Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Interlude: For A Very Merry Christmas

Kristin and I would like to wish everyone reading a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  May your thoughts be merry and bright!  We'll be back after the holidays to bring you more reviews, interludes and bizarre fashion comparisons!

Santa doesn't want this.
Merry Christmas!  And beware of Superman if you'll be dressing as Santa and hanging out near chimneys!

--Evan and Kristin

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Episode Twenty-Two: Mxyzpixilated

The mysterious tomfoolery of a tiny man has Superman confused and frustrated. After several disastrous incidents that seem to happen only to him in some sort of alternate reality (including punching the head off of "The Thinker"), Clark turns to Ma and Pa Kent to vent his experiences. When the little man appears once again in their home, turning his beloved family into monsters, Superman makes a deal with the imp: if Superman can get him to say his name backwards, he'll leave for three months.  Superman easily beats Mr. Mxyzptlk several times over the next nine months.  Finally a frustrated Mxyzptlk proposes a new deal: get him to say his name backwards twice in a row and he'll leave for good.  Superman feigns disinterest, and leads him through a long chase with Mxyzptlk turning into a rocket to chase him.  Surprise, surprise as it turns out the rocket's trail spelled the magic words twice.  Mxyzptlk is sent back to the fifth dimension for good, swearing revenge.  


Evan:  This episode was an awful mess.  It physically hurt me.  The casting of Gilbert Gottfried was simply malicious.  And yet, there's something about it that makes me feel like that was the reaction I was supposed to have.  I think that this one was supposed to be an ordeal to get through.  A dilemma of awful crap to make you feel relieved when Superman tricks the most annoying man in the universe into finally vanishing.  In that sense, it was a masterpiece.

In a much more accurate sense, it was a terrible, miserable half-hour of television.  I hated every moment of this one.  Seeing this episode largely from Mr. Mxyzptlk's point of view only made it worse, as it was more time spent with an annoying idiot.  Even worse, localizing the events on Superman alone, without anyone else noticing, cut out the rest of the cast.  Lois gets nothing to do, because she's not aware of the crisis.

I enjoyed a few of the ways Superman tricked Mxyzptlk, but all in all the episode was a bust.  I understand that Mxyzptlk allows writers to tell stories where Superman isn't the most powerful.  I also know that there are thousands of ways to tell a Mxyzptlk story that wouldn't have injured me as much as this one.

Kristin: I am not going to make this redundant by repeating how awful it was to spend - nay, waste - a half an hour of my life listening to Gilbert Gottfried screech about his stupid name and his games with Superman. I am not even going to give the writers credit for making him as annoying as he was because it simply was unwatchable.

My bone is with his "girlfriend", Gsptlsnz. No typo.

Her purpose in the entire episode is to sit in the fifth dimension dressing herself in new outfits in an attempt to win some love and attention from Mxyzptlk. I kid you not, she spends an entire segment morphing from pin-up to sexpot to fresh-from-the-shower in order to get some good old fashioned lovin' from her waste of space leprechaun friend. Not only does she barely speak except to plead for more affection, she has no life outside of doing exactly this! (Or so it is implied, as she reclines on the couch in the fifth dimension lazily flipping through magazines until her darling nails-on-chalkboard returns from his more manly endeavours.) Gsptlsnz is merely a sexed up woman-object injected into the story to show how fixated on Superman Mxyzptlk is! And no, there are no signs of her leaving him any time soon. That would make way too much sense, and take far too much brainpower from a woman... I guess.

Final Thoughts: Holy shit that was awful.

Evan's Episode Rating: 2/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - Never again.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 0....... -10000000000/10 - Gwaaaaarrrrgggggh!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interlude: A Pause for Horror

The good news is that we watched the next episode, Mxyzpixilated!  The bad news is that we are only slowly regaining the will to live after seeing it.  An episode review should be up shortly, if our Christmas cheer can overcome our Mxyzpixilated-related depression.

--Evan

Monday, November 29, 2010

Episode Twenty-One: Action Figures

On a remote island featuring an active volcano, the two children of a researcher are playing when Metallo emerges from the watery depths. He remembers little of his former identity and the events that lead him to the island but after saving one of the children from falling boulders he is quickly swept away by them as a hero-playmate. Along the way he is also urged by the children to help an unconscious truck driver who is quick to spread the story to the media - and Lois Lane. Suspecting the mysterious "Steel Man" to indeed be Metallo, Lois rushes in for the story and Clark is not far behind as Superman. Meanwhile, flashes of clashes with the Man of Steel have jogged Metallo's memory and he begins trying to use the children to hide his identity. When Lois arrives asking them questions about their new robot friend, the kids deny his existence and try to shut her out. When she follows them to the cave where they leave Metallo, he quickly spots and abducts her. Superman is not far behind, and with the volcano already erupting and the island being evacuated there is not much time for him to save Lois and the children. After a short battle, Superman throws his kryptonite heart into a stream of lava and escapes. Metallo dives in after his core and is trapped half-submerged when the lava hardens, left repeating only the phrase, "I am Metallo."


Evan:  I felt a fair amount of disappointment with this episode, because I really liked Metallo's previous episode, and the shot of him walking along the ocean floor was one of the best final shots the show has ever done.  Sadly, this episode simply makes no effort to give us more of the same.  I had felt the series had an interesting hook built into Metallo, in that he was a villain with an equal hatred of Lex Luthor as he does Superman.  Sadly, this hook was dropped with no mention of Lex Luthor.

Instead of character (or even action), we get a straight set piece episode: the volcano.  All plot was secondary to the timer that was the pending explosion.  The location of the island is unknown, but apparently close enough for Perry to send Lois to investigate the "Steel Man".  Its status as an active, soon to erupt volcano permeates every scene from the very beginning, and watching the episode becomes a tedium delaying the eventual eruption.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Superman dealing with the lava flow.  I just didn't really want that to be the focus of a half-hour show.

Metallo arrives on shore as an amnesiac, a simple hook to introduce the absurd fun of the giant robot and his little friends.  The problems with this is that it eliminates all the fun that is John Corben.  There is one line in the episode that is all Corben, when he tells Lois he'd give her a kiss if he still had his lips.  I want more of that guy!  I'm worried the show will drop the interesting human part of Metallo for only the robot part.  Once again, Metallo is prevented from returning to Metropolis at the end of the episode.  When he eventually gets there, he better be there for an amazing double fight with the two men who stole his ability to feel pleasure.  The problem with this episode: John Corben was more robot than man, not a man in a robot.

I hate the kids.  They were almost as bad as Batman: The Animated Series episode I've Got Batman in My Basement.  Which is, like, the worst one EVAR.

Finally, the writers made their first truly large blunder with kryptonite.  Throughout the show it has not only been lethal, but the simply proximity to the substance has depowered Superman for extended periods of time.  This time around, Superman is less that a foot away, being strangled with his head in a flow of lava.  What the hell?  The show's own logic says that is lethal, or at least should get a reaction out of Superman.  This is a bad path to be on.

Kristin: OK, so my reviews are really starting to look like cynical donkey poo, but this is getting ridiculous! Literally nothing happened in this episode that is note-worthy. Metallo climbed out of the sea and none of the stuff that made him interesting at Luthor's sexy yacht party was there anymore! He went from a hedonist who has lost the ability to feel anything to a tin mannequin with amnesia and kryptonite heartburn... and not even in the cool, hipster-band-song kind of way. (Seriously hipster bands, get on a song like "Kryptonite Heartburn".)

So, here I am. The episode was literally all lame battle and no character anything. It contained very little dialogue at all. And again, not in the good, art-movie-self-awareness kind of way either.

