Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Crisis on Infinite Earths


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ve spent every Sunday this month discussing multiversal crossovers in an event I dubbed “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 8 December 2019 to 14 January 2020
UK Network: Sky One and (eventually) E4
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Ruby Rose, LaMonica Garrett, Tyler Hoechlin, David Ramsey, Carlos Valdes, Chyler Leigh, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Tom Cavanagh, and Jon Cryer

The Background:
Crisis on Infinite Earths was, easily, the biggest and most influential crossover in DC Comics history back when it was first published; even now, the reality-changing events of the twelve issue series can be felt in DC and cosmic events and crossovers are an important part of the comics industry. Still, such an event seemed irrevocably tied to the comics books; even DC’s animated ventures rarely attempted to tackle an event of such magnitude so to say that I never expected Arrow (2012 to 2020), of all things, to led to, and end with, a massive crossover between not just the “Arrowverse” but also the wide spectrum of live-action DC adaptations would be an understatement, to say the least. Crisis on Infinite Earths was first hinted at in the first episode of The Flash (2014 to present) but was explicitly referenced throughout the Elseworlds (Various, 2018) crossover and revealed in the conclusion of that event.

It’s crazy to think that Arrow ended up being the first step towards a massive DC crossover event.

The Crisis then become the focal point of the entire Arrowverse, with almost the entirety of Arrow’s eighth season and The Flash’s sixth season specifically preparing characters for the oncoming Crisis, visiting and destroying parallel worlds, featuring Mar Novu/The Monitor (Garrett) as a frequent guest star, and setting the stage for the biggest comic book crossover in television history as the writers and showrunners crammed in cameos and references galore to pay homage to DC’s many live-action adaptations. The result was some of the best-received and highly-praised episodes in all of the Arrowverse and a significant change in the presentation of the Arrowverse going forward as worlds lived, died, and were forever changed by the event, which saw both Supergirl (2015 to present) and Black Lightning (2018 to present) merged into a new version of the Arrowverse Earth.

The Plot:
When a wave of destructive anti-matter threatens all life in the multiverse, the Monitor gathers seven heroes – Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Amell), Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin), Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), Sara Lance/White Canary (Lotz), Kate Kane/Batwoman (Rose), Doctor Ray Palmer/The Atom (Routh), and Clark Kent/Superman (Hoechlin) – to face the crisis. Facing overwhelming odds, the team must journey across time, space, and the expanse of the remaining multiverse to find seven “Paragons” who will decide the fate of all reality!

The Review:
Crisis on Infinite Earths hits the ground running and kicks off with a massive bang in “Part One” (Warn, 2019), which was the ninth episode of Supergirl’s fifth season and saw the devastating wave of anti-matter obliterate Argo City and threaten the very fabric of Supergirl’s world, Earth-38. In a change for these crossovers, Supergirl and her supporting cast are given a prominent role right off the bat as she is forced to watch her home and family be destroyed by the mysterious, unstoppable wave of energy. She is overjoyed to see that Superman and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) survived the destruction but deeply affected by the death of her mother, Alura Zor-El (Erica Durance), and the loss of her home, and the fact that the entire first episode actually takes place on her Earth allows her supporting characters to actually contribute in a meaningful way towards the Crisis.

Supergirl is heartbroken when Argo City is destroyed and is tempted to rewrite reality.

Faced with the impending destruction of their world, Alex Danvers (Leigh), J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), and Querl Dox/Brainiac 5 (Jesse Rath) are forced to call in every debt they are owed, and even turn to the unscrupulous Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) for help evacuating as many people as possible to Earth-1. Interestingly, it is Superman who has the crisis of conscience in this first episode and finds his resolve faltering after failing to save Argo City and out of concern for his baby son, Jonathan; despite the losses she has suffered in such a short space of time, it is Supergirl who lifts his spirits and encourages him to remain hopeful in their ability to succeed. After discovering that the Book of Destiny has been recovered, Kara, as the Paragon of Hope, makes every effort she can, despite the incredible risk, to use the Book to restore her Earth, bringing her into a moral conflict with Kate.

Oliver has spent the last season preparing for the Crisis and to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The anti-matter wave spreads throughout all of time and space, however; throughout the most recent seasons of Arrow and The Flash, Oliver and Barry have been struggling with their impending deaths since the Monitor foretold that each of them would die in the coming Crisis. This has been particularly trying for Oliver, who, like Barry, has been trying to prepare for the coming event and get his team ready to operate without him once he’s gone but has been struggling with time travel shenanigans, which saw him meet his future daughter, Mia Smoak (Katherine McNamara). Normally the more grounded and pragmatic of the Arrowverse heroes, Oliver has had extensive experience not just with multiversal events by this point but also with the anti-matter’s effects thanks to his travels with the Monitor in preparation for the Crisis.

Even in death, Oliver finds a way to continue fighting and decide the fate of all reality.

Despite his lack of superpowers and being more of a tactician, Oliver plays a vital role throughout the Crisis as we seen his disillusioned Earth-16 counterpart run through some of this greatest hits (again…), and see that he is less than impressed to find that the deal he made with the Monitor to sacrifice his life in exchange for Barry and Kara’s is no longer valid. Though Oliver is angered at the deception, the Monitor purposely arranged for this to ensure that Oliver would be at his most prepared by planning for every eventuality; as if seeing multiple worlds be destroyed in short order wasn’t proof that the stakes for Crisis on Infinite Earths was unimaginably high, Oliver’s untimely sacrifice to cover the evacuation of Earth-38 certainly is. Of course, Oliver’s story doesn’t end there as he ultimately sacrifices himself again, first by taking on the role of the Spectre and then by giving his life once more to end the Anti-Montor’s threat.

Kate is horrified to see the disillusioned wreck Bruce has become on Earth-99.

Since Oliver is now well-versed in multiversal crossovers and events, and unexpectedly killed before his time, it is Batwoman who brings the pragmatic cynicism and is the fish out of water in Crisis on Infinite Earths. “Part Two” (Belsey, 2019), which was the ninth episode of Batwoman’s (2019 to present) first season (although it was the last episode here in the United Kingdom), explores her attempts to adapt to the unusual situation she finds herself in. Failing to see how her abilities, as vast as they are, can measure up to cosmic threats, Kate is distrustful of her colourful associates and begrudgingly agrees to tag along purely on Kara’s word and in the face of a clear and present threat. The revelation of the Paragons drives Kate into an unexpected voyage of self-discovery; initially, she believes her destiny is to recruit the Bruce Wayne of Earth-99 (Kevin Conroy) and, in the process, comes across a jaded and broken version of her cousin who has descended into a murderous and disillusioned crusade. Rattled by this incarnation of Bruce, and her actions in contributing to his death (to keep him from killing Supergirl), Kate is somewhat sceptical to learn that she is the Paragon of Courage.

Tired of killing Superman, Luthor compels the Earth-96 Kal to kill his Earth-38 counterpart.

The quest for the Paragons takes Superman, Lois, and Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) to first Earth-167, where they briefly encounter a depowered version of Clark (Tom Welling), and then to Earth-96 and an older, far more troubled incarnation of the Man of Steel (Routh). In possession of the Book of Destiny, Lex Luthor (Cryer), who was returned to life to play a vital role in the Crisis, travels throughout the multiverse killing Superman and, ultimately, forces Superman to fight his Earth-96 counterpart in a brief, exhilarating moment before Lois and Iris wake up and realise that they can just punch Lex out. Lex, however, gets the last laugh by manipulating the Book of Destiny to replace the Earth-96 Superman with himself as the Paragon of Courage

Although fully prepared to meet his destiny, Barry’s Earth-90 counterpart takes his place.

As mentioned, Barry has also been trying to prepare for his untimely end; he’s been aware that he disappears, most likely due to his death, in a red-sky Crisis and he is so angered at Oliver’s death and the Monitor’s manipulations that he is driven to using the restorative nature of the Lazarus Pits to bring Oliver back to life in a crazed state with the help of John Constantine (Matt Ryan). “Part Three” (McWhirter, 2019), which aired as episode nine of season six of The Flash (2014 to present), leads Barry to facing his fate in the worst way possible when he is forced to watch the Earth-90 Flash (John Wesley Shipp) sacrifice himself to destroy an anti-matter cannon. Although Barry is more than willing to fulfil what he believes is his destiny, his counterpart takes his place willingly and, in the process, allows Barry to live on for his friends and family while also providing a fantastic excuse to showcase some highlights from Shipp’s turn as the Flash back in the nineties.

Both Luthor and Harbinger become brief secondary threats amidst the Crisis.

Of course, the intangible threat of the destructive anti-matter wave and the ominous fate that awaits Oliver and Barry isn’t the only threat facing the Arrowverse characters; throughout their journey across the multiverse to defend the Monitor’s Quantum Towers, they must battle against fittingly Grim Reaper-like “Shadow Demons” that, despite being easily destroyed, have the advantage through sheer numbers and their threat is escalated by the fact that Oliver was practically torn apart by them offscreen. Additionally, thanks to messing around with the Book of Destiny, Luthor manages to position himself as a man of incredible metahuman powers who first attempts to kill Supergirl in an effort to usurp the Monitor’s destiny and then, reluctantly and unwillingly, to join forces with the heroes. Lyla Michaels/Harbinger (Audrey Marie Anderson) also takes on a brief antagonistic role when she ends up falling under the influence of the crossover’s primary, physical antagonist, Mobius/The Anti-Monitor (Garrett), which causes her to betray and murder the Monitor against her will and set in motion the final days of all reality.

As secretive as the Monitor is, the Anti-Monitor craves nothing but complete annihilation.

The Monitor himself is a deceptive and mysterious character; thanks to Luthor’s manipulations, we learn in “Part Four” (Winter, 2020) that it was he, in his far more mortal form, who birthed the Anti-Monitor in a desperate and misguided attempt to view the creation of the universe. Of course, while the Monitor inspires much distrust and anger from the heroes (especially Barry), the Anti-Monitor is a form of pure, unadulterated evil; similar to other crossover threats, the Anti-Monitor is an elusive and ominous being who isn’t revealed in full until the conclusion of “Part 2”. His motivations are nothing less than pure destruction, making for a decidedly one-dimensional villain but, in truth, the Anti-Monitor has always been that way; he simply exists as a singular, cosmic force of evil for the heroes to unite against.

The stakes have never been higher or dourer than in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Fittingly, for an adaptation of the greatest and most devastating storyline in DC Comics history, the stakes couldn’t be higher in Crisis on Infinite Earths; though a prevailing concept throughout the crossover is the idea of hope conquering above all, the odds are constantly against our heroes as entire worlds are wiped from existence, killing many of the supporting characters, and leaving the handful of remaining characters trapped at the Vanishing Point with no hope of escape and alongside Luthor, of all people. In their darkest hour, Oliver, as the Spectre, comes to them with a vague shot in the dark at reversing their fortunes but, even then, the cost is high. This, again, gives the crossover another excuse to run through some of Arrow’s greatest hits so that the disparate parts of his personality can be reunited in the speed force and empower him to transport them to the anti-matter universe and the inevitable showdown with the Anti-Monitor. I won’t lie; I can’t say that I’m a massive fan of the grim, gritty, grounded vigilante ultimately being to one to save and restore the entire multiverse and being the saviour of all humanity but even I have to admit that it’s an almost peerless heroic end for the character.

At great cost, reality is saved and the Arrowverse’s Justice League officially forms.

In the end, with all seven Paragons gathered and united (however reluctantly, in Luthor’s case) and the Spectre locked in a dual with the Anti-Monitor, the heroes are able to light the spark that reignites a new version of not just Earth-1 but the entire multiverse. Though he dies in the process, Oliver is finally at peace and leaves the future to his friends and family who, in “Part Five” (Smith, 2020), find their world has radically changed as a result; for one thing, many characters and locations are now on an amalgamated world dubbed “Earth-Prime” and, for another, Luthor is a world-renowned hero, and no one has any memory of what happened except the seven Paragons. Thanks to J’onn’s psychic powers, they are able to piece together what happened but, while they are able to ultimately banish the Anti-Monitor to the microverse, they are heart-broken to discover that Oliver is not among those restored by the entire process. In celebration of Oliver’s sacrifice, the Flash, Supergirl, J’onn, Batwoman, and Black Lightning hold a memorial service for their fallen comrade and officially give birth to the Arrowverse incarnation of the Justice League that, sadly, will look decidedly different in the near future.

The Summary:
For such a large and ambitious crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths does pretty well when it comes to its special effects; again, as we’ve seen in the other Arrowverse crossovers, some of these hold up better than others (Ray Terrill/The Ray (Russell Tovey) still looks terrible even in his brief appearance, as does Lyla’s teleporting effects and the “temporal zone”, but the destruction of the infinite worlds is disturbingly effective) but I’d say the CW did really well, especially when you consider that Marvel Studios spent billions of dollars on its big screen crossovers and it’s frankly ludicrous that they ever decided to greenlight an adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths. As you might expect, costume design is absolutely spot on; Nash Wells/Pariah (Cavanagh), the Monitor, and Anti-Monitor look a little goofy but I can’t fault the fidelity to the source material and the crossover delivers an absolutely fantastic adaptation of Bruce’s exoskeleton armour and the Kingdom Come (Waid, et al, 1996) Super-suit.

