2017 has been a pretty big year for comic book adaptations, especially in television. The market for comic book adaptations has expanded beyond anyone’s expectations, but with it comes over-saturation. We may very well be at the moment just before peak comic book adaptations turns into a downward spiral, and it can be seen in both new and returning comic book TV shows that have started to vary in quality. Some of them have been great so far, but not every adapted series was a winner this year.
Does this mean that we’re heading for a downturn for comic book adaptations in both film and television? Who’s to say, but we can still look back at what we were offered this year in comic book television. Plenty of new shows entered the ring while a few continued into high season counts, for better or for worse. We’re not gonna cover every comic book show, just the ones we think can be easily categorized as good or bad, ignoring those that settle somewhere in between.
With everything from superhero comics to surreal thrillers and even high school dramas, 2017 was a crazy year for adaptations, so here are the 8 Best (And 7 Worst) Comic Book TV Shows Of 2017, Ranked!
15. BEST: HAPPY!
Grant Morrison’s comic Happy! was already a bit of a trippy take on a crime drama, but the SyFy television series based on it has taken things in a much more insane direction. With a fresh certification from Rotten Tomatoes, Happy! is looking to be one of 2017’s best new comic book adaptations, and one of the best new series in all of TV.
Christopher Meloni is fantastic as Nick Sax, depicted as a somewhat satirical take on the “gritty cop” archetype. Patton Oswalt is also amazing as the voice of Happy, an imaginary friend that seeks Nick’s help to rescue his daughter, Hailey.
14. WORST: IRON FIST
It goes without saying that Marvel’s Netflix series took a bit of a downturn. The second season of Daredevil was not as well received as the first, and The Defenders had mixed reviews. The worst among them was, of course, Iron Fist. The fourth character-driven MCU Netflix series has received the lowest scores of them all, mocked as one of the worst-written and executed superhero shows of all time.
A lot of things went wrong with the series that resulted in its failure. It seems like Marvel approached making the series as an obstacle in the way of getting to The Defenders, which resulted in sloppy writing and rushed production. There was also backlash over casting Danny Rand as a white character, when the show was a perfect opportunity to cast an actor of Asian descent, nixing the “white savior” tropes that the series ended up falling into.
13. BEST: LEGION
Happy! wasn’t the first surreal comic book movie to come out this year – we were also treated to the wonderfully avant-garde FX series Legion. Adapted from the X-Men character of the same name, Legion was a foray into crazy fantasy sequences that explored the depths of the human, or rather mutant, mind.
But, nothing is lost in this crazy world. The ideas, themes and plot are shine through the somewhat abstract nature of the show’s creative style. David is haunted by something in his mind; something that has turned his massively powerful psychic abilities against him. The first season follows his discovery of these abilities and the thing that wants to feed off his incredible power. The sharp writing and stunning visuals were hailed by critics and fans alike.
12. WORST: INHUMANS
How did Inhumans turn into such a disaster? Marvel seemed to have such big plans for the characters and the miniseries, all of which went completely to waste after the series fell completely flat on its face. Perhaps this was the result of Marvel aiming to turn Inhumans into the mutants of the MCU, as it didn’t have the film rights to the X-Men (at the time).
Whatever happened, Inhumans ended up being a massive failure. The show currently has a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes and it’s not hard to see why. The characters are dull, the story is sloppy, and the production quality worse than CW’s superhero shows; a shocking low for an entry in the MCU.
11. BEST: THE PUNISHER
Jon Bernthal’s performance as Frank Castle/The Punisher in Daredevil was one of the best things about the second season of that series. We saw a man broken – not just by what he’d seen in war, but also by the war that took away his family; the war at home. His popularity in Daredevil was enough to earn the Punisher his own Netflix series, which aired this year.
The Punisher has had some mixed reviews, but most of them have been favorable, praising the show’s depiction of PTSD while also shining as an action crime thriller. The Punisher has been celebrated for finally getting the character right after three failed films, and though it struggles a bit in the first few episodes, things quickly pick up to become a powerful but measured foray into the violent world of Frank Castle.
10. WORST: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a bit of a rocky run from its first season to its most recent. It had a high start, then saw a huge drop in ratings after the first episode, only to be revived after the events of The Winter Solider. From there, ratings continued to go up and down for the series, seeing record lows in 2017.
The tail end of season four and the beginning of season five saw a massive drop in both ratings and critical response, turning Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into one of the worst comic book TV shows of 2017. The show deserves a lot of credit for always trying something new, seen with the aftermath of Winter Soldier, bringing in Ghost Rider last season, and in the latest season, which takes the Agents to space. But, gimmicks cannot help sometimes flimsy characters and declining writing.
9. BEST: RIVERDALE
The first season of The CW’s Riverdale premiered in early 2017, with the second season following in the fall. The dark reimagining of Archie comics was a surprising breakout hit, combining self-aware homages to teenage drama soap operas with small town dark secrets akin to Twin Peaks. Heck, even the “dark imagining” is self-aware, poking fun while keeping the show well-executed, fun and addictive.
The first season focused on the murder of Jason Blossom, playing on small town mystery tropes to make for a compelling detective story with some steamy romantic subplots. The latest season has gone even darker, focusing on a serial killer loose in Riverdale. As great as the series is, perhaps it shouldn’t go past a third season, as the over-the-top drama could move into Arrow levels of poor quality very quickly.
