Thursday, June 16, 2011

Legion of Super Heroes: Legacy

This was another fun episode. I touched on it briefly in another review, but since I'm getting more into Legion blogging, I thought I'd dedicate an entire post to it. The theme of the episode is best summed up as "being an outsider", and I think it tells a compelling little tale.

Superman rescues Alexis, the richest girl in the galaxy, a pretty young lady about his age. Also, there are second-string supervillains, the Scavengers, raiding various tech depots. The two plots converge about halfway through the episode.

At first, Alexis and Superman seem like a pretty good match. They sneak into her office to play video games. They talk about the expectations people have for them, and their fear that they won't be able to live up to them. They're just two young people enjoying each others' company and having fun together. I really like the character design for Alexis.

There is something there that shows a certain cruelty in her features even when she's happy.

Of particular note to her character is her robot butler named Wodehouse, named for the author of the Jeeves & Wooster books.  I snapped a screenshot of my favorite Wodehouse scene. He's paying off Lobo after Alexis steals his bike.

The Legion Abstract is a much better blog than this one and it has some really excellent speculation on the relationship between Brainiac 5 and Superman, the analysis of which has really informed my understanding of this series.The site makes a convincing argument that there is more going on than is apparent on the surface.  The reviews are very good, but they lack the profanity and misspellings you get here. (Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated in any way with the Abstract. I just think it's a great read and an excellent resource.)

I like how we get more characterization of Brainy and Superman's relationship. My daughter insists that Brainiac 5 is a girl. And of course that perfectly coiffed hair notwithstanding, animated Brainiac 5 is a robot, and therefore has no sex. What he does have is gender. People usually conflate them, but an old anthropology professor was big on emphasizing the distinction. Rather than poorly paraphrasing her, I'll just take it from the World Health Organization, which defines the difference like so:

"Sex" refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.
"Gender" refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.

(If I thought that anyone actually read these Legion of Superhero posts, I'd say this one is surprisingly informative for something that quick summary of an episode of a children's show.)

So while Brainiac 5 doesn't have the biological parts that would make him male, he self-identifies as masculine.

However, there are really times when it seems he has a crush on Superman. Exchanges like this

Lightning Lad: She's out of your league.

Brainiac 5: No one's out of Superman's League!

do nothing to disabuse the viewer of this notion.

And the more I think about it, the more "crush" seems like the right word. Superman is this older hero out of legend, and it seems that Brainy, more than anything wants this hero to be his friend, scheduling patrols together so they can hang out. It's a kind of a worshipful affection and while crush usually implies some sort of romantic attraction that's not in evidence here, I still think the word is apt.

Apparently, Brainiac 5 is everybody's favorite Legionnaire. Though I didn't know this (I would have guessed one of the founding members), I wasn't all that surprised. With fans of genre works, especially younger ones, intellectual development often outpaces emotional development (though we usually wind up pretty okay as adults), and that's what we see in this episode. Brainy is brilliant, but also petulant and sulky. When Superman chooses a night on the town with a pretty girl over one patrolling for supervillains, Brainy snarks, "And for your information, there's no Alexis in team."

Oh, snap!

(Speaking of good lines, at one point Phantom Girl quips about Brainy, "Ooh, someone needs a grouchy chip removed!" I love Phantom Girl!)

While it wasn't hard to suss out what Alexis was up to, I actually didn't figure out who she was until I saw the logo satellite. Sometimes I'm amazingly obtuse.

The conclusion is predictable, but really well executed. Tired of Superman picking his Legion buddies over her, Alexis fakes a distress signal in the "Aalt cloud" (The first time I watched this episode, I thought they said "Oort Cloud"), and while Superman is off investigating that, she breaks into Legion HQ with a powersuit and a bunch of the Scavengers, and tries to kill the Legion so she can have Superman all to herself.

The Legion fights competently, but they're just outmatched by these upgraded Scavengers. I particularly liked the way Brainy fought, like a long-legged ninja, though I don't know why he didn't just transform into his Coluan War Form and just smack the shit out of everybody.

 Superman bursts through the wall just as Alexis is about to dispatch the defeated Legionnaires and defeats everyone easily, he punches out the Scavengers and carves up Wodehouse with his heat vision.

"I'm Superman, Alexis. I smash through a wall at least once an episode."

He turns his attentions to Alexis, who turns her suit's weapons on him. His line "Alexis, stop! You can't hurt me!" as he pushes against the beam, just cements this as a great Superman story. He can't be easily hurt by guns and bombs, and that's why the good Superman stories don't deal with those kind of challenges for him.

(Click here for more of my thoughts on what makes Superman great.) They deal with choices. Here, he has to choose between living up to his responsibilities or taking the easier, more comfortable path. And he makes the right choice, because he's Superman.

The suit overloads and explodes and Superman rescues Alexis from the fireball. She survives, though she loses her hair, which is an awesome nod to silver age continuity. The last scene is Alexis in her prison cell on Takron-Galtos (and how awesome is it that Wikipedia has an entry for Takron-Galtos?), her hair partially regrown, using a screwdriver to repair Wodehouse's head.

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