Action Figures goes so far off the poor writing scale that it even pulls a Stephenie Meyer and breaks the laws of its own universe. In previous episodes, Superman's powers are not only removed by exposure to kryptonite but he is reduced to a quivering hunk of meat for the slaughter. This episode, much like the Twilight's vampire erections, features Superman not only resisting the effects of kryptonite after his lead suit is destroyed by lava but he grabs the hunk of kryptonite and rends it from Metallo's chest! While getting a face full of molten rock! What?!

Shame on you, writers. I never thought I'd have to compare you to one of the worst hacks of literature history... but you earned it.

Final Thoughts:  He should have used his kryptonite chest laser.

Evan's Episode Rating: 3/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - All the points for remembering Metallo, minus eight for forgetting all the good things about his character, plus one for putting him in a trenchcoat.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 0/10 - How do vampires get an erection and ejaculate, let alone produce sperm, if their bodies don't change?! Answer me that, lava-eating, kryptonite-hurling, Superman-butchering hacks!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Episode Twenty: Target

Lois Lane wins an Excalibur award for journalism for a story uncovering LexCorp corruption, but receives a bizarre death threat just as she goes up to give her acceptance speech.  Sure enough, the crystal prop sword above the stage comes crashing down upon her... or it would have if Superman (thanks to a quick excuse to step out by Clark Kent) wasn't there to save her. Because of a recent story in which she cost a major police figure a promotion, Lois cannot trust the police and attempts her own investigation.  In the coming days, Lois is targeted by a number of highly technological traps but in each instance Lois is saved by the Man of Steel.  Sleepless and fearful, Lois manages to solve the puzzle and confronts her would be murderer, the man who helped her uncover LexCorp.  Lois is trapped by a laser grid, but Superman saves the day and punches out the technologically assisted scientist.  The day is saved, and Lois tells Superman she hopes that someday they'll meet in less pressing circumstances.  His reply: "Someday..."

Evan:  Much last last episode, the series continues to focus on its central relationship, Lois and Clark.  Specifically, this is a story about Lois and the dangerous consequences of her ultra-competent investigative reporting.  Lois has a surprising number of enemies that we've never seen before, including a pissed of police detective and an older reporter at the Planet that wears a tuxedo day and night.  The show uses all of them as red herrings, especially the police detective.  We see him watching Lois through binoculars at the end of act two to a dramatic sting, and when Lois sneaks out she avoids a cop.  however, since he wasn't the culprit we know in retrospect he was actually investigating and the officer in the hall was just incompetent police protection.

The constant technology use gave away the villain early on, but it was still a fun whodunit.  I liked that the entire structure of the episode, that everyone was either harmed by or jealous of her reporting, reinforced that Lois is really, really good at her job.  We also saw the Lois and Clark team much more than usual, including Clark in a fake sling because he fell and was "caught" by Superman.  He also rocks a new mustard suit, which is a welcome addition to his single other suit.  Lois sadly does not make comment.
How could she resist this?
The fight at the end was really lame, with the informant using a harness generating an aura of red sun radiation to try and combat Superman while a laser cage closes on Lois extremely inconsistently and slowly.  Superman easily knocks out the idiot scientist and ineffectively Fonzies the controls. Despite lightly tapping them an ineffectively tapping a flashing button that appears to do nothing, the laser cage turns off.  So he mostly fluked that one.

The relationship develops a little more, although the flirting is always the same to end these sorts of episodes.  The more important thing is the new comfort Lois seems to have with the fact that Superman always saves her, and that Superman is clearly watching her specifically.  But at the end of the day, Lois choses to use generic martial arts to kick her own ass.  That's our Lois.  Doesn't even phone a friend to tell him to call the cops if he doesn't hear back in a few hours.  Not even her pal Clark Kent. Who she lies to directly to go confront the perp.  That's the Lois I signed up to watch.

Finally, can I just say that this episode was super fun?  I just wish they had the guts to not put the scientist in a super-harness at the end.  It doesn't always need to be a fight, guys!  Superman had no idea how to turn off those lasers.  That would have been enough!

Kristin: You know, I've repeatedly forgotten to mention my delight at the bedazzle-chime that sounds when the menu animation ends on these DVDs... It must be the return from hiatus reminding me. As I recall, we last blogged on a fairly positive note with the Identity Crisis episode so my expectations were reasonable for this one.

It was good to see Lois taking on a much larger role in this one. I mean, she is largely acting as maiden-in-peril for Superman but she is at least a restless victim who attempts to take on her would-be assassin herself! After doing some fairly competent reporting and sleuthing, she confronts him personally albeit with no actual plan except to tell him that she has figured him out. So, Lois manages to be short-sighted but fiesty! And she essentially asks Superman out at the end of the episode. How very modern of her! Now, Superman brushes her off - for now. Which I think is a little bit of a cop-out on the part of the writers. Why? Is it simply because they don't want to develop relationships between the characters too soon? Too soon?! I've been screaming for something like this for a month, Clark has been pining after Lois for about the same amount of time, yet he thinks the best idea when she offers up the chance to get to know her better is to take a raincheck?!

Maybe another one of his weaknesses is reading signals.

It was also good to see Lex still kicking. And shooting human cutouts with a ridiculously over-powered gun nonetheless. Nice. I particularly enjoyed the voice-acting in his phone conversation with Clark about the origins of the assassin technology. The way he hit the 'k' in Kent made me picture him stabbing a Superman-shaped pillow every time he said it... with a ridiculously over-powered knife. It was brilliant. The same goes for his exchange with Lois when she accuses him of attempting to murder her. The way he remains cool as a bald cucumber in the face of murder accusations made me very happy.

I was not overly thrilled with the villain but he was so un-threatening that I don't even feel he's worth a discussion. He was really just a vehicle for a Lois story.

Final Thoughts: Why does red sun-generating armour glow yellow? And why can't Lois get a date?

Evan's Episode Rating: 8/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 1 incompetent / 1 insane) - Seriously, why does that guy wear a tuxedo all the time?

Kristin's Episode Rating: 7/10 - Someone needs to take a hint here

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interlude: What I'm Reading

I thought I would write a quick post about the three comics I'm currently reading, because I'm in the middle of the best run of comic reading of my life.  The strange thing is that I'm reading comics that I've largely never been interested in, partially because of this blog.

The first is Life With Archie.  Now, I have the same love for Archie as inexplicably every Canadian.  However, never in my life has an Archie comic been presented to me so full of complete, unfiltered insanity.  Everyone is dying.  Everyone is depressed.  Everyone is marrying each other.  Dilton is time travelling through dimensions to try and right wrongs.  Moose is running for mayor while dating Alicia Masters in both timelines.  Mr. Lodge is crushing everyone with an iron fist.  This comic is everything I have ever wanted in my entire life.  Thank you, universe, for giving the gift of Archie unrestrained by making jokes or sense.

The second is Superman.  I know the "Grounded" storyline is controversial, and I fully acknowledge that large portions of it make no sense, but the story is fun in the way that it takes itself so seriously despite having no real logic behind it.  Also, Superman is being an ass to all of his friends, which I always enjoy.

Finally, I'm reading Acton Comics featuring Lex Luthor with Jimmy Olsen back-up features.  This comic is a fun ride every month, and I honestly have no interest in the title reverting back to Superman.  Lex Luthor is a fun guy to follow around, especially while on an insane quest to find a black lantern ring with his robotic Lois Lane sidekick.  His completely justified ego is a great base for any story.

Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying the comics I'm currently reading.  However, in the future I would like all three of them to not come out in the same week.