It probably should have been called Cameos on Infinite Earths…No? Just me?… Okay…

Of course, one of the most appealing and entertaining aspects of Crisis on Infinite Earths is the sheer abundance of cameos and references to other live-action adaptations of DC Comics; most of these are fleeting, appearing onscreen simply to be destroyed in seconds, but some are prominent aspects to the crossover’s massive narrative. Accordingly, we get much-appreciated and surprising appearances by Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) from the Batman sixties show, Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) from Batman (Burton, 1989), Hank Hall/Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Jason Todd/Robin (Curran Walters) from Titans (2018 to present), Helena Kyle/The Huntress (Ashley Scott) and Barbara Gordon/Oracle (Dina Meyer) from Birds of Prey (2002 to 2003), Alec Holland/Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) from Swamp Thing (2019) and the cast of both Stargirl (2020 to present) and Doom Patrol (2019 to present). The crossover also splices in surprise appearances by Wil Wheaton, Wentworth Miller, comic creator Marv Wolfman, and even Ezra Miller alongside numerous references and allusions to comic book arcs such as the Death of Superman (Jurgens, et al, 1992 to 1993), and even setting up a potential spin-off for John Diggle (David Ramsey) after he appears to find a Green Lantern ring.

Sadly, not every character gets a large role in the massive crossover…

Interestingly, despite all these cameos (and more) and the myriad of characters from across the Arrowverse, Crisis on Infinite Earths does a surprisingly good job of balancing its pace, action, and cast; in the beginning, things are very rushed and frantic but, once everyone is gathered together, the story focuses up quite nicely. The stakes stay high and ominous throughout as we’re constantly reminded of the impending doom but there’s still time for a few amusing character moments, such as Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) realising his paternal instincts. Of course, with so many characters included and so much at stake, Crisis on Infinite Earths features a wide array of action and fight scenes; to make the best use of the many powers and characters in the crossover, these are largely ensemble pieces that truly unite the Arrowverse in a way we haven’t seen before. Even those who are largely side-lined throughout the crossover, like Diggle, for example, get something to do (he is incensed at Oliver’s death and joins Constantine, and Mia in journeying to Purgatory to retrieve Oliver’s soul) and many of the supporting characters contribute to the overarching plot even though their efforts are ultimately in vain. Some cameos, however, are all-too-brief; many of the Legends and Team Arrow get short-changed this time around, Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) was a welcome and unexpected inclusion but, sadly, the crossover chose not to bring Emmett J. Scanlan back as Jim Corrigan and, despite Ryan Choi (Osric Chau) and Black Lightning’s pivotal roles in the larger narrative, they’re not as heavily showcased as the more recognisable and established Arrowverse characters.

Such an elaborate crossover would never have been possible without time and dedication.

I said at the start that I never expected to see Crisis on Infinite Earths ever be the basis for an adaptation, much less a live-action adaptation; it barely works in the comics, to be honest, as it requires quite a lot of knowledge about DC Comics and outlandish concepts like the multiverse. Thankfully, the Arrowverse version of events focuses its adaptation by concentrating on the main Arrowverse characters, surrounding them with a myriad of cameos and references, and buildings its concept around these familiar aspects. If you’ve never watched an Arrowverse show before then of course it’ll be quite a daunting first start but, like its comic book namesake, it is clearly not intended for casual fans or newcomers. It’s interesting watching these Arrowverse crossovers back-to-back as Invasion! (Various, 2016) feels so rushed and frantic in comparison and Crisis on Infinite Earths does a much better job of balancing a far bigger and more diverse cast, which I honestly wouldn’t expect considering how daunting its concept is. Of course, this crossover would never have been possible without the long-running, episodic nature of the CW shows and that’s exactly why it works in a way that DC’s cinematic films often fail; rather than trying to cram everything into a couple of films, or tossing it all into a four-hour long epic, the Arrowverse was able to naturally build towards this crossover and deliver from start to finish and it’s honestly a shame that the films couldn’t have followed suit and that the Arrowverse is basically coming to an end now.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What are your thoughts on Crisis on Infinite Earths? Did you ever expect to see the Arrowverse culminate in an adaptation of one of comics’ biggest crossover events? How do you feel the adaptation was handled? Which cameo was your favourite and which would you have preferred to see be featured more prominently? How did Oliver’s death affect you, if at all, and which of the CW Arrowverse shows is/was your favourite? Are you sad to see that the Arrowverse has changed following this event or do you feel it’s time for it to move on? Do you agree that building towards such an elaborate crossover is a matter of time, patience, and character development or were you not bothered by Zack Snyder’s attempts to cram it all into a couple of movies? Which of the many multiversal crossover events was your favourite, whether in comics, videogames, TV, or movies? Whatever your thoughts, go ahead and drop a comment down below and check back in again for more superhero content throughout the year.

Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Elseworlds


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ve been taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Sunday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 9 December 2018 to 11 December 2018
UK Network: Sky One
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Jeremy Davies, Tyler Hoechlin, David Ramsey, Carlos Valdes, Chyler Leigh, and Ruby Rose

The Background:
The “Arrowverse” may have started as a grim, gritty reimagining of the life and times of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Amell) but it soon expanded to include all kinds of elaborate, comic book plotlines: time travel, metahumans, and parallel worlds were now all par for the course and annual crossovers with other superhero shows on the CW were a regular occurrence. After executive producer Marc Guggenheim noted that the cast and crew were pretty burned out by these massive crossover events, the CW relented that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to present) would not have to be included in the next crossover. Elseworlds was heavily inspired by a comic book concept from the mid-to-late-nineties which, in the absence of the usual infinite parallel worlds, allowed writers and artists to tell out of continuity tales of popular DC characters. The event was also primarily constructed to finally introduce Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne/Batman, to the Arrowverse and setup a new Arrowverse show, Batwoman (2019 to present) through the introduction of Rubt Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman. Each of Elseworldsthree episodes were received very positively and the production of the crossover not only saw a Batwoman spin-off take off not long afterwards but also brought the entire Arrowverse, and most of DC’s live-action adaptations, together for perhaps the biggest superhero crossover ever attempted the following year.

The Plot:
When psychiatrist John Deegan is gifted the Book of Destiny by a mysterious individual and begins rewriting reality to his every whim, Oliver Queen and Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin) inexplicably switch bodies! After seeking help from Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), the three travel to Gotham City to track down Deegan, who plans to use the Book’s power to assume the powers and abilities of Clark Kent/Superman (Hoechlin).

The Review:
Elseworlds begins in earnest with, appropriately enough, “Part 1” (Tancharoen, 2018), which was the ninth episode of season five of The Flash (2014 to present). At that time, The Flash was knee-deep in the confusion and drama of Barry and Iris West-Allen’s (Candice Patton) daughter, Nora West-Allen/XS (Jessica Parker Kennedy), coming back in time to meet her father before his fated disappearance during a mysterious “Crisis” and to help Team Flash track down the big bad of the season, Orlin Dwyer/Cicada (Chris Klein).

Oliver is extremely out of his depth when he suddenly finds himself living Barry’s life.

The central concept, and humour, of the crossover begins immediately after John Deegan is gifted the Book of Destiny by the mysterious Mar Novu/The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) and Oliver Queen wakes up in the body of Barry Allen. Confused and disorientated, Oliver attempts to adapt to the confusing situation on the fly but, while he does blag his way through breakfast with Iris, he struggles to adjust to Barry’s superspeed and metahuman abilities. It’s amusing and entertaining to see Oliver struggling for a change; for all his training and preparation and adaptability, he’s totally out of his depth hanging around with Team Flash and having to be more open and honest with his feelings.

Barry is ecstatic to be in Oliver’s body and his enthusiasm rubs Ollie the wrong way.

Similarly, Barry finds himself without his superspeed and at the mercy of a beating from John Diggle/Spartan (Ramsey) and suddenly involved in Team Arrow’s campaign against Ricardo Diaz/Dragon (Kirk Acevedo). While Oliver struggles with his newfound powers and the bright, chippy nature of Barry’s team and city, Barry revels in having Oliver’s physical abilities; he only becomes motivated to get to the bottom of it all when Iris exhibits no recognition or belief in him. Normally, I’m not a massive fan of body swap storylines but seeing Barry and Oliver having to adapt to each other’s specific abilities and attitudes was an amusing twist for both; Barry has to dislocate his joints and adopt a far darker approach to his actions since Oliver’s focus and determination come from all of the anger and torment he’s been through. Conversely, Oliver must try and master (or, at least, stumble through) picking up Barry’s metahuman abilities and learn to act out of his feelings of love and positivity from his team and family.

Barry and Oliver recruit Supergirl and Superman to help resolve their body swap dilemma.

To try and get to the bottom of the body swap, which has also caused disconcerting red skies to cover the city, Oliver and Barry manage to escape and travel to Earth-38, where Kara is reconnecting with her cousin, Clark, and his partner, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch). This includes not only a fantastic little homage to Smallville (2001 to 2011) but also an amusing scene where Barry is in awe of Clark and Oliver puffs his chest out, and in which Oliver attempts to teach Barry how to actually use his abilities rather than relying on his powers and his team. Annoyed at Barry’s pranks, Olivier tries to get a rise out of him but finds that he’s equally handicapped by Barry’s superspeed; in the end, the two are forced to admit that they are two very different people, with different motivations and experiences, which literally places each one in the other’s shoes.

Even with Superman’s presence, it takes the entire team to defeat A.M.A.Z.O.

This forms the main conflict of the first episode and the crossover, leading to a lot of digs and points of contention between the two. Luckily, the two are able to focus their issues on a common enemy: the Anti-Metahuman Adaptive Zootomic Organism (A.M.A.Z.O.). Even better, Supergirl and Superman accompany them back to Earth-1 to battle the android, which can adapt to and counter their attacks and has absorbed a multitude of metahuman abilities. This means that Superman and Supergirl aren’t enough, by themselves, to defeat the android, which helps to emphasise the new teamwork dynamic of the crossover, and that actually gets to play a vital role in a crossover for the first time, a role that only increases in prominence and danger when Deegan takes over his body in “Part 3” (Warn, 2018).

Elseworlds finally brought Gotham City into the Arrowverse.

Deegan is largely absent for a great deal of Elseworlds but his ominous presence is felt through Cisco Ramon/Vibe’s (Valdes) visions and the chaotic events of the crossover. For the majority of Elseworlds, the heroes are on the backfoot, forced to adapt to new situations and constantly chasing tangential leads about the source of their body swap. “Part 2” (Bamford, 2018), which was episode nine of season seven of Arrow (2012 to 2020), leads Barry, Oliver, and Kara to Gotham City, a location often hinted at in the Arrowverse but never seen or explicitly referenced beyond cheeky allusions. A great deal of focus in the second episode is placed on the urban legend of the Batman; similar to how he felt emasculated in Clark’s presence, Oliver is annoyed and frustrated at the idea that he isn’t the “original vigilante”. Barry, however, continues to exhibit his crossover-characteristic enthusiasm for visiting Gotham and potentially meeting the Batman, whom Oliver is convinced is merely a myth used to scare criminals.

With Batman having been gone for three years, Gotham’s streets are haunted by a Batwoman.

After a run-in with some muggers (including one of my favourite characters and stuntmen, Daniel Bernhardt), the three are arrested (mainly because Oliver’s identity as the Green Arrow is public knowledge by this point) on the corner of “Burton and Nolan” but are bailed out by Kate Kane. Stoic and unimpressed with their presence, Kate is only interested in getting the three out of Gotham as quickly as possible; it’s through their interactions that we are brought up to speed with the state of Gotham, which is noticeably different compared to what we see in Batwoman. Bruce Wayne is gone, having been missing for three years, and with him the Batman; the Crows are nowhere to be seen and the Gotham City Police Department are still in full force; the Bat-Cave looks entirely different; and Kate is already Batwoman, making this episode’s placement in Batwoman’s continuity a bit difficult to judge.

Sadly, Kara’s bond with Kate was destined to end before it really got a chance to develop.

Supergirl mainly acts as peacemaker between Barry and Oliver throughout the crossover, painting her in a noticeably different role than in other crossovers, where she’s generally the optimistic and polite ace in the hole (one thing I continuously find odd is that Kara insists on wearing her glasses when on Earth-1, which may be out of habit more than anything). However, Kara gets a chance to shine by connecting with Kate, mainly due to Clark and Bruce being friends on her Earth, and is able to learn a little more about both Kate and Bruce and get a more definitive lead on Deegan at Arkham Asylum (which includes a number of references to famous Bat-foes and even Guggenheim himself). Despite Batwoman’s callous attitude and no-nonsense approach, she is won over by Kara and the two end the second episode having taken the first steps towards what would, unfortunately, be a friendship fated not to last thanks to behind the scenes drama and shenanigans.

Deegan wrecks havoc with the Book of Destiny as part of the Monitor’s plan to test Earth’s heroes.

While Barry and Oliver deal with their identity crisis and, alongside Supergirl, attempt to track down Deegan, Team Arrow and Team Flash join forces to try and get to the bottom of the chaotic red skies that seem to follow Barry and Oliver everywhere they go. Team Flash, especially, are more of a hindrance than a help in the first episode as they lock Barry and Oliver up and refuse to even consider the possibility that they have switched bodies; Team Arrow are, surprisingly, more open to this suggestion, meaning the three get far more co-operation from the likes of Diggle, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), and Curtis Holt/Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum) than they do from Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man (Hartley Sawyer). Eventually, however, the teams are able to pool their resources, which leads to them making contact with the Flash of Earth- 90 (John Wesley Shipp) and discovering the source of Deegan’s powers: another, far more powerful and manipulative individual, the Monitor, a mysterious, enigmatic figure that appears to be behind not only the Book of Destiny and Deegan’s actions but also the disconcerting tumultuous red skies. Despite appearing to be a threatening, antagonistic force, the Monitor is eventually revealed to be simply “testing” Earth’s heroes for an oncoming, far greater Crisis by putting them up against overwhelming odds in preparation for a far more powerful threat.

