Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 5 - Episode 1: "I Am Legion"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

"I Am Legion", Hear Me Roar (Especially Grodd)

Lex Luthor's nuts and Cartoon Network's got him.

JLU is back for another season - fourth, fifth? Who knows? Who cares so long as they keep the new episodes comin'?

Many writers would gravitate away from using Lex Luthor after the extremely Luthor-heavy Cadmus arc. Thankfully, the Timmverse creators never take the easy way out and right from the first scene, we've got Lex.

And, depending on your perspective, we've got Brainiac too. Differences in a character's perspective are, I think, easier to accomplish - and more interesting to see - when done in animation than in a comic book. The Cadmus arc was largely about the collision of the visual and the visceral - bigger is certainly better except when it's perceived not to be better. So is Luthor crazy or is there a piece of Brainiac still communicating with him? Either answer generates its own suspense - and consideration that either or both is the case makes Luthor seem even more dangerous. From that perspective, it's easy to see why Grodd's Legion of Doom needs Lex Luthor.

Lex vanishes much in the same way the villain Catman disappeared in the pages of Green Arrow about two years or so ago in "Identity Crisis" author Brad Meltzer's first comic book writing assignment. There, Warp did the teleporting; here we meet the Key, the first of about a gajillion new animated DCU bad guys seen in this episode, thus earning it the apt title "I Am Legion".

Superman appears only briefly in this episode but it's time well spent. The Man of Steel is no big blue boy scout here - he talks tough with the League's government liaison. No one needs to explicitly tag Superman as JLU leader. It's a role he falls into simply by showing up.

Like a good journalist, Clark should in either identity view the government skeptically. He is prepared to follow the letter of the law -- Truth if you will. But he will not obey blindly where the will of the people demands the flexibility of reason and compassion - Justice. And it's this contradiction - yup, you guessed it, the American Way -- that makes Superman so inherently fascinating even - and perhaps especially - in a cameo role.

The DCU is a big place and the story here is designed to highlight that. As every good DC geek knows, Superman plays a hugely important role in the DCU but it's not called a universe for nothing. Last season may have shown that the forces of good are legion and this season may show the immensity of the forces of evil, but the "I" in "I Am Legion" refers to the whole magilla (and, in the case of DC, that means even the gorillas and there's lots of them) and that's some big matzo ball (Note to Jewish readers: this homage to you is to wish you a Happy Jewish New Year. But I digress).

King Faraday. Blackhawk Island. Sharks with friggin' lasers on their heads (With love from one bald baddie to another perhaps?). There's a sense of fun to the episode without it being campy or ridiculous. It's hard to hear a line like "There's trouble on Blackhawk Island!" and not laugh out loud but it's that audacity that makes DC DC.

I'm abandoning the Superman Fan Must Watch or Not Scale this season but I will still tell you that there's plenty for a die-hard Superman junkie to munch on here. And if, like me, you marvel at how much bigger and better DC is than any other late comers to the ball game, you shouldn't miss "I Am Legion".

Next up is "Shadow of the Hawk" - not a long wait as it airs right after this episode. Cartoon Network continues to confound in its programming of JL and JLU - it often seems these shows succeed despite Cartoon Network management.

One thing I won't abandon in the JLU reviews so long as American soldiers remain in harm's way overseas are my admittedly lame and clichéd parting words. My own yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree: Peace out.

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