Monday, July 18, 2016

Legion of Super Heroes S01 E09: The Substitutes

"The Substitutes" was written by Scott Sonneborn and directed by Ben Jones. Original airdate: February 17, 2007.

Mission Monitor Board: Brianiac 5, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Bouncing Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, Phantom Girl, Element Lad, Sun Boy, Tyroc, Blok, Shrinking Violet, and young Superman.

Opponents: Starfinger, the fuzzies/ionosphere eaters.

Guest-stars and cameos: Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid, Stone Boy, Porcupine Pete, and Infectious Lass, featured as the Legion of Substitute Heroes, also Antennae Boy, Night Girl, Double Header, Fire Lad, Invisible Kid II, Polar Boy, Quake Kid, The Mess, quite a few others I didn't quite catch, and Porcupine Pete's mom.

In my recap and review of the last episode of the animated "Legion of Super Heroes," I talked a little about the Legion tryouts. While we did see the applicants in waiting, we really only got to see one audition (Breath Boy). Well, this time, we're all about the tryouts, as well as the formation of the Legion of Substitute Heroes. All this, and Starfinger too.

In the opening sequence, it's audition time, and individually each applicant demonstrates their power or what they have to offer the Legion. First up is Chlorophyll Kid, in his Keith Giffen zoftig form. While I'm usually more of a traditionalist and prefer his slimmer original shape, I also really dug the costume Mike Grell designed for him back in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #211. Here, he stays true to form with his comics tryout, as he can stimulate growth in plants, but not control them.

One by one we meet the applicants, each with their own set of powers, good and bad: Stone Boy (who remains petrified throughout the episode as a running joke), Color Kid (great power if used skillfully), Porcupine Pete (who lacks aim), Infectious Lass (nice touch giving her an inhaler), and finally Matter-Eater Lad (who we first saw in "Champions") and Star Boy (shown to be a member in the opening sequence, here shown in his later darker-skinned incarnation with the ability to makes thing both heavier and lighter), who both make the cut to become Legionnaires.

Probably because of the inclusion of Porcupine Pete and Infectious Lass here, the tryouts in this episode reminded me of their auditions in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #201, with a member becoming sick and quills sticking in the walls. I really dug the tryouts (here and in the comics) and even though I know there's a story coming, I could have watched an entire episode of just Legion auditions.

After Matter-Eater Lad and Star Boy are accepted, some of the rejected applicants decide that they can still make an impression on the Legion and change their minds, so go out into New Metropolis to 'be heroes.' The concept takes its cue from Adventure Comics #306, the formation of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, but its tone is that on the Keith Giffen Subs. Those applicants are Chlorophyll Kid, Stone Boy, and Color Kid, with Infectious Lass taking on Night Girl's token female role, and Porcupine Pete in Polar Boy's usual position as leader. Poor Fire Lad is just left out in the cold. They do a little bit of good, with much comic relief, and then Starfinger shows up, but we'll get to him in a moment.

Meanwhile the Legion is dealing with ionosphere eating creatures. I was kinda surprised that the older members held back to see what newcomers Matter-Eater lad and Star Boy could do against them first. Their powers might not be conducive to stopping a threat like this - why play games like that? Funny moment aside when Star Boy makes one heavy enough to drop into Matter-Eater Lad's waiting mouth - "Tastes like chicken." - it might have gone horribly wrong. But then again, irresponsibility and playing pranks is what started Superboy in the Legion to begin with.

The Starfinger we get who the Substitute Heroes (although as yet unnamed) encounter is a bit of a joke villain. He looks like the second Starfinger, but has the powers of the original, and the personality of Balki from "Perfect Strangers." I kept waiting for him to say he was "a wild and crazy guy" in his incomprehensible accent. Brainiac 5 himself refers to Starfinger as a third-rate nuisance, and a waste of the Legion's time. The only thing that makes this appearance bearable is the fact that Starfinger is voiced by Taylor Negron, 1980s pop culture icon. I did love the bubbling animation in his helmet though.

One of Starfinger's finger powers here is to create cute fuzzy animals that float away into the sky after they've done his bidding. Unknown to him, these creatures evolve into those eating the ionosphere and battling the Legion. The Subs give it the old college try in attempting to stop Starfinger, each failing spectacularly, with Color Kid giving it his earnest most, and having me laugh out loud as he tries first chartreuse, then magenta, then taupe, then lavender, before getting walloped by a fuzzy to the head.

Eventually the Legion and the Subs come together and realize the connection between the two threats and everything works out. But I have to wonder if this is a bit of the maniacal Brainiac 5 rearing his ugly little green head - to save the Earth from the creatures he built a gun that would incinerate the sky? Wait, what??

In the end, the Subs defeat Starfinger, help save the Earth, and even decide upon a name for their little team - the Legion of Substitute Heroes. As a traditionalist, and someone not fond of Giffen's humorous antics, I would have preferred a Sub team with Fire Lad and Polar Boy, and with less comic relief, and also a serious Starfinger, but all in all, this was a fun episode, and I dug it. This was one of the series episodes where I was just grinning from ear to ear watching it. So awesome.

Next: Child's Play!

1 comment:

  1. I wanted a LSH cartoon for years and when this one came I was ....
    greatly disappointed !

    There was a episode in Superman The Animated series called " The New Kids In Town " and Justice League Unlimited with Supergirl traveling to the 30th Century and either one of these Legions would have been a great on going series .