Deegan becomes a corrupted version of Superman whose defeat requires strategy…and sacrifice.

The ninth episode of Supergirl’s (2015 to present) fourth season sees the culmination of this storyline and the shift to another altered timeline where both Barry and Oliver, lacking their abilities, are wanted criminals and Deegan has cast himself in the role of a hero as a black-suited version of Superman. Already an unhinged character even before he acquired the Book, having performed immoral experiments on the inmates of Arkham Asylum, Deegan is driven to near insanity by the Book’s magics and revels in Superman’s unmatched power. Deegan perverts not just Superman’s image and symbol but also the Team Arrow/Team Flash dynamic by usurping their friends and resources; although he paints himself as a hero, he’s a near-tyrannical despot but is, ultimately, handicapped by his lack of control, arrogance, and turbulent emotions that make him an aggressive and unpredictable, but easily out-witted, foe. One of the downsides to the previous crossovers was how easily the big bads were defeated and Elseworlds changes that, somewhat, thanks to Superman’s incredible powers being put to evil and the reality-changing powers of the Book of Destiny requiring a little more than just an anti-climatic fist fight this time around.

The Summary:
Elseworlds, despite dealing with shifting realities and timelines, is a much less crowded and elaborate crossover than Crisis on Earth-X (Various, 2017) and, although the body swap storyline is a central focus of the crossover, action is still frantic and varied throughout Elseworlds; we get comically over the top fight scenes involving the likes of A.M.A.Z.O. and Superman but also gritty, down to Earth scuffles during the breakout in Arkham Asylum. Thanks to effects of Johnathan Crane/The Scarecrow’s fear gas, we also get brief cameos by Eobard Thawne/The Reverse-Flash (Cavanagh) and Malcolm Merlyn/The Dark Archer (John Barrowman) when Barry and Oliver believe that they are their greatest foes.

Elseworlds offers a different spin on the Arrowverse characters and relationships.

Elseworlds is also a far more amusing and entertaining crossover thanks to its central focus on the identity crisis between Oliver and Barry; this dynamically changes their understanding of each other and the nature of their teamwork and allows them to understand each other a little more intimately. The fact that they spend pretty much the entire crossover either struggling with each other’s powers, abilities, and supporting cast, or depowered entirely, means that there is no easy solution to anything this time around. They are constantly on the backfoot, having to adapt on the fly and find new ways to figure out what’s going on, which makes for a decidedly unique dynamic for each character and those around him. Once again, Supergirl gets shafted quite a bit, with only Alex Danvers (Leigh) really having a significant role outside of Supergirl and Superman; while Supergirl doesn’t really get a whole lot to do besides be the straight woman in the bickering banter between Oliver and Barry, she finally comes into her own, appropriately enough, in the final part when she is able to reach her rewritten sister and stand up to a corrupted version of her cousin.

Though a more grounded crossover, Elseworlds set the stage for an even bigger Arrowverse event!

One thing I enjoyed about Elseworlds, and the majority of the Arrowverse crossovers, is how each of the heroes has a significant role to play no matter how powerful they are; Superman and Supergirl may have incredible powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men but they alone are not enough to turn the tide against Deegan or to stand up to the Monitor’s power. Oliver, faced with incredible situations and God-like beings far beyond his comprehension and experience, struggles to adapt and, yet, still finds ways to not only be relevant but also forever affect not only this Crisis but the coming Crisis as well by bargaining with the Monitor. In the end, Elseworlds was an enjoyable crossover that was both amusing and action-packed, gritty and elaborate, and managing to both be an interpersonal drama in a unique way while also setting up a far bigger, more insane crossover than I, for one, never expected to see.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think to Elseworlds? Did you enjoy the body swap plot and the introduction of Batwoman? Were you disappointed that Supergirl didn’t have a slightly bigger role or were you happy to see her and Superman showing different sides to their personalities? What did you think to John Deegan and the ominous presence of the Monitor? Did Elseworlds leave you excited for its far bigger crossover? What are some of your favourite Elseworlds stories from DC Comics? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and check back in next Sunday for my review of the final Arrowverse crossover and the last week of Crossover Crisis!

Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Crisis on Earth-X


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’m been taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Sunday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 27 November 2017 to 28 November 2017
UK Network: Sky One
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Caity Lotz, Carlos Valdes, Dominic Purcell, Chyler Leigh, Brandon Routh, Franz Drameh, Victor Garber, and Tom Cavanagh

The Background:
After the success of Invasion! (Various, 2016), the scope and interconnectivity of the “Arrowverse” began to steadily grow; The Flash (2014 to present), in particular, began to explore more and more of the multiverse while DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to present) exclusively dealt with concepts of time travel and alternate timelines. Invasion! ended up being the first of many annual crossovers between the CW shows and, accordingly, development of the next big crossover began in 2016. This time around, the showrunners were able to better plan and prepare for the crossover; however, while this allowed for Supergirl (2015 to present) to be included in the line-up, Black Lightning (2018 to present) was notably absent from the event, which drew inspiration from the annual crossovers between the Justice Society and Justice League of America in the Silver Age of DC Comics.

The Plot:
When the long-awaited wedding between Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin) and Iris West (Candice Patton) is interrupted by evil doppelgängers from Earth-X, a dystopian world populated by Nazi versions of the Arrowverse heroes, they must call upon Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Amell), Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), and the time-travelling Legends in a desperate battle to save their world from becoming over-run by their totalitarian doubles.

The Review:
Crisis on Earth-X begins, appropriately enough, in “Part 1” (Teng, 2017), which was the eighth episode of the third season of Supergirl and introduces us to Earth-X, a parallel world that is under the iron grip of a Nazi regime. Oliver Queen/Dark Arrow (Amell) is the Führer and leader of the ruling cabal, the New Reichsmen, who use brute force and murderous tactics to spread fear amongst the populace and rule largely unopposed except for a band of plucky Freedom Fighters who are hopelessly outmatched. Hungry for new worlds to spread their regime to, they seize a temporal gateway and travel to Earth-1 in search of further conquests.

The large majority of the Arrowverse gathers together for Barry and Iris’s long-awaited wedding.

Most of our heroes from Earth-1 are concerned primarily with the impending marriage of Barry and Iris; the daily routine of our multiversal time travelling heroes is given a comedic background as Green Arrow, the Legends (Sara Lance/White Canary (Lotz), Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Purcell), Jefferson Jackson (Drameh) and Doctor Martin Stein (Garber)/Firestorm, Ray Palmer/The Atom (Routh), Nate Heywood/Steel (Nick Zano), Zari Tomaz (Tala Ashe), and Amaya Jiwe/Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers)), and Supergirl (Benoist) put their individual issues and missions on hold to travel to present day Earth-1 for the wedding, bringing these characters together for a happier, more social event rather than an impending crisis.

Interpersonal drama is, as always, a prevalent sub-plot throughout the crossover.

Amidst this, Kara is still reeling from the return of Mike Matthews/Mon-El (Chris Wood) and her sister, Alex (Leigh), is struggling with a recent breakup. The revelation that Mon-El is not only alive but also already married has shaken Kara’s usually positive outlook; like any good CW/TV lesbian, Alex decides to throw herself at the nearest bisexual character (Sara); and Oliver is motivated by Barry’s plunge into marriage to (unsuccessfully) re-propose to long-term love interest Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). Additionally, Stein and Jackson are facing the sudden realisation that their time as Firestorm may be coming to an end thanks to a cure developed by Cisco Ramon/Vibe (Valdes) and the Earth-2 Harrison Wells (Cavanagh). While Stein is overjoyed at the prospect of returning to his family and a normal life, Jefferson is struggling with the idea of losing their partnership, friendship, and the bond that Firestorm brings the two. Characteristically, Stein misinterprets Jefferson’s feelings regarding the situation and attempts to fashion a way for Jax to continue being a super-powered Legend without him or Firestorm.

Evil Nazi doppelgängers interrupt the wedding and plot to attack Earth-1.

With all this drama hanging in the air, tensions are a little highly strung on the morning of the wedding and it’s something of a relief (for everyone but Barry and Iris, that is) when Kara Zor-El/Overgirl (Benoist), Dark Arrow, and Tommy Merlyn/Prometheus (Colin Donnell) gate crash the ceremony with their troops. Of course, a massive fight scene breaks out (it’s super lucky and convenient that guys like Oliver and Mick brought their weapons to the church…), the main focus of which pits Overgirl against Supergirl, Oliver against Dark Arrow, and Sara and Alex against Prometheus in a bit of a mirror match, of sorts. Of course, it isn’t until the fight is concluded and Prometheus is captured that the true identities of their opponents are revealed since all the Earth-Xers are sporting bad-ass masks.

Oliver is shaken when the Earth-X Prometheus turns out to be an evil version of his dead best friend.

“Part 2” (Bamford, 2017), which took place in season six, episode eight of Arrow, delves into the consequences of this; as always when he comes face to face with Tommy Merlyn, Oliver is shaken by the appearance of his long dead best friend. Harry also offers a quick bit of exposition into the background of Earth-X, a 53rd Earth that is so horrific that it lacks the usual numerical designation; unlike in Invasion!, Oliver is now far more adjusted to the concept of the multiverse and metahumans but his emotional attachment to Tommy (which is fuelled by his own feelings of grief and guilt at his Tommy’s death) blind him to Prometheus’s uncompromisingly cruel nature. Oliver’s already dramatic and brooding life is further complicated by Felicity’s unexpected rejection of his proposal, which kind of just exists simply to add to the character’s aggro; it’s a common thing in Arrow that seemingly every time Oliver tries to grow as a character and a person, normally dependable people suddenly let him down and then he’s the one who has to learn a lesson to adjust to this before things just work out anyway, which is kind of how the Arrowverse likes to handle its dramatic moments: needless conflict amidst actual, tangible conflict.

In a crossover full of cameos, Wally and Diggle are unfortunately given the shaft.

Crisis on Earth-X also features an appearance by Jessica Parker Kennedy, who would later be revealed to be Barry and Iris’ time-travelling daughter, Nora; once again, though, in a crossover featuring a slew of cameos and characters, Wally West/Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale), John Diggle/Spartan (David Ramsey), J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), and Mon-El are completely side-lined but the event has time for appearances by Ray Terrill/The Ray (Russell Tovey), the Earth-X Leonard Snart/Citizen Cold (Wentworth Miller), Metallo (Frederick Schmidt), Red Tornado, and even a much welcome appearance by Paul Blackthorne as SS Sturmbannführer Quentin Lance. Perhaps the best thing about Crisis on Earth-X’s large cast of characters is the return of Cavanagh as the Reverse-Flash, still the most charismatic and memorable of all the Flash’s villains. Thawne is, it turns out, the actual Thawne from Earth-1, having cheated death thanks to complex (and convenient) time travel shenanigans. While Green Arrow and Supergirl are naturally disturbed and disgusted with their evil counterparts, Barry’s fight against Thawne is far rawer and emotionally charged given their history and Thawne’s sadistic vendetta against him.

Good or evil, Oliver finds a way to be relevant and keep up with his superpowered allies.

Once again, despite neither him or his Earth-X doppelgänger sporting superpowers, Oliver manages to find a way to make himself relevant and useful in the explosive conflict; his Kryptonite arrow, however, is far less useful than one might expect but Dark Arrow ends up being skilled and competent enough to take on Heat Wave, Doctor Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), Curtis Holt/Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum), Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), and Dinah Drake/Black Canary (Juliana Harkavy) all at the same time. This is especially evident in “Part 3” (Helbing, 2017), which aired as the eight episode of the fourth season of The Flash), when, trapped on Earth-X alongside Barry, Sara, Alex, Stein, and Jefferson, Oliver is the only one able to break free of their power-dampening restraints thanks to his ability to freely dislocate his thumb.

With the heroes missing or captured, it’s up to Iris and Felicity to rescue Supergirl.

While this quickly becomes a moot point as they are soon rescued by the Earth-X Snart, who introduces them to the pitiful Earth-X resistance movement, Oliver is able to (briefly) successfully impersonate his doppelgänger to infiltrate a convenient, if well-guarded, facility that offers their only chance of returning home. Concurrently, their Earth-1 allies are trapped in the anti-metahuman cells at Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) and Kara is held captive under power-dampening red sunlight. For all the power, greed, and conviction of the Earth-Xers, their motivations come down to a desperate need to save Overgirl from dying through a heart transplant with Supergirl with only Felicity and Iris left behind to help her. It’s interesting, and surprising, for a crossover between the Arrowverse’s greatest heroes that two non-powered supporting characters end up being the key to turning the tide against the Earth-Xers as they rescue Kara using little more than their grit and ingenuity and the foresight to summon the remaining Legends.

Stein dies to save his team and, more importantly, Jefferson’s life.

The finale, “Part 4” (Smith, 2017), was the eighth episode of the third season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; similar to the final episode of Invasion!, saving the Legends episode to last causes a sudden and noticeable flood of characters to join the already inflated cast. The timely intervention of the Atom saves Kara but, unfortunately, even Gideon (Amy Louise Pemberton) is not capable of saving Stein’s life from a fatal bullet and he dies having sacrificed himself to return everyone to Earth-1 and to keep Jefferson alive. It’s an emotional and dramatic moment for the entire team but, especially, for those two, whose relationship has developed into a fantastic father/son dynamic amidst the dysfunctional family of the Waverider and would forever change the Legends dynamic going forward.

