It has been 3 years since Arrow first premiered in the CW back in 2012, bringing alongside a ratings boost for the Network strong enough to justify greenlighting an even more expensive adaptation of a DC property: The Flash
This show proved an even bigger succes than it’s parent.
To continue expanding the growing DC TV-verse (often called Arrowverse) a third spin-off was made. Only this time, the character chosen to adapt was more than a little unexpected: Mari McCabe (A.K.A. Vixen), a Black Woman whose powers draw heavily from African Folklore. An even more unorthodox change was the decision of making this Origin Story fully animated as a 30 minutes story divided in 6-parts of five minutes each thorugh CW Seed Service (the justification being that her powers would be easier and cheaper to do animated). As arguably the first Black Female Superhero lead, this show probably has a bigger weight on it’s shoulder than either of it’s parent shows.
It’s probably a good sign, then, that my major problem with it is that I wished it had been longer.
The mini-series tells the story of how Mari McCabe discovers the power hidden inside her amulet, a memento from her missing biological mother. As a fashion designer, Mari has to deal with people telling her how her designs lack personality (Including a quite invasive cop, who not only looked at her stuff while she was on jail for stabbing a sexual harasser off-screen, but also tried to buy her magical necklace at the start of part one. He, by the way, has no other involvment in the plot, he is just invasive) and trying to discover her origins, something her adoptive father doesn’t know.
If there is something this mini-series does well is understanding it has a limited runtime and has the focus where it should be, on Mari herself. Her struggle and her having to deal with her newfound abilities. By the end of the mini-series, I wished we could get to see more of her in her superhero identity because the character grow on me.
The animation, while a bit lacking when it comes to facial expressions(something the creators themselves have admitted being a major barrier when making this series) it’s nonetheless very fluid and stylized when it comes to the action scenes and having to show the amulet’s magic.
The designs are also really nice for the characters made for this mini-series, as well as the voice acting. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the ones who had to go from Live-action to animation. While it doesn’t get to cross the Uncanny Valley, there is an awkwardness in the characters of Cisco, Barry and Oliver that is a result of trying to have them resemble their live-action versions, this is particularly noticeable when it comes to arrow’s oddly animated facial expressions. It is also obvious that none of the actors reprising their roles are used to voice acting, having a few odd line-readings.
It’s probably a good thing that their role in the story is a minor one, being there mostly to connect Vixen to to the rest of the Arrowverse, giving Vixen an opportunity to show what she is capable of and getting the presentations out of the way for the time that Vixen may appear in one of the shows. Unfortunately, that probably took time that could be used to better develop the antagonist, who is hinted at but doesn’t make a full on-screen appearence until the end of the fourth part. Part five goes into her backstory and then part six is the big fight between her and Mari.
The problem is that the antagonist’s evil intentions are only hinted at, we are told there are parts of her backstory left untold, but we are never told what that is. It may be a moot point considering the antagonists clearly-not-really-good actions to that point, but it makes the moment of Mari’s accepting her powers feel a bit rushed, considering we spent the previous five parts listening about how she didn’t want those powers to begin with. It feels like it needed one more episode to fully flesh-out the conflict.
As for the African theme used for the character’s backstory, from what I could gather, the mini-series doesn’t seem to use one specific african culture, but a mash-up of different parts of Africa. This could have been done to try to avoid pointing out at a specific part of Africa, or it could be like the time The Simpsons gave Brazilians a spanish accent in “Blame it on Lisa”. In any case, it is something to notice.
Overall, Vixen is a solid Origin Story about a hero that deviates from your stereotypical superhero lead. The animation and voice acting are really good most of the time and the story, while a bit rushed in that final episode, is still very solid. If this was to set Vixen to be used in Live-Action, I would be really excited to see her make a guest appearence in the near future
Vixen is available for free in the CW Seed service, which has a Region Lock for anyone outside the United States without a plugin.
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