Marvel's Iron Fist recently launched on Netflix to less than stellar reviews. It's not a bad show by any means, but it isn't quite as good as the rest of the Marvel/Netflix offerings. However, we would argue that a lot of the problems in Iron Fist are merely exacerbated versions of the problems found in the rest of the Netflix shows. That doesn't mean the Netflix line is bad, but it could stand to learn a few things from the CW's Arrowverse - the name we give to Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends Of Tomorrow.
While Marvel might be dominating the big screen, we would argue that some of the best superhero adventures are currently taking place in the CW's Arrowverse. Sure, it doesn't quite have the budget or the star power of the MCU, but it makes up for it with fun flashy action and a lot of heart.
The Arrowverse has grown a lot over the past five years and for the purposes of this list, we'll be including the likes of Supergirl and NBC's Constantine as part of the universe since Supergirl has shown up in several crossovers and Constantine showed up in Arrow and is getting an animated series.
Here are 15 Reasons The Arrowverse Is Better Than Marvel's Netflix Series.
15 Better Villians:
For all the MCU’s strong points, and there are many, one of the most consistent problems with both the movies and shows is the lack of strong villains. Loki aside, the vast majority of the villains within the MCU are simply not that interesting. You either have the greedy corporate shill who’s motivated by money or the likes of Malekith who is evil for the sake of being evil.
The Arrowverse villains, on the other hand, tend to have a bit more depth to them. Some, such as Zoom, are pretty much your standard evil villain, but we also have Malcolm Merlyn, the Dark Archer, whose tragic circumstances turned him into an evil Bruce Wayne. Despite this, he still seems to care for his daughter even if his greed and ego lead him to endanger her. The original Reverse Flash is driven by an obsession with Barry Allen and a desire to show up his one-time idol. Most interesting of all is Captain Cold. While some might argue his actions on Legends of Tomorrow put him in anti-hero territory, he is clearly still a criminal, but we see that he cares about his sister and has the drive to protect her despite the costs.
14 The Arrowverse is Funnier
We are avid fans of both Marvel and DC, and have watched every live-action offering the Big Two have to offer. We’ve noticed an interesting trend. The movies within the MCU are often praised as being more fun than the DC movies which many say are too self-serious. On the other hand, the TV shows of both franchises are the complete opposite.
The Netflix shows are often dark, serious and brooding. Jessica Jones was amazing, but there were times when it was a bit depressing to watch. The Arrowverse, especially Flash, is fun. It’s funny and has some great one-liners while still knowing when to be serious.
Part of this is helped by the fact that the Arrowverse’s four shows each have different tones. Arrow, for instance, is much more serious than Supergirl or the Flash. However, there are also four shows within the Netflix MCU and they all, aside from Iron Fist, have the same dark tone to them.
13 The Arrowverse Is More Varied
We understand that Marvel is trying to build the Defenders up to be street-level versions of the Avengers so they can’t make their characters too powerful, but that doesn’t mean every character's power needs to be some variant of punching people really well.
The Arrowverse, on the other hand, has Green Arrow and his team which is firmly rooted in street-level heroic, but we also have Team Flash which includes powerful metahumans such as the Flash, Killer Frost, Vibe and several others. That’s not even getting into the fact that the Arrowverse includes Supergirl and Superman. Their inclusion opens the doors for beings like Darkseid, Doomsday, and Brainiac.
In short, the wide range of power sets within the Arrowverse allows for our heroes to take on a much wider range of challenges. It could be argued that we have the Avengers for more world-ending threats, but, in our opinion, the inclusion of the Defenders within the wider MCU is actually a weakness of the series, but we’ll delve into that later.
12 The Arrowverse Isn't Afraid Of Magic
For some reason that we don’t quite understand, the MCU has an odd reluctance to delve into any of the more mystical elements of the Marvel universe. Thor and the Asgardians are portrayed not as gods, but as highly advanced aliens. Iron Fist, which is rooted in kung-fu mysticism, is rather reluctant to delve into the mystical nature of Kun-Lun or the Hand. Even Dr. Strange implied that magic was some sort of weird understanding of quantum physics which, in our opinion, was one of the film's weaker moments. Just let the Sorcerer Supreme be a sorcerer.
The Arrowverse, on the other hand, fully embraces the mystical side of the DCU. In the 4th season of Arrow, John Constantine makes an appearance and offers Oliver Queen some advice against the powerful Damien Darhk. There's no hand-waving about science we don’t understand. Magic is real and it is a distinct force from the science utilized by Team Flash.
11 A Wide Range Of Powers
One of our personal problems with the MCU Netflix shows is that everyone’s power seems to boil down to being really good at hitting people. Sure, the fight choreography is really good, but, after a while, it all starts to look the same.