With the defeat and death of their generals, the Earth-X invasion is averted.

Though hurt and grieving following Stein’s death, Oliver and Sara’s pragmatic attitude galvanises the heroes into uniting against the Earth-Xers and their own version of the Waverider, the Wellenreiter, which they use to launch a devastating attack on Earth-1 unless Kara turns herself over to them. Rather than go gallivanting off through time and space, the Legends join their fellow heroes for an all-out counterattack against the Earth-Xers, resulting in a massive brawl in the streets. In the end, the day is won through a combination of teamwork and co-ordination to disable the Wellenreiter and Overgirl succumbing to her solar poisoning. Her explosive death directly leads to Oliver executing his counterpart and, thanks to Barry suitably scaring off Thawne, the crisis is averted, and Barry and Iris are finally married.

Including evil doppelgängers gives the cast a rare chance to showcase their range.

Invasion! was a very rushed and lacklustre excuse to bring together the Arrowverse against a simple extra-terrestrial threat; while the spirit of each show was evoked as best as possible and each episode did its best to focus on a core group of characters amidst a bloated cast, the crossover was let down by a frantic pace and some dodgy CGI. Crisis on Earth-X, in comparison, is a far more well balanced affair and, in many ways, seems like a much easier and more simpler concept to bring together the CW shows as it doesn’t require fully CGI characters or entirely new ideas; it’s simply a fight between the heroes of the Arrowverse and their violent and sadistic doppelgängers. Of course, it’s not the first time many of these heroes (especially Green Arrow and the Flash) have fought against dark versions of themselves but it’s a pretty simple and effective narrative device; plus, not only does it allow characters to literally fight against their own dark nature, it’s fun to see the actors portraying such radically different versions of themselves. While Dark Arrow isn’t that much different from Green Arrow, Overgirl is the exact opposite of Kara’s normally optimistic and enthusiastic nature, allowing Benoist to flex her range into sadistic bitch territory.

The Summary:
There’s a definite sense in Crisis on Earth-X that the Arrowverse was really beginning to hit is stride and becoming much more ambitious with its characters, concepts, and crossovers; the shows have come a long way from the relatively grounded Arrow (2012 to 2020), almost being unrecognisable with their fragrant and frequent use of obscure and complex sci-fi concepts such as time travel, aliens, and the multiverse. Thanks to having the time to properly focus on these concepts in shows like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, crossovers such as these were not only able to occur in the first place but actually felt like a natural and inevitable inclusion rather than being a rushed and desperate attempt to catch up to the competition like in the movies.

Dodgy CGI is kept to a minimum but the costume design is as fantastic as always.

Of course, dodgy CGI does raise its head once again in Crisis on Earth-X, particularly in the scene where Green Arrow helps Flash and Supergirl reinforce a collapsing superstructure by firing a load of CGI arrows and lines across the girders and whenever the Ray’s powers are on show. Still, these moments are far less intrusive and noticeable than in Invasion!, which is surprising considering Crisis on Earth-X features far more super-powered individuals and a much bigger scope. Once again, the costume design is absolutely spot on; the Earth-X Schutzstaffel-inspired uniforms give the normally bright and colourful heroes a dark and menacing look that is only exacerbated when the narrative switches to Earth-X and we see just how different the totalitarian parallel world is to Earth-1 and the rest of the multiverse.

Crisis on Earth-X certainly outdid its predecessor in terms of stakes, standards, and scope.

Something I really enjoyed about this second crossover was that there was a lot more for everyone to do this time around and far more dynamic and varied character interactions, largely thanks to the fact that the pacing and focus of the crossover is much better this time around; each episode feels like a part of a larger, unified narrative that is the geared towards serving the purpose of the crossover rather than being a regular episode of its main show with the crossover plot shoe-horned in. The ramifications of the crossover had lasting effects on the Arrowverse as a whole as well; not only did it end with the long-awaited marriage of Barry and Iris, and open the doors for bigger and better multiversal events in the future, but it forever changed the dynamic of Legends of Tomorrow, and Jefferson’s character, through the sudden and dramatic death of Stein. Invasion! had the suggestion of high stakes but the plot was so concerned with focusing on the interpersonal drama rather than actually depicting the Dominators as a meaningful threat that there was never really the suggestion that the heroes could fail or lose in any way. This time around, the loss of Stein and the depiction of a dystopian alternative world where many have either died or are pure evil raised the stakes for future crossovers, allowing for a degree of unpredictability to permeate subsequent events.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

How did you find Crisis on Earth-X? Did you prefer it to Invasion! and where would you rank it compared to the other Arrowverse crossovers? What did you think to the concept of evil, Nazi versions of the Arrowverse heroes? Were there any characters you would have liked to see have more focus in the crossover or were you, like me, far more impressed with the pacing and balance this time around? How did you feel about Stein’s death and which of the four shows is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Crisis on Earth-X, be sure to leave a comment below and check back in next Sunday as Crossover Crisis continues!

Screen Time [Crossover Crisis]: Invasion!


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ll be taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Sunday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Air Date: 29 November 2016 to 1 December 2016
UK Network: Sky One
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist, Caity Lotz, Carlos Valdes, Dominic Purcell, David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Willa Holland, and Victor Garber

The Background:
In October 2012, Arrow (2012 to 2020) premiered on the CW; a successful first season saw the show not only continued for another eight years but also herald the start of the “Arrowverse”, a series of interconnected superhero shows that kicked off with The Flash (2014 to present), explored time and space in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to present), and delved into the multiverse with the advent of Supergirl (2015 to present). Characters and concepts from each show would often cross over and, in time, the Arrowverse became a surprisingly complex continuity that, inevitably, led to a massive three-episode crossover.

After numerous cameos and crossovers, the Arrowverse collided in a big way for Invasion!

The event, titled Invasion!, was heavily inspired by a DC Comics event of the same name from the late-eighties, united the Arrowverse heroes against an external, extra-terrestrial threat. The three episodes were shot concurrently and gave the CW its most-watched week in six years. Invasion! was met with largely favourably reviews, with each series’ episodes ranked amongst the highest for their respective seasons. The success of Invasion! led to further, increasingly elaborate crossovers between the CW shows, all of which I’ll be covering throughout April.

The Plot:
When an aggressive extra-terrestrial race known as the Dominators (Micah Fitzgerald) arrive on Earth looking to conquer the planet, Barry Allen/The Flash (Gustin) and his team at Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) team up with Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and his allies, Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Benoist), and the Legends, led by Sara Lance/White Canary (Lotz), to combat the threat of invasion!

The Review:
Each of the three parts of Invasion! are, quite helpfully and naturally, titled “Invasion!”. The crossover begins in media res with season three, episode eight of The Flash (Downs, 2016) before flashing back to ten hours earlier, where Team Flash are in the middle of testing out Wally West’s (Keiynan Lonsdale) recently acquired super speed. Though he shows a great deal of potential and promise, his sister, Iris (Candice Patton), urges the team not to encourage his dreams of following in Barry’s footsteps out of worry for his safety.

Still struggling with the fallout of Flashpoint, Barry turns to Oliver when the Dominators invade.

The team is in a bit of a fractured state as Cisco/Vibe (Valdes) is having trust issues with Barry after his time travel shenanigans in the “Flashpoint” episode (Warn, 2016); Barry’s main arc in the crossover was trying to live with the ramifications of his selfish actions, which caused numerous alterations to the timeline and affected his confidence and relationships. In the midst of this, the Dominators suddenly arrive on Earth, which surprises even Barry, who by this point has already travelled to other parallel worlds. Thanks to information provided by Advanced Research Group United Support (A.R.G.U.S.) director Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), the team learns that the Dominators have been arriving on Earth since the 1950s, attacking and abducting humans and then disappearing seemingly at random. Lyla asks the team to stand down, believing they would be no match for the Dominators so, obviously, Barry immediately ignores that decision and goes to Oliver for help.

Invasion! balances its large cast by focusing each episode of a certain number of characters.

Against Oliver’s wishes and Felicity Smoak’s (Emily Bett Rickards) objections, his sister, Thea/Speedy (Holland), and John Diggle/Spartan (Ramsey) agree to help rendezvous with the Legends at an abandon S.T.A.R.S. warehouse. Barry then immediately jumps over to Earth-38 to recruit Supergirl and the first tentative meeting of the Arrowverse super friends takes place. Thanks to the inclusion of the Legends, Invasion! immediately becomes compounded by an influx of characters: there’s team leader Sara, Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), Doctor Martin Stein (Garber) and Jefferson Jackson/Firestorm (Franz Drameh), and Ray Palmer/The Atom (Routh), amidst all the supporting characters from both The Flash and Arrow. While this threatens to bog the narrative down a bit and can be overwhelming for newcomers, each episode smartly places much of its focus on the main cast of their main series. Accordingly, much of the Flash part of the crossover focuses on Wally’s resentment of the team’s distrust in his abilities, Cisco’s issues with Barry, and Doctor Caitlin Snow’s (Danielle Panabaker) struggles with adjusting to her newly discovered ice powers, which Stein helps her reconcile.

Despite her power and optimism, Kara is met with some scepticism for being an alien visitor.

Supergirl brings a modicum of background knowledge of the Dominators from her Earth but, by virtue of Oliver’s suggestion, Barry is named the team leader; Oliver, however, is largely distrustful of Kara upon first meeting and, as the more serious and grim of the entire group, pushes her, and the entire team, not to hold back in order to fight with peak efficiency in the coming battle. Because of her unmatched superpowers, she is made the guinea pig for the team to test their skills and teamwork out on and this (and the frosty reception she later receives in crossover) causes some notable friction between her and Oliver since she isn’t impressed at being treated like an alien. A cautious, distrustful character by nature, Oliver characteristically take some time to warm to others as it is but his relationship with Kara is particularly unique as, just as he was forced to adapt to and accept “metahumans” (DC’s name for superpowered individuals), he initially struggles to trust and accept aliens and the idea of a multiverse. Because of this, and her status as an outsider to the remainder of the cast, Supergirl’s optimism and enthusiasm is tested during Invasion! as she must work to prove herself in the eyes of her new team mates but, thankfully, her drive and abilities are enough to win over even her most ardent doubters.

Barry and Ollie must subdue their friends when they fall under the Dominators’ control.

The tension is only exacerbated when Cisco pressures Barry to reveal the implications of Flashpoint to the team, which drives a wedge between them; while Kara still trusts Barry regardless, it’s only through a tough love pep talk from Oliver that Barry snaps out of his self-doubt and realises that he can still make a positive difference despite the mistakes of the past. Ultimately, these plot points converge somewhat when the Dominators force Oliver and Barry to fight their mind-controlled friends, wherein the unique and surprisingly effective teamwork of the two is enough to free them from the control of the Dominators.

Rene echoes Oliver’s mistrust of metahumans but comes to accept them in time.

The second part of the crossover, which takes part in season five, episode eight of Arrow (Bamford, 2016), is probably the weakest of the three since it doubles as an anniversary episode of Arrow; with Oliver trapped in a virtual reality dreamland, Team Arrow (Curtis Holt/Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum), Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), and Rory Regan/Ragman (Joe Dinicol)) work with Cisco and Felicity to figure out how to locate and free Oliver from his prison. Fittingly, given the largely more grounded and practical nature of Arrow, Rene echoes Oliver’s scepticism and distrust of metahumans but, nevertheless, agrees to pool their resources for the greater good just like Oliver.

Oliver is trapped in, and tempted by, the Dominators’ dream world.

Normally a grim, pragmatic, and focused individual, Oliver is overwhelmed by the fantasy world the Dominators have placed him into but, because of the horrors of his past and the trauma he has lived through, is quickly able to sense and recognise that he is living in a dream world. Despite being reunited with his mother (Susanna Thompson), father (Jamey Sheridan), and deceased former love, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Oliver ultimately chooses to reject the promise of a peaceful, “normal” life in favour of returning to his never-ending fight because he is driven to atone for both his sins and those of his father through his work as Green Arrow.

Ollie ultimately rejects the fantasy to return to his grim, never-ending vigilante mission.

Sadly, as heart-breaking as the Arrow-centric episode is (and as fun as it is to get cameos from Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough)), the focus on this dream world is a jarring left turn for Invasion! and seems more like a regular, standalone episode of Arrow rather than a continuation of a big crossover event. As a result, the Dominators and the larger plot basically disappear from the crossover until the very end of the episode in favour of focusing on reliving all of Arrow’s greatest moments and characters in celebration of the show’s 100th episode. While I’ve never been the biggest fan of Legends of Tomorrow, the final episode of Invasion! (Smith, 2016), which takes part in the seventh episode of Legends’ second series, at least gets the crossover back on track towards the larger Dominator plot.

While the Legends investigate 1951, Stein struggles with the implications of time travel.

After regrouping with the rest of the super friends, and returning to Lyla’s intel from the first episode, the team splits into groups, with one group travelling back to 1951 in the Waverider to interrogate a Dominator and another group staying behind to work on a way to defeat the Dominators with the resources they have. Interestingly, none of the primary superheroes travel with the Legends; this allows Heat Wave, Nate Heywood/Steel (Nick Zano), and Amaya Jiwe/Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) a chance to shine in battle with the Dominators while Cisco works through his aggro with Felicity and, back in the present, Stein attempts to adjust to the sudden appearance of a daughter (Christina Brucato) in his life after the events of “Pilot: Part 2” (Winter, 2016). This time-travel jaunt, and these concurrent plot threads, converge in the revelation of the Dominators’ physiology, capabilities, and true mission: the destruction of all metahuman life because the aliens have deemed them a threat.

