Monday, April 10, 2017

Legion of Super Heroes S02 E01: The Man from the Edge of Tomorrow, Part 1

"The Man from the Edge of Tomorrow, Part 1" was written by Michael Jelenic and directed by Brandon Vietti.
Original airdate: September 22, 2007
Review by Glenn 'Continuity Kid' Walker.

Mission Monitor Board: Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf, Triplicate Girl, and Chameleon Boy.

Opponents: Imperiex, his army, and Dominator simulations.

Guest-stars and cameos: Superman X, Bouncing Boy.

When the "Legion of Super Heroes" animated series returned for a second season in September of 2007, while only a few months had passed for us, two years had passed for the characters, and the showrunners had opted for a grim and grittier representation of the team. We're not talking 5 Years Later grim and gritty, but things had gotten rough for the Legion. The heroes were older, leaner, and in some cases, meaner, but there were also some cool new characters like Chameleon Boy introduced as well.

There was also a continuing storyline (which thankfully meant the CW would have to show them in order, as opposed to the first season), and a season-long conflict with the super-villain Imperiex. And then there was Superman X. Yeah. Sigh. Superman X…

 Let's start at the beginning. We open on Brainiac 5, considerably older, definitively filled out, but still harboring a bro-crush on young Superman. We don't know it at first, but we're watching a training simulation – Brainiac 5 and Superman fighting what appear to be buff and active Dominators, acting more like Khunds than Dominators actually, but I suppose it doesn't matter as it's only a simulation. The battle is fast and furious, and Brainy sacrifices himself for Superman, and passes away in the Man of Steel's arms. Two years appear to have strengthened the bromance for Brainy, not weakened it.

And the other thing that may or may not be different is that the other Legionnaires are aware of how much Brainy misses and crushes on Superman. After the simulation, which Brainy seems more than a little self-conscious and secretive about, they tease him about it. Caught by Lightning Lad, Triplicate Girl, Timber Wolf, and Chameleon Boy, we get to see how a couple of them have changed in two years. Timber Wolf is manlier and less animal. Lightning Lad is the real measure, with short sleeves and a bad goatee. Notably Timber Wolf's comment about Brainy and Superman seeing a movie seems most hurtful and Neanderthal, especially in a kids cartoon.

Chameleon Boy is a new factor and member here, looking as young as Brainy did in the first season. He alone looks like a kid as opposed to the other Legionnaires' noticeable adulthood. His look is markedly different from the comics – a green costume I'm not familiar with, big green eyes, antennae that extend from his eyebrows, and a spiky ridge up his forehead. I guess it doesn't matter really, he can shape-shift after all. It will be good to have a youthful presence with the rest of the team so adult and dark.

As Lightning Lad tells Brainy that he'll have to get used to Superman not being around (about two years late, Garth), a portal opens in the air and out flies a figure with an S on his chest. The man has intense green eyes, no cape, wild hair, a similar costume, but more stylized. When he has everyone's attention, he announces, "I'm Superman." Cue opening credits.

The second season credit sequence, with a slightly tweaked theme by Kristopher Carter, features new footage from the upcoming season as well as spotlights on some of the characters who will figure prominently in the next dozen episodes, like Superman and Superman X, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf, Phantom Girl, Bouncing Boy, Triplicate Girl (or is it Duo Damsel?), Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, and Imperiex. The scenes which fill in between are mostly battles with Imperiex, the season's big bad, but we also get cameos of not just the Fatal Five, but also the Legion of Super-Villains as well. It's going to be quite a season, despite the darkness.

This Superman is from the 41st century, and as we learn later, his time has been devastated by a tyrant called Imperiex. Once a paradise built in the light of the Legion's accomplishments, his Earth and New Metropolis have been destroyed. In a sly move, similar to when the Legion itself sought out their inspiration from the past to join them, this Superman has come seeking the Legion to save his world. With forty-four trillion lives in the balance, the Legion can't help but follow him into his future.

This Superman, also known as Superman X, and later as Kell-El, is voiced by the same as our young Superman, Yuri Lowenthal, but with more of a gruff, commanding growl. He always refers to himself as Superman, despite how it and he rubs the Legionnaires the wrong way, especially Brainiac 5, as the so-called Superman continually makes remarks about his heritage. This Superman is a loner, "so not a team player" as Triplicate Girl puts it, and doesn't lead nor cooperate well. Perhaps that's the reason he hasn't been successful in his battle against Imperiex, and has had to recruit the Legion for help.

