Hello interweb, Nate here! So I’ve reviewed a couple animated cartoons in the past such as Steven Universe and Miraculous Ladybug (Steven Universe probably the best cartoon on right now and still waiting for season 2 of Miraculous) however ironically enough I have yet to review an actual adaptation of a comic book. So let me correct that with a cartoon I just finished binge watching: Legion of Super Heroes! Now in a previous post a while back I said I was planning on reviewing The Spectacular Spider-man. I lied. Now I like to review movies/cartoons/comics/etc. when I just finished viewing them and their content is fresh in my mind so I can remember most of what I have just experienced. The Spectacular Spider-man is a cartoon I watched on YouTube a while back and I couldn’t find the episodes to rewatch when I wanted to review it (probably was taken down for copyright violations). However I have managed to find a cartoon series I actually never seen before and decided to take a crack at it. This is my thoughts! Also while I’ll avoid major spoilers I might give small spoilers here or there.
Now full disclaimer: I have never read Legion of Super Heroes in my life. I Now despite that this isn’t my first exposure to the team as they have guest starred in DCAU cartoons such as Superman: TAS and Justice League. However this cartoon is best to give you a full feel for the team as because the entire series focuses on the Legion it gives them more time to develop than a few episodes have to offer. However because I have very little pre-existing knowledge to this particular team the only references I’ll probably make to the comics are in relation to Superman or maybe some light research I’ve done over the internet.
The Legion of Super Heroes is a team of superheroes from the far off future in the 31st century. The majority of the story takes place in this era with a 21st century Superman being pulled from our era to the future to help the Legion out with difficulties they have with a few of their enemies. The main purpose to bringing Superman to the future is to face the super villain team referred to as the Fatal Five. However once Superman helps them defeat the Fatal Five he decides to stay in the future to help the team out for the rest of the season. Season 1 differs from season 2 as the first season decides to go for stand-alone episodes while season 2 has a story arc that lasts throughout the entire season. Despite this, both seasons have a very clear continuity that you can follow and if you watch episodes out of order than you might get confused.
Season one’s stand alone episodes does make for more diverse story telling with the problems brought up at the beginning of the episode but resolved by the time the 22 min episode ends. However while it does so, it also introduces a lot of ideas and story lines that are resolved in a season 2 episode. For example, the Season 1 episode “Timber Wolf” introduces us the character Brin Lando who’s father mutated into a werewolf like creature in his experiments. This storyline is later continued into the season 2 episode “Cry Wolf” where Brin’s animal side begins taking him over and makes him go savage. Another example of this is Lightning Lad – aka Garth Ranzz – whose brother, Mekt Ranzz, is introduced in the season 1 episode “Champions” and is shown to use his electric powers for his own selfish purposes instead of for good like Lightning Lad does. Mekt appears on and off again throughout both seasons as the villain Lightning Lord until the season 2 episode “Chained Lightning” where it’s revealed how both of them gained their lightning powers and Mekt winds up in jail at the end of the episode never to be seen for the rest of the season.
Season 2 has a more definitive story arc throughout as a 41st century Superman clone dubbed Superman X comes to the 31st Century requesting the Legion to help him take down the villain Imperiex. The second season also takes place 2 years after the first season to most of the characters get a design change with Lightning Lad having longer hair and a beard, the character Brainiac 5 having shorter hair, etc. More legionaires are also included making the team far more expansive than the first season. Imperiex makes for a fun villain and his strength makes him powerhouse however we learn in the first episode of season 2 that he managed to destroy Earth and I don’t really buy that. One because of the way he was defeated (spoilers) and two because villains like Darksied was never able to take over the Earth and I doubt Imperiex is stronger than Darksied.
While Imperiex is the main villain of the series, Brainiac is the biggest bad of the entire season and there’s a lot of build up for him. In the episode “Message in a Bottle”, the Legion visits the city of Kandor that Brainiac 1.0 took all those years ago and Superman learns that he made a promise to the city to free them but he never did. During this episode, he learns that Brainiac 5’s ancestor, Brainiac 1.0, is the one who captured them and Brainiac 5 had to access Brianiac 1.0’s memory files in order to help the city. However by accessing Brianiac 1.0’s memory files, Brainiac 1.0 managed to take over Brainiac 5’s body became the last villain of the series. I’m not going to give away how they defeated Brainiac because of spoiler reasons but it just didn’t feel epic enough to me.
