Saturday, March 03, 2007

Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes #1-11 Review

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

Winath is experiencing severe weather that blows out their planetary weather control/energy generation system, so the Legion sends a team to help (Superman, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Bouncing Boy, Triplicate Girl, Colossal Boy). Bouncing Boy and Triplicate Girl stay up in the Legion cruiser while the rest of them go down to help out on the surface, where they meet Cosmic Boy and Ferro Lad. The Legion tries to keep the lid on the situation, but the team keeps working at cross purposes, and only when they can effectively use teamwork can they defeat the emergency. Once that's over, they hold an impromptu election, and Bouncing Boy (who came up with the key plan) wins, becoming the new team leader. The last image of the episode is of a mysterious spaceship, piloted by a menacing, helmeted figure, appearing out of a space gate.


Dashed good episode. There's no villain this time, and that's okay, because a villain would just get in the way of all the conflict. The episode title is 'Chain of Command', and appropriately so: while the Legionnaires are outwardly trying to cope with Winath's Perfect Storm, inwardly they're trying to cope with a team dynamic that's breaking down along a couple of different lines. On the one hand, Cosmic Boy shows up and expects to continue leading the team like he did before, without taking into account the changed nature of the team, and that people like Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl have been running the Legion just fine in his absence. On the other hand, Lightning Lad is fighting for his home planet, and that's not helping him see the big picture.

The episode is full of Legionnaires not doing what they're told. Superboy won't stay on the cruiser and rest up, Bouncing Boy won't sit quietly and wait, Saturn Girl won't come in out of the rain, Colossal Boy gives some backchat when he's told to let water out of a dam... Some people are listening to Cosmic Boy and some to Lightning Lad and some are just doing their own thing. Only when Bouncing Boy comes up with a plan and gets everyone to listen and obey does the Legion get control of things, and that's why he gets elected leader in the end. Teamwork has always been a theme not only of the Legion but of Saturday morning cartoons in general and it's not surprising to see it show up as an episode theme.

When Cosmic Boy and Colossal Boy greet each other, it's with, "Hey, CB1!" "Hey, CB2!". Lame. But not out of place.

It's unusual that this episode would end with a teaser for the next episode. (At least I presume that's what it is.) Up until now they've been keeping the episodes self-contained. Looks like a big finish ahead.

I wish they'd give Triplicate Girl more to do than get coffee for Bouncing Boy. We saw in the pilot how cool her powers could be in a fight, but she hasn't had an opportunity to strut her stuff since then.

I was watching a few episodes of the old '70s cartoon Challenge of the Super Friends this week. First time I've seen it in almost thirty years. And it's dated in many ways. The animation is nothing like we have now, the storytelling is clunkier and has more holes in it, and the characterization is strictly from hunger. But one thing Challenge did do was pack a lot into every episode. I compared it in my mind to this show, and asked myself, "What is Legion doing instead of doing all the storytelling that Challenge had?" It's not the size of the team that's taking up all of Legion's time; Challenge had thirteen heroes and thirteen villains and used all of them. Then I figured it out: action. Legion has long, extended action sequences, and Challenge didn't, for what I figure is two reasons. First, they weren't allowed to have any fighting on the show (Seriously. I watched four episodes and not a single punch was thrown. I wouldn't have thought that was possible, for a conflict between the Justice League and the Legion of Doom), for various societal reasons surrounding kids shows in the '70s. Second, the animation probably just wasn't up to the job.

And I think that's a fair trade. Legion plots are very streamlined, but they're more than rudimentary, and there's still enough room to get some decent character work done. And I enjoy the action sequences. What's the point of characters with superpowers if they don't get to cut loose with them once in a while?

Now I'm looking forward to the last two episodes.

Membership Notes:

We get our first look at Cosmic Boy this episode, and Ferro Lad joins the team. I think that's nineteen Legionnaires we've seen so far:

Brainiac 5
Bouncing Boy
Saturn Girl
Lightning Lad
Phantom Girl
Triplicate Girl
Timber Wolf
Cosmic Boy
Colossal Boy
Dream Girl
Shrinking Violet
Element Lad
Sun Boy
Star Boy
Matter-Eater Lad
Ferro Lad

(plus all the other characters, like Jo Nah and the Subs, who have been Legionnaires in the comics but aren't on the team in the show).

But we don't see Ayla, except in a Ranzz family photograph. Why not? Where is she? There's a story in there somewhere, but we'll probably have to wait until Season 2 for it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I really enjoyed this episode a great deal. I think that the characterizations were the most interesting of any episode so far and like you, it gives me hope for the final episodes as well as for Season 2. This episode had the tone I'd like them to stick with from here on out, but the writers seem to be all over the place so we'll just have to wait and see.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having finally watched this ep on YouTube - wow. This actually felt like a Legion cartoon, and the series is finally starting to gel (between this and the Subs episode). Disaster/rescue operations always feel to me like an appropriately big Legion story without stupid punching bad guys action, everybody's power gets to be highlighted and characterization and interplay really comes to the fore.

The series is really clicking now, and Chuck's rise to leadership feels completely natural. I'd like to see them lead more into the longer arcs like Titans did, with different groups maybe getting some play ... mostly so I can have me some Element Lad, sure.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This episode justifies Bouncy's Legion membership once and for all.
All the voice actors on this show were good,but Michael Cornacchia,who voiced Bouncing Boy,rates special praise.Now when reading a LSH comic,I sometimes fill in his voice for BB,the way I sometimes hear Kevin Conroy as Batman or Bud Collyer as Superman.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Not that it needed justification, but yes, one of his finest moments.

11:26 AM  

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