--Evan

Friday, November 5, 2010

Episode Nineteen: Identity Crisis

Superman is having an idyllic day on the job, delivering corny lectures to kids and waving to his adoring public.  He spies a car chase with Lois' car in hot pursuit of the police.  His sudden intervention causes Lois to lose control, and her passenger to go flying out the window.  Superman saves the falling man who turns out to be... Clark Kent!?  Clark investigates, and finds a rapidly decaying Superman clone who, when he shows up to his date with Lois, leads both to the factory where he was created - by Lex Luthor!  Calling the experiment a failure, Lex prepares to destroy the evidence of his cloning experiment when Bizarro has a Frankenstein-style freakout, trapping them all inside the self-destructing building.  Superman tries to save them all, but the rapidly collapsing structure looks to have him overwhelmed when he has to pause to save Lois with seconds to spare.  Heroically, Bizarro catches a falling section of the roof and holds it high enough for Superman to escape with Lois.  In the end, Bizarro realized he wasn't the true Superman, but that as the defining rule of the universe, "Superman saves Lois".

Evan:  That was actually really sweet.  I could feel Kristin tensing up at the start of this episode, bracing herself for a big, dumb Superman versus Superman fight.  I hope that she liked this one, because I felt like it was a really nicely built story that takes Bizarro, a character than it both iconic and non-nonsensical, and created a modern Frankenstein story with a good heart.  Bizarro truly believes that he is Superman, saving Metropolis from the dangers of building demolition and opening bridges.  By his own twisted logic, Bizarro believes he is helping.  He has a single, defining point of clarity that informs his actions: Superman saves Lois.  From this golden truth, Bizarro is able to redeem himself in his ultimate sacrifice.  Whether he lived or died, Bizarro was a good soul.

The Bizarro-imagery always strikes me.  The character is an insane concept, the ultimate colour and motif swapped villain that is replayed over-and-over in comics.  The animated series gives us a more serious take on the character, removing the backwards "S" for a more crooked, homemade looking affair and dulling the colour pallet into purples.  The shattered, rocky look of the comics was swapped for a hunched look, maintaining the bright white skin.  It all worked well with Bizarro as a failed clone, degenerating into himself after originally appearing to be a fully functioning copy.  While the changing clothes is a cheat, it works for the character as it forces the viewer into the same mindset as the characters.  Is Bizarro rapidly changing, or are we simply noticing that he isn't Superman?

There was a second reason to love this episode: the return of Lex Luthor, ass-kicking evil genius.  Lex's cloning experiment was born in A Little Piece of Home, when exposure to kryptonite allowed his robotic dinosaur to make Superman bleed.  His scientists collected the blood, and since then Lex has been growing a Superman army.  This is the perfect role for Lex, working tirelessly in the background, one step ahead of everyone in his quest to destroy and / or control Superman.  Even better, this was the first instance we saw Luthor physically square off with Superman, this time in the form of Bizarro.  Lex was hurled across the room, once again reduced in a single moment from God to man.  This indignity, coupled with having to have Superman save his life once again, is a continuing theme in the series.  While this time Luthor was returned to mortal status, I delight in wondering if the same will happen next time.

The plan is solid, and I expect it to be reoccurring.  The villain-creating role we saw born in the Metallo episode blossoms into the creation of Bizarro.  I imagine this is one stop along the villain-creating path, and while it does encourage a fairly simple villain-of-the-week formula, it keeps Luthor at the heart of the conflict where he belongs.  No more six episode absences, please.

On a negative note, we finally brought Lois back into the show only to be at the her most incompetent yet.  She literally drove off a cliff, fell off a building and got trapped under rubble.  At least the ratio is justifying itself.  There was a moment in this episode where Superman and Lois flew into the night reflecting on Bizarro's sacrifice that was romantic, and I thought that it was a nice advancement of the always slow-developing romance between the two.  Maybe soon Lois can have a date with the real Superman, not just his well-meaning clone.

Volume Two opens with a strong episode, so let's hope we can keep this up!

Kristin: Finally! I had almost entirely lost hope for this series! Not only did they manage to somehow bring my t-rex back to the foreground but they also put together a fairly solid episode on top of that. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Superman PSA to the small children climbing power lines. I also liked the insight we got into both Superman and Lois' character in the mirror that was Bizarro.

Plus, the episode was touching. Franken-Super really was a hero after all, giving his life to save Lois and the real Superman. Aw.

I'm not even going to jinx this episode by writing too much about it. It was great and it put a smile on my face for the first time in a long time with this series. I don't think we've had a redeemer like this since Lobo rode in on his cycle-from-the-90s and rained some heavy garbage on us all.

Don't fuck this up, writers!

Final Thoughts: Me like episode.

Evan's Episode Rating: 8/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 3 incompetent / 0 insane) - Hurray. Lois just needs to bring her A-game.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 9/10 - Is it too much to hope for just a little more of this good stuff?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Episode Eighteen: Speed Demons

The Flash and Superman compete in a charity race to determine the fastest man alive.  During their one-hundred laps around the world, they are interrupted by bizarre weather patterns.  Just outside of Metropolis, the Weather Wizard uses his machines to blackmail millions of dollars.  The source of this amazing power: the ionic energy generated by Superman and the Flash in their race, which the Weather Wizard set up!  When his brother (who built the machine) will not participate in his criminal dealings, he informs Superman and the Flash of his brother's whereabouts.  The two heroes save the day, earning each other's respect.  They decide to continue their race, but we're left to wonder who truly is the World's Fastest Man.

Evan:  I know Kristin is going to rip this one apart, but I think this is easily in my top five.  This episode was our first concrete introduction to the fact other heroes exist outside of Metropolis (outside of the occasional Batman crack) and the first hero to visit Superman.  The show decided that the appearance by the Flash would be a good time for an all-out tribute to the Silver Age team-up, and they were exactly right in doing so.  The set-up is classic:  a charity race between the two for no reason.  Not even a cause to raise money for.  Just "charity".  The race is pure fun.  For starters: its a hundred laps around the world.  Not only that, there is basically no route they're following, and they curve around skyscrapers and make mid-ocean turns.  People sit in the crowd at the finish line and place bets amongst themselves on who's the fastest.  It is the epitome of Silver Age comics, where there's literally nothing else going on but a staged charity event featuring two of the world's greatest heroes who have nothing to do.

For the comic reader in me, the appearance of the Flash means that they have to race.  Simply put, racing is the basic element that happens when Superman and any version of the Flash get together.

This is the only way they interact.
I'm not kidding.  Look at everyone.  This is how they unwind on the weekend.
When the other Flashes aren't around, he races the one that's seventy.
I know that the entire concept is lame, but sort of inane time-passing is exactly why I love comics.  This episode hit everything pretty much pitch perfect.  It gave no explanation for how this race was set up or why the two agreed.  We don't know if the two have even ever met before, although there's some animosity.  About three seconds into the episode, the race is on and from that moment forward this episode is based almost entirely on weather and speed puns.

I know I've been hard on this series for a lack of character development, and this had exactly zero.  But if every episode of non-character filler was this much fun, the series would be a thousand times better.  This wasn't Superman and Flash team up to stop a giant monster.  This was Superman and Flash have to briefly interrupt their pointless race to stop a generally harmless villain in ways that allow them to use their powers in zany, less reality grounded ways.  Superman spins around super fast and drills into the villain's ch√Ęteau.  The Flash vibrates through solid ice.   Everyone is having a hell of a good time.

I smiled gleefully throughout the entire episode, and I think that means that the show was working.  I was completely entertained.

To close, here's one last picture of the two racing for no reason.  This time they seem to be literally racing to the end of the universe.  For what I'm sure is little-to-no reason.  Because they aren't good at making small talk.

They don't really have anything in common to chat about.
Kristin: Yep, sooo... we all know where my schtick is going to go. There is still so little character engagement in this show that I can't even tell you whether or not Clark Kent still goes to work. My theory is that he does not. I will say that this episode seems more like what a shallow superhero-based series should be.

