Thursday, October 10, 2013

Six Reasons Why Arrow is Better than Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

This comparison may not be fair.  Arrow is in its second season, it has a well-established storyline from which nearly all of its plotlines drew significantly last night, and the shows really aren’t the same kinds of shows at all.  Agents of SHIELD so far seems content to be weird police procedural while Arrow is—unapologetically—a superhero drama.  This may well be an apples-to-oranges comparison.

And yet, I am watching both shows largely because I am first and foremost a fan of comics.  Were it not for the existence of the source material, and my interest in it, I personally would not have given either show so much as five minutes of my time.
So.  Here are five things I love about Arrow, that make it the better show, at least for me.

6.  Arrow has actual superheroes doing superhero things in costume.  And it’s not just Green Arrow.  They’ve also had the Huntress, Deathstroke, Deadshot, The Royal Flush Gang, and Merlyn.  Granted, those last few are villains, but they are villains in costume.

5. Arrow is a much more muscular show.  Stephen Arnell is freakin’ ripped, and Jessica De Gous looked terrific as the Huntress last season.  This is important in a show about superheroes.  These guys have to look better than reality; that’s kind of the point of what they are.

See?  That's a mask.  Cool, no?
4.  The action and fight sequences are better in Arrow.  Yes, it is cool that the Agents of SHIELD have their own tricked out plane, and that we saw Coulson’s car flying around with the jet wheels in the pilot episode, but that stuff is like hi-tech window dressing.  The Arrow production team very obviously spends a lot of time figuring out how Oliver is gonna move through his city, how to make it look cool, and how to set up the fights so that they are both exciting and an integral part of telling the story.  Arrow’s team spends some serious time thinking about parkour, and that’s a huge part of why the show works.  

On the flipside, it’s surprising that Agents of SHIELD hasn’t done the same since Marvel as a company is usually very focused on finding ways to make sure that it’s characters move through their environments in cool ways.

3.  Better acting.  Yeah, I know that Arrow fans have hated on Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance) since she was cast, but to my mind, she’s still at least as good as Chloe Bennet (Skye), and she’s surrounded by folks who’re mostly better than their counterparts as well.  Stephen Arnell in particular is much better than Brett Dalton (Grant Ward), and yeah, maybe you can make the argument that Dalton’s not the male lead on his show—he’s certainly not listed at the top of the credits—but if he’s not the lead, he’s still supposed to be the group’s bad-ass super-soldier, and he’s just not getting it done in that role.

2.  Cooler gadgets, better locations.  Your mileage may vary on this one, but for me, Arrow’s twin backdrops of Starling City and Lian Yu are much more compelling than a boardroom-in-the-sky private plane.

1.  Better treatment in comparison with the source material.  This one may well be irrelevant, but Arrow has done a lot with just a little bit of source material, and what it’s done has been at least as good as the work it’s based on.  For example, Season One was mostly a derivation of Green Arrow: Year One and Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.  That’s a total of eight issues of sequential art from which a full season of TV was derived.  That’s only possible because the TV writers expanded and enhanced the material at every turn—not the usual outcome in a project like this.

Agents of SHIELD, meanwhile, has decades of source material, though in fairness, a lot of it is either mediocre or totally obscure or both.  And it’s probably a little early to predict how it’s going to play out.  Still, I would quite like to see more in-your-face comic book action, and that’s never been in short supply in the comics.  I just don’t know if the new show has the horses to pull it off.


  1. I happen to like both shows, but I don't know if I like one more than the other. They're both not great, but enjoyable. Fun, even.

    RE: The source material: Oliver Queen as a killer? It's not being kind to the source material. Not to say he needs to have boxing glove or rain arrow but the killing thing isn't him. The characters like Deathstroke, Merlyn and the Royal Flush gang seem to be in name only. I mean, my wife even called bullshit on the RFG and she's only seen them in DC animation movies.

