Sunday, February 12, 2023

Legion of Super-Heroes (animated feature, 2023) Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Supergirl, freshly arrived on Earth, is having trouble fitting in with the Justice League because she's not used to using superpowers and misses the high-tech life on Krypton. Superman has the bright idea of sending her to the future, which is also high-tech, and she can train at Legion Academy. This doesn't go really well but Supergirl and the other Academy students redeem themselves when the Dark Circle try to steal the Miracle Machine and only the students can stop them.

This fits into the continuity of DC's direct-to-video features in some way that seems important but I don't know anything about.


Not sure what the best way is to come at this review. This feature was not a great one for longtime LSH veteran fans. We know too much and have too many expectations that get thwarted. But it's much better for new fans, and that's obviously a good quality to have.

Look what we've got. First of all, we've got Supergirl. Everybody kind of knows Supergirl, and if they don't, they get a good introduction to her anyway. Then we find that she's going to be our key into the 31st century, just like Superboy was in the Silver Age comics. That's smart; she, as a contemporary character, is going to have similar questions to what we would if we visited the future.

Second we've got the Legion Academy. This allows us to meet Legion characters in small doses, and the classes give us a lot of useful exposition about what the Legion of Super-Heroes actually is and does. It also gives us a sense of how special it is to be a Legionnaire and what an accomplishment it is to become one.

We also get a lot of longtime Legion storytelling beats, sometimes in ways that don't feel right, but nothing that isn't fair play. For instance:

I know it seems weird to see longtime Legionnaires like Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, Triplicate Girl, and Dawnstar as Academy students, bemoaning how their weak powers mean they'll never become Legionnaires. But angsting over one's weak powers has been a Legion trope for most of their history. Angsting over whether one will become a Legionnaire has been a Legion trope for most of their history.

There's a part where one character turns traitor, and it's not a character who we're used to seeing do that kind of thing, and I imagine there's a lot of fumfuring out there about it... but it was set up very well indeed, and having a Legionnaire turn traitor has been a Legion trope for most of their history.

Stealing the Miracle Machine? We've seen that before. Brainiac 5 being a prickly outsider who doesn't think he belongs on the team? We've seen that before. One-third of Triplicate Girl getting killed? Seen it before.

So this is all fine. It's a perfectly reasonable introduction story for the Legion, with some good moments for Supergirl and Brainiac 5, and a good final villain (whom, I'll say it first, I would be perfectly happy to have this be the canonical leader of the Dark Circle). If they want to do any more Legion features, which I hope they do, they've got a good foundation to build on.

But there is a thing I don't like here, and I'll tell you what it is:

There aren't a lot of just people in this feature.

When Kara is wandering the mall at the beginning, there are a few citizens also there, including the security guard and the other girls and the building owner. But the place looks pretty empty other than them. Then, in the 31st century, I don't think we meet anybody other than Legionnaires, Academy students, and villains. This is important! What are superheroes for if not to protect regular people? They're an important part of the story. If it's just superhumans versus superhumans... then that turns it into an entirely different genre, and not one that I'm much interested in.

I understand that this would make it a lot more work to animate. Fine. I don't care. Try. Do something. Otherwise we have the premise of superheroes without the fantasy of superheroes, and that's not a good combination. (See this article for more on this.)


- is Shadow Lass ever going to be allowed to have her own powers in animation? I remember in JLU she had some kind of pink ray, and then in this she had grasping tendrils and some kind of teleportation (right?)

- new name for "Arms-Fall-Off Boy". Also, if his power works as seen here, that's actually a pretty good street-level power. It's not a joke. The joke is if his arm just falls off and then he has to pick it up and whang people with it

- Dawnstar has an enthusiastic friendly personality here, miles away from her 1970s aloofness. Which... I'm okay with that. The aloofness was kind of an ethnic stereotype in the first place


The art of this feature was generally very good. The style they're using didn't always work for me, as in the initial race between Kara and her mother on Krypton. (Another point about that opening sequence. Those are some Chuck-Jones-Bugs-Bunny-ass-looking clouds. Not a criticism.) But sometimes it was very attractive. Making Brainy bald was an interesting choice; in general I didn't like it, but they did a good job on his facial expressions, especially in the second half, and the bald worked well with that.

A note on the sound (something that never comes up when I'm reviewing a comic book!): the sound effect of Bouncing Boy bouncing was really good.

We should note, of course, that the designs of the individual Legionnaires tended to be recent designs: Ryan Sook costumes, where available.

Membership Notes:

Boy are there ever a lot of Legionnaires shown here! I'll let someone else count 'em up. Is that Lori Morning I saw there at the end in one of her H-Dial identities? The big question for me here is, does Arms-Fall-Off Boy now count as a full Legionnaire? I'm inclined to say no, because we haven't had a story yet where he *acts* as a Legionnaire, but it's an argument...

Labels: ,


Blogger Hal Shipman said...

My biggest issue with this was one that is endemic to the DC Animated movies I've seen and I'd forgotten about: the editing.

I find there is a very noticeable pause between each line of dialogue, clearly a result of them recording audio separately and they don't tighten it up.

There were certainly choices made that saddened me a bit (my favorite character being the traitor), but the one I couldn't shake was how they treated the death of Lournu's body. Even before they realized it was one of the three, they were pretty dismissive. Even the original Computo story treated it with a bit more compassion and there wasn't the partially mutilated corpse that time.

BTW - is this the LSH project Bendis was talking about that he left the property for? Or was that another (which I assume faded away, if it was).

11:13 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I haven't noticed that about the editing, but I'll keep an ear out for it in future.

True about Luornu. I wonder if that's just one of those things that got cut for time. Weird tone for an animated feature to hit, too.

No, Bendis was/is working on an animated series for... I dunno, one of the streaming services. I don't think we know yet if it's a go or a no go for that.

11:17 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home