They had plans for a third season and it shows considering the season finale. When Brainiac 1.0 was defeated he reformed and became Brainiac 6 and that was going to be the main baddie of the third season. The story behind season 3 was going to be about Brainiac 5 trying to redeem himself after the events of season 2 but Brainiac 6 shows up to screw things up. The reason the third season was never produced was because Kids WB was replaced by 4Kids which didn’t allow for a third season under legal purposes. Which is a shame because I Brainiac 5 was my favorite character on the show so if the third season was going to focus on him than that would’ve been awesome! In addition, newer characters were going to appear such as Supergirl, who I believe have some ties to the Legion in the comics.
The animation was decent but something about it bugged me. Some of the characters always looked awkward to me and didn’t look right. It felt like they were trying to meet somewhere between Bruce Timm’s designs and Teen Titans. Granted I have seen worse animation such as the 90’s X-Men: TAS and Spider-man: TAS but it just could’ve been improved.
Now let’s get to the characters! The Rogues gallery was pretty decent but mostly consisted of the same villains over and over again, which isn’t bad as that leads to more development for some characters. The biggest villain that showed up constantly was the Fatal Five who I mentioned earlier. They consist of Emerald Empress, who had mind control powers via a big floating eye; Mano, who I think can disintegrate whatever he touches; Persuader, who wielded a giant axe; Tharok, some type of cyborg (no affiliation to the Teen Titans); and Validus, a giant purple monster with laser beams coming out of his exposed brain. They’re fine as villains to fight when needed but all they really do throughout the series is petty crimes or get ordered around by Imperiex in season 2. None of them are really all that interesting.
In the season 1 episode “Legacy” a super rich girl named Alexis Luthor is featured whose related to Lex Luthor. She’s the richest girl in the galaxy but also super greedy so she basically becomes Superman’s clingy fangirl until her own greed led to her robot exploding and end up in jail (bald I might add since all of it got burned off in the explosion). She was actually rather annoying and while it was hinted that she might return she never did. Which I’m happy for as I did not enjoy her character.
In season 1 episode “Child’s Play” we get introduced to a kid with magical powers who reminds me of the Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk. Because of his magic powers Superman’s vulnerable to him which means since all he wanted to do was to cause chaos for the fun of it and he didn’t have the same funny weakness ad Mr. Mxyzptlk they had to find another approach to defeating him. He would later appear in the season 2 episode “Trials” but this time to help the Legion.
There was a few more minor villains here and there but the biggest two of the series was Imperiex and Brainiac. Both were rather tough and made for very strong opponents however I did not like the way either of them was defeated. I just felt like both villains’ defeats was quite anticlimactic. For spoiler purposes I’m not going to say how either one was taken down but Imperiex just went down rather easily despite the build up and Brainiac was too much of a Brainy ex Machina.
Now the good guys. Superman in here is pretty well written. Personality wise unless your Zach Snyder or a New 52 writer, Superman is a pretty easy character to write. He’s humble and compassionate despite his immense power and the show does a great job at showing that. His strength is a little harder to write since he’s such a powerful character that realistically half his fights should end within seconds. Most writers usually just say he’s holding back since he’s too worried on killing people which is understandable. In season 1 it makes more since sense he just became Superman and thus isn’t quite as experienced. He didn’t even know he could fly or his ice breath until it was pointed out to him. Brainiac 5 also decided to go with a more experienced Superman in season 2 so he got a slight design change to with a bigger build and more muscle. I usually don’t point out voice actors that often but I could tell he was voiced by Yuri Lowenthal since he also voices Ben in Ben 10: Alien Force and onwards. This was actually kinda distracting for me at first since every time he spoke I just had Ben 10 stuck in my head but I got used to it. Now Superman was actually going to go by the name Superboy in season 1 but this was scrapped for legal reasons.
Superman X debuted at the beginning of Season 2. He’s a clone of Superman specifically designed to take down Imperiex but he’s immune to Kryptonite and has a few other perks such as energy blades and shields shaped like the Superman logo as well as the ability to shoot a beam that creates green rocks. I thought it was Kryptonite at first but this was never confirmed and I don’t remember seeing Superman weakened whenever he was around them. His whole purpose in life was to destroy Imperiex so he basically threw a hissy fit once Imperiex was defeated. He was apparently created specifically for this series so I kinda wish they made a third season just to see where his character goes from here.
