Monday, April 11, 2016

Legion of Super Heroes S01 E06: Fear Factory

"Fear Factory" was written by John Esposito and directed by Ben Jones, original airdate: November 18, 2006.

Mission Monitor Board: Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Bouncing Boy, and young Superman.

Opponents: Professor Planarus, Boris

What scares you? In this episode of "Legion of Super Heroes," we get to find out what five of the Legionnaires are afraid of as they board a derelict space station. This one has lots of horror movie references, I talk about Brainiac 5, and lots more.

Boarding the seemingly empty space derelict is probably one of the oldest clichés when it comes to the cross-genre of science fiction/horror, and it's no coincidence that this episode begins with our heroes watching a thinly disguised version of Alien, the granddaddy of such flicks. "Fear Factory" is just full of these kinds of Easter eggs. As the episode continues, we'll see homages to such things as "The Munsters," The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Quatermass, Stephen King's It, and a handful of spooky Looney Tunes as well. Boris is a cross between manservants Igor and Riff Raff, while our main villain, Professor Planarus, conjures up a couple different cinematic versions of Dracula. The Legionnaires are invited for dinner (get it, ha ha), but having their dinner before bed conjures up their fears. Maybe a little Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello in there with the Looney Tunes.

Bouncing Boy, though designed both in the comics and here in the cartoon as comic relief, actually has the most personality and humanity about him. As much as it might seem he was overused in the animated series, I always wanted more, and Michael Cornacchia is so good, he's the voice I hear in my head for Chuck when I read the comics. His fears in this episode are all from the horror movies he loves.

The space derelict, Quavermass-12 (itself a twist on the British paranormal scientist adventurer Professor Bernard Quatermass), doesn't want them to leave. The Legionnaires get picked off one at a time like in And Then There Were None. Lightning Lad gets his from a Poltergeist-like clown under his bed seemingly named after the demon in The Exorcist, Captain Howdy... voiced by Homer Simpson's Dan Castellaneta.

While Saturn Girl gets roller coastered to death, Brainy gives Superman something, then prepares to fight his own fear. They're Coluans who want Brainy to join them, then they merge into a Super-Coluan (possibly a first glimpse of this continuity's Brainiac?) and fight his Transformer form.

As we've never been told just exactly what animated Brainiac 5's powers are, it's hard to say what really happens next, but apparently he downloads a virus into this monster/Quavermass, then asks Superman to destroy it, even though it will destroy Brainy too. The something he gave Superman was a reboot disc, so he really didn't die, but it was a pretty much bitch move to make young Superman emote. Obviously Brainy doesn't do relationships well. The two almost quarrel like a married couple at the end.

I don't mind Brainiac 5's boy crush on Superman. I think it's kind of progressive and brave for what is principally a kids cartoon in the year 2006. What bothers me is the strange ulterior motive vibe it has going on. I think about the comics. How many times has Brainy lost his mind? There's a lot going on there. There's the weird almost child-like relationship with Supergirl, so close to what he has with Superman here, and then there's all the bad blood - and I mean that literally, with Vril Dox, Stargrave, and of course, Brainiac. Let's not even mention Computo, who although a hero now, makes me shiver every time I hear or read the name.

Even as a preschooler when I was first introduced to Brainiac 5, I knew somehow he must be related to his evil namesake from the 20th century, but he seemed like a good guy, and heck, the Legion trusted him, so he must be all right. Then he got screwy. That whole thing with Stargrave, and Omega, and making Matter-Eater Lad eat the Miracle Machine... well, if I'm being honest, I never trusted Brainy again. In hindsight I had to even wonder if maybe he might have purposely programmed Computo to go rogue all those years ago. Whoever was responsible (Shooter? Starlin?) for that slow character shift in the 1970s, they ruined the character for me.

In the animated series, Brainiac 5, voiced by Adam Wylie, appears to be the youngest of the Legionnaires. He needs the most confidence, and he also seems to need Clark's approval and friendship. Perhaps, because of this boy crush, this hero worship, Brainy purposely recruits young Superman from a time before the youth of steel meets the original Brainiac so he doesn't think less of him in comparison? Was he so embarrassed that he plucked Kal-El from an untrained period to face the Fatal Five, a move that might have very well doomed both the Legion and Superman? Let's not forget that Brainy was holding on to a piece of kryptonite in "Phantoms."

"Fear Factory" was otherwise a pretty standard episode with very little Legion lore for us Legion fans, but lots of Easter eggs for the horror fans. And speaking of Easter eggs, I only have a couple Science Police notes this time out. In the animated series, it seems, Legion Flight Rings can also be used as flashlights and holographic communicators. Niiice.

Next: Brain Drain!

No comments:

Post a Comment