Over the last couple years, comic books have not only taken over movie theaters, but they have slowly taken over a great deal of television too. And to anyone looking for comic book TV that doesn’t suck can be easily overwhelmed as there is just so much to choose from. Although a universal list covering DC and Marvel would be nice, we thought we would start with the best Marvel TV shows out there right now first.
If you look up shows based on comics, you will find dozens, but if you break it down by company (DC, Marvel, all others) it makes it easier. And though DC has some great comic book TV shows, Marvel’s recent TV work has, in this writer’s personal opinion, lapped that of DC’s (and yes, I know how good Arrow is). So instead of making you go insane trying to find the best comic book shows out there on your own, we thought we would once again unburden you with such a massive task and do it for you for very little reward, fiscal or otherwise, simply because that is how much we love you.
And now for your geeky entertainment and after much research and data collecting (a.k.a sitting in front of the TV for 200 hours and getting paid for it) here is a definitive list of Marvel TV shows, in order from worst to best.
DISHONORABLE OPENING NAME DROP
15) The Inhumans
I am actually terribly embarrassed to even bring this show up. When it comes to Marvel comics TV shows, NONE have flopped like The Inhumans did. I think it may have lasted six episodes, but I have also heard they just canceled it in the middle of the first episode and people had been watching old episodes of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS in its place every week and no one could tell the difference. It did have a cool, giant space dog in it, though, so there’s that.
But outside of that, it was just bad. On top of it, it was the ONE MARVEL SHOW they debuted in IMAX. What??! WHY?!! THAT SHOW???!!
So I just wanted to bring it up once to say we will never speak of it again and just pretend it never happened. You know, like Bill Cosby is doing with his LIFE right now? Yeah, that.
Inhumans was the Bill Cosby of Marvel shows. It would start, you would get groggy, and wake up pregnant on terrible CG.
Okay, onto the good stuff, though I use the term GOOD loosely on this first one for obvious reasons…..
The Good Stuff
14) The Incredible Hulk
Yes, I AM talking about that lame 70s show, but it only looks lame now. If you were a kid in the 70s who liked comic books, that show was like a holy moment for you once a week. Hell, half the people in my generation can still whistle that ending theme song and can see in their mind’s eye the scene at the end of every episode where we would see Bruce Banner hitchhiking off to some other town, further away, always trying to run from himself but never truly being able to, as the monster he was running from resided within HIMSELF and no matter how far one goes, one can NEVER truly run from thy true self!
Man, that was way deeper than the show.
That said, yes, the old Hulk show may look like a terrible fan film these days, but when it existed, nerds knew there was magic to it. And also, we need to give kudos to the shows like that. They helped condition us and made most of the shows on this list possible by setting the example.
13) Mutant X
Gonna definitely blow some minds with this one, and also, a few of you who LOVED this show when it came out way back in 2001 when comics were still mostly ignored by mainstream media and pop culture altogether will geek out remembering this show.
Mutant X was a show that was essentially a VERY generic X-Men style TV show about a group of young mutants being mentored by a wise, older man who teaches them how to hone their powers and use them to benefit the world. You will see that as a running theme through almost every Marvel TV show on this list because, well, if the formula works, why mess with it?
But man, you can find episodes of this show on YouTube now, and man, it hasn’t aged well at all. But remember, back in 2001 when comic book movies were still pretty uncommon, this gave us X-geeks something to watch, cheesy or not.
And hell, sometimes cheesy IS fun. Not everything has to reach Shakespearean levels of storytelling to be acknowledged. There is something to be said for mindless fun, too, and that is what Mutant X was.
12) The Gifted
I know we may be early to judge on this one still, but as of so far, I expect a bit more from my Marvel comics TV shows. Granted, this may not have any mutants or heroes we know in it (yet) and I do respect that they were trying to break away from that whole “everything in Marvel with a mutant ability gets an X in it;s name” trope, but it has not quite had that one really WOW moment, which pretty much every other show on this list has had at least ONE of. But it is brimming with potential so I am not ready to write it off just yet.
But I also know shows like this sometimes need to play out for a bit so they can find their perfect stride, and it is interesting enough to keep me watching to see if that potential is met here eventually.
