Our Favorite TV Superheroes Ranked

first_imgLet us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target If you’re a comic book fan, now is a really great time to be watching TV. There are more superheroes on the airwaves (and the cable wires, and the streaming services) than at any time in history. Back in the day, we were lucky to get the corny-ass Lou Ferrigno Hulk or Swamp Thing: The Series, and the idea of having more than one superhero show to choose from was absurd. But with the success of Marvel’s movies, comic books are now big business, easily exploitable in multiple media. Today’s TV lineup features literally dozens of shows about superheroes.What follows is our 100% objective and accurate ranking of all the heroes on television right now. We stuck to shows that are currently on the airwaves, because going all the way back to 1952’s Adventures of Superman would make this feature way too ungainly to read. Some of our placements might rankle you, but feel free to argue it out in the comments. That’s what they’re there for.16. Iron FistDanny Rand is certainly a character who you could wrap a solid series around – a scion of wealth raised in a hidden city and gifted with incredible martial arts prowess and the ability to focus his chi and punch through solid metal. Unfortunately, Netflix’s take on him was flawed from the start. Poor pacing, an unconvincing lead in Finn Jones, and most damning of all fight scenes that just didn’t look good or deliver any impact made this the worst of Netflix’s pre-Defenders quartet. An 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes bears this hypothesis out. The network ordered a second season, so hopefully they’ll be able to course correct a little bit.15. InhumansThe biggest problem in translating comics to live action is capturing the wild and crazy ideas that work so well on the page. Case in point: the Inhumans are one of Jack Kirby’s most visually fascinating creations, a race of genetically modified beings who are all different. ABC’s series follows the Royal Family in exile as they flee to Hawaii after a coup in Attilan, but the lack of a special effects budget coupled with a dull storyline and even worse soap operatics made this one dead on arrival. It’s just not fun to watch, and the ratings bore that out as viewers fled in droves. Shame, because there are certainly interesting stories to be told with these characters.14. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.This show got a lot of ballyhoo when it debuted as a TV tie-in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s never really found its footing, and even at best it’s disposable. The biggest complaint about the first season is that it didn’t seem like a superhero show at all, but rather a mediocre X-Files knockoff with a bunch of new characters viewers had no connection to. The introduction of the Inhumans and more elements from the comics helped matters, but the show is often uneven. The fifth season just wrapped up, and ABC still hasn’t committed to a sixth.13. Legends Of TomorrowThe CW’s goofiest superhero program is sometimes also its most fun, dipping deep into the snuff that is DC’s eternally complicated multiversal timeline. Time Master Rip Hunter recruits a motley crew of heroes and villains to protect the future from catastrophe, which leads to a lot of one-and-done episodes where the team travels to a famous historical event. It’s sort of like Quantum Leap with spandex. That means that on a show-by-show basis it can be frustratingly uneven. The highs are fun and impressive, but the lows will make you wonder why you even bother watching it.12. The FlashCW’s second superhero show hit the ground running as a backdoor pilot on Arrow, and The Flash is the perfect superhero junk food: it’s entertaining while you’re watching it but leaves you unsatisfied at the end of the episode. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the show has plenty to recommend it – the rapport between the lead actors is fun, the dedication the showrunners have to digging through the DC universe and the Flash’s legendary rogues’ gallery is solid, and episodes are properly brisk. On the downside, multiple time travel and alternate universe shenanigans kind of suck any dramatic weight out of Barry’s heroics, but if you don’t think about it a lot you’ll have a good time.11. Black LightningYou may have noticed that all of the CW’s DC universe shows are sort of clumped together in the middle of this list. That’s because they belong there. None of them have done anything truly exceptional with the format, but at least Black Lightning is trying. Not a part of the overarching Arrowverse, it follows Jefferson Pierce, who hung up his superheroic identity years ago to settle down and raise a family. When his kids get pulled into gang violence, he has to go back on the promise he made and take up the cowl once more. Black Lightning works because it’s not caught up in the crossover madness of the other CW shows, instead of slowing down and taking the time to really explore its characters and relationships.10. ArrowThe show that started it all for the CW, Arrow seemed like a longshot at best when it premiered. Taking one of DC’s most dependable C-listers in Green Arrow and reinventing him for the 21st century, Oliver Queen is a spoiled Starling City scion who is shipwrecked on a deserted island and returns five years later hardened by the experience and pledges to clean up his hometown. The show pushed the “super” part of superheroics to the backburner, portraying Oliver as deeply human and very flawed. Over the course of six seasons, it’s lost the plot a little bit, but the first two are still solid and the fifth one was a return to form. Now that Oliver is mayor (spoilers), it remains to be seen how much more juice they can squeeze out of the concept.9. The GiftedAttempts to bring the X-universe to television haven’t fared too well in the past, but The Gifted, which airs on Fox, has