I guess it is time for an appetizer before we reach the main course and have some of our favorite shows return for the fall season. In this case we have a slightly off kilter bridge series in the DCTVU in the form of Vixen. Meant to bridge certain aspects of season 3 of Arrow and the first season of The Flash, Vixen focuses on the origins of Mari McCabe and how she came into possession of her powers. Being that the series is animated there are just as many ups as there are downs since we are forced to deal with some slightly awkward pacing issues, as well as some interesting questions about where in continuity does all of this take place. Overall though for all of it’s bumps and bruises Vixen manages to intrigue me just enough to want to continue watching and hoping for more stories in this universe.
So, let’s start with the good, as a complete six part story the episodes manage to weave nicely into each other and build towards the final conclusion. Watching Mari develop into a hero is an intriguing journey and there are nice little nods to both The Flash and Arrow for fans to grab hold of and nitpick. Mari is a strong protagonist and it is easy to sympathize with her journey of self discovery and over coming the creeping self doubt she has faced her entire life. Megalyn Echikunwoke does an excellent job of adding depth to Mari’s character despite having a very tight window to work with and it is very easy to see how she may develop into an important member of the Arrowverse. Some major highlight are her scene with her father as well as anytime she is given the opportunity to play off of Ollie and Barry. She never shies away from confronting the two and that will definitely be important if she is to continue being a part of this universe.
Speaking of Barry and Ollie, all of the fight choreography and staging is really top notch. Watching our heroes chase after Mari through Detroit or Mari’s final battle with her sister show some great fluidity and originality to Mari’s powers. There are some questions of how Mari is able to outrun Barry, or why Ollie doesn’t just use a tranquilizer to subdue Mari a la what he has done to Barry and the Reverse Flash, but those are some minor quibbles for an overall fantastic sequence. Similarly the final fight, while short, was nicely choreographed to demonstrate Mari’s ingenuity when faced with a stronger opponent. Watching her analyze the situation and come to a simple and effective counter was exciting to watch.
As for the down side, while I would be lying if I said there were not any glaring problems. This series would have worked better as either a longer form tale or just being released in one fell swoop. Having to wait for only five minutes of material after counting the credits is not really a worthwhile return considering how sparse the story actually was. The series manages to accomplish the bare minimum in terms of telling an origin story and it fails to build up Mari beyond the basic outline of what her character could possibly become in the future. Add in the fact that our villain isn’t really any type of threat to Mari beyond seeking to obtain the necklace and there is no big bad plan, and you are left feeling incredibly empty after you finish watching the show.
However, the biggest problem I have with the series is how spotty and downright depressing all of the voice acting is. Vixen is so incredibly choppy and robotic that even the fun banter scenes between Ollie and Barry come off as rather unnatural. In watching the show I was constantly taken aback by how atrocious the acting was a various intervals and how much of my excitement for the series was lost overall. It felt like they should have put so much more time and effort into the scripting and recording rather than just throwing everyone in a recording booth and hoping it would all turn out alright.
Overall Vixen is serviceable as a stall until the actual party starts, but I can’t shake the feeling that this series could have been so much more if not treated as a side project.
Final Grade C
+Solid overall narrative
+Solid overall action
-Voice acting is incredibly choppy
-Format did not lend itself to the narrative
-Villain extremely lackluster
-So by my guess I would assume this takes place shortly after the crossover. Which makes it weird that Barry didn’t call on Vixen to fight Reverse Flash in the big team up.
-Despite choppy voice acting by nearly everyone, Grant Gustin managed to bring the right amount of humor to animated Barry.