Instead of trying to create an interesting plot around uninteresting (and sometimes offensive) new characters, the show introduces one new hero deepening the sense that this is a universe in which people with extraordinary powers are like the town mascot - albeit an underpaid and overworked one. The plot claims to be nothing more than a baseless charity race gone slightly awry. The villain himself is not even worth mentioning because even the show seems to acknowledge that he is such a one-off that Superman and the Flash barely have to stop their cheesy one-liners in order to defeat him. If the series was heading in this direction, meaning that they wanted to create superficial but entertaining shows about the hijinks of Superman and friends, I would have no problem. It is what it is. It's when it becomes overly-convoluted or almost parody-esque that I have a problem. That's when it feels like it needs more relationship depth to justify how seriously (or not) it's taking itself.

My final point on this is simple: Why does the race have to consist of 100 laps around the world? If it's not a stamina-based contest, wouldn't one suffice?

Final Thoughts: We seem to disagree over this one... maybe a quick hundred around the block would settle this once and for all.

Evan's Episode Rating: 10/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - I'm still smiling. So I think that means I've been thoroughly entertained.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 7/10 - This show has multiple personality problems.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Episode Seventeen: Livewire

Shock jock Leslie Willis hates Superman and uses her radio program "Livewire" to rant against the Man of Tomorrow to popular acclaim.  In just her third year, she is a media sensation in Metropolis.  However, during an outdoor event, Leslie refuses to yield to both the police and Superman's advice to shut down the party due to a dangerous thunderstorm.  She's struck by lightning despite Superman's efforts and transforms into Livewire, a being of pure energy (maybe?).  She drains power from the city and sets herself up as the Queen of Media, but Superman defeats her using a burst of water from a hydroelectric dam.  Leslie is jailed, but under the funding and eye of Lex Luthor.  So that's clearly the end of that.

Evan:  I foolishly had high hopes for this episode early on due to its roots in the 90s shock rock boom and the rise of women comediennes and social commentators.  Leslie was interesting, because she was the first media figure we've met that hated Superman.  Also, this was the first time that public opinion seemed to be divided on Superman, or at least some dissent was heard.  I thought this was important because this is the same basic constituency that Luthor plays to, although in a much more intelligent way.  There was probably a good episode about the media, the fickle nature of the public and Superman's attempt to deal with not being universally loved.  Instead we got an extremely annoying woman who shot lightning out of her hands.

This was only the seventeenth episode of this series, and already this felt by the books.  The ending was a direct lift from the Parasite episode, although with the fun bonus that Lex was footing the bill and thus has co-opted Livewire for a future gambit.  The story itself, a fight throughout multiple acts, was done better in the previous episode.  We got the now standard "brief look at the newsroom coping with the new rule of a villain" shot in the final act.  Basically, this was a flat episode.

There was a small win in this one, which was that every main cast member actually bothered to put in an appearance.  Granted, Jimmy never spoke and Lex only smirked approvingly at the anti-Superman ranting while being driven to work.  The point is that the characters that were completely gone for a stretch of what felt like ten episodes in the middle of this season are at least occupying the series instead of Dan Turpin.  (As a side note, would Luthor really be listening to a shock jock in the car that repeats what he likes to hear about Superman?  Isn't he busy?  Or is this simply a sign of how much he's let things slide since Superman stole his girlfriend?)  Also, Mercy managed to justify her uniform by actually driving a car!

Overall, I liked the interaction between Clark and Lois, as well as Lois defending Superman to Leslie.  I just wish there was more of it.  I also wanted more out of Lex, but if he's just going to be in the periphery of these new weekly villains, scheming in the shadows, that's fine too.  For now I can accept Lex Luthor as staying out of the limelight.  I just need to see him actually do something soon or I don't honestly see how his character can be seen as a puppet master in Metropolis.

Ok, I was lying.  I want to see more of Dan Turpin and less of the old sailor that seems to show up now and then.  Fuck that guy.

Kristin: I realize that this episode was trying its hardest to present a rebellious female media personality, but I think it failed in making her someone anyone would actually like. Granted, I am told that people like Glenn Beck, so an abrasive and ignorant media personality is certainly not unheard of. However, Leslie came across as a man-hating, me-versus-the-world, puppeteer who used the public to feed her oral masturbation fixation. To top it off, all of her advertising consisted of her posing in her punk-grunge cutoffs. Because in Metropolis, a woman can't be successful unless she's shocking and half-naked. Did I mention that she was a complete attention whore? All women are. Fuck women.

I think that's what unintentionally came through in this episode. I don't believe that it is what the writers had in mind but from the interview with Lois onward, it was all I could think about. I wish there were more smart, self-actualized women in the show. If Lois were ever fully in the show, I could maybe count one.

Also, nice vocal choice again creators. She sounded like a whinier Joan Rivers.

My last point that stands out in this episode for me is that while we see Luthor looking rather like a smug pug when tuning in to Livewire's anti-Superman radio show, we see none of his ugly mug when she proceeds to drain the entire city of power. I mean, obviously LexCorp would have a backup generator or be linked directly to the Earth's core or something like that, but can't we at least see him look... less smug? Irked? Peeved? Inconvenienced? Amused? Maybe all that Superman hate-rallying put him in the mood for a sexy yacht party!

Final Thoughts: If she was pure energy... why did she have bones?

Evan's Episode Rating: 5/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - I feel like Luthor would be a "partition up" kind of guy.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 4/10 - This episode definitely made me feel anger... but not in the way that it wanted.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Episode Sixteen: Blasts from the Past - Part 2

Superman takes Dr. Hamilton to his arctic fortress to learn how to build a replacement Phantom Zone projector from Brainiac.  Meanwhile, Lois is kidnapped by Mala and Jax-Ur to lure Superman out of hiding.  Superman arrives in his lead suit with kryptonite in tow, but Jax-Ur surprises him and sends him to the Phantom Zone.  Just like that, the Earth is powerless against the two renegade aliens as they perform acts of intimidation in an attempt to get the U.N. to surrender.  Unfortunately for them, Dr. Hamilton has completed his projector and saves Superman.  The Man of Steel lures Mala and Jax-Ur into a trap, where Lois is able to send them back to their shadowy prison.


Evan:  This is the big fight promised by the first part, and it was pretty much as you would expect.  I liked that Lois was left to tell the story of Superman's defeat to the world, but was less happy with the complete lack of resistance the world put up afterwards.  Also, the impact on Lois of Superman's essential death was completely lost... I expected to see more than just her steely resolve for revenge.

One thing that really, really bothered me was the absence of Lex, but I'm going to default to Kristin because I know she hated that too.  What I am going to mention is that this was a terrible waste of an opportunity to develop his character.  He got everything he wanted.  Superman was gone.  Now faced with Superman's defeaters, he had to either fulfill his destiny or admit he was wrong about Superman's place in his world.  We got none of that.  I was very disappointed.

Dr. Hamilton basically just sent science ahead a billion years, so hopefully he can buy some new locks for his doors.

Lois was in this episode, so that's a start.  She had to be rescued twice, but wasn't ridiculously incompetent to have either seem too contrived.  When kidnapped, she mostly seemed annoyed and that was fun.  She also got to fire the finishing blow, which was a nice touch.  As I said, I was hoping to see some feelings be crystallized under extreme circumstances, but we didn't get that.  A reasonable second place, however, is the ass-kicky Lois.

And Perry White even showed up to get thrown across the room!  People... Perry is not the type who can take that kind of abuse.  Think of how much physio he's going to need.

Overall, one of the more fun pure beat-em-ups in the series so far, but a serious miss as far as characterization goes.  Also, Superman is basically resolving his moral dilemma in being a jailer by being a total badass about it, which is pretty solid as far as I'm concerned.

