Archive for January 16th, 2009


What I’m Watching-Smallville: Legion

Long Live the Legion!I’ve watched the Smallville TV show since day one. As big a Superman fan as I am, it was never a question of “if,” just whether I’d enjoy it or not when it hit the airwaves. Now in its eighth season, I’ve enjoyed more than I didn’t. There were some lean seasons, and plenty of clunkers along the way, but for the most part it’s been a fun show and a nice take on the Superman legend. Then came last night, the 11th episode of Season Eight: Legion.

And damned if it may not have been my favorite episode in eight years.

If you’ve never read the comic books, the concept behind the Legion is pretty simple. A mere 1000 years in the future, Superman has become a legendary figure that inspires a group of super-powered teenagers to band together to protect the universe the same way he did. Naturally, sooner or later they get their hands on a time machine and meet their inspiration. The Legion has dozens of characters, each with their own unique quirks, traits, and fans. The original three, though, are the ones that always seem most tightly connected to Superman, and it’s those three — Rokk “Cosmic Boy” Krinn, Garth “Lightning Lad” Ranzz, and Imra “Saturn Girl” Ardeen — that we were introduced to last night.

The producers of this show have been leaking in more and more content from the “real” Superman universe over the past few years, mostly in the form of Justice League members or foes of the man of steel. This year, they hired DC scribe extraordinare, Geoff Johns, to bring the same Legion he’s reinvigorated in the comics to the TV show. Following up on a cliffhanger from last fall, the show picks up just minutes after one of Clark’s best friends has been kidnapped by a horrific, terribly familiar monster. Suddenly, he’s attacked by an intruder wearing a steel mask and carrying an axe that’s even capable of cutting Clark’s invulnerable Kryptonian hide. Before the killer can make the final cut, the sudden appearance of a trio of super-powered teenagers saves Clark, and sets him on a course with his destiny.

The adventure of Clark and the Legion is a blast. The three of them are instantly shaped as full characters, each showing a facet of emotion that perfectly suits them — Rokk being the reserved leader-type who is full of respect for the hero, Garth the near-fanboy who’s totally geeking out over meeting the Kal-El, and Irma as a sort of cool, detached persona who tries not to let on that she knows way more than you do. Aside from great characterizations, the episode is littered with more in-jokes and references to the comics than I think we’ve seen on this show since season one. All three of the Legionnaires toss around references that are history to them, the future for Clark, and the present for readers of the ongoing comic books.

Now to be totally fair, I can’t say if someone who doesn’t have the history with the Legion franchise that I do will enjoy this episode. When Rokk chastises Garth by telling him “you’re behaving like a sub,” I burst out laughing. But I can recognize that’s a joke 99 percent of the viewing audience won’t get. The same goes for Garth’s comment about his sister, or their plans for rehabilitating a villain from the show in their own time. A good in-joke is the sort that won’t go noticed by someone who isn’t in on it, and I think Johns does go a little too far with some of them. Instead, we have comments that people who don’t read the comics will recognize are intended to be jokes, but they’ll just feel left out of the loop.

Is this a deal-breaker? Heck no. This episode was pure fun from beginning to end, and best of all, it mattered. I was afraid, when I heard the Legion would show up on the show, their appearance would be a filler episode, but this was an important one. This episode advanced the plot of the series significantly, tying up a few loose ends and setting up some other things. And, God bless ’em, they left the door wide open to bring the Legion back in the future. Sure, I do think that eight seasons is enough for this series, even as good as this eighth season has been, but if the speculated season nine happens, I wouldn’t be in the least disappointed to see the Legion fly again.

January 2009

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