Am I well-versed when it comes to superhero comic books? Not in the slightest. But I can tell you that I’ve spent a sizable amount of time binge-watching superhero TV shows, from Disney+’s WandaVision to the CW’s The Flash.

Though I’ve grown to appreciate the origin stories and CGI-driven action sequences, I’ve come to realize that the best superhero TV shows go beyond nail-biting suspense and explosive battles. For instance, do they feature diverse, nuanced characters? Do they address relevant issues? And do they ever challenge viewers to question their own views about morality? Fortunately, I discovered a few titles that manage to do just that—and I get the feeling that these will also appeal to people who aren’t big fans of the superhero genre. Read on for 13 superhero shows you should definitely check out.

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1. ‘WandaVision’ on Disney+

WandaVision follows Marvel couple Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) as they navigate their newlywed life in the town of Westview, New Jersey, and fans have (understandably) been raving about it since day one. Not only does the Disney+ series include a charming cast and captivating storyline, but it also taps into very real issues. Whether you’re a loyal MCU fan who can pinpoint every easter egg or you’re totally clueless about these superheroes, it’s impossible to not be moved by the show’s realistic portrayal of grief and the need for escape.

Our executive editor, Candace Dividson, summed it up when describing the series as a “powerful allegory for living through loss and extreme trauma.” She continued, “Wanda’s facing cumulative trauma—the buildup of all that loss—and on some level, it reminded me of the past year, as we collectively faced the pandemic, financial instability, the Black Lives Matter movement (and our own internal reckoning with racism) and loss.”

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2. ‘Misfits’ on Hulu

While doing community service, five young delinquents are thrown the biggest curveball when they're struck by lightning, causing them to develop strange powers. Throughout the series, we follow these teens as they try to deal with their newfound powers and personal lives. On the surface, it may sound like a silly superhero series with way more teen angst, but it’s actually a unique and quirky show that balances dark themes and humor really well. Robert Sheehan, Iwan Rheon, Lauren Socha and Antonia Thomas all star as well-rounded, complex characters that you can’t help but root for.

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3. ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ on Disney+

Marvel fans have grown quite used to seeing Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sam (Anthony Mackie) on the sidelines—that is, until now. The new Disney+ series takes place six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, giving fans a more intimate look at the two heroes as they become powerful allies in the post-blip world.

As anyone would expect, the action sequences don’t disappoint, but it’s Stan and Mackie’s chemistry that really shines through. Seeing them go from reluctant, bickering allies to a tight-knit duo is so gratifying—and it’s especially interesting to see how they deal with their inner demons and personal challenges along the way.

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4. ‘Black Lightning’ on Netflix

Meet Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams), one of the most complex and compelling heroes to ever grace the small screen. He’s a middle-aged Black man and metahuman who tries to balance his duties as a high school principal, a father and crime-fighting hero in Freeland. Meanwhile, his two metahuman daughters, Anissa/Thunder (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer/Lightning (China Anne McClainn), try to carve their own paths as they deal with their abilities.

Black Lightning definitely stands out for its diverse cast and its treatment of more serious topics, from racism and police brutality to domestic violence. But what makes this show especially compelling is its treatment of the heroes—particularly Anissa. It’s not very often that you’ll see a morally complex female Black superhero who makes you rethink how you see heroism.

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5. ‘Luke Cage’ on Netflix

Awful fake Jamaican accents aside, Luke Cage still stands as one of Marvel’s stronger series—and yes, we’re still stunned that it got canceled after just two seasons. For those who are unfamiliar, the Netflix series follows Harlem's famed hero, Luke Cage (Mike Colter), a former fugitive who gained super strength and unbreakable skin due to a sabotaged experiment.

Colter is as charming as ever as the bulletproof hero, and it’s refreshing to see realistic portrayals of the Black community. But what will probably strike you the most are the villains. Black Mariah (Alfre Woodard) and Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) both have fascinating backstories, which offer a deeper understanding of how they became such problematic (and morally ambiguous) characters.

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6. ‘Jessica Jones’ on Netflix

Don’t expect a whole lot of action, but do brace yourself for some seriously twisted drama. The series centers on Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), a former superhero who runs a detective agency. Unlike other Marvel heroes, Jessica has no interest in using her super strength to stop crime or reach superhero status—and this only makes her story even more intriguing. Sure, Ritter’s character is far from likable, with her dismissive behavior and insensitive remarks, but viewers also get to see what lies the tough demeanor, which is a powerful woman who’s desperate to escape her traumatic past.

