Monday, December 24, 2018

Legion of Superheroes S02 E08: Message in a Bottle

"Message in a Bottle" was directed by Scott Jeralds and Brandon Vietti, and written by Joseph Kuhr.

Original airdate: December 1, 2007. Review by Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane.

Mission Monitor Board: Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lad, Shrinking Violet, Superman, and Timber Wolf.

Opponent: Imperiux and Validus

The Legion confront Imperiux and his forces at Superman's Fortress of Solitude.While Imperiux and Validus go inside, his destructo-bots attack the Legion. Brainiac 5 warns Superman to try to avoid learning too much about the contents of the Fortress.
Superman rushes into the Fortress but as he enters, Imperiux and Validus disappear. Superman also disappears and finds himself transported inside the bottle city of Kandor. The Kandorians are excited that he has returned after a long absence and are anxious to know if he is going to release them as he promised.
Superman is shocked to discover Kandor survived the destruction of Krypton. Back at the Fortress, the Legion has encountered an old Superman robot who explains that Superman has been transported to Kandor.
Superman is trying to explain to the Kandorians that he is a younger version of the hero they know but is interrupted by the arrival of Imperiux. The villain demands that they tell him the location of "the Messenger." Meanwhile, the robot at the Fortress has offered to send the Legion to Kandor and provides them a power suit to protect Superman from the red son effect in the city. When they arrive, they find Shrinking Violet is slightly larger than everyone else and unable to shrink to their size. They also find a weakened Superman unconscious, a result of battling Imperiux.
Brainiac 5 explains that the Messenger is a device created by Jor-El to hold Krypton together after he discovered that the planet had become unstable. It worked until someone the Kandorians call the "Terror" shrunk the city down and removed it from Krypton. This included the Messenger, which doomed Krypton to its terrible fate. The device remains powerful and Imperiux could use to to turn planets into barren, lifeless balls of crystal.

Superman dons the power suit and the team confronts Imperiux and his forces. During the battle, Imperiux notices a Kandorian that he was interrogating remove a scroll from a hidden compartment. He takes the paper and realizes it is a map to the Messenger.
As Imperiux flees with the map, he destroys the roof, which forces the Legion to delay so they can save the Kandorians inside the building. The Kandorians rush to thank the Legion, but become afraid when they notice that Brainiac 5 bears the mark of the Terror. Superman later confronts his friend about their reaction, suspecting that he has been holding out on him. Brainiac 5 confesses that his ancestor, the original Brainiac, is responsible for the destruction of Krypton. Understandably, Superman does not react well to this news.
Later, Shrinking Violet finds Brainiac 5 while he is scanning recordings of their battle with Imperiux hoping to find where he has gone. She tries to reassures her friend that Kal-El has calmed down and knows he is nothing like the original Brainiac. This does little to reassure him since what is really bothering him is his own fear that his ancestor's legacy would overwhelm him. She tells him that everyone eventually has to confront their past and when they do, they may come out stronger.

Their conversation is interrupted when Brainiac 5 finds an image of Imperiux holding the map and realizes that the Messenger is located at a temple. The team goes to confront Imperiux and during their battle, Superman sees the Messenger buried beneath the temple. Superman and Brainiac 5 are able to recover the Messenger, but Imperiux captures the rest of the team.
Imperiux warns Superman and Brainiac 5 that if they do not return the Messenger, their friends will be killed. Brainy believes they should destroy the device to stop Imperiux, but this would mean sacrificing Kandor. Needless to say, Superman does not like this plan.

Superman goes to the Kandorians to give them the Messenger while he confronts Imperiux. He apologies for failing to save them before, and likely failing to save them now. The Kandorian leader assures Kal that he has saved them. He explains that Kandor was in chaos when he found them and that it was his leadership that brought them together. He was willing to stand with them then and the Kandorians will stand with him now.
Meanwhile, Brainiac 5 is cursing his ancestor, declaring that he will never become like him even if Brainiac will always be a part of him. With those words, he has an epiphany, realizing that Brainiac's memories are actually a part of him, even if he had cut that part of himself off from the rest. He accesses the files of his ancestor and learns what he needs to know.
Superman and the Kandorians refuse to hand over the Messenger to Imperiux no matter the consequences. Brainiac 5 arrives and uses what he has learned to alter Kandor's artificial sun to yellow. Imperiux remains confident that he can defeat Superman until Brainiac 5 reminds him that all Kryptonians get powers under a yellow sun. Imperiux finds himself facing city of super-powered Kandorians, and even their pets.
Imperiux quickly departs, aware that he and his army face impossible odds. Superman thanks Brainiac 5 but is still sad he was unable to keep his promise to restore Kandor. Fortunately, Brainiac 5 is able to use the knowledge of his ancestor to fuse the remains of Krypton into a new planet, and restore the Kandorians to normal size.
Sadly, despite how thankful Superman is, Brainiac 5 must wipe his memory. The temptation to use the knowledge he has gained to restore Kandor in his own time is just too tempting to risk the possibility that history will be changed.

This was a great episode, although your opinion may vary depending on how much of a Superman fan you are outside of the Legion. The entire premise obviously rests on Superman's failure to restore Kandor in his own time period, but Brainiac 5's struggle to come to terms with the legacy of his ancestor gives Legion fans a lot of chew on. Brainiac 5 is one of the strongest characters in this series, so a focus on him is almost always a plus.

It was unintentional but the timing of this post is interesting because I recently covered issue 9 of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century comic, which also addresses Brainiac 5's struggle with his heritage. While that issue was disappointing, this episode was far more satisfying. It must be noted that it is very difficult to reconcile the continuity of that issue with this episode but that is bound to happen with a comic based on a cartoon series.

The only part of this episode that gave me pause was Brainiac 5's quick acceptance at the idea of sacrificing Kandor to stop Imperiux. It was not necessarily out of character, but it was a bit harsh in comparison to what we are used to seeing in this cartoon. A minor quibble though given how much there was here to enjoy. They really did a great job of portraying Brainy's struggle and his growth by accepting that his ancestry did not define who he was.

This episode also emphasized the difficulties of Superman being out of time and not only learning more than he should about history, but also confronting failure. I also loved seeing Shrinking Violet and having her be the one to help Brainiac 5 come to terms with what he needed to do. The best part of the second season (to me at least) was getting the chance to see more Legionnaires, especially when they played a pivotal role. Overall, a very strong episode!

Next: In the Beginning


  1. My favorite episode of the entire series.Seeing the Krypto and Streaky lookalikes ready for battle is the cherry on the icing on the cake.
    It's annoying that we don't have the second season on DVD.

  2. Both seasons are available on the DC Universe streaming service.