carved out a comfortable niche for itself. Created by Burn Notice‘s Matt Nix, it follows the Strucker family as they go on the lam after discovering that their two children are mutants. They link up with an underground community of other mutants, including some recognizable comics B-listers like Blink and Thunderbird. What makes The Gifted work as well as it does is its willingness to stay away from massive world-threatening epics and explore the intricacies of being different in a world that hates and fears you. Solid ratings indicate this one will probably be around for a while.8. The PunisherAfter making his debut in the second season of Daredevil, Jon Bernthal’s Punisher was swiftly spun off into his own show. The Punisher has always been one of the most morally questionable figures in the Marvel universe, with his merciless credo of death to criminals standing in stark contrast to the other heroes. The show leans in heavily to the trauma behind the character, with Frank Castle unable to rest despite murdering the crooks who killed his family. It’d be higher on this list, but it’s almost unrelentingly bleak at times. We’ll see where the upcoming second season takes the skull-shirted vigilante.7. The TickAmazon bringing back this cult favorite as part of their original streaming lineup came as a surprise, but the Tick of the 21st century is a little different than the ones fans were expecting. While the original live-action series and cartoon trafficked in gleeful surrealism, the reboot grounds things a little bit, treating its supporting cast more like real people. The titular Tick is as oblivious as ever, but the world he fights crime in is more like the real one. The first episode is a little uneven, but stick with it – by the first season finale it’s developed into something very watchable, and hopes are high for the forthcoming second season.6. RunawaysIt’s kind of hilarious that Netflix and Hulu both have their own self-contained Marvel universes. The first season of Runaways adapts one of Marvel’s most successful new creations of the 2000s, the team of teens who discover that their parents are members of a criminal group called the Pride. The show is solid and entertaining, with an expanded structure that spends more time on the parents as well. Special kudos need to be given to the FX behind the show’s resident dinosaur Old Lace – instead of CGI, the team built a huge puppet operated by six people, and practical effects are always nice. Hopefully, a second season will be forthcoming.5. Luke CageProbably the most uneven of Netflix’s Marvel series, the highs of Luke Cage – the setting, the exceptional lead performance by Mike Colter – are enough to balance out the lows, which include a pretty weak plot that spends a lot of time dithering around. The villains of the piece never quite come together – the brilliant Mahershala Ali is wasted as Copperhead simply because his schemes never really make a lot of sense. The upcoming second season will hopefully polish up some of those flaws, because we certainly want to see more of the beautifully-depicted Harlem from the first.4. SupergirlBringing DC’s Kryptonian heroes to the small screen is a tough proposition – when you have a protagonist who can do nearly anything, it stretches both the effects budget and the audience’s credulity. But Supergirl, which debuted on CBS before moving to the CW to join its Arrowverse brethren, skirts this issue with aplomb. Kara Zor-El is the Man of Steel’s cousin, sent to Earth to protect Kal as a teenager but accidentally trapped in the Phantom Zone for a quarter-century. Now she’s out and using her abilities as a superheroine. Supergirl works as well as it does because it walks the tightrope between “villain of the week” stories and an overarching narrative with confidence, folding in the greater DC universe without being dependent on continuity.3. DaredevilNobody really knew what to expect before the first of Netflix’s Marvel universe shows premiered in 2015. The success of the films had made us hopeful, but this was before the streaming service really kicked their original content initiative into high gear. But starting from the show’s striking opening credits, Daredevil delivered. Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as the Kingpin in the first season set a highwater mark for TV villainy, as he stole nearly every scene he was in. Charlie Cox does a solid job as the blind hero, but what really made this and the other Netflix Marvel shows work is the attention to the New York City that surrounded them – it’s a character in itself.2. Jessica JonesIt came as a surprise to basically everyone, but Jessica Jones is far and away the best of Netflix’s Marvel shows. There are many reasons why, but first and foremost is Krysten Ritter’s performance as the former superheroine turned private detective. Jessica’s world is so well crafted, and the show does such a potent job giving her the space she needs to work through her trauma, that it perfects the tightrope walk where the other shows fail. Both seasons of Jessica Jones capture that essential Marvel magic of a world just like our own, where heroes and villains deal with problems beyond punch-outs.1. LegionFar and away the most inventive superhero show on the airwaves, Noah Hawley’s FX drama – wrapping up its second season – takes an obscure X-Men supporting character and creates a psychedelic headspace around him unlike anything else. David Haller is the son of the world’s most powerful psychic, but his myriad mental powers are too much for one mind to handle. Afflicted with schizophrenia, David has to put the pieces of his life together while contending with the efforts of the malevolent Amahl Farouk, a psychic parasite who wants to use him for his own ends. Any description of this show in mere words fails to capture what makes it so potent – it’s a vibrant visual stew that uses its source material both respectfully and with great innovation.last_img