8. WORST: ARROW
Speaking of Arrow, where the show once knew how to handle melodrama and asinine subplots, it now focuses 90% of its energy into being everything but a superhero show. It seems that Arrow has overstayed its welcome. Things have gotten ridiculous on the show, despite the strong performance of the previous season.
See, the biggest problem with the CW superhero shows is that they burn through story ideas like The Flash burns through calories. The seasons are far too long and the stakes are constantly being raised, ensuring that each consecutive episode has to further raise them, resulting in declining writing quality, wishy-washy characters, poor plot twists, and reliance on crossovers to keep the ship afloat. The slow dip in Arrow’s reception means we might be heading for its worst season yet.
7. BEST: THE TICK
Amazon is slowly starting to catch up to the other streaming service studios, and The Tick might be the breakout TV series necessary for that. Why do we say this? Because the show does a good job in all facets — production, writing, acting, execution, etc. Each adaption of The Tick has changed from the comics a bit, and Amazon’s series has done the most with what was originally just a simple parody comic.
Amazon’s The Tick depicts Arthur with mental illness, suffering with the loss of his father. He deals with this loss through an unhealthy obsession with proving that the villain who killed his father is still alive, a task that brings the Tick into his life. Naturally, the big blue bug of justice forces a super-heroic destiny upon Arthur.
6. WORST: THE WALKING DEAD
AMC’s The Walking Dead is, to put it bluntly, just spinning its wheels at this point. The latest season of the once hit show has fallen into an all-time ratings low and the reviews reflect as much. Critics have said that the show has grown tired, a notion that fans seem to agree with, resulting in the aforementioned ratings drop. The Walking Dead is going nowhere at this point, doing little to advance whatever plot is left.
The spinoff series, Fear The Walking Dead isn’t much better. It had mixed reviews for first season and continues to flop around with little to no direction or purpose, the characters acting either as cliches or agents of chaos that ruin their own chances at survival at every corner. Let’s face it, Walking Dead mania is over, and the shows deserve a proper ending by now.
5. BEST: THE GIFTED
Fox might have been the founders of modern superhero movies with their X-Men films, but they are not the frontrunners of shared film universes. This can be seen with movies like Deadpool and even Logan, which ignore a lot of the past X-Men films and lore. It can also be seen in shows like Legion and The Gifted, both of which have received rave reviews.
The Gifted follows parents who bring their kids on the run after learning of their powerful mutant abilities. Thus far, the show has had a mixed, but mostly positive reviews, critics praising the social commentary and cast. Though The Gifted uses a primarily white cast to depict racism, the X-Men-adjacent series’ smart writing and great execution is hard to deny.
4. WORST: GOTHAM
How has Gotham made it past season 1? Seriously, let’s think about this show as a concept: it’s Batman villains running amok in Gotham before there’s a Batman. The show seems to thrive on Easter-egging characters with names of villains who almost become what they are in the comics, essentially baiting fans with table scraps of Batman lore.
This concept makes Gotham, especially the third season, nigh unwatchable because it fundamentally does not understand Batman. When Batman showed up in Gotham, all the “normal” crime died down, as average criminals were afraid to face something unreal — leading costumed villains, with themes and powers to combat those of Batman — to step out and create a new breed of crime.
Without Batman, there are no Batman villains; he created them on a figurative, and sometimes literal, level. Gotham cannot keep floundering on a concept that goes against this without losing quality – which it has been doing, especially in season four.
3. BEST: THE FLASH
The Flash has fallen victim to many of the downfalls that Arrow has, but the most recent season has managed to bring back the spark of fun that made seasons one and two so enjoyable. Season four has been a delight, keeping things fast and fun while also keeping up a sense of danger from the new big bad.
The dark nature/premise of season three was dreary and weighed the show down, but season four, with the introduction of elements like the wonderful Elongated Man, has brought the fun back, making it one of the best comic book TV shows of the year.
2. WORST: POWERLESS
DC is seemingly even more willy-nilly with their television properties than Fox is with the X-Men. At one point, there were four different networks that aired DC shows, each belonging to different parent companies, only one of which is Warner Bros. Exactly what this says about DC is up to you, but we know one thing, the franchise might have spread itself a bit too thin, especially with their failed NBC series, Powerless.
The concept of Powerless was fun, and showed promise for being a unique take on the oversaturated world of superhero TV series and movies. The short-lived series followed a research and development team that worked to create products for civilians caught up in superhero battles in the DC universe. A funny premise that worked as a pilot, but the latter episodes saw lower and lower ratings and reviews, leading the last few episodes to go unaired.
1. BEST: PREACHER
The first season of Preacher extended the beginning of the comic, giving the audience a chance to know the characters better before getting into the meat of the story, which it has started to do in season 2. This season, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy hit the road to find God, resulting in various hijinks, obstacles, and misadventures that make for a season far better than the first.
Preacher has received mostly positive reviews, the average consensus generating praise for its focused storytelling and commitment to the bizarre elements. It’s not a stretch to consider the AMC series one of the best adaptations of 2017. Writers and directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have taken the source material and given it a fantastic update, creating a compelling second season of the comic book TV series.
What was your favorite comic book show of 2017? Let us know in the comments!
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