Kristin: So the world is about to be signed smoothly over to the two power-hungry Kryptonians who have presumably defeated Superman... and Lex Luthor is nowhere to be found?! I guess he was too busy having another one of his sexy yacht parties to realize that a very opportune series of events was taking place right underneath his not-so-watchful eye:

1. Two more alien beings arrive with the same super human abilities as Superman. They, however, are apparently not worth Luthor making a tasty offer for their help in dominating Metropolis (nay, the world!) as he did Superman in episode three. Maybe it's their silly outfits. They just haven't branded themselves as effectively as Superman has and that matters to Lex. I guess.

2. They betray and defeat Superman. I repeat, they defeat Superman. And it's not like this is a huge secret harboured only by Jax-Ur, Mala and Lois. No, the entire world knows Superman is "dead" (or at least gone forever) and Lex Luthor has his shiny bald head shoved up his linebacker ass?! We do not hear so much as a press release about this, let alone see a scene in which Lex realizes how much more useful these two newcomers could be to his evil enterprise.

3. So useful, in fact, that the U.N. is going to sign over the entire world to the pair. The Earth. The whole planet including Mr. Luthor himself. To the two vagrants from Krypton. I would expect to at least see one of two things from our buffed-up brain in the suit: a) He goes on a public tirade about the mess Superman and his alien friends have sunk the globe into or b) He joins forces with the two Kryptonians and becomes part of the Earth's ruling triumvirate! He could even...

4. Show up and try to defeat them using his many Superman-killing technologies to claim the worldwide public glory for himself!

... Nothing?

At least Lois was back, that hardened bitch. Not even a tear was shed as Superman was forever banished to the Phantom Zone. Although, it does lead her to threaten the duo with legions of armed forces lead by herself... Not that we ever saw any of that because I guess the surrender of the planet is as simple as causing some news-worthy disturbances in various countries. But at least we saw her at all.

Final Thoughts: Is Les not a part of the main cast? Because he seems kind of important. He either runs Metropolis or he doesn't.

Evan's Episode Rating: 6/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 1 incompetent / 2 insane) - Maybe Lex was digging tunnels to lead the resistance.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 7/10 - Far more interesting than past episodes... but still craving a little bit more attention to detail from those writers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Episode Fifteen: Blasts from the Past - Part 1

Superman and Dr. Hamilton discover the Phantom Zone projector in Superman's childhood rocket.  Superman hears the cries of Mala, a disgraced Kryptonian criminal who was second-in-command of the military coup of Jax-Ur.  Superman uses Brainiac's orb to learn of Mala's past, and decides to release her as her sentence had been served.  As a Kryptonian on Earth, Superman teaches Mala to use her quickly developing powers in the hopes that she might join him in fighting crime.  Unfortunately, her fear and ambition make her far too unstable for the role of Superman's partner.  When she discovers that Superman is not, as she had believed, a benevolent emperor of a lesser race, she decides to bring in someone who is willing to be: Jax-Ur.

Evan:  Still no Clark, but for once our cast managed to react to an alien arriving on Earth.  The best scene in this episode, bar none, was Lex Luthor's inflammatory press conference held on the news of Mala's declaration that she is Superman's second-in-command.  Luthor has never had issues with harnessing the public's xenophobia to harass Superman, but the episode never really pushed this side of things.  I wanted to see the public wary of Superman's role in bringing to them a super powered criminal.  I'm hoping that the ramifications of his very questionable decision are front and centre in part two.  I'm also hoping for Lex to take a more active hand, as there's suddenly two other beings on Earth that could crush Superman, and with easily exploitable personality problems to boot!

Superman is apparently the judicial system of his dead world now, administering the justice system in their absence.  Not only does he release a prisoner based on what Brainiac tells him in a two-minute bio, he considers returning her when she turns out to be every bit the crazy person she appeared to be!  This is a very awkward role for Superman, and one that I hope the show is careful in portraying.  This is a fairly grey zone for the Man of Steel.

As for Mala, I appreciated her militarism and she was a nice contrast to Superman's power.  I enjoyed her imperialistic speech.  That was pretty much it, however.  Now that she's released Jax-Ur, and she isn't a lost cause trainee, I'm hoping to see something interesting outside of the dark side of Superman.

Lois made a brief appearance in this episode to interview Mala, as part of her reoccurring role of introducing new Kryptonians to Metropolis.  She smirks off Mala's attempt to kill her, which makes her my hero forever.

This was mostly set-up for the next episode's two-on-one Kryptonian fight.  Doesn't seem too hopeful for character development, but things will hopefully explode nicely?  Maybe Lois and Lex get involved somehow?  This could either go in the boring fistfight direction or actually try.  I'm hoping we see a little effort.

Kristin: All right, take three on season one! I really need this show not to strike out on me or this could be a long blog project...

This episode in particular did show some signs of turning up. We saw a crack in Superman's mask during Lois' interview of Mala after she probes into the relationship between the reporter and the hero. It was nice to see the show create some drama using interpersonal tension instead of dumb alien menace and senseless fighting. By no means do I feel that we saw enough of Lois (or Clark, for that matter), but it feels like the show is recovering from what was a cripplingly poor mid-season lineup. It was certainly nice to see that Lex had not perished in a tragic yachting accident.

I would like to take another moment to reflect on some of the fashion choices made in this series. Being that we saw more of the Kryptonians, I think it only appropriate to bring it on back to Lady Gaga. In the first episode of the series we saw the appearance of the McQueen shoulder pads beloved by both space council members and the pop star. This time Mala was sporting a black spandex unitard with optional bathing cap hood, not unlike Gaga's number from the "Poker Face" video:

Having just emerged from the Phantom Zone.
We can come to only one conclusion given this trail of evidence: Lady Gaga is from Krypton.

Final Thoughts: Jor-El is a total badass! How is it that he is the most interesting and fully developed character in the series about his son?

Evan's Episode Rating: 6/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 1 insane) - Lois is back on the big board! Way to laugh at death, you crazy bitch!

Kristin's Episode Rating: 5/10 - It's nice to see the writers not steeping the show in 90s cliches...

Interlude: Seriously? Craaaaaaaaaaap.

Apparently there's a side "B".  Following what has quickly become a precedent, it is once again NOT the end of season one!  The unmarked side of the DVD contains four more episodes!  We should really use the episode list in the booklet to follow this, as the DVDs themselves are really poorly marked.

Anyway... stay tuned tonight as we look not at the season two premier, but at the SIDE B PREMIER!!! Which we're sure is even better!

Remember... here at Evan & Kristin Blog Superman: The Animated Series it's ALWAYS the end of season one!

Thank you.

---- MGMT

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Interlude: On Lex's Hair

In this small break between seasons, we thought we would share with you our thoughts on Lex Luthor's hair.  Historically, Lex Luthor has been depicted with one of four choices. First, the classic bald look.  This is "classic" Luthor, whose baldness is a key element in his image.  In the Silver Age, the baldness even had an insane origin by way of Superboy blowing a toxic fire onto Luthor's head!  Nowadays, he's simply straight up bald.  This is the look the cartoon went with, as it represents the well-known and iconic approach to the master villain.

There are other options.  Luthor originally had a shock of red curls, which he is often depicted with as a young man.  Likewise, the third option in the balding Luthor, his mighty brain framed by a fringe of clinging red hair.  Finally, Superman's movie franchise brought us Lex-with-a-wig, a more vain take on Luthor's combat with the great equalizer.

Kristin wants to share her thoughts on this, so I won't take up too much time now that I've introduced the topic but I do want to say that I prefer the classic Luthor look for both the iconic elements, as well as the confidence that it places in Lex.  Frankly, he rocks the bald look, and his own ego and vanity simply would not allow it to be any other way.  If he wanted to Luthor could grow himself some hair, but he doesn't need to because he is in control.  Anything else seems to signify a strangely public failing, which I can't believe Luthor would allow.  He has flaws that you could drive a truck through, but none that the public can see.  So, importantly, whatever Kristin says to contradict this is completely wrong.  Always remember that...