Each character brings a different approach and skillset to the fight.

A couple of things that are generally quite consistent about the Arrowverse are the interactions between characters (which usually strikes just the right balance between humour and drama but, quite often, steps a bit far into one side or the other as the narrative demands) and the action and fight scenes. Each character fights and approaches battles in a different way, with the Flash being very innovative, Green Arrow utilising his hard-hitting and efficient martial arts, Supergirl ploughing ahead with her peerless strength, and each of the Legends showcasing equally unique strategies in battle (Atom uses his robotic suit, Canary her weapons and martial arts, Firestorm their nuclear powers, and so on). The result is a wide variety of individual personalities and abilities who, while often clashing, work really well together; the actors have a great rapport with one another (some more than others, like Barry, Oliver, and Kara, for example), which allows for some great moments of levity and drama, and it’s a thrill to see these colourful and distinct superheroes all coming together in the face of a greater threat.

Despite the bloated cast, the spirit of each show is evoked throughout the crossover.

I also really like that the conflicting dichotomies of each show is held intact; accordingly, Arrow’s Star City is ominous, dangerous, and constantly shown at night-time and characters like Oliver and Rene are stoic and distrustful, especially of metahumans since they (as in Team Arrow) are comprised, largely, of normal, non-powered individuals and somewhat resent the abilities of those with superpowers. Although none of Supergirl’s supporting cast make an appearance in this particular crossover, she brings an almost naïve and near-boundless enthusiasm and positivity despite the rough welcome she receives from some members of the cast. This is echoed in Barry and the more vibrant, colourful world of Central City, all of which are presented as a thematic parallel to Arrow throughout the Arrowverse. The controlled chaos of Legends of Tomorrow is similarly evoked; Legends has always focused more on the dysfunctional family dichotomy that the crew of the Waverider share as, while they’re all very distinct and opposing personalities, they are able to function as a time-travelling team and take their mission to police and protect time very seriously (even if they don’t necessarily act serious 100% of the time).

The Dominators are a formidable, if questionably rendered, force to be reckoned with.

However, one of the main things holding back Invasion!, much like many of the CW’s shows, are the special effects; for a television budget, the shows have always been ambitious and done pretty well, especially when it comes to costume design. Unfortunately, Invasion! decides to use CGI to render the Dominators rather than practical or more traditional effects, which does knock the quality of the crossover down quite a bit since they don’t hold up too well. The Dominators, for all their obscurity, make for a relatively formidable threat to bring the Arrowverse together; sporting advanced technology, mental capabilities, super strength, and a vicious, bloodthirsty nature, they are as cruel as they are fearsome, the Dominators are able to turn friends and allies against each other and place their victims into a virtual reality dream world in order to manipulate their thoughts and steal their knowledge.

The Summary:
For the first proper crossover between the Arrowverse shows, Invasion! is decent enough but a far cry from the crossover events that would follow; I think the main issue with the crossover is that it feels very rushed and clearly takes place in the middle of a number of unrelated and conflicting storylines for each character and show in the Arrowverse. As if the Arrow-centric episode wasn’t proof enough of this, the fact that Supergirl isn’t included with the crossover is and it all comes down to the simple problem of time. Later crossovers handled the placement and build-up of their crossovers a lot better, either purposely writing them to be standalone events or spending a great deal of time building up to them; Invasion!, though, is tonally all over the place, moving at a near breakneck pace and yet also being jarringly slow when it should be far more action-packed.

There’s not much to the Dominators but it’s a good enough excuse to unite the Arrowverse.

Still, it’s not bad for a first attempt; the Dominators may not be a particularly well-known threat in the DC universe but they serve their purpose here. Their design, while suffering from dodgy CGI, is ambitious, impressive, and suitably horrific and they are depicted as a significant threat. While we never really get a sense of their actual limits or power, they are certainly perceived as a force formidable enough to bring all these heroes together and even have Barry volunteer to sacrifice himself to end their threat. Their danger comes, mainly, from their intricate and advanced technology, their unique approach to warfare, and their sheer numbers, all of which hang over the crossover like an ominous cloud, making the Dominators as much an existential threat as an extra-terrestrial one. Essentially, they exist as the perfect excuse to bring together the Arrowverse super friends, so they’re mainly there just to be defeated (with an anti-climactic amount of ease, it has to be said) but at least they don’t operate on a hive mind, which is a refreshing change of pace.

Invasion! brought together the Arrowverse and cemented its version of the DC Trinity.

I’ve complained a bit about Invasion!’s conflicting focus and pace and, while that is an issue, it does allow the crossover to focus on something that is a big part of the Arrowverse: interpersonal drama. Despite the powers, abilities, and experience of each hero, these are all flawed and vulnerable characters and, if there’s one thing regular watching of the Arrowverse will teach you, it’s that our protagonists must learn new lessons about themselves, the world, and their team as much as they must battle against more tangible, often overwhelming, odds. The best thing about the crossover, beyond seeing all of these superheroes coming together for the first time, is the development of the Arrowverse Trinity (Kara, Barry, and Oliver), which would be the tentpole of further Arrowverse crossovers going forward and opened the door for so many new stories, characters, and possibilities which, as we’ll see in the coming weeks, the Arrowverse explored far deeper than I ever expected at the time.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

How did you find Invasion!? Which character, cameo, and part was your favourite? Which of the CW Arrowverse shows was your favourite and why? What did you think to the Dominators as a threat? Are there any DC characters you’d like to see used in the Arrowverse or, perhaps, get their own show? Did you ever read the comic book Invasion! is based upon and, if so, how do you feel the crossover handled the story? Which of the Arrowverse crossovers was your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Invasion!, and the Arrowverse in general, feel free to leave a comment below and check in again next Sunday as Crossover Crisis continues!

Screen Time: Batwoman (Season One)

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Season One

Air Date: October 2019 to May 2020
UK Network: E4
Original Network: The CW
Stars: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, and Dougray Scott

The Plot:
Three years after Bruce Wayne (Warren Christie) disappeared from Gotham City, taking his vigilante persona Batman with him, Kate Kane (Rose), Wayne’s cousin, returns to Gotham to confront her childhood demons and ends up becoming Gotham’s newest vigilante protector, Batwoman.

The Background:
Ever since the “Arrowverse” began with the first episode of Arrow (2012 to 2020), we have seen hints and references towards Gotham City and its resident bat-themed vigilante. Nowhere was this more explicit than in Arrow, where Oliver Queen/The Hood/The Arrow/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) mostly occupied himself not with being a left-wing protector of the socially handicapped and more with being a pseudo-Batman, adopting not only many of the Dark Knight’s more grim and stoic mannerisms but also the majority of his rogue’s gallery. By the time the Arrowverse eventually swelled to the point where they were actually able to pull off a pretty decent adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985 to 1986), things had changed quite considerably. Not only had an unconnected show, Gotham (2014 to 2019) delved into the origins of almost every one of Batman’s popular villains, Batman (Alain Moussi and Maxim Savarias) and Bruce Wayne (Iain Glen) had appeared and featured quite prominently in Titans (2018 to present) and, prior to the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” (2019 to 2020) crossover, Kate Kane/Batwoman had been introduced in the CW’s previous crossover, “Elseworlds” (2018).

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The Arrowverse has long been under the shadow of the Bat.

Unfortunately, like many other DC television projects, the Arrowverse is slightly handicapped by not currently being able to include Bruce Wayne or Batman in any direct capacity. I honestly feel like, were The CW allowed to use Batman, we would have gotten nine years of the Caped Crusader rather than the Emerald Archer but, despite this block (which, to be honest, makes no sense because of Titans and Gotham), the Arrowverse had been able to make sly nods to familiar elements of the Batman mythos. Kevin Conroy even appeared as an aged, disillusioned alternative version of Batman in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” but it’s safe to say that the shadow of the Bat loomed heavily over not just the Arrowverse but, somewhat obviously, over Batwoman especially.

The Review:
It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of Batman and, yet, I’ve struggled a bit with the way he’s represented in live-action. I got into Arrow quite late into its run but really came to resent how it transposed Batman’s characteristics and rogues onto Green Arrow, even though it worked in the context of the Arrowverse where Oliver’s more stoic and serious approach to crimefighting juxtaposed with the more optimistic approach of Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin). While I am also somewhat familiar with Batwoman from the comics, I can’t say I’m a massive expert on her beyond the basics and basically went into Batwoman hoping more for an interesting female-led superhero show. I couldn’t really get into Supergirl (2016 to present), despite how good Melissa Benoist looks and is as the titular Supergirl/Kara Danvers or the inspired decision to cast Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor in its later seasons; honestly, the show seemed to be filled with way too much sexual tension between Supergirl, her female co-stars, and basically between every female character in the show…which is weird as I never got that vibe from the male-led Arrowverse shows.

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Ruby Rose is great as a tough-as-nails Batwoman.

Batwoman, however, has the distinction of already being a lesbian character; not only that, she’s quite a guarded, tough character, meaning that the show is less about her desperately trying to repair failed relationships with her friends to the point where you suspect she is in love with them and more about her standing up, loud and proud, as being an equal to the men in her life. As such, Ruby Rose is a great choice for Kate Kane/Batwoman; she looks fantastic in the suit (when its shot in minimal lightning and kept in shadow), and has a tough-as-nails demeanour about her made all the more apparent by her signature snark, scowl, and abundance of tattoos. Unfortunately, like Supergirl, Batwoman faces many comparisons to Batman throughout the show; episodes are frequently intercut (and, in my view, ruined) by voiceovers from media gossip Vesper Fairchild (Rachel Maddow), who comments on Batwoman’s hair, wardrobe, and effectiveness compared to Batman and Kate is constantly asking Luke Fox (Johnson) for input on how Batman would handle certain situations (she even had to have her Batarangs “recalibrated” to account her for having shorter, weaker arms).

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Batwoman‘s main plot is adapted from the “Elegy” story.

Despite this, Kate is very much her own character; she never sought to become Batwoman and, instead, utilised a modified version of Bruce’s suit and technology to assist in her investigation into Alice (Skarsten), a mentally unstable maniac who themes her crimes after her namesake from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll, 1865). You might think having the show’s main villain being a knock-off of D-list Batman villain the Mad Hatter is a mistake but, it turns out, that the link between Batwoman and Alice was a big part of the “Elegy” (Rucka, et al, 2009 to 2010) storyline during Batwoman’s time in Detective Comics (1937 to present).

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The less said about this flashback the better…

As a result, the main plot of Batwoman focuses on Kate’s discovery that Alice is actually her long-lost, long-presumed-dead twin sister, Beth. Like Arrow, the story of Kate and Beth’s childhoods and pasts is told through flashbacks, through which we see how Batman (in broad daylight, the first of many issues this show has) failed to properly secure the car young Kate (Gracyn Shinyei) and Beth (Ava Sleeth) were in, resulting in the death of their mother and Beth ending up a prisoner of the sadistic August Cartwright/Dr. Ethan Campbell (John Emmet Tracy and Sebastian Roché) and forced to befriend his disfigured son, Jonathan Cartwright/Mouse (Sam Littlefield). Unfortunately, after only a few episodes, I kind of lost interest in Alice as a character and a villain; she’s just crazy for the sake of being crazy and is more annoying than anything, especially as she often flip-flops between being a full-on murderous sadist and being a scared girl desperate for help. As a villain, she’s just not that compelling and it gets very annoying how she is constantly captured, only to escape, or seems to be on the road to rehabilitation only to immediately do a 180 and Kate falls for her act every. single. time.

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Dougray Scott is a welcome addition to the cast.

Left mentally unbalanced by her time in captivity, Alice leads the Wonderland Gang in targeting her estranged father, Commander Jacob Kane (Scott); quite how Batwoman managed to snag Dougray Scott is beyond me but he’s a great addition to the show, lending a gravitas and feeling of professionalism that is sorely missing due to Batman, Alfred Pennyworth, and Commissioner James Gordon all being absent. Jacob heads up a private security agency known as the “Crows”; for all intents and purposes, they are Gotham’s police department as, while they work with the Gotham police, they’ve basically transplanted them in Batman’s absence. Scott has great chemistry with Rose; the two have a frosty relationship with many wrinkles and a lot of friction as Kate believes her father gave up on Beth and turned his attention to blaming, and hating, Batman instead. She also strives to be seen as an equal and beneficial to his cause, though repeatedly turns down his offers to join the Crows as she comes to accept her role as Batwoman. Eventually, their relationship improves but his views and opinions on Batwoman begin to sour, with the season ending with Kane declaring all-out war on Batwoman and any who aid and abet her.

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Kate and Sophie’s sexual tension is a major part of Batwoman.

Rounding out the cast, and the drama, is Kate’s ex Sophie Moore (Mandy), who denied all knowledge of their same-sex affair in order to graduate from military academy and join the Crows. Kate is heartbroken when she returns to Gotham and finds Sophie married to fellow Crows agent Tyler (Greyston Holt) and much of the show’s wonky relationship drama hinges on their “will-they, won’t-they” back and forth as Kate attempts to move on to other relationships and finds a decent distraction in her vigilante activities. This becomes more complicated when Sophie’s relationship breaks down after her past with Kate is revealed to Tyler and when Sophie inexplicably becomes attracted to Batwoman (who publically outs herself as a lesbian, thus becoming instantly attractive to all lesbians).

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Julia is pretty and bad-ass but ends up being a bit of a stereotype.