Brainiac 5 was my favorite character of the show and had the most amount of development. The only thing that bugged me was his powers as being a robot he can morph his body and create different gadgets. This is a cool power but the problem I always have with robot like characters such as Brainiac 5, Cyborg, Blue Beetle, etc. is that there really is no definitive set of tools that is given to us so writers can just create new gadgets on the fly. But beyond that, his character was really fun. He had the most amount of design changes from the other characters as the season 2 finale has him shed all his robot parts. They said he was “human” at the end of the series but this confused me. Why would shedding all his robotics make him “human”? And does that mean he has no more powers or does his 12th level intellect allow him to build a robot suit? And if he’s “human” than why does he still have green skin? I preferred his more robotic designs simply because they were cool looking and his season 1 design was cute with the long hair.
When the series started I thought I was going to hate Lightning Lad since he’s a hot head. However the show proved me wrong by giving us a really good backstory. His older brother Mekt, who I mentioned earlier, took him and his sister to a far off planet where they got attacked by an alien with electric blasts. The blasts gave Garth and Mekt their powers to shoot electricity but their sister Ayla was killed by the shock. Why was she killed when they got superpowers? Because sexism! Ok ok joking aside, I don’t know. An answer was never given to this but in the season 2 episode “Chained Lightning” Garth and Mekt managed to get their sister back (who didn’t age a day since the accident) and Mekt went to prison. The only thing I do thing they could’ve done better is his powers. If Static Shock has taught me anything about electricity manipulation it’s that it’s one cool power with a lot of possibilities that aren’t really touched upon in this show.
Saturn Girl really didn’t add much in terms of character for the team. She has telepathic powers which is a useful ability but nothing about her really stood out. No major story arc was given and she was absent half of season 2 because of a “healing trance” she was in.
Phantom Girl was a bit more enjoyable to me than Saturn Girl simply because she had a more enjoyable personality. Despite this, most of her “depth” just comes from her relationship with her mom whose the President of the United Planets (yes United Planets not United States). Her powers are cool as she can phase through solid matter and turn invisible but otherwise she’s doesn’t have a major arc of her own. I do kinda wish we saw more out of her relationship with her mom since they did show us a bit of it but there was no major arc to come out of it.
Bouncing Boy was actually a fun character and wasn’t quite as annoying as I thought he’d be. Considering his size I expected him to be the guy you see in stories where he’s constantly using an inhaler and is constantly out of breath because “Ha! Ha! He’s fat”. But actually not really. His ability to to turn into a big ball that can be launched at enemies and so he has cool moments where he gains enough momentum to shoot himself as several enemies in a short period of time. And near the end of season two he becomes leader for the end of the season and manages to lead everyone into defeating the sun eater. The only thing about him that bugged me is his nose. I mean, what’s happening here? Looks odd…
Triplicate Girl was a fun character but the closest thing she had to a story arc was in season 2. Normally she has the ability to split herself into separate selves but in the beginning of season 2 she lost her white self and goes by the name Duo Damsel. I kinda wish they delved more into it to maybe give us some good character development but it’s just kinda shoved off as “Ah well, that sucks”
Timber Wolf kinda reminds me of that episode of Teen Titans where Beast Boy gives into his animalistic side. His whole story arc revolves around his father turning him into a monster and he slowly loses control and goes savage. I’ve seen story lines like this in the past so it’s nothing new but at least there was an attempt to make a good character out of him. Plus he has a cool design and the werewolf aspect is a really cool idea.
There were way more characters that was part of the Legion but those are the core members. Chameleon Boy was one of my favorites with his shape shifting powers. Cosmic Boy also got some interesting character development as a founding member along with Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. BTW, is there some type of trend for superhero teams to have a big three? The Justice League has Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman; Marvel has Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man; Legion of Superheroes has Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Cosmic boy; I’m just starting to see a trend.
Overall the series was a fun ride but it’s not the best show in the world. Teen Titans, Green Lantern: TAS, and anything in the DCAU is WAY better than this show. However the show itself was decent enough so if you have free time or have a need to watch every comic book cartoon out there than there’s definitely much worse that you can do. It’s not so much of a “must watch” as it is a “watch if you have the time”.