Monday, June 6, 2016

Legion of Super Heroes S01 E08: Lightning Storm

"Lightning Storm" was written by Stan Berkowitz and directed by Lauren Montgomery, original airdate: February 10, 2007.

Mission Monitor Board: Colossal Boy, Bouncing Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Triplicate Girl, Timber Wolf, and young Superman.

Opponents: space squid, Light Speed Vanguard (Tyr, Hunter, Wave, Esper, Ron-Karr, and Mekt Ranzz, not yet Lightning Lord), Sand Raiders, Lightning Beast.

Guest-stars and cameos: Chlorophyll Kid, Night Girl, Stone Boy, Porcupine Pete, Fire Lad, Color Kid, Infectious Lass, Invisible Kid II, Polar Boy, Antennae Boy, Quantum Queen, Quake Kid, Lamprey, Double Header, Breath Boy, Polecat, The Mess, Absorbency Boy (later Earth-Man), and pre-Lightning/Light Lass Ayla Ranzz.

This episode was just jam packed with Legion goodness. We had first appearances of heretofore unseen Legionnaires, glimpses of future Legionnaires and Substitutes, auditions, guest stars, villains, and the beginnings of the Legion of Super-Villains. All this and Porcupine Pete too, does it get any better than this?

We open hard, right in the middle of the action with Bouncing Boy flying a cruiser around the Legion getting trounced by a giant space squid. Now I'm a big Hank Pym as Giant-Man/Goliath fan, as well as digging kaiju eiga too, so you know when Colossal Boy is tangling with a giant space squid, I am all in. Unlike his Avengers counterpart, it's not hard for poor Gim Allon to get lost in the shuffle with a super-team of over two dozen members. I loved his bit here no matter how short it was. And yeah, I know I'm yelling into the past, but still, more Colossal Boy please!

Bottom line however is that the Legion are not faring well against this creature. It's a good thing there are reinforcements on the way. Later we learn their team name is the Light Speed Vanguard, yeah, initials LSV, an omen of what may yet be the beginnings of the Legion of Super-Villains. All of these 'heroes' eventually end up members of this group in the comics. Personally my fave LSV members were the evil analogs of the Legionnaires, but these folks were there too.

Tyr was one of the first Legion villains I encountered after Computo, appearing in the classic Superboy #197 that I've talked about before. Like all Dave Cockrum designs I loved his visual, but his animated form was a bit less exciting. He is voiced by Khary Payton, best known for doing Aqualad in "Young Justice" and Cyborg in many DC Comics animated series and features.

Hunter also comes from the Dave Cockrum era in my memory. Adam Orion, son of Otto Orion, who had been thwarted by the Legion, blamed them for his death. I first saw him in a Bouncing Boy back-up story in Superboy #199. He too later joined the Legion of Super-Villains, and here is also voiced by Payton, although interestingly with a thick Australian accent.

Esper, or as she was originally called, Esper Lass, is from a later Jim Shooter/Mike Grell story that introduced the Legion of Super-Rejects. Grell got to go wild with his design work on that one creating characters who had all been rejected in applying to the Legion because of power duplication - a rule that I always thought was dumb, and was broken in cases of heroes with multiple powers like Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El, Wildfire, and Tyroc anyway - so why have it?

Most of the Rejects ended up in the Legion of Super-Villains anyway, bitter and jealous, if not outright evil. I liked them because they followed the analog pattern I liked. Esper Lass, like Saturn Girl, was a telepath from Titan, but shown to be stronger in mentally controlling others. Here, as Esper, she voiced by animation veteran Tara Strong.

Speaking of rejected Legion applicants, Ron-Karr is one as well, but old school from the Adventure Comics days. His power in the comics and the reason for his rejection was the quite unusual ability to become two-dimensional, flat as a pancake. The animated version of Ron-Karr however is a full-blown shapeshifter, a far more useful power.

Wave, I was surprised to find but I must have known and forgotten, is Spider Girl. It must be the blue hair. I've always had a thing for redheads so that's where the mental block must be. Still I wish we would have had Spider Girl animated rather than her later reboot Wave. I always dug the Medusa wannabe who was also a rejected Legion applicant, and an early recruit of the Legion of Super-Villains. And who doesn't like prehensile hair?

The above five make short work of the space squid and the Legion is left holding the bag and cleaning up the mess. Lightning Lad thinks they're cool, and what the Legion should be, and later at the malt shop (I kid you not, it's like Archie 3000, and what with Garth continuing his Reggie act, I think it's an easy bet the showrunners are Archie fans), gets an invite to hang with the LSV.

When Lightning Lad returns to HQ, auditions for new members are underway. The application process is legend is Legion stories. I'm glad they made it part of the animated series. Basically hopefuls from all over the galaxy audition their powers to become members of the Legion.

When these episodes originally aired, I watched them with my wife, whom I still affectionately call The Bride. She is notably not into comics but occasionally watches superhero television with me like "The Flash" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." She was initially attracted however to things like "Teen Titans," "Young Justice," and this series because of the number of female protagonists. Take that, Cartoon Network. Anyway when I compared the auditions to "American Idol," she got it immediately. It is sooo "American Idol."

Just at a glance, in attendance are future Legion of Substitute Heroes members - the chunky version of Chlorophyll Kid, Night Girl, Stone Boy, Porcupine Pete, Fire Lad, Color Kid, and Infectious Lass; future Legionnaires - the second Invisible Kid and Polar Boy; also Antennae Boy, Quantum Queen, Quake Kid, Lamprey, Double Header, Breath Boy, Polecat, The Mess, as well as some assorted others I didn't recognize; and Absorbency Boy, later known as the Legion villain and eventual member, Earth-Man.

Fed up with the silliness of the auditions, Lightning Lad checks in with the LSV, finding not only a super cool headquarters on a slick space cruiser, but also his brother Mekt! He is in a black costume with a lightning bolt, treated as the leader of the LSV, but much like what those initials really stand for, no one ever calls Mekt Lightning Lord.

We do get a mental flashback, via Esper, of Lightning Lad's origin. We see Garth and Mekt, as well as Ayla, future Legionnaire Light Lass/Lightning Lass, getting attacked by at least one Lightning Beast of Korbal. Comics fans know that's how all three of the Ranzz siblings got their lightning powers. It's interesting that Esper just invades Lightning Lad's, something Saturn Girl would never do - yet she tries it on the LSV earlier in the episode.

Once in a mission with the LSV, Lightning Lad finds his new teammates are as cool as they seem. They're mercenaries, doing 'good' for money. When they go and collect a fee by force, he takes his leave. Luckily the Legion, his trusting friends, have following him to 'make sure he's all right.' Battle ensues, LSH vs. LSV, the most spectacular between the brothers Ranzz. The pair offs are good but I would have liked to have seen Tyr and Timber Wolf duke it out.

Speaking of pair offs, we get to see a few sparks between Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad, and Bouncing Boy and Triplicate Girl this episode, coincidentally the first two Legion couples to marry in the comics.

I have to say I loved this episode, a fanboy's dream. It had everything I would want in a Legion cartoon and more. Now if only we could get more Colossal Boy, maybe some Ultra Boy, and oh yeah, Element Lad, Tyroc, and Wildfire... I might be happier...

Next: The Substitutes!

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