11) Iron Fist
Meh. This is on the list because it is VERY MUCH an important part of the Netflix Defenders show, but in comparison to the other Netflix Marvel shows, Iron Fist just lacked…..soul. Ironic, huh, considering his power in the show essentially CAME from his soul and show lacked any.
And what makes that even more upsetting is it was directed by RZA who is a member of the Wu-Tang clan, and that alone should have caused it to be karate-Thai-chi-chai-tea perfection, but it just felt like everyone was ACTING. Playing pretend. It just didn’t flow like it should have.
The whole “barefoot hippie shaman” vibe that Iron Fist gives off is very pensive and makes me wanna slap his face, too. So get past all that and give it a shot, if for no other reason than to figure out how he works into the whole Netflix Defenders story. And credit where credit is due, making ‘Martin Shkreli’ the bad guy was GENIUS.
10) The Defenders
“Hey, you know how we are building up to a Defenders show and everyone likes everyone in The Defenders BUT Iron Fist because he is a whiny baby so how about we make the WHOLE SHOW about how the other (cooler) and more interesting members of the group mainly have to be his bodyguards?”
I am assuming that is how the pitch went, and I pray that whoever the person was who pitched that lost their job.
Defenders was supposed to be the culmination of all the killer Netflix Marvel shows we had watched up to that point, and it just WASN’T. Another example of them having an opportunity to create something sublime and for no discernible reason, they chose to make it boring and anti-climatic.
Worth watching if you dug all the other Netflix Marvel shows, but do not expect much cast chemistry or really, ANY memorable moments.
9) The Punisher
Yes, I am sad the Punisher is so low on the list, but the fact is, if you want the TRUE Punisher TV show you deserve, watch season 2 of Daredevil (which is higher up on the list, meaning further down. I know, it confuses me, too). It showed us his origin story and also played off a Daredevil comic story arc where Daredevil and Punisher fight, because even though Daredevil himself is a vigilante, he is also a hypocrite and when someone else ifs a vigilante too, it makes him insecure.
Just kidding. DD just didn’t think it was cool Punisher killed so many people instead of letting a jury decided, and, well, Punisher hands Daredevil a gun and says if you don’t want me to shoot them, you better f*cking shoot me, dude. Yeah, it sounds awesome because it is.
When they went and gave him his own first season, they just used up SO MUCH of the good stuff in Daredevil (the prison fight scene is one to keep your eye out for, wow) that when it came time for Frank Castle (Punisher’s real name, obvs) to get his own show, it was surprisingly dull and lacking the bloodshed and grit you would expect from this show.
But give it time, it is still just taking its baby steps.
8) Blade: The TV Series
Wait a damn second, there was a Blade TV series based on the Wesley Snipes movies of the same name?
Yes. Yes, there is. There was also a TV show based on the Crow movie but that won’t make the list because that’s not Marvel, now SHHHHH!
It was very short-lived, but it was really quite comfortable with the story, they handled the character well, and he played by one of the members of the badass 90’s rap group, Onyx, so really, if you missed it you missed out on something so surreal it was great!
I mean, the rap name of the guy who played him is:
If you need anything more than that to look up this 2006 TV series, we cannot be friends.
I was both shocked and very elated when I found out Runaways was going to be a TV show, but I was scared, too. A series about a young group of kids with powers of their own who come to find out their parents are supervillains works REALLY well on the comic book page, but could it translate, especially to TV?
The dynamic between the characters (and their on-screen synergy) work perfectly, and the show does a great job of capturing teenage pathos while also capturing the “holy crap, we have superpowers and kinda don’t know what to do about that” theme intact as well. Truthfully, when it comes to Marvel comics TV shows, Runaways has been a runaway hit.
One bad pun an article, there it was. Moving on…..
6) Agent Carter
Agent Carter tricked me and I loved it for it. I liked the character a lot (from the Captain America’s storyline) but I didn’t think a show that took place 50 years ago and starring a woman who, herself, is not a mutant or any such thing sounded, I won’t lie, boring to me. Hell, many of you probably don’t or haven’t watched it forthe same reason, but we are all very wrong in our assumptions (yet again).
Agent Carter herself becomes an increasingly cooler and cooler character who your affection for only grows over time, and it ties everything in the timeline (which is missing from the Captain America movies) so by watching Agent Carter you get MUCH more of an appreciation for that Cap’n Amurica movie series as well.
So give it a shot, and give it a minute to catch its stride and you will be pleasantly surprised.
