteration of the multi decade-spanning Tokusatsu series. While the show is hampered by overt Power Rangers tropes like the revolving door of armors and bulky, plastic gadgets that are obviously toys they’re trying to sell to kids, the show has a fun, energetic cast of characters and bright, colorful visuals to accompany the battles between the Alien Giant Ultraman X and his rogues gallery of giant monsters. What truly sold me on the show was a surprisingly fantastic two part finale that amped the stakes and drama of what had mostly been a children’s show to 11. I also enjoyed the inversion of the DaiKaiju Eiga(giant monster movie) tropes. While Ultraman X does wrestle monsters in rubber suits in a flashy display of colorful SFX, the show also introduces the idea of that they aren’t just monsters for Ultraman to blow, but simply enormous, scared animals too big for the environment they’ve been thrust upon by outside forces. So a good portion of the show follows protagonist Daichi going out of his way to study and understand the Kaiju, rather than simply hunt them, which added a refreshing complexity to the conflict of the show.
8. Supergirl: season One
Supergirl introduces the world to the cousin of Superman as she fights through alien prison breaks and American gender politics to establish herself as a competent, powerful superhero independent of her cousin. For the most part, the show succeeds. Melissa Benoist is a revelation as Kara Zor-El/ Danvers aka Supergirl. She’s infectiously likable and easy to root for while also bringing the weight one would expect from a character who’s lost her entire planet (a planet she actually remembers, unlike superman). The show also of focuses the microscope on issues of gender equality in the media and workplace in a way that’s unabashed without being overbearing and obnoxiously soap box-y (for the most part). The show does suffer the drawbacks most first seasons do, such as an ensemble of side character that could use a little fat-trimming and some rather underwhelming villains for Supergirl to fight. But I’m hopeful that the show will only continue to get better and better as it goes on.
7. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season Three
While still suffering from a bloated cast of character (only 2 or 3 of whom I actually care about), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D starts off its third season with four strong storylines: the ongoing war with the terrorist organization Hydra (now run by ex ally/ revealed Hydra agent Grant Ward), the disappearance and search for S.H.I.E.L.D scientist Gemma Simmons (who’s found herself on a seemingly dead alien planet), an outbreak of an alien mutagen revealing superpowers in people who come to be known as the “Inhumans” (bringing in an interesting mystery surrounding an Inhuman Serial Killer) and the sociopolitical upheaval this outbreak causes prompting government over-regulation of the situation. While this may seem like a lot to be going on for the first half of one season, the show does a good job of juggling these storylines, and even, quite masterfully, ties them all into one singular plot thread towards the middle of the season. Since it’s a season that’s still in progress I’ll refrain from spoiling too much, but it quite a thrilling watch so far.
6. The Flash: Season 2
Last year it seemed whatever enthusiasm and passion for good work the creators of Arrow had in them went into the first season of the Flash. It was fun, full of heart and had a fantastic main antagonist in the form of Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash. In season 2 the train keeps on rolling. Whereas last season dealt with time travel, now the Flash and company face an onslaught of doppelgängers and meta humans from across the multiverse, and leading them is a terrifying new villain, Zoom. Silly name aside, the design and voice work by Tony Todd make Zoom an absolute monster, bringing a sense of dread to the show that not even Reverse Flash had brought. While there’s still some of that token CW melodrama that’s been suffocating Arrow for two seasons, The Flash continues to muscle through it with fun characters, great villains, and high flying sci fi adventure.