The seeds for this were planted a few episodes in with the inclusion of Alfred’s little-know-of daughter, Julia Pennyworth (Christina Wolfe), a semi-cockney, bad-ass spy who Kate has a past sexual relationship with, because if it’s one thing that is true across not only the Arrowverse but all fictional television, all gay people are immediately and uncontrollably attracted to each other. This is exemplified further when Julie starts making semi-regular appearances; circumstances see her working alongside Sophie and growing closer to her and, of course, a sexual relationship builds between them.

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Alice drives a wedge between Kate and her step-sister, Mary.

We’ve also got Kate’s younger stepsister, Mary Hamilton (Kang), who operates perhaps the most well-known illegal clinic where she treats castaways from Gotham’s hospitals and basically functions as Batwoman’s medical support as the show goes on. Once Alice is revealed to be Beth, Mary and Kate’s relationship begins to suffer and comes to a breaking point after Alice fatally poisons Mary’s mother (and Kate’s stepmother), Katherine Hamilton-Kane (Elizabeth Anweis), and she dies in Mary’s arms. Kate is then torn between her desire to both reach Beth, bring Alice to justice, repairing her relationship with Mary, and the fact that Alice has ensured that Jacob is framed for the crime, which shakes the city’s faith in the Crows and has them clamouring for Batwoman instead. Eventually, however, Mary figures out Kate’s dual identity and feels slighted for some time at her step-sister keeping her in the dark about her actions; this relaxes somewhat after she is officially let in on the secret and then desperately tries to become part of Kate’s Bat-Team. Honestly, far too many people find out Kate’s identity over the course of the season, which really compromises her integrity as Batwoman for me.

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Batwoman becomes a media sensation thanks, in part, to her brief association with “Slam” Bradley.

As a result, Batwoman becomes a far more public figure than I am honestly comfortable with for a Bat-branded vigilante. It is very heavily implied that Batman was just as publically celebrated and the subject of news reports but Batwoman straight-up ends up plastered all over social media and even explicitly outs herself as gay when the city begins to “ship” her with Samuel “Slam” Bradley (Kurt Szarka), an attractive hero cop who makes a brief appearance. Other characters from the Arrowverse also appear in the series’ tie-in to the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover which, honestly was the only reason I actually watched this show week to week.

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Batwoman‘s Bat-Signal is pretty pathetic.

Moving on from the casting, I have to talk about the show’s aesthetic; first, while the Bat-Signal is present, it has to be the lamest iteration I’ve ever seen. Normally, it’s this massive floodlight but, in Batwoman, it’s this piddling little thing that looks like it’s struggle to light a hallway much less cast the iconic Bat embalm into the night sky. Second, like Arrow, much of Batwoman takes place in cityscapes. This means there’s a lot of offices, conveniently abandoned warehouses, and scenes that take place on the city streets. Despite the fact that Gotham has been without Batman for three years, the city has, arguably, never looked cleaner and more well-kept; similar to how Gotham appeared flawless during the daytime scenes of The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008), Batwoman’s Gotham seems like a relatively safe place to life for the most part. This is implied to be because of the presence of the Crows and the convenient absence of Gotham’s more colourful super criminals but, still, I kind of expect my Gotham to be just as dark and dirty as Star City was in Arrow, which was rarely ever shown in the daytime.

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Batwoman‘s Batcave is like an updated version of the 1960’s ‘cave.

Speaking of Arrow, like all of her fellow Arrowverse cohorts, Batwoman has a secret base of operations where she can suit up and monitor events in the city. You might have heard of it; it’s called the Batcave. Batwoman’s Batcave, though, is perhaps the cleanest and most simplified version of the ‘cave I’ve ever seen. Even the Arrow’s Arrowcave, with all its obnoxious high-tech furnishings, looked more like a Batcave than Batwoman’s, which seems to be a cross between the Bat-bunker from The Dark Knight and the iconic Batcave from the 1960’s Batman television series (1966 to 1968) with its sixties-style flashing lights and terminals (it even has a little toy Tyrannosaurs rex which, to be honest, is a nice little allusion to the impractically gigantic T-Rex Bruce likes to keep in he Batcave).

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Luke adapts the Batsuit to fit Kate’s…specifications…

Luke Fox practically lives in the ‘cave, functioning as Batwoman’s tech support and “guy in the chair”; you’d think this would be a great way to introduce the wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon/Oracle and inject some sexual tension between her and Kate but, instead, we have a hybrid of Lucius Fox and Alfred. In the comics, Luke became the Bat-themed vigilante Batwing and I wouldn’t be surprised if Luke doesn’t take up this codename at some point in the show’s run; hell, if Jimmy (sorry, “James”) Olson (Mehcad Brooks) can suit up as the vigilante Guardian over on Supergirl than anything is possible. While Fox is initially relegated to Batwoman’s tech support (developing her gadgets and suit, monitoring and communicating with her when she’s out in the field, and so forth), he gets a bit more focus as more and more people join their team and, especially, when he feels compelled to confront the man who killed his father (yeah, Lucius Fox is also dead in this series…) right when Kate is struggling with having taken a life. Fox is apparently some kind of genius as Batwoman’s suit is apparently so sophisticated that it’s full of technology that monitors her heartbeat, oxygen levels, and all kinds of stuff that I find difficult to believe is weaved into a far more form-fitting outfit than anything Batman is known to wear. Initially, Kate wears a modified version of the standard Batsuit as she takes to the streets and is thought to be Batman but, after she sees all the good she’s doing and the hope she’s bringing, she has Fox alter it further to include a wig and her signature red colouring and is officially announced as Batwoman.

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The Bats are publicly celebrated as heroes and saviours rather than myths.

This is one of the things I actually have an issue with in the show; when Batwoman was introduced in “Elseworlds”, Batman was a myth so powerful that even Oliver Queen didn’t believe that he was real. Jump over to Batwoman, though, and not only is Batman openly the subject of media gossip and coverage, he’s a widely known and celebrated hero of Gotham City. The Crows, especially Jacob, despise Batman for his anonymity and for abandoning the city and even Kate was distrustful of the Caped Crusader until she found out who he was; once she did, she was inspired by his legacy and began continuing Bruce’s journals to chronicle her own journey. My issue here is the idea of Batman as a “hero”; as I prefer Batman to be an urban legend, feared by criminals, distrusted by the police, and a figure of mystery to the general public, something about gossip columnists openly discussing his methods and the entire city acknowledging his presence and celebrating him as they would the Flash rubs me the wrong way. Even Arrow handled this aspect of its titular vigilante better, with Oliver’s hooded alter ego not really being publically acknowledged or celebrated for some years so it’s a bit weird for me to see Gotham’s citizens “crying out” for their hero’s return.

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Bruce designed a gun to stop his own Batsuit...

And then there’s Batwoman’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne; through dialogue with Fox, Kate learns more about Bruce’s motivations, how he handled the burden of his duel identity, and the reasons behind him walking away from Batman and Gotham. To begin with, Bruce/Batman is almost this mythic figure, some lofty ideal that Kate can only dream to live up to, much less match. But then some cracks begin to form, the first being when Fox reveals that Bruce commissioned the creation of a gun that could penetrate the Batsuit, with the implication being that, were his technology to fall into the wrong hands, Bruce would be happy to kill the perpetrator. The second, and most egregious, is the revelation later in the series that Bruce quit being Batman after he killed the Joker (here also referred to as Jack Napier).

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Kate ends up choking a maniac to death.

Let that sink in for a second: Batman was not only willing to kill to stop someone who stole his Batsuit, he also killed the Joker, and felt he had to quit being Batman because of it. While I don’t actually mind Batman killing, it’s unsettling when so much emphasis is put on Bruce’s uncompromising moral standing only to throw it all away by him creating a gun and killing his greatest enemy. Worse still is that Fox only reveals this to Kate after she has strangled August Cartwright to death for what he did to her sister and mother. Now, again, I don’t mind Batman killing under the right circumstances; I grew up with Michael Keaton’s fantastically haunting portrayal of the character so I’m used to a Batman who is willing to cross the line now and then and fully believe that, in his line of work, casualties and fatalities are bound to happen. It’s also worth noting that Batwoman is a former soldier and, especially in the comics, is not adverse to killing when it’s absolutely necessary. Over the space of three episodes or so, though, Kate struggles with her actions in a way that, again, Oliver Queen never really did; when he first returned to Star City, Oliver killed specific targets and his enemies without a second’s thought. Later on, he tried to “do better” by not killing but easily went back to shooting arrows through people’s hearts not long after and he’s no less a hero for it, so why would Batwoman (or Batman, for that matter) be?

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Batwoman wasn’t too shaken when she killed the alternate Bruce Wayne…

Still, Batman’s code against killing is an important aspect of the character and going against that is always going to ruffle a few feathers; it also seems like a really lame, super easy excuse to write Bruce/Batman out of the show. It’s also worth noting that it was taking a life that led to the aged Bruce becoming a remorseless killer in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and that Kate killed him (whether by accident or design) during a fight and showed very little remorse over this.

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Batwoman featured a few of Batman’s D-list rogues.

Moving on, though, the show features a small selection of Batman’s D-list rogues; though she has no ties to the Mad Hatter, Alice’s mere presence alludes to his existence; the Joker, as mentioned, is disappointingly dead; and a version of the Executioner (Jim Pirri) also appears. Being that this is a female-led show, and a lot of the show’s plot is focused on female empowerment, there are a few female villains in Batwoman (the oft-forgotten Magpie (Rachel Matthews) and Nocturna (Kayla Ewell), for example) but most episodes revolve around Alice in some way, shape, or form, and her efforts to get revenge on Kate and her father and temptation towards redemption.

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Hush eventually makes an appearance.

Thomas Elliot (Gabriel Mann) also shows up early in the season as a friend and rival of Bruce’s but is quickly revealed to have deduced Bruce’s identity as Batman and to be as crazy as a bag of cats so he ends up in Arkham Asylum. Thankfully, though, Batwoman is full of face transplants and glorified plastic surgeons and, through the influence of Alice and Mouse, Elliot breaks out of Arkham, gets his face sliced off, and ends up wrapped up in bandages and taking on the persona of Hush. Unfortunately, though, Elliot is both just another crazy guy and another rich guy in a suit, so he’s far from the physical or intellectual threat as the comic book Hush, though the season does end with a massive cliff-hanger as Elliot applied a patchwork skin to his face to assume Bruce Wayne’s identity.

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Batwoman‘s fights are decent enough, when they actually happen.

Something Batwoman likes to employ, for whatever reason, is the implementation of licensed songs to punctuate its more dramatic (read: soap opera) moments. Songs like these may have fit into teen dramas like Smallville (2001 to 2011) but they seem massively out of place in a Bat-centric show. Luckily, Batwoman takes its lead more from Arrow for its action sequences and fight scenes; generally, episodes will open with some kind of chase, kill, or action sequence. Kate (and/or Jacob) will then investigate something, or have some kind of confrontation, and then she’ll hit the streets as Batwoman, maybe take out some goons, before working towards a finale against whomever is the main threat of the episode. Fight scenes are far more hands on and up close and personal than in Arrow, though, as Batwoman favours hand-to-hand combat over a bow and arrow. Like Green Arrow, Kate masks her voice with a voice synthesiser, which I always prefer over the idea of the Bat-characters putting on a voice (despite how good these voices have been), but this doesn’t stop multiple characters guessing or knowing her identity within only six episodes.

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The Summary:
Ultimately, the season started off quite well and had a lot of promise but fell off a cliff very quickly; after a few episodes, Batwoman becomes very formulaic, makes some questionable decisions regarding Batman’s legacy and the inclusion (or exclusion) of famous Bat­-characters, and ended on a massive cliff-hanger that, by the looks of it, we either won’t get resolved in a second season or it will be significantly different because of the behind the scenes shenanigans. After flip-flopping about a hundred times, Alice decides she hates Kate and Batwoman as they betrayed her and got her locked up in Arkham Asylum. Thankfully, she makes fast friends with Thomas Elliot, who has snapped and basically believes Bruce Wayne to be his best friend, and she and Mouse concoct a bizarre plan to cut off Elliot’s face (and have him disguise himself ((because face transplants are super easy and impossibly convincing in Batwoman)) so they can get out of there. The remainder of the season focuses on Alice trying to acquire, and then decode, Lucius’ journal so she find out how to penetrate the Bat-Suit and kill Batwoman…despite the fact that she had a means to do this earlier in the season.

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Batwoman ends on quite a cliffhanger that will probably have a poor resolution in Season Two.

In a contrivance that makes my head spin, it turns out the Kate’s suit is so incredibly bullet proof that the only thing in the world that can penetrate it (beyond the special bullet introduced earlier in the season that the writers forget about) is…Kryptonite. This presents a problem as Supergirl (whom Batwoman has a very rushed but quite charming, friendship with) entrusted Kate with a shard of Kryptonite to use against her if she ever went rogue. Although Luke compresses the only other shard into powder, Alice is heartbroken when she is forced to kill Mouse as he threatens to leave without her and swears to kill Kate once and for all. This coincides with Elliot assuming the role of Bruce Wayne and Jacob’s vow to end the Bat infestation in Gotham City to keep vigilantes from supplanting his organisation and leaves Batwoman on a massive cliff-hanger but most likely will get swept under the carpet when the series returns to television. I was interested in Batwoman for a couple of reasons: first, I wanted to see the second part of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and the legendary Kevin Conroy as a live-action Bruce Wayne and, second, I was interested to finally see a Bat-themed show as part of the Arrowverse. Unfortunately, despite some decent casting, action sequences, and costume design, Batwoman started to lose me around the third episode (basically the moment it was revealed that Bruce had developed that Batsuit-ending gun).

