Monday, October 24, 2016

Legion of Super Heroes S01 E11: Chain of Command

"Chain of Command" was written by Amy Wolfram and directed by Lauren Montgomery, original airdate: March 3, 2007.

Mission Monitor Board: Lightning Lad, Triplicate Girl, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Ferro Lad, and young Superman.

Opponents: Cosmic storms.

Guest-stars and cameos: The people of Winath; and a photograph of the Ranzz family, including Garth, Ayla, Mekt, and their parents; and the voting Legionnaires: Phantom Girl, Blok, Element Lad, Star Boy, Timber Wolf (where has he been lately?), Shrinking Violet, Dream Girl, Tyroc

This episode may imply one thing with its title, but there's a lot more to this episode of "Legion of Super Heroes" than that. In "Chain of Command" we have the return of an old leader, the rebirth of the current leader, and the birth of a new one. Team leader elections have long been part of Legion tradition, and this time we see an impromptu one, set against the background of Lightning Lad's home world in danger.
We open on a reversed shot of a Legion cruiser soaring through space. How do I know it's reversed? The L in the Legion symbol is backwards. This error kinda amused me as it's something that happened quite often in cheaper Hanna-Barbera cartoons of old, but not for a very long time. It's cool, I'm nostalgic.

The Legion is racing to save a planet from disaster, and in the pre-credits stinger, we learn it's Lightning Lad's home. Winath, as described by Lightning Lad himself, is a farming planet: the bread basket of the galaxy, providing food for much of the United Planets. It is also the target of planetary storms (possibly where Lightning Lad got his powers, as well as his twin sister Ayla, and older brother Mekt). This one is a bad storm, so he's understandably upset. When Saturn Girl does a telepathic read on the populace to make sure everyone is all right in the storm shelters, closer inspection reveals a lot of twins.

When the Legion lands on the planet however, they are met by their long lost leader, Cosmic Boy, voiced by the one and only Wil Wheaton. Dressed in a variation of his lavender outfit and dreamy eyes to match, everyone but Lightning Lad is happy to see him. Someone has gotten used to being in charge it seems, and is not happy. And isn't Saturn Girl a bit too happy to see Cosmic Boy?

That's not all, Cosmic Boy is not alone, he's got a new recruit with him, Ferro Lad. My first thought at seeing Ferro Lad when I watched this episode as it first aired was - how far behind can the Sun-Eater be? I know, a horrible thought, but this is the Legion, and that's what Ferro Lad is known most for doing - sacrificing himself to save the galaxy. Ferro looks good here animated, wearing his traditional costume, and looking a bit younger than the other heroes, maybe Brainy's age. I like him, and will miss him when, not if, he's gone. Despite his oncoming fatality, I wish he'd stay longer.

The Legionnaires split up tackling various bits of busy work to help protect Winath from the storms. This is a tact that bothers me when I see it in other cartoons newer than this, like "Guardians of the Galaxy" or "Avengers Assemble." I would much rather see heroes fight the bad guys, so this kind of busy work often times is just a time filler. I don't mind a rescue mission or two, but I'd like to see superheroes fight super-villains more. Maybe it's just me. It is a nice showcase for what the heroes are capable of, but let's face it, at this point, we already know everyone except Cosmic Boy and Ferro Lad.

In the end, after the team comes together under Bouncing Boy's plan, lives are saved from the oncoming storms, a plan that neither Lightning Lad nor Cosmic Boy were able to coordinate. Good on Chuck. An impromptu leader is elected when the two's fighting comes to a head, and Bouncing Boy is voted the new leader of the Legion, and rightfully so, as it seems natural in the flow of the show. But it's not all good news… just wait…

I liked the little things in this one, like Lightning Lad calling Triplicate Girl 'the trips,' or him getting annoyed when Superman calls him a farm boy. Anyone else get a chill when Lightning Lad addressed Computo? Like the impending death of Ferro Lad, how long before Computo goes berserk? I also dug the interplay between Colossal Boy and Brainy (intriguingly voiced by the same actor, Adam Wylie) - "Are you sure you don't get any smaller?" and "We might have more room without your big head." And again, it's always good to see Colossal Boy.

I also liked the blossoming of the Bouncing Boy/Triplicate Girl romance. As longtime Legion fans know, they were the first Legion couple to marry, and because of that, I'm kinda rooting for them. I also dig her costume, a variation on the Dave Cockrum redesign and those that followed, each duplicate has their own color scheme - purple, orange, or white - coolness. Like Saturn Girl, she's voiced by Kari Wahlgren, and like Ferro Lad and the Sun Eater, I worry for at least one of 'the trips' every time Computo's name is mentioned.

Speak of the devil, after Bouncing Boy is elected, Lightning Lad condescendingly tells him he'll do fine, "with all of our worst enemies locked up tight… your turn in office will be a breeze." With that we witness the appearance of a spaceship with what looks like a Controller piloting it… could he also have a Sun Eater, just as in the comics…? It's an odd moment as most of these episodes are free standing, and this is our first teaser. No matter the reason, it works.

Next: The first part of the first season finale - Sundown: Part One!


  1. I really didn't like this cartoon
    and would rather have them make a cartoon series of the Legion using either the Superman The Animated Series " New Kids in Town" or The Justice League United episode featuring Supergirl.

    Both a far better characterizations of the Legion.

  2. I would agree that the two animated test-pilots you mention would have been better starting points. But. This was what we got, so I'm reviewing it. It had some high points along the way, and for the most part a healthy respect for the comics even when changing it around a bit. Above all, I think we have to realize this animated series wasn't made for us old fans, but for the kids, and in that aspect, it may have been a good introduction to the characters. Thanks for commenting!

    1. I wouldn't even have an inkling interest in the Legion if it wasn't for this cartoon. So I'm all happy that it existed.