Monday, November 28, 2016

Legion of Super Heroes S01 E12: Sundown, Part 1

"Sundown, Part 1" was written by David Slack and directed by Tim Maltby, original airdate: April 28, 2007, review by Glenn 'Continuity Kid' Walker.

Mission Monitor Board: Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Ferro Lad, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Timber Wolf, Triplicate Girl, and young Superman.

Opponents: The Sun-Eater, the Controllers' robots, simulations of the Fatal Five.

This episode, and its second part, emulates one of the most legendary events in Legion history, the story of the Sun-Eater and Ferro Lad's sacrifice to save us all. In a time when superheroes didn't die every other day, and return from the dead with equal frequency, this was a big deal. Just another of Jim Shooter's landmark stories in Legion mythology, this time coming to animation, as the Legion of Super Heroes faces "Sundown, Part 1."

The episode opens with a bang, not just with the Legion in deep space combat with the Fatal Five, but with young Superman seriously duking it out with Validus. That would be enough, but we also have Saturn Girl against the fugly animated Persuader; Brainiac 5 vs. Tharok, both upgraded transformers for animation, but still with super-high IQs; the inspired fight between Mano and Ferro Lad, which immediately conjures the question of can the latter withstand the former's touch; and Lightning Lad squaring off against the Emerald Empress, who still needs a cape. Yeah, baby, this is what the animated Legion is supposed to be about.

This is Bouncing Boy's baptism by fire as leader, and as the Legionnaires fall and die one by one (Superman last, and because this is the Legion, he's 'our last hope'). As the Fatal Five enter the cruiser to get Bouncing Boy, and the opening credits roll, we know this is just a simulation, our new leader's own Kobayashi Maru. He's not taking it well, despite Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad both confessing to failing the same simulation multiple times. Triplicate Girl tries to comfort him as their romance moves forward a bit more, although, as we know from the old comics, rarely is Luornu subtle, but Chuck is a bit thick. It's fun to watch.

When it's time for Bouncing Boy's first real mission as leader, it's a doozy, into red sun territory so Superman has to wear an armored battlesuit to protect himself. It also has lasers, so in a way, it's also a prototype for Superman X, who will show up next season. The Legion has received a distress call from a moon under a red sun that apparently hides the Phenton Arms Depot, where weapons from before the 'Great Crisis' are stored. Could this 'Great Crisis' be the Crisis on Infinite Earths? In the comics, it created a fog throughout the 20th century through which was difficult for the Legion to see.

A weapon inside the facility has been reactivated, something so classified that not even the robot guards know what it is. This mechanical floating sphere takes the Legion down one by one until Brainiac 5 recognizes it, and warns that it cannot escape into space, but it does. Brainy knows what it is, one of the most destructive things ever created, a Sun-Eater.

The Sun-Eater was created by the Controllers during the Great Crisis as a weapon to end all wars. Its core is heavily shielded, and the gas cloud around it is lethal, and yeah, it eats suns, in most cases leaving the planets in their system to die a frozen doom. It's headed toward the red sun because it's hungry. A word about the Controllers - they were one of the more nasty off-shoots of the Maltusan race, from which the Guardians of the Universe evolved. So they're super-smart, super-powerful bosses who think they know what's good for everyone else, yeah, it seems to be genetic.

While the Sun-Eater is hungry and vulnerable, the Legion tries to stop it, to no avail. Even young Superman takes a hard hit, with bromance buddy Brainy saving him. He's okay, but without his suit, and without his powers, he's pretty useless. Triplicate Girl sends him downstairs in the cruiser to make repairs with a screwdriver. Wow. Quite a downgrade. Down in the engines, however, he encounters an invisible robot. It's not one of the Phenton robots, but similar to most of the generic robots here or in "Batman Beyond" or "Justice League," definitely a James Tucker designed robot.

Superman gets his butt handed to him again, and is once again saved by Brainy. The robot was sent by the Controllers, seeking to stop the Legion from stopping their Sun-Eater. Why? Who knows? To quote Brainy, "The Controllers' motivations have always been somewhat extreme." As they approach the Sun-Eater, there are more robots, but Bouncing Boy has a plan.

First Brainiac 5 and Saturn Girl machine mind-meld to make the Sun-Eater think the red sun has vanished. Utilizing the abilities of Star Boy and Sun Boy to generate immense heat and gravity, they create a fake sun to divert its attention, and then Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy charge up Ferro Lad to send a blast of energy at the Sun-Eater. Yeah, it's a hell of a plan with a lot of pseudo-science and very Silver Age, but it still doesn't work, Ferro Lad missed, surely carrying that guilt into the next episode. The Sun-Eater eats the red sun anyway, and then turns toward a new target… Earth!

As opposed to many previous episodes, there is a lot of action here, both against opponents like the Fatal Five and the robots, and against time to stop the natural threat of the Sun-Eater. Thankfully this is balanced by advancement of already-existing characterization. Of course, old school Legion fans know where this story is headed, and that puts a bittersweet touch on the episode. All that said, I kinda dug it, and can't wait for the next one. Again, it's not the Legion series we wanted, but it's the one we got, and sometimes it was better than it should have been - this is one of those moments.

Next: "Sundown, Part 2," the first season finale!

1 comment:

  1. What an outstanding and classic cover by Curt Swan !

    This is the reason I was such a huge Adventure Comics and DC fan back in the 1960's .

    Anything Swan drew I dropped the 12¢ on and what a bargain !