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Seriously, these two need to just get a room!

It wasn’t as annoying as Supergirl or as pointless as DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to 2020) but it’s still not on the same level as The Flash (2014 to present) or even Arrow; I pretty much only dip in and out of Legend of Tomorrow because they made the smart decision to put John Constantine (Matt Ryan) on the team and completely gave up on Supergirl after the show devoted all of its runtime to Kara desperately trying to repair her relationship with Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), which descended to the point of parody when it seemed like they were desperately in love with each other but in vehement denial over it. Yet, I feel the same thing is going to happen with Batwoman; it wasn’t as explicit with its comparisons of Batwoman to Batman or at pushing its pro-female agenda, so it’s much easier to watch than Supergirl, but a lot of its narrative decisions were questionable. Not having Bruce Wayne/Batman in the show really hurts it, in my opinion; this would have been a great opportunity to combine the Arrowverse series with Titans and have Iain Glen reprise his role in an older, mentor role after being incapacitated. Instead, Bruce is just…gone and, while his retirement kind of worked for Nolan’s films, it never sits well with me when Batman just gives up his life-long crusade. And what about Dick Grayson? Jason Todd? Tim Drake? All the rest of Batman’s cast of characters, both friend and enemy? Where are all of them in this world? The questions Batwoman raise far overshadow any of its positives and I can’t say that Batwoman really impressed me in its first season and, considering that Ruby Rose has decided to walk away from the show and the role will be completely recast and supplanted, I doubt that it’ll be a suitable replacement for Arrow, no matter how many seasons it runs for.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Terrible

What did you think of season one of Batwoman? Are you interested in seeing subsequent seasons and appearances by Ruby Rose in the Arrowverse or would you rather the CW pulled the plug on this show? What are your thoughts on the way Batwoman handled the portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Gotham City? Whatever you think about Batwoman and the Arrowverse, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner: Injustice 2: Legendary Edition (Xbox One)

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Given that Warner Brothers bought Midway back when they were forced to shut up shop, it should have been seen as inevitable that a videogame would be made that mashed together characters from the Mortal Kombat series with those of the DC Universe. Of course, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008) was quite the barebones, lacklustre effort compared to the spiritual successor, Injustice: Gods Among Us (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013).

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Brainiac is coming to collect the Earth!

Injustice was generally applauded not only for its graphics, gameplay, and competitive fighting mechanics but also its story mode; NetherRealm Studios have seemingly perfected the art of infusing their fighters with an in-depth and genuinely captivating single play story and Injustice 2 (ibid, 2017; 2018) continues this trend. After the Justice League travel to a parallel world to help end the reign of a dictator-like Superman and his regime of similarly-evil former heroes, the Injustice-world faces a new threat in the form of Brainiac. Though Batman attempts to rally a new generation of heroes against Brainiac, they have no choice but to free Superman from his red sun prison cell in order to combat the threat and enter into an uneasy alliance.

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A good roster, bogged down with one-too-many Batman characters.

A fighting game is only as good as its roster; like Injustice, Injustice 2 has an unhealthy obsession with Batman characters – Batman, the Joker, Robin, Poison Ivy, Red Hood, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot bloat out the roster. While it is a little disappointing that this appears to have caused other, unique characters such as Booster Gold or Doctor Sivana miss the cut, Injustice 2 does bring some welcome new faces to the game; Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Atrocitus, Gorilla Grodd, and Doctor Fate are just some of the new heroes and villains available to play as. The Legendary Edition also includes some fantastic downloadable characters, such as Hellboy, Black Manta, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

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Every character has a unique play style.

Every character boasts their own unique combos, special moves, and super moves and plays a little differently; Darkseid, for example, is slow and methodical, Supergirl is a much faster character, while characters like Green Arrow and Batman rely more on their gadgets and skills to succeed. Successfully pulling off combos, counters, and landing attacks allows players to build up their super meter and power up their special moves or execute a world-ending super move. Each character starts with three loadout slots, which can be increased to five, that allow you to gear up Aquaman, for example, to have one loadout the favours attack, one that favours health, one that favours special moves, and so on, depending on the gear you apply. You can also apply this gear to AI Loadouts and have them fight for you, which is kind of weird and I’m not sure why you would want to do that rather than play the game yourself but it is useful for the game’s Endless and Survival modes.

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Injustice 2‘s stage selection levels much to be desired.

While Injustice 2 has a decent roster, it doesn’t have much in the way of stages; there are only twelve stages to pick from and they’re not really that dynamic or interesting. You can still send characters flying to other parts of the stage, which is fun, but it seems there’s a lot less opportunities to do this than in Injustice. There are also some fun stage interactions to be had, like smashing Swamp Thing over the head with a crocodile in Slaughter Swamp, but, again, it seemed that there were more and better stage interactions in Injustice.

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Customise each fighter with the Gear System.

The primary selling point of Injustice 2 is the Gear System; winning matches not only earns experience points for each character and the player’s profile but also awards numerous gear. Players can then apply this gear to each character to boost their attributes, gain performance buffs (such as greater attack strength against Metahumans), alter the character’s costumes, and even unlock different special moves. Winning matches also earns the player coins and crystals, which can used to buy Mother Boxes and unlock more gear, transform or combine gear to make it stronger, or unlock Premier Skins for certain characters.

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Premier Skins are available…at a price.

Premier Skins allow you to play as new characters; Cheetah, for example, has a Premier Skin that turns her into Vixen and Raiden’s Premier Skin is Black Lighting. This is great, as it effectively adds even more characters to the game’s roster; the only downside is that, to purchase Premier Skins, you need Source Crystals, which are few and far between. You’re therefore forced to grind over and over, levelling up your profile and characters, to earn a pittance of Source Crystals or spend real money. This latter appears to be what NetherRealm Studios want you to do as it is extremely difficult to earn enough Source Crystals as the Premier Skins carry a hefty price tag, and only the best Mother Boxes and rewards can be earned through spending real money, it seems, making the in-game currency all but worthless. Unlocking gear and applying it to characters is fun but, let’s be honest, you won’t be applying all of your gear to every character as some characters are better than others and some or just dead weight. The biggest downside to the Gear System is that, unlike in Injustice, it is the gear that determines what your character will look like; therefore, you can’t just select Green Lantern and choose to play as Yellow lantern, you have to unlock the correct gear and colour palette (which also require Source Crystals), which is quite disappointing and annoying.

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The clash mechanic as as annoying as ever.

In terms of gameplay, Injustice 2 is very similar to its predecessor with a noticeable increase in AI competency; I played the entire game on Very Easy and, on more than one occasion, noticed that the AI doesn’t take any shit. If you spam moves or favour a certain tactic, the AI calls you out on it and gives you a competitive match more often than not. The story mode is fun to play through but a breeze; I finished it in within two casual days of gameplay and only went back to it to finish off the branching paths. The clash mechanic returns from Injustice and it’s just as annoying as ever; as you take damage, you can spend your super meter initiating a clash and pressing a button in a rock/paper/scissors type of mini game, which will either deal additional damage or restore your health. It seems that the AI always busts out a clash at the worst or most annoying opportunities and it’s easily to most frustrating part of the game.

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Take on the entire Multiverse…once you’re levelled up enough…

Similar to Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015), Injustice 2 utilises an ever-changing Multiverse mode that allows players to fight a number of opponents and obtain better rewards. These change hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly and often carry certain themes that will be familiar to DC Comics fans; you can also use the Battle Simulator to play traditional tournament modes or battle endless opponents. One thing I will praise about Injustice 2 is that every battle is different; I don’t think I ever fought the same version of a character twice as it seems every match sees random gear and colour schemes applied to the opponent. You can also join a Guild and take part in Guild Multiverses and challenges to unlock even more Mother Boxes and rewards; these are far more challenging than the regular Multiverse modes and, similarly, the best Multiverse rewards are only available when you’ve levelled a character up to level twenty or thirty, meaning that you’re going to have to play again and again and grind over and over to reap the benefits.

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Unlocking stuff is time-consuming and random.

Honestly, maybe I’m a bit jaded, but I don’t find myself particularly enthusiastic about stepping up to this challenge; Injustice 2 features a wealth of Achievements, many you can sweep through regular gameplay, but the more specific ones (such as maxing every character’s level out) just seem like too much of a chore. I really don’t like that I have earned so many in-game coins and yet I cannot use them to purchase Premier Skins or extra colour palettes; I don’t really want to spend my actual money buying them, was disappointed to see that they weren’t already unlocked in the Legendary Edition, and am not sure I can be bothered to grind over and over to unlock them.

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Want the best stuff? You better have deep pockets!

In the end, Injustice 2 is good; it’s fun to play, the story mode is decent, and the graphics are very impressive but there’s not too much calling me back to it. I played Injustice pretty much to death working my way through the challenge mode but you have to put some serious effort in to challenge the best Multiverses and the motivation is severely lacking this time around just because the best gear and rewards are either really rare or too expensive. Maybe, next time around, NetherRealm Studios should limit the in-game currency to two forms (one to buy stuff, one to upgrade stuff) and move away from forcing players into spending their real-world money on additional extras, especially if they’re going to bring out a Legendary Edition after the initial versions.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Screen Time: Superheroes on Television

Okay, I’ll admit: I’ve never been a big fan of superhero properties on television. Growing up, I never watched The Incredible Hulk (1977 to 1982) as it was never on television when I was a kid – the closest I got were the three made-for-television movies that came out of it (which, incidentally, I liked as a kid). Similarly, the only exposure I had to the old Amazing Spider-Man television show (1977 to 1979) was from the three “movies” that came out of it. In fact, probably the only superhero television show I was regularly exposed to as a kid was, of course, the 1960’s Batman show and even that was primarily through the movie. No, as a kid, I grew up watching superheroes in animation: Batman: The Animated Series (1992 to 1995), the ‘90’s Spider-Man cartoon, ad basically all of the Marvel properties at the time. That was where it was at; animation was much, much closer to the comic books than anything in live action at the time, even compared to the live action movies that were coming out as I grew up. When Smallville (2001 to 2011) first started airing, I pretty much gave it the pass by. I watched a few of the early episodes, but not much more. This really came out at a time when I was in my mid-teens, I believe, when loads of teen-centric shows were on E4 and the like (One Tree Hill (2003 to 2012), Dawson’s Creek (1998 to 2003), all that stuff) and I didn’t have time for any of it. Smallville easily fit into those categories, which was enough for me to ignore it, but when I did flick on to it over the years I became increasingly turned off by the deviations from the source material and the creative licensing taking place on the show.

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Smallville got way more interesting once it included more comic book elements.

Ironically, I believe that Smallville actually did improve over time, especially by referencing and including more comic book-related stuff, but when I realised it had hit the ninth series and Clark Kent (Tom Welling) was no longer living in Smallville, was working at the Daily Planet, basically married to Lois Lane (Erica Durance), and saving lives daily in multiple variations of his eventual Superman costume, and yet despite all this he was not Superman, I was irked, to be frank. I never quite understood the logic of making a show that is about a young Clark Kent, that charts his journey from an unsure teen to the eventual saviour of humanity, and yet never actually evolved into a Superman show for the last season even though it practically was given that Clark was battling Davis Bloome/Doomsday (Samuel Witwer), of all people, and chumming around with Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Justin Hartley). The final episode finally capitalised on this and had Clark assume his birthright to defeat Darkseid, but many were disappointed that we never got a decent shot of him as Superman. I guess they were trying to avoid degenerating into Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993 to 1997) but, surprisingly, I enjoyed that show as a kid – it struck a very similar balance between drama and superheroics and didn’t have half of the comic book inclusions as Smallville and, if I’m not mistaken, was pretty popular and successful at the time.

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I didn’t start watching Arrow right away.

Anyway, after Smallville ended, I watched a few re-runs and my 50/50 split of the show only increased. Simultaneously, there were persistent rumours that Warner Bros. were trying to fill the gap with a potential Batman prequel show, following a young Bruce Wayne (apparently this was even the initial pitch for Smallville but Batman was toxic at the time due to Joel Schumacher), one that charted a pre-Robin Dick Grayson, an attempt at an Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Bart Allen/The Flash spin-off, and even a Green Arrow series! Ultimately, only one came to fruition but, rather than a spin-off featuring Hartley’s Green Arrow, we got an entirely new, unconnected series depicting the origin and evolution of the Emerald Archer. Again, I don’t recall actually watching much of Arrow when it first aired as it conflicted with work and my life and such, but I did watch the first episode at least, an a few episodes here and there. My resistance to Arrow stems from the fact that Warner Bros. seem to desperately want to make a Batman television show but were unable to due to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films (2005 to 2012), so they used Green Arrow as a substitute. This rubbed me the wrong way, as Green Arrow – or “The Hood”, or “The Arrow”, or “The Archer”, or “Steve” – (Stephen Amell) would frequently clash not with classic Green Arrow villains but with Batman villains – Deathstroke (Manu Bennett) was a prominent villain in the fist season, just as he had been in Smallville and Teen Titans. Now, in the comics, Green Arrow initially did start out as a rip off of Batman – he had an Arrow-Cave, an Arrow-Mobile, a kid sidekick, and even an Arrow-Signal. However, for far longer, Green Arrow has been portrayed as a street-level vigilante who targets the corrupt and those untouchable by law, frequently killing them, and protecting the “little people”. This has existed alongside the more adventurous version that was a member of the Justice League; Green Arrow’s right-wing sensibilities and strong moral beliefs often clashed with other, more conservative superheroes, and his everyday life as Oliver Queen, multi-millionaire, often facilitated his vigilante actions through urban renewals and the like. Arrow follows some of this tangent, with Queen returning to “Starling City” after being marooned on an island (and, later, in Hong Kong) and surviving against nature and a clandestine organisation using the impractical weaponry of a simple bow and arrow. Queen’s mission is to take down the corrupt of the city and avenge his father’s death, which means he kills a great deal of people in the name of the greater good, which I agree with and like – Green Arrow has often been portrayed as a slightly more morally-unhinged version of Batman and, for all their similarities, they have often clashed because of this.

