Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes #1-7 Review

What Happened That You Need to Know About:

Brainiac 5 has to go install some service packs in his brain, or something similar that Coluans go through periodically, but he's such a nonstandard Coluan that it doesn't go well. He winds up kind of nuts with his brain deteriorating. The only solution is to expose him to some zuunium radiation, which is only available on Timber Wolf's home planet of Zuun. There's a teleportation accident, though, and only Brainy's head goes to Zuun, with Superman and Timber Wolf, while Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl have to hunt down his body on a crystalline planet.

On Zuun, Timber Wolf and Superman have to deal with a) a race against time, because they have to find some zuunium deep in a mine before Brainy's mind shuts down for good, b) mining robots and mutants, c) Superman's unexpected loss of powers, and d) Brainy's random and uncooperative behaviour (which includes a few ravings that reveal stuff about Superman's identity... if only he knew to interpret them that way). In the end, they get Brainy put back the way he's supposed to be, and Superman confronts Brainy about just what Brainy knows about his loss of power on Zuun: it was because Zuun doesn't have a yellow sun, Brainy says, but he doesn't want to reveal too much about what he knows about Superman because Superman should find it out for himself in the 21st century. Superman accepts this, but is a little suspicious.


I guess I shouldn't have expected the Superman-Brainy relationship to be entirely resolved in this episode; apparently the writers are going to try to string it out as long as they can, which I suppose is wise of them. Really it's the core of the show, so why mess with that? The story is advanced in a couple of ways: Superman now has clued in that Brainy knows things about Superman that he's not telling, and is starting to wonder about that. Also, we get another example of just how thoroughly Brainy has thought all this out ahead of time: when Superman says, "Don't you think you should have told me?" Brainy has a reason all ready to follow up his "No." I wish the comic books had explored this at some point in the past forty-nine years; I shouldn't be relying on the kiddie cartoon for this kind of character development.

If there's one thing about this show that's turned some people off, it's the portrayal of Brainy as a robot. And I can't say I was nuts about it either. But with this episode, and the plot point about it at the end of the nightmares episode, it's clear that at least the writers are getting some use out of his robotic form. It wasn't done just for the sake of making change; it actually serves a purpose.

(Which is not true of the whole Rahl/Zuun legerdemain when it comes to Timber Wolf's origins. I mean, it's not important, and I don't care, but the writers implied in interviews that there was some kind of reason why the Legion met Timber Wolf on Rahl instead of Zuun. Well, if the reason was this episode, they didn't have to do it that way. It's fine that they did, but they could have switched the names of the two planets easily and it would have worked just as well.

I'm just saying.)

On the one hand, this episode was another chord in the Brainy-Superman arc, but on the other, the spotlight character was clearly Timber Wolf. With Brainy insane and decapitated, and Superman depowered, Timber Wolf had to do the heavy lifting on Zuun, and since it was his home planet, he had to do most of the thinking as well. After this, he's a full-fledged Legionnaire. He got to show off his sense of humour, and he got one scene where he got to say, "You guys go ahead. I'll hold them here," which is the sort of scene Brin was made for.

Those of us looking for scraps of a Lightning Lad/Saturn Girl relationship found some this episode, as the two of them interacted well while on the crystal world hunting down Brainy's insane headless body.

It's not specified what color Zuun's sun is. I presume if it was a red sun, Zuunians like Timber Wolf would have Kryptonian-level powers. Right? So it's got to be some other color. Maybe a green sun, or something.

When commenting on his loss of superpowers, Superman said, "Magic did this to me too, remember?" I presume that was a reference to an episode we haven't seen yet due to their being shown out of order.

I didn't know that flight rings had to be turned on. Why would one turn it off?

I asked my three-year-old son what he thought of the episode and it wasn't one of his favourites, because there were no bad guys in it. He's a big fan of the Fatal Five, and therefore the first episode is his favourite. But I agree with him to the extent that a decent villain is a plus to a superhero story, and there wasn't one in this episode.

One touch I particularly liked was the scene where Brainy's head is jumping around by basically bouncing on his jaw. It looked funny and was animated quite well.

Summing up. This episode was up to the standards of the rest of the series: only enough plot to get us to the end, but a lot of other good work hidden under the surface. I just wish it wasn't so expensive to watch up here in Canada. Why isn't YTV showing it?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Magic did this to me" = I took that to mean the Emerald Eye kicking the crap out of him.

Love the chattering Brainy head.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I took that to mean the Emerald Eye kicking the crap out of him.

It didn't, though! In the first episode, the whole point of the fight was that Superman was standing up to everything the Fatal Five could throw at him. I don't remember it doing much to him in the Olympics episode either. Plus, the Eye is never specifically identified as magic (I think). Plus, it never actually depowers Superman. So I don't think that's it.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

If nothing else, my daughter loved it. And the part where Brainy kept running into the wall going "Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow," is something her two year old brother likes to do, so now she can say he's "acting like Brainiac."

12:18 AM  
Blogger grumpyoldgamer said...

They're showing the epsiodes out of order.

Check the list of episodes in the wiki article for the cartoon, there's a magic based episode they skipped over that will air in a week or two...

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those fans who were upset that Brainy was a robot on TV should take heart that he became human(well,flesh and blood) later on.Of course that's cold comfort,since that happened in the show's last episode.That's the thing about things like the Legion;they often go back to the way they were,even if they didn't start there.

A thing about this show that was very evident this episode:Saturn Girl has HUGE calves.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Aah. It's not the same thing.

The weird design elements, like the big calves and all, didn't exactly grow on me, but I quickly found it easy to look past them

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Easter Egg Alert:the robot guide on the crystal planet looks like it was modeled on a character from the early silver age feature "Star Hawkins"; namely, Ilda,the robot secretary of the title charater.Separated at the factory,perhaps.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I would never have picked up on that. Mostly because I've never read any Star Hawkins. If that's really where they got it, then my hat's off to the animators/designers. And thanks.

11:23 AM  

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