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7. ‘The Flash’ on Netflix

Where do I begin? The ever-growing list of evil metahumans? The lovable and socially awkward Barry Allen (Grant Gustin)? Cisco's (Carlos Valdes) brilliant pop culture references? There are so many reasons to love this show—even if you haven’t the slightest clue what the Speed Force is or how the multiverse works. The Flash follows the story of Barry, who goes from forensic scientist to superhero speedster after being accidentally struck by lightning. What ensues are countless battles with dangerous new metahumans, but thankfully, Barry has the help of his team as STAR Labs.

I could go on for days about how much I love the slow-motion action sequences and Tom Cavanagh's brilliant portrayal of every Harrison Wells, but here’s the bottom line: If you’re up for a more light-hearted superhero series that packs suspense, action and a bit of romance, The Flash is for you.

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8. ‘Supergirl’ on Netflix

Fair warning, this show starts off pretty cheesy, but if you hang in there for the entire first season, you’ll see that it only gets better. Set in the Arrowverse, Supergirl follows Superman's cousin, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), who decides to fully embrace her abilities on Earth after hiding her powers for more than a decade.

Quite a few fans have pointed out inconsistencies with the original the DC Comics character, like the fact that Kara never had an adoptive sister, but even so, Supergirl remains an inspiring and feminist series that addresses several important topics, including xenophobia, gun control, media bias and LGTBQ issues.

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9. ‘Watchmen’ on Amazon Prime

Set in an alternative reality in Tulsa, Oklahoma and more than three decades after the original story, the limited series centers on the aftermath of a white supremacist attack against the town's police department. As a result, officers must hide their identities, but Angela Abar (Regina King), one surviving detective with superhuman fighting abilities, decides to fight racists under the codename Sister Night.

Not only does this thought-provoking drama shed light on the Black experience, but it really hits home because it explores the history of racism in America. Naturally, King does a remarkable job of playing the flawed hero, blurring the lines between "good" and "evil" as she seeks justice. But even with her character’s questionable choices, King just makes it so easy to root for her.

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10. ‘Doom Patrol’ on HBO Max

Mad scientist Dr. Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), better known as the mysterious Chief, leads a group of superhero outcasts, including Robotman (Brendan Fraser), Negative Man (Matt Bomer) and Elasti-Girl (April Bowlby). But while they all have the unique ability to help protect their community, all have to grapple with a world that doesn't accept them, as well as the traumatizing events that led to their newfound powers.

The strength of this comic-inspired show truly lies in its main characters, who won't strike you as the average heroes with solid moral values. They're messy and flawed and, oftentimes, forced to deal with powers can feel like more of a burden. From unique storylines to queer representation, it’s no wonder so many fans are obsessed.

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11. ‘The Boys’ on Amazon Prime

What happens if a famed superhero goes rogue and starts to abuse their powers? The Boys manages to address this very question and in the most creative way. In the series, a team of vigilantes known as The Boys fight to take down the Seven, a group of corrupt superheroes who are marketed and monetized by a powerful corporation.

On top of a unique storyline, the writing is impressive and the social commentary is spot-on. But if you're easily turned off by really gruesome and vulgar content, then you might want to skip this one.

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12. ‘Smallville’ on Hulu

Yes, I know it's been 11 years since this show ended but seeing young Clark Kent (Tom Welling) struggle to get a grip of his new powers while balancing school, family and superhero duties will always be entertaining. In a nutshell, the show begins with Clark during his younger years, following his challenging journey to becoming Superman.

From Clark and Lois’s (Erica Durance) undeniable chemistry to the appearance of several other DC heroes (like Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Flash, just to name a few), this light-hearted series will appeal to Superman addicts and non-DC fans alike.

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13. ‘Arrow’ on Netflix

From Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) jaw-dropping stunts to his chemistry with the fast-talking Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), Arrow will definitely appeal to loyal fans of the DC hero. But given that it also features strong, feminist characters, great story arcs and really good writing, viewers don’t necessarily have to know Oliver’s full backstory to enjoy it. The CW series revolves around Oliver’s journey from a womanizing playboy to the brooding hero of Star City. It’s a bit darker and grittier than most superhero shows, but it's filled with intense action scenes and terrifying villains, from Count Vertigo to Deadshot.

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