I (being Kristin) have to disagree with Evan's ever-traditionalist perspective on Luthor's mane. Understanding that this probably comes from the fact that my position as a "comics outsider" means that I lack the reverence that seems to attach itself to all classic characters, I still insist that the baldness is out of place for me.

My essential problem stems from the assumption that Luthor is being sold to me as a vain, power-hungry man with an insatiable thirst for perfection which is essentially causing his feud with Superman, who has the unchallenged ability to be everything that Lex wants to be. Why, then, would he allow himself to be bald? (Just to clarify, I am certainly not saying that the toupee was the answer. That seems like an acknowledgment of the shortcoming and a shame that I don't buy either.) Instead, why is it not accepted that Luthor could have hair? Even if it had been "burned off" in previous adventures, surely Luthor is enough of a genius to have succeeded in overcoming baldness.

My image of Luthor is the paragon of charisma. To be bald is almost a subconscious biological crack in his pristine public persona that I'm not convinced he would not realize himself. Granted, it's not as much of a problem for me as his mountainous physique in this incarnation...

But it would be nice to see some more vanity in our aspiring super-man.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Episode Fourteen: The Prometheon

Superman, the army and STAR Labs accidentally free a monster chained to an asteroid, which shockingly does not burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.  After learning that it is an artificial construct that powers itself using heat, Superman and Dr. Hamilton hatch a plan to lure it to the reservoir for some chemical-induced freezing.  They cut the power to the city, and in the darkness Superman uses a red-hot girder to lure the monster into the reservoir where it is frozen.  The day is saved!

Evan:  The episode was very simple, and really had no tension as the monster was only threatening due to its size.  I never really bought into the fact that Metropolis was in danger, and judging by the total lack of Lex Luthor and the cast, neither did Metropolis.  And one would think the giant alien monster would have at least garnered a check-in from LexCorp, but no one cared.  Lex didn't even bother to appear in this episode.  This one was a snoozer, with Superman being largely useless until everything comes smoothly together and the monster is frozen without any real problems.  For a giant alien monster episode, this lacked conflict and tension to an absurd amount.

I will mention one redeeming quality, the Kirby monster itself.  Sporting the white eyes, strange proportions and gaping mouth of a classic Kirby monster of the Silver Age with a childlike, sad mind to match I felt like I was reading a Fantastic Four comic from the early 1960s.  There was no evil in the being, only confusion.  I thought the open ended conclusion, with the monster frozen but not destroyed, to be an appropriate ending in that regard.  I felt legitimately sad for the monster, although that really distracted me from the whole "Metropolis is doomed" thing that the episode was going for.

I once called the season over prematurely.  I'm glad it was premature because we got the Intergang episode, which introduced new concepts to the series.  While I don't know why this was the final episode of the season, we have established an interesting premise for the next.  What worries me is the degradation of the cast.  Lex and Lois are either absent or relegated to single lines.  Forget about someone like Jimmy, who we haven't seen in any meaningful way since the first Parasite episode.  And especially forget about that lame reporter named Clark Kent that always seems to beat Lois to the story, even though he's just a hayseed from Smallville.

This series needs the glasses.  Bad.

Kristin: At the risk of sounding repetitive, I will say again that this series needs to go back to the characters. It feels to me like the creators are trying to jam as much nostalgia and minor villainy into the show as possible. Much like Lois needs to get on the front lines of reporting these things, this show badly needs an editor. It needs someone who is not an adoring comic book nerd to come on board and say "Look, I know you want to show how much you know about every minor entity that has ever appeared in Superman's long and glorious history - and long may he prosper yet - but you need to have a central focus and an overarching story in order for the audience to feel the need to tune in next time." Clearly, this hasn't happened. So maybe my wish for season two has evolved since our little blunder earlier on! My wish for next season would be the gift of a good director.

Otherwise, the show was fairly lacklustre once again. The annoying police department was gone to be replaced by the incompetent army. Superman was just himself, using his powers in slightly more creative ways than previously but not so creative that it could be considered noteworthy. The monster was non-threatening and dull... I could drone on, but I'll save you the boring details on a boring episode. Way to end the season with a bang, team. At least Lobo made me want to vomit with hatred.

Final Thoughts: How are they going to get that thing out of the reservoir?

Evan's Episode Rating: 3/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - How does such an epic story have zero stakes?

Kristin's Episode Rating: 2/10 - Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was better than this.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Episode Thirteen: Two's A Crowd

Earl Garver attempts to hold the city hostage with a hidden, lead-encased bomb while holed up in his booby trapped home.  Unfortunately, Superman gives him a major concussion before he can find out the location of the bomb.  MPD chief Maggie Sawyer elects to bring in the Parasite, in an attempt to learn the bomb's location.  Unfortunately, Garver's strength of will causes his consciousness to be absorbed and he takes over from hapless Rudy.  Parasite and Superman square off in an abandoned subway, but when it become apparently that Garvin intends to sacrifice Rudy to kill Superman, Rudy fights back.  Despite failing to overcome Garvin, the distraction allows Superman to throw the bomb down a deep pit.  The ensuing blast knocks Parasite unconscious.  Later, Garvin awakes in his own body but finds that Superman is already taking him to prison.  Garvin has to walk past Rudy's cell, where Parasite is laughing at the television he won for helping the MPD.


Evan:  Here is this episode's problem.  Not only does Lois Lane not appear, neither does Clark Kent.  Instead, we get Superman and Sawyer attempting to solve the mystery of the hidden bomb while Parasite gets a newer, meaner inhabitant.  This one was all action, which was fairly dull to me as I missed our cast.

I actually don't have very much to say about this one.  I still like Rudy as the hapless Parasite, but I think some mumbo-jumbo about strength of will is a weak way to make Parasite a threat for the episode.  It felt like an immediate attempt to walk back the decision to make Parasite fairly cowardly.  I also found the conclusion to be very similar to the Metallo episode, except stupider.

Why does Superman need a scuba-diving suit?  Why does he own such a suit featuring a large Superman shield and a similar shield on a wet-suit underneath?  Is STAR Labs that bored?  Come to think of it, wasn't that Dr. Hamilton in the first scene?  Was Garvin a STAR Labs employee?  Sadly underdeveloped.

I still like Dan Turpin.  He was background in this episode, which felt about right.  It feels nice to know the name of at least one cop.

So, I'm hoping that we see an episode with Lois up front soon.  After featuring in the first half of the season, she's completely fallen off the map.  That stole a lot of the show's charm.  Superman is nice, but he needs his supporting cast.  Sawyer has no character.  Turpin is your basic cop character.  Dr. Hamilton wasn't in this one.  Where is Lois, Jimmy, Lex, Perry, Mercy or even that reporter Lois hates?

Where's Clark?  That's the biggest indictment of this episode.  Where's Clark?

Kristin: Ok, allow me to begin with the fact that even Evan noted the fact that the Chief of Police's jacket was longer than her skirt. And even that didn't go below mid-thigh. I mean, this is the equivalent of her look from Burberry Prorsum:

And this is generous.
When a man thinks that the skin is getting to be a bit much, you know that something is not sitting right design-wise. This is supposed to be a hardened cop who has worked her way to the top with the likes of Eyebrows McGee, and I'm supposed to buy that she's modelling her look on Burberry's latest runway mini trench dress?