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Arrow has become much more of a team-based affair.

As Arrow went on, I largely ignored it because I didn’t agree with the seeming lack of faith Warner Bros. had in the character or the series. Like Smallville before it, the show avoids naming its titular hero even though he was popularly known as Green Arrow in Smallville. I’m sure there’s the case for this, that the show is meant to show Queen’s progression from a simple vigilante to the city’s hero (things like him upgrading his tech, adopting an actual mask, and renouncing killing support this) but why not just call him Green Arrow?  Ironically, I actually dislike the Green Arrow moniker as it’s kind of redundant – he wears green and shoots arrows, no shit!  Much like Green Lantern, I have an aversion to superheroes who preface their name with a colour and much prefer the show’s moniker of “The Hood” as it’s far more fitting. I got more into Arrow as the second season drew to a close due to the inclusion of Roy Harper/Arsenal (Colton Haynes) and the series-changing events initiated by Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Manu Bennett). With Deathstroke having practically levelled the city and Queen basically poor, the show had raised its stakes for season three. Additionally, Queen had built a tight-knit group of allies, with Roy actually adopting the suit and outfit of Arsenal to become his sidekick! After years of Batman movies dodging, avoiding, criticising, and suppressing Robin, we finally had a depiction of a young teen sidekick that fit and actually made sense. My hope is that Arsenal’s inclusion and increased exposure will relax the embargo surrounding Robin and Nightwing at Warner Bros. and allow for their inclusion in their stupidly-unconnected series of DC films.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still tenuously related to the larger MCU.

Now, a big part of the reason I avoided Arrow was also because of the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe, which eventually spread into television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 to 2020). After the events of The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Whedon, 2012) Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is revealed to be alive and builds a team of agents to investigate supernatural, paranormal, extraterrestrial, and superhuman incidents across the globe. The main thrust of the first series was the team coming together, leaning to trust each other, and the quest for answers regarding Coulson’s resurrection. However, this soon overlapped with the emergence of Hydra agents within the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.LD.), which crossed over with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Russo and Russo, 2014), which saw the destruction of S.H.I.E.LD. Many supporting characters, and main character Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), were revealed to have been Hydra agents, and the unlimited resources available to Coulson were stripped away by the end of season one. Simultaneously, it is revealed that Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) used an experimental serum and procedure, derived from an as-yet-unnamed alien source (it was recently revealed to be of Kree origin), to facilitate Coulson’s resurrection – this same serum drove HYDRA double agent Dan Garrett (Bill Paxton) mad and gave him superhuman abilities. Season one also included a side plot detailing the origin of a version of Mike Peterson/Deathlok (J. August Richards), a cyborg created to assist Garrett who eventually overcame his programming. Season two features a smaller team, with new characters, who are attempting to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. and uncover further truths behind their pasts, and future, as Coulson continually suffers from episodes induced by the alien serum that lead him, like Garrett, to scrawl strange alien symbols.

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The Flash became my favourite of the DC TV projects.

Truthfully, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is far from perfect, or great. The best things about the show are the dialogue, which is witty and clever and full of Whedon-isms, the references and inclusion of lesser-known comic books characters (again, Deathlok…Deathlok, of all people!), and the fact that it ties directly in to the largely Marvel Cinematic Universe. Events from the films are often referenced directly in the show, supporting characters often appear, and it really feels as though the show is helping to build and expand upon the Marvel Cinematic Universe even though it is highly unlikely that any of the characters featured on the show will appear in the films. As a result, the show doesn’t feel “pointless”, unlike Warner Bros.’ efforts. After guest starring in Arrow, Grant Gustin returned as Barry Allen in his own spin-off, The Flash, which I initially decided to watch over Arrow as I was pretty sure there was no way they could shoe-horn in unfitting Batman elements into the show. The Flash is, in many ways, a carbon copy of Arrow; very quickly (hah!), like Queen’s base at Verdant, Barry based his team in Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) nd has a team of specialists and supporting characters helping him that are analogous to Team Arrow and Oliver’s associates. The principal difference is The Flash’s inclusion and portrayal of metahumans. Barry gained superhuman speed after being struck by lightning during an explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs, which resulted in a wave of radiation emanating out from Dr. Harrison Wells’ (Tom Cavanagh) particle accelerator. The wave affected many members of Central City, bestowing them with superhuman abilities, and it is up to Barry and his team to subdue or assist all of them. This is in contrast to Arrow, which largely avoids metahumans for corrupt officials, ninjas, and grounded, street-level threats. Exceptions are usually the case of serums and scientific experiments, or clandestine organisations like the League of Assassins (another Batman-orientated organisation!). The Flash aired alongside Arrow’s third season, and the two frequently overlap and interact – characters often appear on both shows, which has increased my stake in both and, alongside the fact that they both air on days I can watch them, means I can now follow both.

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I wasn’t a fan of Gotham

Alongside The Flash, Warner Bros. finally got their Batman-prequel series underway with Gotham, which follows a young James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) in a pre-Batman Gotham City. This series is completely unrelated to The Flash and Arrow, however, and the three do not occupy the same continuity. Like The Flash, however, Gotham (2014 to 2019) had numerous problems with pace, particularly in the first episode. Both debut episodes threw so much at the viewer, introduced so many characters, plot lines, and comic book references that even I, an avid comic book fan, felt overwhelmed and actually a little insulted. Arrow took its time establishing Queen, his city, and his crusade – despite how much it annoys me that he isn’t known by the right name and constantly feels like a Batman substitute, I can’t fault Arrow for pace. Like Smallville before it, the show has been around a while now and has established a tone, pace, and atmosphere and can now afford to become more “comic book” and introduce more comic book elements – Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) debuted in season three, hinting at the possibility of The Atom appearing at some point. The Flash, however, opened by throwing everything at us all at once: Barry’s mother was killed by a mysterious man-in-lightning when he was a boy, his father (John Wesley Shipp, from the old Flash TV series!) was arrested for it, Barry was raised by Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) alongside his daughter, Iris (Candice Patton), whom Barry has been in love with for years. Barry grew up to become a forensic scientist, he was struck by the lightning, went into a coma, and when he woke up, Iris was dating Joe’s partner, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), and Barry secretly began working with Dr. Wells and his team to subdue metahumans…oh and, also, there’s all the mystery surrounding Wells’ true motivations.

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Gotham‘s Penguin doesn’t really do it for me.

Think that’s a lot to take in in one episode? Try Gotham, which debuted with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) parents, Gordon’s initial partnership with the corrupt detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), the tension between Gordon and his girlfriend regarding both his police work and her past as a lesbian, the suspicious of the Major Crimes Unit about Gordon, the length and breadth of Gotham’s corruption, the introduction of Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) as a cat-like street urchin, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) as a riddle-spouting forensic scientist, Oswald Cobblepott (Robin Lord Taylor) as a limping “Penguin” who angers his mob bosses, and Wayne’s stern-yet-protective butler Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). Gordon, moved by Bruce’s plight, pledges to find his killer and is set up to kill a patsy, the father of a girl who greatly resembles Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy, by the mob. The mob consists of Carmine Falcone (John Doman) and Salvatore Maroni (David Zayas), who have both the police department and the mayor on the payroll, but is principally represented by “Penguin’s” boss, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), who is scheming to usurp Falcone’s power. “Penguin” learns of this and Gordon is forced to kill him to prove his loyalty. Gordon fakes the act, leaving “Penguin” to embark on a revenge plot and casting doubt on Gordon’s stature as a police officer. Meanwhile, young Bruce has decided to turn detective and investigate his parent’s killing, believing it to be a conspiracy, and also begin to train himself not to feel fear.

Damn, that is a lot to take in in one episode!

Thankfully, The Flash calmed it down after an episode or two and established a comfortable routine: Barry acts awkward with Iris and has come kind of self-doubt, a metahuman emerges, fight, Wells acts suspicious, the end. This “monster-of-the-week” formula dominates the show even to this day, but the show mixes it up with side-plots concerning the mysterious death of Barry’s mother, Iris’s obsession with “The Streak” (the show took quite a while to brand Barry as the Flash yet…despite all of his metahuman villains have carried their names) and their later romance, Wells’ suspicious nature, the presence of mysterious evil speedsters, exploring the multiverse, etc. Gotham, on the other hand, was far more violent and apparently attempting to channel police-procedural shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000 to 2015), only with multiple references to Batman and Batman villains thrown at us in the most unsubtle way possible every episode. My continuation with the show was based on Sean Pertwee, whose presence as Alfred made the show somewhat bearable but I can’t say that I was too upset when it was finally concluded.

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Man, screw this show!

Warner Bros. also produced Supergirl (2015 to 2021) and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016 to present). Easily the weakest offerings of their television line-up, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is a direct spin-off of Arrow and The Flash, featuring characters introduced shows. However, the show is largely loud, overly complex, and suffers from even more pacing issues. Not only was the first episode a convoluted mess that rushed through its character introductions to set up the on-going narrative, every episode is a rush of plot conveniences, hammy dialogue, and poor scripting. In the first season, for instance, the team travel through various points of time and space in an effort to save the future from Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) but…if they have a time machine, why bother wasting time going back to various points to prevent him accumulating his power when they could travel back to just before his takeover and kill him then? Indeed, in the case of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the only stand-out characters for me were Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), whose gruff, anti-hero ways and pre-existing partnership set them apart from the rest of the stilted, awkward group. Both actors chewed the scenery and stole the show at every opportunity, and Mick gained a decent character arc where the heroic sacrifice of his partner made him more accepting of his otherwise more naturally heroic partners.

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Supergirl was fun but a little too annoying for me.

Supergirl, however, is a horrific mess. I have times where I can be pretty pro-feminist but this show really grinds my gears. It seems as though Supergirl is incapable of conveying strong, independent female characters without making them soft, overly effeminate, or lesbians. Seriously, this show is rife with explicit lesbianism; even heterosexual female characters carry a lesbian vibe from them. This boggles my mind; Arrow, a show largely aimed more at the male demographic, doesn’t feature a load of gay males or in-your-face sexual tension between the males so why does a female-driven show feel the need to do so? Also, throughout the first season, Kara Zor-El (the titular Supergirl, portrayed by the sweet, cute, and incredibly likeable Melissa Benoist) is constantly playing second fiddle to her more famous cousin (later portrayed by Tyler Hoechlin); Supergirl is constantly having to prove herself and to live up to Superman’s legacy and constantly compared to him, and judged by how much more impressive he is. I find this quite disturbing, to be honest. Today’s society is much more female-dominated and driven than ever before; woman are in positions of power and have far more equality than ever before, yet Supergirl prefers to send the message to young girls that they will constantly be held down by those around them until they prove that they are just as good, if not better, than males. Plus…she constantly keeps fiddling with her glasses! Even when she is around people who are aware of her duel identity!

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One big happy family.

Additionally, although set on an alternative Earth, Supergirl has crossed over with The Flash (and, by extension, its other shows) by utilising the multiverse aspects introduced in season two of The Flash , unlike Marvel, whose shows all take place within the larger cinematic universe, none of Warner’s DC properties tie in, or relate in any way, to their own cinematic universe that tentatively began with Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013) and continued with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (ibid, 2016). In fact, Warner Bros. included the Flash in their upcoming cinematic line-up and, as they often have concerning Green Arrow’s inclusion, have consistently gone on record as stating that the character’s will be entirely separate from those on television. Similarly, Gotham does not serve as a prequel to Ben Affleck’s Batman; as a result, we have a situation similar to when Superman Returns (Singer, 2006) came out whilst Smallville was still on the air in that conflicting versions of the same character will co-exist at the same time onscreen. For us comic book fans, this is not a problem: comic book aficionados are well versed in handling multiple, conflicting portrayals of the same characters, but the general audience…not so much. Indeed, Warner Bros. often reference the DC multiverse when justifying this decision, which is crazy beyond belief as the DC multiverse is a concept so confusing that they’ve had to destroy and rebuild it about three times in the last five years! Surely Arrow’s popularity alone, which arguably has helped to facilitate a DC Cinematic Universe, justifies its place in the oncoming cinematic canon?

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A bit more continuity between TV and film would be nice.

This ties back in to my early remark about Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. not feeling “pointless”. Sure, the show has flaws. Sure, the characters may not reintegrate with the Marvel Cinematic Universe for some time, if at all. But events matter. What happens in a Marvel Studios movie will impact another character, and those events may often be referenced in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. When the Arrowverse collides in their crossovers, it has little impact on the big-screen offerings, which also never really factor into their television counterparts in a meaningful way. This is what separates my enjoyment of current superhero television shows: continuity. It’s important for consistency, it’s important to maintain audience (especially the generally, non-comic book audience), and it’s important for integrity. It’s why I can forgive Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flaws, because the show is expanding upon and a direct part of Marvel’s larger cinematic universe, and it’s why I can forgive Arrow constantly portraying “The Arrow” as a bastardised version of Batman, because it’s integrating with The Flash is the closest thing we have to continuity between DC properties at the moment. Whether or not the films will offer an equal alternative remains to be seen.