Superhero TV takeover: How to spot the difference between these comic book shows

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Believe it or not, summer (and finals week) is just a few short weeks away. On the bright side, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will be coming to theaters May 1. (I’m screaming impatiently on the inside.) But everyone knows about comic book movies. More recently, comic book TV shows have slowly risen in popularity. With more and more shows being released, distinguishing all of them can be hard for the non-nerd. Never fear. Here’s a short explanation of all the major shows.

Marvel

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“Agents of SHIELD” (ABC)

Currently on its second season, “Agents of SHIELD” has found its stride. The show follows a team of original characters (meaning they were not adapted from the comics) lead by Phil Coulson within SHIELD – an intelligence agency that specializes in handling the strange and the unordinary. Many people, fans and casual viewers alike, were disappointed with the beginning of its first season. Admittedly, the show did rely a bit too much on the “monster of the week” format.

However, the show became a full-on espionage drama with the discovery of Hydra (basically an evil version of SHIELD) hiding within the agents’ midst. With season two, the spy games continue in earnest as Coulson and his team try to rebuild SHIELD from the fall out. If you’re looking for the fun of a blockbuster film on the small screen, take a chance on “Agents of SHIELD.”

“Agent Carter” (ABC)

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Set after “Captain America: The First Avenger,” this show follows the life of Agent Peggy Carter and her work after World War II. She works with the Scientific Strategic Reserve (SSR), a precursor to SHIELD (which is in part founded by her). Throughout the eight-episode season, she battles period-typical sexism while proving that she is the most capable agent SSR has on its payroll. While there are plenty of references to Captain America in the script, there are no super-powered characters on screen. This show is historically accurate and offers quite a few twists and turns.

If you’re looking for a show set in the Marvel universe, but you are tired of superheroes, try out “Agent Carter.” (Please watch it on whatever legal streaming service you can find. The viewing figures will help convince ABC to renew it for a second season, which it deserves.)

“Daredevil” (Netflix)

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You may recognize this title from the cheesy Ben Affleck film released in 2003, but this “Daredevil” is an entirely different animal. This is by far the most adult content Marvel has been able to produce. It is essentially the dark, gritty drama of “The Dark Knight” set in the Marvel universe. Matt Murdock is a lawyer by day and a masked vigilante by night. Oh, and he’s blind. He fights using his own version of echolocation and is extremely deadly. Like Batman, his one rule is “don’t kill anyone,” but he is not above using various fear and pain tactics to get the information he needs from the criminals in his city.

Marvel’s newest show was just released last Friday. All 13 episodes are available to stream on Netflix. (And yes, I already finished the season. I couldn’t resist.) If you need something more than the usual PG-13 rating from Marvel, “Daredevil” is your ticket.

DC

“Arrow” (CW)

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Oliver Queen, a rich playboy, crashes on a deserted island and survives there for five years. Once returning to his home, he sets off with a bow and arrow and a green mask to correct the criminal element in his city. To water it down, “Arrow” is basically a version of Batman with a bow. While the show is definitely not as violent or gritty as the “Batman” films, it takes on a similar tone and still has enough room for a few jokes. The first season had a very interesting plot twist concerning a Queen family friend, and season two introduces a few female fighters. If you want more crime drama but can’t keep re-watching “The Dark Knight,” start watching “Arrow.”

“The Flash” (CW)

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This light-hearted “Arrow” spin-off features Barry Allen, a typical teenager until he is struck by lightning. Nine months later, he wakes up with defined abs and a killer sprint game. While it is unclear whether “Arrow” and “The Flash” take place in the same universe as the major “Batman” films, these two shows do cross over quite a bit. Some very minor characters from “Arrow” become main supporting characters in “The Flash.” While Allen does fight crime in his city like Queen, this show definitely has less of a serious tone. Considering the main character’s powers are not quite as believable, some jokes and lightheartedness help sell the concept. If you’re tired of all the seriousness with DC properties, try “The Flash” on for size.

“Gotham” (FOX)

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Finally more actual Batman content, well sort of. “Gotham” is a prequel to any Batman movie out there. Think of this as Detective James Gordon’s origin story. The pilot includes Gordon consoling Bruce Wayne after the brutal murder of his parents. Later, you meet Selina Kyle, who will become Catwoman when she’s a little older. Alongside Gordon, you get to see the beginnings of Batman, his allies, and his adversaries. If you know everything about Batman or if you know nothing, “Gotham” is the perfect treat for you.

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