tek's rating: ¼

Vixen, on CW Seed
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Caution: spoilers!

This animated webseries is set in the same continuity as the CW's live-action "Arrowverse." (The first season was released online from August 25 to September 29, 2015, shortly before the fourth season of Arrow began, but it's set sometime in the middle of season three.) Episodes are about four to eight minutes long. Anyway, Vixen is a character about whom I don't think I've read any comic books before, but I'm vaguely familiar with her from cartoons such as Justice League Unlimited (which is not part of the Arrowverse). So... I don't know much about the character, but I've been looking forward to this series. And... it turns out to have some darker content (language and situations) than I would have expected. Which is cool. And there are cameos by characters from both "Arrow" and The Flash, with the regular actors providing voices to their animated counterparts (though I didn't always think they sounded quite like they do on the live-action shows). Anyway, the animation was decent, and the story was okay, though some of the dialog was a bit too... I guess I'd call it "comic book-y." (Which seems an odd complaint, considering the source material, I know. But if you've watched a lot of adaptations of comic books, both live-action and animated, you get the sense that what might work on the page doesn't always sound as good out loud. It's possible to be faithful to the source while writing in a way that works in an audiovisual medium. And that's something I think this webseries could do better than it does.) Still, it's not bad.

Season 1 (six episodes)
It begins with Arrow and Flash chasing Vixen around the rooftops of Detroit. She's doing a pretty good job of eluding them, but then she falls... and we flash back to three days ago, when she wakes up in jail. Her real name is Mari McCabe, and she gets bailed out by her foster father, Chuck. (Her foster mother, Patty, is deceased.) Mari has recently returned to Detroit, having left to try and find her biological parents, though she had no luck. Later, Mari and Chuck are confronted by a group of muggers, who want to steal her necklace. But she turns into a total badass and kicks their asses, which comes as a complete shock to her. After she and Chuck go home, Mari flashes back to when she was a little girl, and Patty gave her the necklace, which had belonged to Mari's real mother. Patty tells her it's an Anansi totem, though she doesn't know what that means. In the present, Mari visits a professor named Macalester, hoping he can tell her about her necklace. He tells her about Anansi the trickster god, who created a totem that he gave to a warrior named Tantu. (Though she already knew that.) But what she didn't know is that, according to Macalester, the totem allows the wearer to channel the ashe (life force) of any animal they conjure up, and gains that animal's abilities. (Though of course he claims this is just a myth.)

Meanwhile, in Central City, Cisco Ramon shows Flash an image of Mari, after having modified a facial recognition algorithm provided by Felicity Smoak. (I don't really know how this can capture images of anyone, anywhere in the world, but whatevs.) Cisco thinks Mari is a meta-human, so Flash decides to go to Detroit to confront her, with Arrow as backup. But first, Cisco (as is his wont) makes up the alias "Vixen" for her (because she's hot). When Flash and Arrow show up at Chuck's door to confront Mari, she runs away. We then see an extended version of the chase scene from episode one. Of course, after she falls, Mari's totem gives her the power of flight. She agrees to talk to Flash and Arrow, who try to tell her they can help her, which she doesn't believe. Also, she doesn't tell them she's not a meta-human, though she does tell them she wasn't in Central City during the explosion that turned people into meta-humans.

Later, she goes back to Professor Macalester's office, hoping he can help her learn more about the necklace. But she ends up being confronted by a mysterious woman named Kuasa (and her henchmen), who demands Mari give her the totem. Mari tries to give the necklace to Kuasa, but she is unable to remove it, because the totem has "bonded" with her. So Kuasa decides to kill her, but Mari gets away... temporarily. Before long, she's shot, passes out, and wakes up in the African village of Zambesi... or what used to be Zambesi. Kuasa tells Mari that they'd both been born there. Kuasa was supposed to become the keeper of the totem, but a warlord attacked the village, leaving nothing behind. Mari's mother escaped with her and the totem when she was a baby, which left Kuasa powerless to protect the village. In the present, there are some battles between Kuasa and Mari, but ultimately Mari wins.

Then she goes back to Detroit, and becomes a vigilante (though she still plans to pursue her original career as a fashion designer). Flash and Arrow show up to talk with her again, and this time they part on better terms. But not before Flash mentions that Cisco was calling her Vixen, a name Mari accepts for herself (for no obvious reason). But the important thing is, she's no longer questioning her own identity. She knows who she is, now. (That is, where she comes from and what her destiny is. To protect her village... which happens to be Detroit.) So... this new self-assurance gives her strength. (Maybe not as much strength as the totem gives her, but you know... it's important.)

Season 2 (six episodes)
This season aired from October 13 to November 18, 2016, but I didn't learn of the season's existence til late November, after it was over. And I didn't watch it until January 2017. By then, as far as I could tell, it was only possible to watch the whole season as a single video. Anyway... it seems Mari's totem was just one of five, the others being fire, water, air, and earth. A guy named Benatu Eshu (the former warlord who had attacked the Zambesi village years ago) now has the fire totem. (Incidentally, this season we learn that Zambesi is a country in Africa, whereas last season it seemed to be just a village. And now... I dunno, I think the name applies to both the country and a village within the country.) Eshu wants to obtain Mari's spirit totem, and he's willing to burn Detroit to get it. So, she gets some help from Atom and Black Canary to fight him. But also, they get help from Kuasa, to obtain the water totem, which they think would be most effective against the fire totem. Oh... and before that, there was a different villain whom Vixen fought with Flash and Firestorm. Anyway, Eshu is eventually defeated, and it looks like Vixen will occasionally team up with various members of team Flash and/or team Arrow.

I feel I should mention that even before the first season, the possibility existed that Vixen could appear on one of the live-action shows. I guess she did appear in an episode of "Arrow" in the latter half of season 4, but by then it had become impossible for me to continue watching anything on the CW, so I didn't get to see it. I hope to catch up on everything in the Arrowverse eventually, though. And I hope there'll be a third season of the Vixen webseries.

Vixen: The Movie
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In May 2017, a DVD was released that combined the first two seasons into a movie, with some new scenes in between the seasons. We see Mari starting to get used to being a superhero, and to calling herself "Vixen." She also takes a job at a zoo, working for Dr. Lena Vargas, a woman her father had dated for awhile. This eventually leads to her taking down some smugglers. And a year later, when she's much more confident as a superhero, the movie picks up with season two of the webseries. (Though I guess there was also some new material edited into the second season, to make it flow better, or whatever.) And after that, I mean after the end credits, there's another new scene with Vixen fighting some bad guys, when Arrow shows up and asks for her help. Then it just ends. So I assume that was a lead-in to an episode of "Arrow" that I haven't been able to see. Which just makes me even more eager to catch up on the Arrowverse. Anyway, I think I liked the movie as a whole more than I did as a webseries, so I bumped my rating up a bit; I think I had it at one and three quarters smileys, and now it's two and a quarter smileys. Though I'm not sure how much my enjoyment was enhanced by the new scenes, and how much it was just being able to watch on a DVD, where I didn't have to worry about internet buffering, or anything. (A bit of both, I suppose.)

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TV: Arrow * The Flash * (Constantine) * Legends of Tomorrow * (Supergirl) * Batwoman
Web: Vixen * Freedom Fighters: The Ray