The Arrowverse doesn’t have this problem.Sure, Green Arrow and his team do a lot of punching and kicking, but Flash and his team each have a wide array of powers. The Flash is, well, fast, Vibe can create skull-splitting vibrations, and Killer Frost has awesome ice powers. Not to mention the fact that nearly every villain of the week has some new power that adds a lot of variety to the show.
We also have Legends of Tomorrow, which is sort of a time-travelling Justice League that brings together different characters from Arrow and the Flash. In terms of powers, this lineup is one of the most varied in movies or TV. We have Black Canary, Hawkgirl, Heat Wave and Captain Cold, Firestorm and others.
10 Better Pacing
One of the more common complaints surrounding Marvel’s Netflix series is the issue of pacing. The shows either take about seven episodes to get going or, in the case of Luke Cage, seem to taper off near the end. The shows never get bad, but there is a definite inconsistency when it comes to quality.
To be fair, the Arrowverse is no stranger to poor pacing either. This is especially true in the case of the early episodes of Arrow and even recent episodes that deal with a lot of flashbacks. The show’s writers seem to have trouble striking a balance between the past and present. That being said, we feel that overall the Arrowverse does a better job of handling mainly because the mistakes of Arrow are mostly absent from other show. Even the first season of Flash, which spent a lot of time on Barry Allen’s origins, managed to maintain a brisk pace that was intriguing from episode-to-episode.
9 The Arrowverse's Mix Of Episodic And Long-Form Story Telling Flows Better
Marvel’s Netflix shows all tell a single continuous story arc from beginning to end. Given that they only have 13 episodes to work with, this strategy is an understandable one. While this format is particularly well-suited to binge watching, it also part of the reason the series feels poorly paced. With only 13 episodes to work with, the series must devote every episode to advancing the plot. That doesn’t leave much time for the characters to breathe and gives us less development.
The majority of shows within the Arrowverse consist of 22 episodes and offer a mix of episodic and long-form storytelling. The long form episodes help drive the plot forward and give viewers something to look forward to each week, but the villain of the week episodes also serve an important function in allowing the showrunners to develop the cast and even introduce new characters. These villain of the week episodes are often some of the best in the series such as the Flash episodes starring Mark Hamill’s Tricker which are always a delight to watch even if they rarely tie into the main plot.
8 The Arrowverse's Format Is Truer To Comic Books
One of the reasons we prefer the CW’s villain of the week approach is that it is simply truer to the format of comic books. While long multi-part story arcs are becoming more and more common in today’s comic book, it is not unusual for a series to take a break from longer form stories in between major arcs. While these arcs might not be as anticipated as the next major crossover event, they are often just as enjoyable because they give readers a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of the book’s characters.
Oddly enough, Marvel is especially good at this sort of thing. The one-shot stories of Ms. Marvel, for instance, are some of our favorite because they give us a glimpse into her life when she’s not fighting some big bad. Sometimes it’s fun to see our heroes solve some smaller crimes that aren’t being caused by the Joker or the Hand.
7 Costumes Are Awesome
For some characters, minimalist designs work really well. We can’t imagine the Punisher in anything other than a black t-shirt with a skull on it and, by the same token, we can’t imagine Iron Fist fighting crime without his iconic costume. Sure, it looks a bit silly, but that’s part of the appeal. It’s a fun classic element of his character. Not to mention the fact that that suit has been worn by previous holders of the Iron Fist mantle so it is rather odd that he doesn’t wear it.
Seeing Iron Fist not wear that costume is almost as jarring as seeing Barry Allen fight crime as the Flash while wearing a hoodie. It’s just wrong, but fortunately, we don’t have to see that because, in the Flash, he wears a bright red costume just like his comic counterpart. Even Arrow's more brooding Oliver Queen suits up in a green hood even if his costume is a bit darker than we would prefer.
Costumes are awesome and part of the iconography of superheroes and the Defenders should embrace that aspect of their characters.
6 The Arrowverse Has Access To All Of DC's Characters
Thanks to a bunch of annoying legal issues, Marvel does not have access to the X-Men or the Fantastic Four meaning we’ll never see any mutants join the Defenders nor will they ever cross paths with Johnny Storm.
The Arrowverse doesn’t have that problem. They have access to DC’s entire library of characters. Sure, Batman hasn’t made an appearance yet, but they’ve been dropping hints of his existence since season one of Arrow and the inclusion of Supergirl in the Arrowverse means that they have access to Superman as well. He may be in another dimension, but he exists which opens the door to a Superman in Arrow’s dimension as well as Batman. In fact, in Legends of Tomorrow, Rip Hunter references them both with the line ‘I’ve seen Men of Steel die and Dark Knights fall.” If Superman and Batman exist then pretty much anyone can exist. We may get a Green Lantern show or Aquaman. The possibilities are endless.
