Thursday, September 22, 2011

Legion of Super Heroes: Sundown, Part 2

I love this episode. It's probably my favorite of the series. It has two of my favorite themes, the team up with the bad guys and heroic sacrifice. And yeah, spoilers, but I find it extremely unlikely that anyone reading this is unfamiliar with the Death of Ferro Lad story arc. (If you're not, Wikipedia has a pretty decent write-up.)

As you can see, the episode borrowed quite a bit from the original story. That's okay though. That's what I like about the series. It changes some details, but it distills the essence of the Legion. In some ways, I think this improves on the original story. It's important that Ferro Lad actually turns into metal, for instance, rather than being your basic comic book super strong guy.

We open with three people breaking into Takron-Galtos.

I really like the visual here. Superman breaks open a blast door and then he and Saturn Girl and Phantom Girl each pull down their mask so the audience knows who they are.

Superman smashes his way through Takron-Galtos, rather unnecessarily, I thought, since Phantom Girl came along and she could just phase them through.

Shrinking Violet pops up to announce that she's knocked out the cameras. Yay, Shrinking Violet! We get to see more of her in the second season, which is one of the very few good things about it. She tells everybody that it's time for stage two and then hustles off to take care of it.

Superman passes Alexis, who sticks her tongue out at him.

 I would have liked to see more of her, but loyalty to the source material demands that this be a Fatal Five show. They release the group, but Tharok reminds them that the alliance is only until the Sun Eater is defeated.

There's a cute moment where the Empress cuddles with the Eye


My daughter likes the Emerald Empress. She thinks she has pretty hair, but she feels bad about liking her, and she asked if it were okay to like her a little because she was helping the good guys. I said it was.

The teams start to tussle, but Bouncing Boy calms everyone down and tells them the plan. The group splits off into teams an collects the components for Brainy's machine. It's a cool little montage, and we get a family reunion with Validus, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl and finally see Ultra Boy in uniform for the first time.

Since the Sun-Eater is still powered by Cheyenne's red sun, Superman would be powerless against it, so Brainy sends him off to the now sunless Cheyenne system, ostensibly so he can look for the Controller who engineered the release of the Sun-Eater, but in reality, it's just so that if everybody dies fighting the Sun-Eater, Superman won't be among them.

We get a couple great scenes of the vast legions of the Legion, and man, they did dig up some obscure legionnaires. They even have Tyroc, who I never thought we'd see in a cartoon in a million years. He has something of a strange history.  I forget the exact quote and I haven't had any luck finding it, but the gist of it was "Tyroc was offensive to anyone who had any opinions about anything."

Anyway, Brainy builds the device, and the combined forces of the Legion and the Fatal Five team up to deliver it to the heart of the Sun-Eater.

Meanwhile, Superman has found the Controller, but it's more than a match for him.

That had to hurt.

The Fatal Five try to go for a double cross, but Bouncing Boy anticipated this and had Shrinking Violet hide herself in the Emerald Eye. She sabotages it at a critical moment and it takes down the Fatal Five when it malfunctions. Bouncy uses the cruiser emergency force field as an impromptu prison. I like his plan quite a bit, in both planning and execution. Of course the Fatal Five are going to try to pull something, and while heroes don't go back on their word, they're ready if the villains do. Bouncing Boy anticipated this betrayal and took a reasonable countermeasure. Bravo!

Brainy activates his device, but it fails to detonate. Analysis shows that a coupling came loose on impact. Ferro Lad slips away from the bridge, armors up and fights his way to the heart of the Sun-Eater. Once there, he tears the casing free with casual ease, reaches for the broken coil, pauses long enough to say, "Long Live the Legion," and then reaches out and completes the circuit, destroying the Sun-Eater and himself.

The Legionnaires aboard the cruiser avert their eyes in silent grief, and on the other side of the galaxy, the Controller mocks the battered Superman, which was precisely the wrong thing to do. Superman goes absolutely berserk and manhandles the Controller, shredding the armor with his bare hands and countering the Controller's every move. The Controller tries to escape, but Superman demolishes the devices that would trigger the escape portal. He finally activates it on his fourth try, and as he's making a parting threat before slipping away, Superman blurs over, grabs him, issues a threat of his own and then tosses him through the portal. Great scene.

Superman addresses the assembled Legion at the memorial for Ferro Lad. The camera briefly pans to deep space, where Ferro Lad's body has gouged a path across the surface of an asteroid. The first time I saw it, I was sure he was dead. But then I read some other reviews and they saw some ambiguity there, and I'm less certain that he's dead after this most recent viewing. Specifically, the fetal position suggests to me the possibility of rebirth.

The scene returns to Superman, who concludes the service by leading the Legionnaires in "Long live Ferro Lad! Long live the Legion!" The first time I watched this one with my daughter, she said it right along with them, and there's something about a four-year-old chanting "Long live the Legion!" that brings tears to my eyes.

"Long live Ferro Lad! Long live the Legion!"

The episode wraps up with Superman returning to the 21st century and his more or less normal life. He takes off his Legion gear and puts it in his suitcase, and then goes down to join his family for dinner. It's a nice ending for the season.

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