    When Ms. Marvel was working for SHIELD, she had a oversized Quinnjet and a small taskforce (that included Machine Man) to take on special missions. The source material especially before Sternako, was fairly ridiculous though and clearly Carol isn't in sight, but it'd be cool if she showed up. But I liked what you wrote before that SHIELD may be a victim of it's own success, being a continuation of the Avengers movie.

    For what it's worth, my wife likes SHIELD but gave up on Arrow after the second episode. Like I said, I continue to enjoy both, but I watch Arrow without her.

  2. Interesting.

    I like the way they've dealt with Ollie and killing. That looks like it's going to be the whole basis for the new season. In fact, I think we WILL see the boxing glove arrow before too long. I really think they're working towards it.

    Maybe I'm being too hard on Agents of SHIELD. I didn't particularly care for the last episode, but the pilot was very strong. Guess we'll see.

    1. Killing hasn't been a dealbreaker for me, but most of my friends were like, 'oh, Punisher with a bow.' I'm sure this isn't the only reason, but Tracie gave up on Arrow in part because she knew that Laurel and Ollie weren't going to be together and washed her hands of it early. At the time, I thought that was short-sighted, but so far she was right.

      SHIELD wants to be bigger than it is. They can't tease a world full of heroes, monsters and aliens without showing it. BUFFY wouldn't have worked without the monsters. I like it because it's NOT CSI or PERSON OF INTEREST but I am hoping for more.

    2. Well. I'll disagree with your premise for the first point. We've already seen Ollie bang Laurel at least twice, once while his best friend was watching. So I think it's hard to argue that they won't ever be together. I think, rather, that what the show's creators are doing is trying to build tension around the relationship long-term.

      But you're right about SHIELD. The last episode in particular struck me as small-scale when it needed to look bigger. You constrast that with the kinds of things we've seen in a show like Sleepy Hollow, and yeah, I think you're absolutely right.

    3. Again, I have to say that I like both shows fine, but as to Ollie and Laurel...banging twice and being together aren't the same thing. For me, I don't care. Tracie likes the idea of Dinah and Ollie being an item in the comics (pre-52) so she gave up on it quick and if she would've waited for them to be together in the show, she'd be disappointed.

  3. Green Arrow is actually one of the few DC superheroes who has killed multiple people in the comics, the show is quite accurate to the source material in spirit if not in literal depiction, the way it focuses on the bodycount and it's effect on Oliver's morality, same with his womanizing ways, he's cheated on nearly every girlfriend and Canary too many times to count, all part of his devil-may-care self destructive streak. He's been written as this darker complex character for nearly 30 years now which the show has been good at conveying. Mike Grell's near decade long run on Green Arrow along with the more famous Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns were instrumental to the dark overtones of many modern age comics, both displaying opposite sides of a coin, Batman with his more conservative leanings and highly evolved and methodical way of dealing out social justice but refusal to kill, Green Arrow with his leftist leanings but more rash and radical approach, Ollie always straddling that hero/vigilante line. Prior to the recent DC comics reboot of their characters, he was in exile after murdering a villain in revenge for destroying his city, cutting off Roy Harper's arm and killing Roy's daughter. A little before that during Identity Crisis he tried to drive an arrow through Deathstroke's eye with his bare hand, before that he killed his best friend Green Lantern during Zero Hour, and before that shot an arrow thru the heart of a torturer/rapist who abducted Canary in Longbow Hunters, law respecting golden age Green Arrow hasn't really been seen since the 70's. And we all thought Barman was dark.

    1. There's also a hip and trendy Barman but the drinks in his lair can be a bit pricey.

      Agree with your points on Green Arrow, pre-52. Can't say much about the show though, because I missed the first season.

    2. First season is on Netflix. Well worth your time if you're looking for something to watch.

  4. whoops, I meant Batman at the end there.

  5. Well, you're obviously a much bigger fan of the Green Arrow comics than I am. I've read Green Arrow: Year One (and didn't love it), but that's about it. Still, as I've said, the show is fantastic, and I think they've done a nice job using street-level superheroes in street-level ways. To make it work, though, it has to be brutal, hence the need to START with Ollie acting like a killer.