Speaking of endless possibilities...
5 The Arrowverse Has Access To the Multiverse
The second season of the Flash brought us the concept of the multiverse. In short, the Arrowverse consists of 52 separate earths, the same number as the current DC Comics universe. So far, only a handful of those universes have been explored, but the fact that they exist opens up infinite possibilities for storytelling. We’ve already seen it put to fairly strong use in the second season the Flash, but we’d love to see them expand on this.
Some of DC’s best stories have been the so-called “Elseworld” stories which take place in a universe that is separate from the main DC continuity. It’s a fascinating concept that’s given us such gems as communist Superman in Red Son or a Batman who wants down Jack the Ripper in Victorian Gotham.
The Arrowverse could make great use of the multiverse. For instance, we would love to see spin-off series focused on these Elseworld stories. Even if it focused solely on Arrowverse characters, it leaves us with a ton of options. We could even theoretically see a crossover between the Arrowverse characters and their big screen counterparts.
4 The Arrowverse Has More Interesting Fights
The fight choreography in Marvel's Netflix shows, especially Daredevil, are top notch. Those no debate that they are some of the best looking fight scenes we’ve seen in any medium. After a while, however, they all tend to blur together. It’s kind of like eating a whole bunch of chocolate. Sure it never stops tasting good, but, after awhile, you start craving something different and that’s what the Arrowverse offers.
Arrow offers plenty of marital arts action similar to the Netflix shows, though we’ll admit the choreography is better on Marvel’s end, but the Arrowverse offers so much more variety in terms of fights. We have the Flash’s high-speed scenes which bring a ton of excitement and energy. Legends of Tomorrow combines the best of both worlds with tons of martial arts action and superpowers. Constantine offered little in the way of traditional fight scenes but gave us some really interesting visuals in how magic was handled.
Marvel might win out in terms of fight choreography, but the variety offered by the Arrowverse is second to none.
3 The Netflix Shows Are Beholden To The MCU
Ever since the success of Iron Man, Marvel has worked to build a large interconnected cinematic universe. This uniform approach does offer plenty of advantages. It’s really neat to watch this franchise grow as all the pieces come together. However, it’s also a limiting factor as well. The Defenders are being positioned as street-level Avengers. While it’s a neat concept, it also means that the scale of threats these heroes can take on is relatively limited. It strains credibility to have these people take on world-ending threats in a universe with Thor and Iron Man, but, on the other hand, thanks to the high price that Robert Downey Jr. can command, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see Iron Man in any of Netflix shows. The Netflix shows must contend with all of the restraints of the MCU without reaping any of the benefits.
The Arrowverse does not have this problem as it is set in a completely different universe from the DC movies. This allows these heroes to serve as their world’s sole defenders allowing them to take on larger and larger threats without it seeming absurd.
2 A More Diverse Cast
Don’t get us wrong, the Marvel shows certainly feature a lot of diversity and it would be insulting of us to simply ignore that, but, at the same, time we could argue that the Arrowverse is more diverse not merely in terms of race and gender, but in personality, background, and motivations.
Team Arrow, for example, gives us your standard billionaire vigilante, but it also gives us his sister who is a recovering drug addict and his sidekick who comes from a broken home in the bad part of town. Diggle is ex-military and Felicity is an IT specialist who is in way over her head.
Team Flash is full of scientists of various types, but Joe West is also there to serve as a sort of everyman to the insanity that goes on there every day. Even the series’ villains offer more diversity. Heatwave and Captain Cold, for example, are career criminals who get roped into saving the world in an attempt to improve their lives.
1 The Arrowverse Isn't Ashamed Of Its Comic Book Roots
If we had to pick one thing that summed up our problems with Marvel’s Netflix line, it would be that they often seem ashamed of their comic book roots. From the lack of costumes to the dark tone and street-level powers, it seems as if every decision is meant to make viewers feel better about the fact that they’re watching a show based on a comic book.
The Arrowverse, though, knows that one of its shows stars a billionaire who dresses up as Robin Hood to fight crime and that its other flagship title is about a man who gained super-speed after being hit by lightning. One of the show’s villains is a talking gorilla with mind control powers and, yes, it’s every bit as wonderfully absurd as it sounds.
In short, the Arrowverse embraces the absurdity of comic books and is all the better for it. Comic books can be silly or serious, but above all, they are fun and the Arrowverse reflects that.