5. Doctor Who: Series Nine
I hesitated to include this as its first and foremost a science fiction show, but I’m also of the mind that all the best superhero shows and movies transcend that singular mold and embrace other genres, and what is the Doctor if not a superhero? He’s a powerful alien who flies through space and time in his TARDIS saving people and fighting off monsters in the best way he knows how: being clever, reckless and unafraid of whatever harm may come to him. As always the most interesting Doctor Who stories are ones where the threat isn’t quite as cut and dry as “the thing that looks like a monster is bad while the humans are good, therefore humans should win.” It’s never that simple in Doctor Who, and this season is no different, with one notable two parter concerning an invasion of alien Shapeshifters and the Doctor’s desperate pleas for both sides to embrace forgiveness and avoid the horrors of war. Another great struggle for any hero is with the notion of doubt of one’s righteousness. This season, and seasons before, heavily feature the Doctor denying the idea that he is actually a hero, recoiling at the horror of actions he’s taken to “save the day” at whatever cost. This moral complexity, coupled with the epic space opera flair and Peter Capauldi’s fantastic performance as the 12th regeneration of the Doctor made this season a blast to watch and I can’t wait to see where Doctor travels next.
4. Agent Carter: Season One
The Marvel juggernaut continues to stake it’s claim on audiences, not only in film, but now on television. One such show enriches the franchises ever expanding mythology with the furthered exploits of S.H.I.E.L.D founder, WWII spy and ally to Captain America: Agent Peggy Carter. Set in post-WWII New York, the show follows Agent Carter as she investigates the theft of high tech Howard Stark-designed weapons while traversing the minefield of antiquated 20th century gender politics and inequality. Haley Atwell excels in the role of Peggy Carter, kicking ass while simultaneously maintaining the characters femininity with charisma to spare. A good supporting cast of allies, enemies and fun, pulpy period setting make Agent Carter a rollicking fun sit, but not at the cost of substance and emotional weight.
3. Jessica Jones: Season One
Continuing the 2015 legacy of great female-led superhero tv shows, the buck stops at the Netflix/ Marvel collaboration Jessica Jones. A moody Noir throwback/ psychological thriller with a fantastic lead performance by Kristen Ritter as a hard-boiled, super-strong P.I riddled with personal demons, the most horrifying of which is made manifest by a stellar David Tennent as mind-controlling serial rapist/murderer Kilgrave (known in the comics as the Purple Man). The show at it’s best is a nail-biting silence-of-the-lambs style game of cat and mouse Between Jessica Jones and Kilgrave, as well as a beautifully layered dissection of personal trauma, the scars it leaves, and the different ways in which different people cope with it. What really launches the show is it’s tone and it’s leads (namely Jessica and Kilgrave, possibly Marvel’s greatest villain adapted to screen, or he would be if not for the next show to be listed). Like most Netflix Original programming it’s structured for binge-watching, and the show does suffer from a surplus of side characters and spinning it’s tires, so to speak, towards the end, but the show is defintiely one Marvel’s best screen outings and an instant classic.
2. Daredevil: Season One
And now we come to Marvel’s best outing of 2015, be it in either film or television, the first season of their first collaboration with Netflix, Daredevil. A gritty, tense and complex morality tale of heroics and gentrification, blind vigilante-by-night Matt Murdock/Daredevil battles the Kingpin of crime Wilson Fisk for the soul of his home neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen. Charlie Cox is suitably intense, charismatic and vulnerable as Lawyer/ Superhero Daredevil, while Vincent D’Onofrio turns in a possibly career defining performance as the raw, unstable, yet surprisingly tender force of nature that is Wilson Fisk. The fight choreography is a wonder to behold, and the supporting cast all fit into an intricate web of intrigue befitting a crime epic such as this.
1. One Punch Man
At last we come to my number one pick for best superhero show of 2015. This witty, dazzlingly drawn anime blends the satirical with the genuine in an adaption of the hit web comic that follows Saitama, the unbeatable “superhero for fun” in search of a fight worthy of his seemingly limitless power. Gradually easing it’s main character into a larger world of superheroes, One Punch Man explores a wildly creative rogues gallery of monsters, ninjas, gangs and Alien warlords. Fun, magnetic characters, great action and thoughtful explorations of what makes for true heroics (super or othewise) make One Punch Man the superhero show (or show in general) to watch from the past year.
And that’s my list, hope you enjoyed my thoughts on these shows. If you haven’t seen any of them, by all means, don’t just take my word for it, seek them out and watch them. Every show on this list is worth a watch at least.