Television Review: The Legion of Super-Heroes
One of the major criticisms of comics like The Legion of Super-Heroes is that the series is so old, and has so many characters, that the continuity is too convoluted and complex for new readers. It would seem to be an unlikely candidate for television, a medium not necessarily known for depth nor consistency.
This past Saturday, the first new episode of the season explored the origins of Timber Wolf. I’m old enough to remember when Timber Wolf was introduced, in the late 1960s. In fact, I still think of him as a “new” character, one of the edgier Legionnaires with a mysterious, tortured past.
The animated Timber Wolf also has a tortured past. Like the original, he is Brin Londo received his powers from his father. On this episode, written by comics veteran J. M. DeMatteis, Brin is charged with the murder of his father. The Legion convicts him of the crime, and he flees to clear his name.
Unlike the original, this Timber Wolf is angry and violent, not shy and timid. He fights first and may ask questions later, or may run off and hit something else. In this, he is not unlike the other Legionaires. The others will often burst into a room and start attacking whatever seems to be abnormal. Of course, since this is children’s network programming, they rarely actually hit anyone, but instead use their powers, aiming rays of energy, cold or heat in a way that is not easily imitated by anyone without a squirtgun.
Why do they do this? I imagine the producers think it’s “action.” I don’t. I think it’s a waste of time, a way to pad the time between commercials. It’s not typical of DeMatteis’ work, and it’s not typical of Legion stories.
In the television series, Brin discovers that his father is still alive and only faked his death to frame his son so he could start his experiments anew. Like Cyborg’s father before him, this father thinks his son exists as his only personal lab rat, not a separate person. Is this a common feeling among sons? Or just among sons who also write DC Comics characters?
The show keeps a lot of Legion lore alive. There are off-hand references to Takron-Galtos prison, for example. The cast is full, and the characters are clearly drawn. The friendships among Legionnaires are real and believable. Shawn Harrison, the voice of Timber Wolf, is especially good at conveying complex feelings in just a few words.
With the Kids WB line-up ending after this television season, it will be interesting to see if another network picks up the Legion. I’m betting there is a legion of kids out there who can explain why they’d like to see new episodes.