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Captain Comics: Welcome to 'geek TV'

Andrew A. Smith, Tribune News Service on

Published in Comic Books

The week of Oct. 9 saw the season premieres of the four inter-connected superhero shows on The CW based on DC Comics, which constitutes a data dump of extreme importance to lovers of geek culture. This must be examined immediately.

The series are often referred to as the "Arrowverse" in honor of the first one, "Arrow," which launched its sixth season Oct. 12. "The Flash" began its fourth season Oct. 10, with "Supergirl" and "Legends of Tomorrow" airing their third-season premieres on Oct. 9 and 10, respectively. Let's take a look at them in order of being aired:

"Supergirl"

The episode began with a dream sequence featuring Mon-El (Chris Wood), the Maid of Steel's absent (for now) boyfriend, who was forced to leave Earth due to the concentration of lead in the atmosphere (Mon-El is a Daxamite, a race hyper-allergic to lead.) A casual viewer might wonder what Lois Lane from "Smallville" is doing in the dream, but she's actually Kara Zor-El's mother Alura, now being played by Erica Durance after the previous actress opted out.

That same viewer might also recognize Adrian Pasdar, who shows up playing Morgan Edge, a smarmy corporate tycoon from the comics with nasty designs on National City. Pasdar is a genre TV veteran, having had major parts of varying smarminess in both "Heroes" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

And almost no one will know what the heck is going on with an ordinary mother who suddenly uses super-strength to save her child during a submarine attack. (Yes, a submarine attack that affects people on land. Don't think about it.) That character, named Samantha Arias and played by Odette Annable, will soon discover she is a Kryptonian bioweapon named Reign, invented by Supergirl's father Zor-El. Although Sam seems decent and sympathetic for now, the word "bioweapon" does not conjure happy thoughts.

Oh, and that sub attack was overseen by Robert "Bloodsport" DuBois, portrayed by David St. Louis. Naturally, Bloodsport is straight from the comics. Why make up a throwaway character, when you have seven decades of throwaway characters already invented for you?

"The Flash"

The season's big bad is revealed! He is Clifford "The Thinker" DeVoe, played by Neil Sandilands ("Game of Thrones"). Yes, he's from the comics, but there are actually three characters named "The Thinker" in DC Comics -- possibly four, depending on how you count them. The first one, DeVoe, debuted in 1943 as a foe of the Jay Garrick Flash, moving from ordinary genius to a guy with a "thinking cap" weapon to a bodiless computer intelligence. The other two (or three) had similar journeys, so our showrunners have all those elements to choose from.

The Thinker's initial gambit is an android samurai, dubbed by Cisco a "Samuroid." But the Samuroids -- plural, as there was an army of them -- first appeared in "Flash" comics in 1968. In a second appearance (against Batman and the Jay Garrick Flash) they were revealed to be the inventions of Thomas Oscar "T.O." Morrow, an amoral scientist who seems to have a lifetime gig at DC Comics as the go-to explanation for the abrupt appearance of a robot.

Now, you might wonder why someone who can build an army of flying robots would go to the trouble of making them look like 12th century Japanese warriors. This is why, grasshopper, you have no future as a supervillain.

Also, a line toward the end indicates Caitlin "Killer Frost" Snow (Danielle Panabaker) had been working for someone named Amunet Black, who will be played by Katee Sackhoff of "Battlestar Galactica" fame. In the comics -- and likely in the show -- she is a supervillain named Blacksmith who runs a network of supervillains, and has vaguely defined merge-flesh-with-metal powers.

"Legends of tomorrow"

"Legends" has been leaning more and more into comedy of late, but this one falls all the way over, depicting our heroes as complete incompetents. Which is OK -- not every show has to be as grim as "Arrow."

There's not a lot to examine here. Rip Hunter is now the leader of a group that polices the timeline, using memory-erasing guns totally stolen from "Men in Black." Despite their inept buffoonery, Hunter allows the Legends to continue as agents because of a coming threat named Mallus. Amazingly, Mallus is not an existing comic book character, but with "mal" in his name – a French prefix meaning "bad" – he really should be.

Not included in the episode but is so cool it must be mentioned, is that the battle with Mallus will somehow result in a two-part appearance by John Constantine, still played by the inestimable Matt Ryan. Should he join the team full time, and slowly change it into Justice League Dark, you would not hear me complaining.

Lastly, Amaya "Vixen" Jiwe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) went back to 1942 Zambesi, but since we get a scene set there, maybe she's not off the show for good. And did anyone else think she used her powers in a new way there? Maybe she's more powerful on home turf.

"Arrow"

At the end of last season, virtually every cast member was on an island that -- to quote SCTV -- blowed up real good. To absolutely no one's surprise, almost everyone miraculously survived.

Like Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson (Manu Bennett), who abandoned the others to save himself. Somehow, everyone seems to have forgotten that.

You can also stop worrying about Felicity "Overwatch" Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), Rene "Wild Dog" Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez), Curtis "Mr. Terrific" Holt (Echo Kellum), Dinah "Black Canary" Drake (Juliana Harkavy) and Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Plot armor is a wonderful thing.

Not everyone escaped unscathed, however. John "Spartan" Diggle (David Ramsey) seems to be suffering from PTSD or a recurring wound of some kind, and can't shoot straight anymore. Thea "Speedy" Queen (Willa Holland) is in a coma. Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) died before the bombs went off, and William's mother Samantha (Anna Hopkins) kicked the bucket, dramatically thrusting Oliver "Green Arrow" Queen (Stephen Amell) into unwanted fatherhood.

We don't see what happens to Talia and Nyssa al Ghul (Lexa Doig and Katrina Law, respectively), but being Ra's al Ghul's daughters, I assume they're fine (or soaking in a Lazarus Pit somewhere). We also don't know the fate of Evelyn "Artemis" Sharp (Madison McLaughlin), but I'd be lying if I said I cared.

Of course, Black Siren, the Earth-Two duplicate of Laurel Lance, made it out fine, because that keeps actress Katie Cassidy around, where she is deliciously evil, and is clearly enjoying herself. It wasn't revealed on the season premiere, but she'll be working for a fellow named Richard Dragon. That's a name with a storied history at DC Comics, with the latest iteration being Ricardo Diaz Jr., the son of a drug kingpin who is trained by Richard Dragon in the League of Assassins, but who kills his sensei and takes his name.

And that's just the first week! It truly is the Golden Age of Geek TV.

(Contact Captain Comics at capncomics@aol.com. For more comics news, reviews and commentary, visit his website: comicsroundtable.com.)

(c)2017 Andrew A. Smith

Visit his website at comicsroundtable.com.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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