Thursday, November 17, 2011

Legion of Super Heroes: Cry Wolf

I'm continuing my reviews of the second season of the Legion of Super Heroes animated series, with episode three, "Cry Wolf".

I don't like Timber Wolf, but the little widget on the side of the page that tracks the most visited posts says the one about him is the seventh most popular post on the site, so I guess I'm in the minority here.

Courtroom dramas are an episode that can be dropped into any series and Cry Wolf is a terrible episode that could have been a really solid one with a couple minor changes.

We open on a scientific symposium. I think it's on Heisenberg-7, but I'm not certain. (Hey-o!) Dr. Mar Londo, Timber Wolf's dad is there, showing off these new bio-golems he invented. Timber Wolf is in the audience. He rips off his disguise, jumps on the stage, wolfs out to a more feral form reminiscent of his first appearance,  beats up the bio-golems, bays at the moon and then moves in to finish off his dad, who is begging for mercy.

Then the image freezes and we see that it's a video. Timber Wolf is on trial.

On trial for sucking. The verdict? Guilty.

Cosmic Boy declares him guilty and sentences him to life imprisonment on Takron-Galtos.

Credits. Cam is pleading with Cosmic Boy and the rest, and whatever other problems the second season had, it wasn't the art direction or the animation, both of which are consistently superb. I thought this scene was particularly well done in that respect, with the shadows and subdued colors lending a very somber mood to the piece.

However, it's also this scene that shows off the big flaw with the episode. When Cam says that Timber Wolf wouldn't do this kind of thing and asks for other character witnesses, Cosmic Boy points out, quite legitimately in my opinion, that hundreds of eyewitnesses, a holographic record of the attack and physical evidence outweigh any testimony they might offer.

Timber Wolf breaks loose and most of those present pursue him. He fights them off and Phantom Girl helps him escape. There are several sloppy moments here.

Though the cool S-shield force field is not one of them.

The first is when Timber Wolf says to Superman-X that he didn't think X would vote with the rest of them.

Superman X: "I had no choice. The evidence -"
Timber Wolf: "-was rigged. "

This is actually two problems in one. The first is, well, dickhead, maybe that's an argument you should have made during your trial intend of just mounting a defense that amounted to a sullen "Fuck you" to Cosmic Boy.  The second is that the only characterization we've had so far of Superman-X is that of shouty space asshole and there's no reason to assume that he'd extend the benefit of the doubt to Timber Wolf moreso than any other Legionnaire would.

Except there is. If Superman had been in this role, everything would make sense. But he's not, though I think it was written with him in mind and it just doesn't work with Superman-X in the role.

We see Timber Wolf running off, and they catch him, but he turns out to be Chameleon Boy, which was actually fairly well done. Even though Phantom Girl and Cam helped Timber Wolf escape, Cosmic Boy doesn't do more than wag his finger at them disapprovingly.

Meanwhile, in New Metropolis, Timber Wolf gives a Deckard-like narration as he looks for clues. He tears up the apartment of an acquaintance of his father, "Yin Des Neerg" (which is an anagram for Sidney Green), and this scene goes a long way towards illustrating what's wrong with the second season. They tried to make it more "realistic", but it lacks the verisimilitude of the first season. For instance, when 's ransacking Neerg's closet, Timber Wolf comes across a collection of lab coats. And that's fine, as far as it goes. Lab coats are shorthand for scientists in visual media after all. When I worked in a laboratory, I had a lab coat.

But here's the thing. I had a lab coat. As in one. And I left it in the lab at the end of the day. It wasn't the only clothing I owned, as seems to be the case here. You can't see it that well in this still, but Neerg's closet is filled with nothing but lab coats. It's a trivial detail, but it's characteristic of the problems that crept in with the second season.

Neerg comes home, apparently unable to hear a wolfman tearing his apartment apart through the door.

Then the Legionnaires arrive. They have this brief exchange,

Cosmic Boy: "I don't want to hurt you, Timber Wolf."
Timber Wolf: "Well, that makes one of us."

which doesn't make much sense. I would assume that Cosmic Boy's original line was something like, "We don't want to fight," because, as written, Timber Wolf's reply suggests that he doesn't want to hurt himself, which is the kind of thing that should go without saying.  Anyway, Timber Wolf attacks Cosmic Boy and Superman-X and the fight spreads to the bar below. More Legionnaires show up, and Cosmic Boy manages to put down the idiot ball long enough to put up a good fight. First he blocks the exit with two video games, then pulls loose some bar stools and batters Timber Wolf with them. And again, I have to express my admiration for the animation here, because that scene just looks brutal. 

"All right, Brin, I'm just going to need a stool sample"

 He wolfs out, escapes and is picked up by Neerg (really Cam in disguise). Cam makes fun of Cosmic Boy, which is kind of funny,

and Phantom Girl gets some quality snark in.

"Melodrama and self-pity. A toxic combination."

 They head to Heisenberg-7 where Timber Wolf announces that he's going to do what he does best. I don't know what that is, but one would assume that it isn't pretty.

So they go back, Timber Wolf sniffs around and realizes that he was there. Again, if he were really interested in mounting a defense rather than being an aggrieved martyr, this is probably the kind of thing he should have done when he was first accused. A bunch of science police show up, but he smacks the shit out of them and upon escaping, decides to exile himself to Rawl.

He stomps around the jungle for a while, and there's a neat continuity nod to ans they show the old facility, now overgrown with vines. (At least, I assume so. I don't care enough to go back and rewatch the Timber Wolf episode.)

Timber Wolf smells his dad and confronts him. Dr. Londo tells him that he sent a bunch of nanites into Timber Wolf's brain and controlled him in order to frame him for murder, so that Brin would have nowhere to turn and be forced to rejoin him. Timber Wolf refuses and destroys a bunch of bio-golems and turns feral just as the Legion shows up. He smacks Phantom Girl around in his rage, and she winds up helpless and unconscious for the second episode in a row.

Seeing her like that snaps him out of it and he turns on his father and destroys his mind control headband. At the end of the episode, they're on the Legion Cruiser, and Timber Wolf says he's not sure he can go through this alone again, but Phantom Girl assures him that he won't have to.

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