Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Legion of Super Heroes: Dark Victory, Pt. 1

I started writing this a month ago, and I shelved it and never got back to it. These two episodes will be the end of the Legion reviews, and I don't want to end on a sour, note, but unfortunately, the series did,  and there's really no making lemonade out these lemons.

So let's be on it. Brainiac 5 is playing chess with his ancestor above a peaceful ocean. This is the last good scene of the series, but it's really well done. Chess has long been a metaphor for strategy, and the two Coluans talk as they play their game with chess pieces fashioned in Superman's likeness.

 As usual, Corey Burton is a great Brainiac. Brainy moves to place his ancestor in check, but the original takes his turn and moves a piece of his own, toppling Brainy's king (at least I assume it's the king, but all those pieces look pretty much the same) which falls to the board with a thunderous boom. I thought that was an extremely nice use of the sound effect.

In answer, Brainy flips the board and assumes his war mech mode.

Red Brainiac chess pieces rise up from the board, but Brainy blasts them and Brainiac. Brainy orders his ancestor out of his head. His ancestor reforms a new body out of the rubble with Brainiac 5's head atop it.

He tells Brainy that he can be so much more if he'll embrace the Brainiac programming. Brainiac 5 rejects that and blows Brainiac's head clean off. When the smoke clears, it is Imperiex he sees.

And this is where the scene stops being good.(As if the presence of Imperiex weren't enough to clue you in to that.) Imperiex tells him that those files he downloaded from Computo in the beginning of the season alterted him to the existence of a backdoor into Brainiac 5's programming and it was he who unleashed the Brainiac programming.

Wait. What. The. Fuck? How does that even make any sense? Didn't Brainiac 5 build Computo? I don't know which part is stupider, the idea that Brainiac 5 decided to tuck away some code that would turn him evil, or that he did that, AND THEN JUST FORGOT ABOUT IT!

Anyway, Imperiex reaches out and is all like "Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son!" but Brainy blasts him and then he wakes up, which makes perfect sense, since it's common knowledge that growing robots need eight hours of sleep.


Imperiex is giving a motivational speech to his legions. I like the visuals here, and they give a good sense of the scope of his operations. The problem, as usual, is Imperiex. His pep talk and his speech remind me of nothing so much as the "Are you ready to rumble?" guy who announces matches in professional wrestling.

On board the Legion cruiser, we have Cosmic Boy holding a pep rally of his own. Everybody is actually present in a single location, instead of attending via video conferencing as they had done in the past, and under the circumstance, it struck me as kind of foolish. Whatever. It's certainly not the biggest problem with the episode. Brainiac 5 watches silently, and I couldn't help but notice that his reflection comes nowhere near looking how it should.

Perhaps it's a subtle reminder of his conflicted nature. That, or just more of the slapdash QC I'd come to expect from the second season.

At least we get a nice group shot for our troubles.

Cut to Superman and Superman-X walking and talking about Brainy. Since they're both voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, the conversation is kind of strange. X observes that Brainy is acting all weird.

On to a training session. Brainy is manning the Danger Room, when the original shows up as a mental projection and suggests to disable the safeguards for the simulation. Brainy agrees and keeps turning up the level. This isn't a terrible scene. It's not as subtle as it could be, but it doesn't have any glaring flaws either. I like it when Chameleon Boy gets zapped and Superman calls up to pause the sim and Brainy just order to Computo to raise the level again in a flat Brainiac 1 monotone.

Yup, here's your problem. Someone set this thing to "Evil".

Superman defends the rest of the Legion, then bursts into the control room and subdues Brainy, who shakes off his ancestor's influence. There's a lot to like about this scene too. Superman is once again presented as being more powerful than the other Legionnaires. For the bulk of the second season, it seemed like a toss up if you'd want Bouncing Boy or Superman on your away team. This is a return to a Superman who is noticeably stronger than his peers, and I like it.

Shortly afterward, in Brainy's room, Brainiac 5 admits that the Brainiac programming is taking over, and that his point of view is starting to look very appealing. I've complained about the redeisgn for Brainy for this season, but nowhere is the problem more apparent than here. I think the mop-topped child prodigy would be a lot more chilling in the role than a teen-ager with a buzz cut.  Superman appeals to his better nature. He asks Superman to stop him if the Brainiac programming takes him over. Superman says he will. Imperiex attacks and Superman orders him to stay put. That was nicely executed too. I notice, that he calls him Brainiac, rather than Brainy. That was a nice touch.