In the 41st Century the Legion are greeted by a ravaged world, and almost immediately set upon by Imperiex's robotic forces, inviting spotlights on what our Legionnaires are capable of for new viewers, and in case we forgot. We also get to see what Superman X can do. Over and above the usual Kryptonian power set, he can generate force-fields and manifest crystalline structures, and then there are his gaunlets, with S-shield-shaped energy patches that can turn into blades or projections. The difference between our Superman and this version reminds me of Godzilla and Space Godzilla – one is stand and fight, and the other is stand and shoot rays. That said, Superman X can fight, but it's usually more of a berserker Wolverine style, he'll do what it takes to "get the job done." Yeah, not my favorite character.

After the first skirmish with Imperiex's forces, we meet K3NT (get it, Kent?), a typical James Tucker designed robot with a swirling karma-styled face screen, presenting a male and female side – it's Superman X's parent(s). They created him, from Superman's DNA mixed with kryptonite to make him immune from the substance, to specifically fight the menace of Imperiex. K3NT first called him Superman X, and it is they who inspire him to summon the Legion to help.

And if the name of Imperiex sounds familiar, it's because he was the big bad in the DC Comics crossover event called Our Worlds at War. There he had harnessed the power of the big bang, declared war on Earth, and was responsible for not just the deaths of a dozen superheroes, but millions of human lives. While set in the 20th Century comics, he was resurrected with different origins and powers to face the Legion in their second season. I'll talk more about Imperiex in the next episode's review.

On 41st century Earth, a final battle is approaching between Imperiex and rebel forces. With the Legion's help, and armed with Brainiac 5's discovery of a Death Star-like weakness in their foe's armor, the war begins anew. The fighting is fierce, again displaying the darker feel of the show, but finally the combined forces take the villain down. But not down for good. At the last minute Imperiex takes the warp key, which allowed Superman X to time travel to the 31st Century and back, and gets away.

As Brainy struggles to build a new device to travel home with, anti-matter bubbles begin to appear and destroy everything, reminiscent of the red skies in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Whatever Imperiex has done in the past is catching up with this future and wiping out the timeline. As the big bubbles come, so do Imperiex's remaining forces, causing the Legion to fight once more. No complaints on action this time out, but this is when it gets worse.

In the melee, one of Triplicate Girl's selves is taken by the giant bubbles, more a Larry Lance death than the fate that befalls her in the comics at the hands of Computo, but frightening just the same. As if we didn't know already how grave this situation was , the death of a member nails it down. It's notable Luonu doesn't merge after this the rest of the episode. I think the surprise of this death was more shocking than if Computo had done it like in the comics.

The Legion makes it back home, and we get Superman X and Brainiac 5 getting closer a bit through their bickering, but what the heroes find at home is troubling. They're too late. Their headquarters and New Metropolis are a burning, smoking ruin… to be continued…

This episode had action and characterization, but if you hadn't seen the first season and were new, it lacked heart. Coupled with the darkness of the theme, it was a bit of a downer. Despite my feelings on the character, I did like the design of Superman X, a fine candidate for an alternate Earth Superman. I miss Bouncing Boy, a star of the first season, who made a split second cameo early on, and would have helped ease the grimness of this episode.

Yeah, it's a dark beginning, and one lacking in the brightness of the light we had previously in the real, young or not, Superman. Perhaps that's why Superman X bothers me so much, he's not young Superman/Superboy. This is the Legion, we want Superboy, no matter what he's called. And I guess I'm old fashioned as I prefer super-heroics and good triumphing over evil as opposed to the grim and gritty murderous villains and anti-heroes that all so often inhabit the comics these days. Some folks dig it, yes, but I think one thing should be understood, as much as we all watched, loved/hated, and analyzed this series, it is - bottom line – a kids cartoon, and shouldn't be this dark.

Next: The conclusion: the Fatal Five, Takron-Galtos, Imperiex, and Superman!


  1. This cartoon had some good things BUT Superman X ?

    Why couldn't he just been Mon- El ?

    Also, I would have liked to have seen Wildfire, Element Lad and Ultra Boy as regulars !

  2. This was another symptom of "What can we do about Superman" that Michael Bailey has talked about (most recently on Treasury Cast). There is nothing wrong with Superman, but WB and DC can't seem to get that. Superman X seemed shoe-horned into the show. Like their Poochie. I still enjoyed the series, but not as much, thanks to "edgy" Superman.


  3. I like Garth's beard. It's a magnificent beard.