Vixen Season 1 Episode 1 Review
With a little over a month between now and the premiere of the CW’s next seasons of Arrow and the Flash with the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow slated for next year, Warner Bros is experimenting with a smaller scale superhero production with the web exclusive Vixen animated series featured for free on CW Seed. In the pages of DC Comics, Mari Jiwe McCabe (a.k.a. Vixen) is a superhero who channels the powers and attributes of the animal kingdom through a magical necklace. Through the last three decades she’s been a member of the Suicide Squad, Checkmate, the Ultramarine Corps, multiple line ups of the Justice League, and served a major supporting role in the Justice League Unlimited animated series. Aside from arguably Amanda Waller, Vixen is the most prominent black woman in the DC Universe and it’s refreshing to have her appear in a landscape dominated by the “big two” of the DCW-verse. Not to mention it opens up the as of yet unexplored mystical side of DC Comics which is likely to become more prominent with both Vixen’s debut along with John Constantine arriving in the next season of Arrow.
The story opens up with Mari running across a cityscape while being chased by Arrow and Flash. The episode makes clear from the start the start the type of power Vixen possesses as she’s able keep ahead of the vigilantes and shows off an impressive skill set. The story then cuts to three days later with Mari recently released from a police holding cell in Detroit. She reunites with her foster-father. Mari has been traveling abroad in search of her birth parents and a sense of identity she believes she lacks. There’s some exposition between her and her foster-father before the two are attacked by muggers who demand her necklace.
One of the key features of this series which makes it somewhat hard to review is its brevity. My theory would be that upon its conclusion, this series is to be collected into a full film format or something along those lines. This first episode is only five minutes long which makes for some awkward pacing. The opening Vixen vs. Flash and Arrow fight eats up a full minute and a half of the run time and with episodes this short that’s a big risk. There’s a lot of dialogue that at times is either heavy-handed or not there at all. During the cold open, neither Grant Gustin nor Steve Amell make as much as basic grunts when jumping off rooftops which makes their silence somewhat uncanny. The dialogue between Mari and the police officers is also strange and seems at times disconnected from how the characters are drawn.
The animation style loans a lot of similarities to the beloved Young Justice series with characters drawn more realistically. The figures look great despite the occasional awkward open moth shot of Arrow. Environments are drawn very realistically albeit hollow. Two scenes set in Detroit are notably underpopulated. Admittedly those are the problems to be had with a much smaller project like this and the sound department fills in the emptier moments with background chatter even if extras are always still.
I realize this sounds far more negative than intended as I did enjoy this premiere episode of Vixen and with the direction of the Flash series, I’m confident in the creative team. It’s wonderful to have the DCW-verse branch out in this manner, not only by making an American animated series with an adult target audience that isn’t a comedy series, but to give such a prominent yet often underutilized character like Vixen a chance to shine.