The Dominators are along with Imperiex and they breach the ship. Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad try to mount a defense, but these particular goons are shielded against each of their powers.

I don't think it's an accident that the three founders wound up together, particularly as this comes not long after the origin story. This episode does have quite a few small moments I liked. It's just the big stuff that sucked.

Inside the cruiser, Brainy is watching the fight on a monitor when Brainiac appears to him and tells him that his friends are going to be killed unless he opens himself further. Brainy is reluctant, but the next scene is him going up and down and to and fro in the ship, smacking down Dominators. He saves both Timber Wolf and Superman-X from imminent execution, which makes me wish he had dithered just a few moments longer. Imperiex flees, while confiding to Validus that this was just a gambit to get Brainy to embrace the Brainiac programming. It's not half bad as villainous plans go, but he needs to choose a better partner for his exposition, because I doubt a mute twenty foot tall unitard-clad brain monster gives two shits about it one way or the other.

The heroes express concern about Brainy, but he reassures them that he's okay. Next scene, he detects Cam and Lightning Lad spying on him in his sleeping chair. He makes small talk and then zaps them before gliding out of the room. He surprises and overcomes Shrinking Violet and then drops a couple more Legionnaires on his way to the hanger bay.

When he opens the pod bay door, he sees Superman waiting for him, arms crossed across his chest, cape fluttering in the airless void of outer space.

It's a very nice Superman pose, but maybe next time you do this, you can come up with a plan that doesn't involve you loitering outside while your friends get their asses kicked.

Superman takes him apart piece by piece,

Brainiac 5 pleads for mercy, and Superman hesitates long enough for Brainy to blast him with a Kryptonite ray. Brainy reconstitutes himself into a form more reminiscent of the original Brainiac. He calls Superman a "King of Weaklings," and removes a ring of Kryptonite from his chest and places it on Superman's head as a crown.

That has so much wrong with it that I just don't know where to start. It made sense in the first season that he would have a chunk of Kryponite as a precaution. But he kept it in a lead container within a secure vault. Putting aside for a moment the absurdity of Brainy pulling a bunch of junk out of a hollow chest cavity like Bender on Futurama, they've been on the Cruiser for how long? Was he carrying that Kryptonite with him the whole time, on the off chance he woke up one day and just decided that he wanted to murder Superman?

Brainy leaves after monologuing for a bit, and Cosmic Boy and Kell recover Superman and stick him in the infirmary. Brainy arrives at Imperiex's place and Imperiex calls the Legion. He starts his generic evil overlord speech and Brainy does everyone a favor by stabbing him through the chest. Imperiex orders Validus to destroy him, but Brainy swivels his head around like an owl and de-rezes him. It's both a clinical and casual execution, and it really works to sell what kind of thing Brainiac 5 has become. 

End of line.

Brainy kills Imperiex and then warns the Legion that it would be ill-advised to try to stop him. He transforms Imperiex's flagship into Brainiac's honeycomb skull ship and then charts a course for Colu.

To be continued!


  1. Thinking into it too much I think. It's only a kids show.

    1. Maybe. But up until then, it was a pretty good one.

      I think the problem with how the series fell apart was that it broke the rules it had set for itself. Good science fiction, like any kind of fiction, is internally consistent. The show stopped being so and it lost what appealed to me.

  2. "Only a kid's show"? There are some truly awesome kid's shows out there, most notably ones made from DC comics. I haven't checked out this particular one yet but your review has sparked my interest!

    1. I've been a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes ever since my father bought me my first comic book to keep me occupied on a long car trip, so I have some built in bias, but I liked this show a lot. It's got a joy an optimism that modern cartoons sometimes forget.

      If you've ever watched Teen Titans, I felt there was a similar vibe, with a silliness balancing the serious elements.

    2. I think it was consistently a good show. It was my second favorite child hood show and it introduced me to The Legion. I wish it got a third season. I'll have to agree with Anonymous on this one. I think you are overthinking it just a tad bit much...in many, many ways. Network mandates caused the show to evolve, and I don't think the result was anything less than interesting...most of the time at least. Well, I guess different people just like what they like.

    3. I suppose you're right, in that it does come down to individual taste for most of it. I liked the optimism of the first season more than the grim darkness of the second, but I'd rather have a second season that had fewer episodes I enjoyed than not getting one at all.