I had an odd relationship with the Daredevil show at first. I didn’t like some of the casting (and I stand behind that, Elektra and Foggy needed to be portrayed by different actors, but that is okay) but the show really grows on you when you binge it.
It is the story of a lawyer rendered blind as a child but becoming so in tune with his other senses that he can still beat the snot out of most people and save the day. It is very well executed the way they show the lead trying to balance his life as a lawyer and as a vigilante, and the catch 22 that puts him in, spiritually and morally.
Plus, it has an homage to the hallway fight scene in Oldboy (as seen above) so how can this show NOT be awesome?
4) Luke Cage
Picking a favorite Marvel TV show among all the Netflix contenders can be real hard, but for me, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones go hand in hand (which is funny seeing as to how they have sexual intercourse many times between both shows). Luke Cage came out and kinda kicked open the door for all the Black Panther hype right now, but on some real talk sh*t, Luke Cage should have that hype first.
A Harlem hometown hero who decides to use his powers to protect both his culture and his neighborhood from thugs and gentrification (that last line, wow, that is why I love me) and across the length of season one you see a man embattled but also slowly becoming aware of his own importance.
I also believe Luke Cage landed at a time, culturally and racially speaking, in this country when it was needed. Opening the doors for us to discuss race like adults rather than throw figurative stones. For that alone, it almost got number one, but I had to keep it real, and there are a few others we like just a LITTLE more.
Also, the soundtrack to the show is farking dope. GET IT!
3) Jessica Jones (Season One)
From my personal standpoint, season one of Jessica Jones is one of the best Marvel TV shows yet. Though I will begrudgingly and openly admit that the second season did not NEARLY live up to what was created in season one, I still have high hopes that this show will reign for a long time, as she is an integral part of the Marvel U and much of her story has yet to be revealed.
Quick synopsis: Girl gets given mutant abilities (mostly super strength) and copes with it by becoming a drunk and bit of a perv (you know, like a real human deals with their issues, which is what made me like her flawed yet perfect character even more). She then starts a detective agency and starts using her powers to help people, but trust me, it is MUCH DARKER AND COOLER than that synopsis leads on.
Give this show a shot, it is nice to see a woman playing a survivor and not a wife or victim on TV for once. Plus Kilgrave in season one has been Marvel’s best TV villain yet and is more memorable than 90% of the bad guys we see the most Marvel heroes fight in any of those movies (outside Loki because Loki is Loki).
2) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is a cool show but one that is oft underestimated by a decent chunk of the Marvel fan base.
Because on the surface, it can look kinda cheesy (especially when compared to the visuals of some of these other shows listed here) but the character arcs and the story that ultimately ties the whole Marvel universe together is delivered quite tightly. It also gives you a much grander feel and deeper understanding and appreciation for the scope of the Marvel U and how it all interconnects.
In other words, if you haven’t watched Agents under the assumption that it is not as good as some of these other shows, you are, ironically, missing out on one of the best Marvel TV shows to date.
Not the best, though. That EASILY goes to…
NUMERO UNO) Legion
Legion did something I genuinely thought impossible for TV. It made one of its TV shows better than most of its movies. I know that is a SERIOUS thing to say, but I say it with due cause. First off, did you know the guy who writes this show also writes Fargo (the best TV show out, period)? The man thinks SO outside of the box when it comes to ignoring tropes and breaking formulas, that you are often watching Legion with your mouth hanging open. It’s not just one of the best Marvel TV shows but also one of the best shows on television right now, period. The cinematography and direction in themselves are better than most major motion pictures.
So what is the story? That is a little tougher to explain with words.
Legion is about a man who pretty much has devastating, overpowered mutant abilities he cannot control and is placed into an institute that aims to do just that.
OR DO THEY PLAN OR MISUSING HIM AS A WEAPON?
The best part is, we see most of the show from the schizophrenic lead’s perspective so even for the audience, we don’t know. From the jaw-dropping special effects to the PERFECT CASTING OF AUBREY PLAZA as someone I won’t reveal for those who have not yet seen Legion but my GOD she nails it (much in the same way I wish she would nail me and I’m not sorry for being honest).
But you need to jump on that, stat, season two is right around the corner, and with this list, looks like you have your next six months blocked off with solid Marvel television programming.
You’re welcome, friends.