I am also supposed to believe that I give a crap about these two cops over Lois, Jimmy, Luthor (yes, even Lana), AND any further character development from Clark Kent himself?! I don't know how the writers got this far off the rails. Understanding Evan's reverence for these Kirby characters stems from his complete idolization of their creator, I have to say that they are so flat that they make me want to throw myself into that pit with the bomb. The bomb pit. Then again, I might just be in a danger-esque mood after watching Rob Ford take Toronto by storm... Get off the gravy train, folks, we're all goin' to crazy town!

Anyway... I don't even know what to say about this episode again. I'm not sure why we needed to bring up another criminal-whose-name-I-can't-even-bother-to-remember and I'm really not sure why we needed to see Parasite again this soon in the series. Cop out. This whole episode was filled with cop outs. Cheap new villain, convenient accomplice Parasite, even more convenient bomb pit.

Bomb pit.

Final Thoughts: We bet off-screen Lois and Jimmy are having a hell of a time trying to sneak into LexCorp to find out if Luthor was behind or knows anything about the mysterious alien technology Intergang suddenly seemed to have access to. What adventures they must be having! We wonder if they'll manage to sneak their way in frame next episode...

Evan's Episode Rating: 3/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: Does Not Appear.) - Let's just rename the show Dan Turpin: The Animated Series and call it a day.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 2/10 - Bomb pit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Episode Twelve: Tools of the Trade

When Superman foils his tank based robbery, Intergang boss Mannheim demands that his boys bring him some better weapons in order to counteract the Man of Steel.  His hopes are answered when the mysterious Kanto appears and supplies them with high-tech superweaponry able to challenge Superman's own power.  Meanwhile, the Metropolis police are facing question from he press as to their effectiveness now that Superman's in town.  When a high-powered Intergang robbery convinces the police to bring Superman in officially, Dan Turpin resigns and attempts to take things into his own hands.  His investigation leads to his capture, but he's able to save Superman's life when Mannheim corners him using one of Kanto's weapons.  Superman chases both Kanto and Mannheim off, but when Kanto attempts to leave using a boom tube, Mannheim goes through with him.  Superman and Turpin's problems are resolved when Superman credits him for saving his life to the press, but things look much worse for Mannheim as he finds himself on Apokolips staring at his new ruler, Darkseid!

Evan:  The introduction of elements and characters from Jack Kirby's Fourth World has warmed by heart, and the confusion I'm sure this will bring Kristin is something wonderful to look forward to.  This episode itself was straight action and of little consequence.  It served to introduce the danger of Apokolips to Superman and introduce the shadowy uber-villain Darkseid.  Dan Turpin is a less obvious character that always seems to get wrapped up in the Fourth World, so we get this episode from his perspective rather than one that would be more organic to the show, such as Lois.  I appreciated to look at what the presence of Superman means to the police of Metropolis.  With a blue blur saving the day countless times, the police have to fight hard not to look neutered.  

While I have to admit I have a soft spot for the one-note cowardly Mannheim, I really found Intergang to be boring.  Fourth World fueled criminals should be more interesting, but the energy gloves were lame, as was the wand that dismantled guns and the laser-pointer.  Kanto was an interesting man to be stepping out of the shadows, because the show doesn't let us know of his other-worldly status until about halfway though.  Before that he's simply a man with a terrible haircut.  Seeing him at the end of the episode in his full Kirby regalia made be very, very happy.

I'm going to reserve a lot of judgement for where this is going.  I'm interested to see why Darkseid is gunning for Superman.  I want to see whether Lois can be brought into this story.  I want to know if alien visitors alarms Superman, as it clearly didn't here.  Does Lex know about this?  Is he doing anything?  I'm interested in seeing if this takes us through the end of the season, or if it will be a while before these elements come to fruition.

Two episodes after I mourned this season, I'm very excited to see new, exciting elements introduced as we race towards the real conclusion.

(Also, I think Turpin had a point... before Intergang had alien weapons they were rolling tanks down the city streets... maybe the MPD should have been a little more proactive on that one!)

Kristin: Alright, so this episode sees the return of Mannheim, who we know I was not all that impressed with when he had his bit part in one of the earlier shows. Let's just say that even with a tank and some kick ass alien hardware, he's still not getting me excited about his villainous potential. To make up for this, we are introduced to some tantalizing alternatives...

Kanto looks like a vaguely ethnic genero-villain with a haircut so astonishingly bad, he looks like the lovechild of Disney's Jafar and Mad TV's Stuart:

Like this guy...
And this guy starting a brood of babes, all affecting mid-Atlantic accents.
And just to be absolutely sure that there is no way I would ever be able to take Kanto seriously, when we see him on his own turf at the end of the episode, he is dressed like he's a page from Planet Robin Hood! It's not even enough to dress him like he's about to gallop about with his band of merry men, but he has to wear this insane beret with two tiny horn-like protrusions from the top of it. No fashion designer pushing the boundaries of "who would ever wear that?!" would dare to send something that laughable down their runway (and I've seen some crazy shit happen as far as that's concerned), so I cannot even find a comparable image to begin to illustrate the insanity with which he has been garbed for no particular reason.

It was refreshing that he was serving a menacing villain. I mean, since Toyman's creep or Luthor's turtleneck we have yet to be introduced to someone who legitimately got my blood going. Hopefully he doesn't ride a motorbike or something silly.

Otherwise, this episode felt very blah to me. The stuff with organized crime and the police force is not my cup of tea, so I'm not really inclined to comment. I do miss Lois Lane, although I appreciated all the women in positions of authority in this episode. It felt like the writers were apologizing for the fact that last episode we saw Lana Lang whoring herself out for anyone who could give her power or advance her own position. Not to mention throwing herself at any man above 6 feet with the breadth of a jet engine. And all the skirt lengths that, no matter how professional the woman, never seem to hit mid-thigh...

Final Thoughts: An interesting start to something new... wonder what will happen when characterization kicks back in?

Evan's Episode Rating: 7/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - I'm very excited for the introduction of some Kirby elements, but come on Lois, there was an empty elevator shaft RIGHT THERE! I miss crazy Lois.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 5/10 - 5 points for being gutsy enough to include an outfit that is just that insane. -5 for forgetting we had a main cast.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Episode Eleven: My Girl

While Lois and Clark are covering an "LL" fashion event, Clark is surprised to learn that the designer (and Lex's newest girlfriend) is in fact his high school sweetheart, Lana Lang.  After an abduction of Miss Lang is foiled by Superman, Lana easily sees through the spandex to recognize her old friend.  Clark warns Lana about Lex, and she subsequently becomes his informant into a lucrative arms deal being arranged through LexCorp.  Lex grows jealous of Lana obvious infatuation with Superman, and is easily able to see through her deception.  After seeing Lana and Superman kiss, Luthor arranges to have her killed at a LexCorp lead factory.  Superman saves the day, but does not share the same feelings she still harbours for him.  They part as friends, and Luthor goes under investigation once again.

Evan:  Can I start by saying just how much I missed the cast?  Even though this episode did not have a big role for Lois, the interaction in act one between her and Clark on some sort of weird co-worker date covering a fashion show made me really excited for this episode.  Especially compared to the Lobo episodes, this felt organic to the series as it felt like this was established early in the pilot when we saw Lana's awareness of Clark's powers. Her appearance wasn't jarring, as it might have been without some set-up.  The other major L.L. in Superman's life is an interesting adidtion ot the cast, as her knowledge of Clark's double identity and obvious attraction to him makes her unique anbd a nice counterpoint to Lois.  While it isn't clear how much more we'll see Lana, I feel fairly certain that she'll turn up at least once more, as there's simply too much there for it not to be interesting.

Reflecting on Lana, I really wasn't sure how I felt about her character as she was introduced.  I don't know anything about Lana Lang in Superman comics, outside of her rivalry with Lois in the silver age when everyone was Lois Lane-style crazy.  Making her a sexpot fashion designer with an appetite for danger wasn't what I was expecting, but does introduce a new element to the series.  I was just happy we didn't have a fourth reporter.  This opens some new doors, and I liked the contrast between Clark and Lana when their starting point was the same.  It helped to drive home Superman's value system, and show that he stayed closer to his roots than most.  Lana, on the other hand, has moved beyond Smallville in a way that Clark isn't interested in, and has found international success.

Lana's relationship with Lex was also very interesting to me.  I remarked to Kristin early that it was a solid bet Lex had a plan to turn her into a radiation spewing monster, or blow her up but in the end he simply did not.  Lex was clearly infatuated with Lana and underestimated her intelligence.  He appeared to be in legitimate distress after deciding that she had to be eliminated for knowing too much, and his exchanges with Mercy (I finally heard her name correctly this time, having heard "Percy" every other time she appeared) were quite revealing.  While Lex is usually many steps ahead, here he seemed quite content to stare at Lana's ass.  Lex was human, rather than playing chess with people's lives.  The show has carefully taken steps to flesh out this side of Luthor, from a past dating Lois, to his sexy cruise a few episodes ago, and now his relationship with Lana. 

That leaves me with one problem.  Was it not Luthor's plan that Lana be robbed early in the episode?  Was that a red herring?  I was sure that the robbery was the first part of a set-up, but we never got the payoff unless I was missing something.  It seems impossible to me that Lex would allow such a thing to happen without his consent, as he certainly would have had security on the ground.  Added to that the exotic nature of her abductors, it seemed like a way for her to meet Superman.  However, the rest of the episode gave no indication this was the case, and his seeming emotional response to his decision to have Lana killed would suggest that he didn't have a plan, or at least didn't put it in action.  It's possible I missed something, but it was a confusing loose end for me.

I could have done without the business at the lead factory, as I was a little confused at the temperature of the lead, it seemed hot occasionally, but other times there didn't seem to be any heat to it at all.  However, it was a suitable action conclusion to the arms dealing plot, and it was a nice change to see Superman fighting a regular guy instead of a lead-based monster.  This plot was fairly grounded overall, which was a relief coming out of the Lobo fiasco.

I was hoping to see a reaction from Lois as to the attention that the beautiful Lana payed Clark and/or Superman, but it wasn't to be.  I thought that was a missed opportunity, but maybe that's being saved for a later show when our protagonists are willing to have a real date, not a strange dinner watching a fashion show as dual reporters to a non-news event.

I really enjoyed this episode because we came back to our characters.  I feel refreshed and excited for the (ahem...) rest of season one.  I think that I'm ready to see Luthor at his top form trying to kill Superman again.  He's been in some strange roles lately, from Superman's ally against Brainiac to comedy character to a romantic rival, that I'm ready to see him at his best.  This show is keeping their rivalry very interesting, and I'm excited to see what's next.

Kristin: After our little foible the other night, it feels as though I'm revisiting a season I have already mourned. While I am glad that we didn't have to end on a note as horrible as that 90s monstrosity, it is tricky getting back into the mindset. Let's begin with the fact that I was very pleased with the developmental aspects of this episode.

I feel that this episode, of all the ones so far, had the least to prove and so we were really allowed to move at a pace that made room for focus on the characters and those relationships that I was so harping on. While Lois Lane was limited only to bookmark charming cameos, Superman, Lex and Lana Lang all received a great opportunity to grow as people instead of one-dimensional archetypes.

Superman was definitely more Clark Kent, which was great to see. I think the more personal nature of the plot disarmed him a little and gave us greater insight into his personality. While we were still treated to his "witty" banter, including such gems as:

Weapons Buyer: I think it's deer season!
Superman: Sorry, it's only open season on terrorists.

We got legitimate awkwardness in front of Lois as he explains his past liaisons with Lana Lang (and Lois awesomely proceeds to slam him) and a touching moment when he rejects Lana's advances followed by well wishes for both parties. I feel like we cared more about what Superman was doing in this episode because the fact that he had a relationship established with other characters involved raised those stakes.

Lex Luthor definitely had some time to shine in this one too and I loved every minute of it. My favourite part of the episode was when Mercy, reveling in the destruction of Lana as Lex's love interest, is shut down by a slighted and jealous Luthor. Great. It was exactly what I wanted and at that moment I felt more empathy for him than I have felt for any of the characters so far! It was such a human moment to have this monolith (thanks to the animation, literally as well as metaphorically) get a crack in his defenses. The Lex of this episode was not just a power-hungry executive out to show Superman who's boss. He was a jealous boyfriend who was threatened by another man. That is watchable, exciting, and relatable storytelling.

Lana was a little less annoying this episode. I don't know what the hell was up with her voice acting in the first episode, but it only seemed a little forced this time around. So that was something.

Final Thoughts: It's nice to come home again. Although we disagree on whether Lana should show up sooner rather than later...

Evan's Episode Rating: 8/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - This is the show I want to watch.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 9/10 - I need to look up who they're hiring for voices... but overall this is definitely the direction they owed me after that Lobo shit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interlude: A Programming Note

Thanks to an unforeseen discovery of the "Episodes 11-14" option on the disc, we've recently learned there are three more season one episodes!  Will the season redeem itself with less horrible episodes?  Will the dodo get a little cape to fight crime in?  Will we learn how to use a DVD player?

...sorry folks.  Let's just say our hopes for season two are valid, but early.

Evan

Episode Ten: The Main Man - Part 2

Superman and Lobo escape the Preserver's enclosures and fight off the security droids attempting to keep them there.  Superman uses the dodo enclosure to power up using a yellow-sun lamp, and fights off a trio of bounty hunters attempting to capture Lobo.  Eventually, Lobo and Superman defeat the Preserver by depressurizing  a hanger and sending him into space.  Lobo collects his bounty and Superman relocates the intergalactic zoo to his arctic hideaway.

Evan:  This episode gives us a team-up between Superman and Lobo.  While the writers still didn't seem to really care about this one (spatially, Superman is in about ten different locations in the first few minutes while he's supposed to be in jail and the Preserver gives him his Superman costume for literally no reason) they didn't go about deconstructing and mocking the show's core.  This episode was very boring, because it was built entirely around mindless action and had no characters in it to play off of each other (Superman was alone in this one because Lobo was a cypher and all the other characters were one-note jokes).  However, by saving the day with yellow-sun radiation the writers gave us a recognizable, if bare-bones, Superman story.  They continued to give us the story about 50 / 50 with Lobo, which still makes me think this was supposed to trigger a Lobo series that never happened.

There is one saving grace to this episode.  Superman puts the intergalactic zoo, including a dodo, in his Fortress of Solitude (the show has no interest calling it that, but I do!)  That makes this whole stupid episode worthwhile, because suddenly Superman has silver-age insanity in his ice fortress while living a modern, grounded retelling of the Superman mythos.  There is a dodo in Superman's arctic retreat.  How can anyone not like that?

I'm looking forward to the next season.  I'm missing not only our cast, but our usual settings.  I'd like to see Superman in his apartment that we've only seen once.  I want to see Luthor somewhere other than his office, maybe at home?  The newsroom is an interesting place where we rarely get to see Lois, Jimmy and Clark (maybe even Perry?) interact.  I really didn't like these episodes that seemed so divorced from the show's reality, but the fact that I legitimately miss a nightly fix of this universe means they really did something right in the other eight episodes of the season.

On to greater things, Superman: The Animated Series!

Kristin: Despite the fact that enduring this episode through illness while knowing what was awaiting me was something that made me want to throw myself off the roof, Evan needed a break from reading and decided that Lobo would be distraction enough to suffice but yet not fun enough to become too long an interruption. At least it's over with and we can all move on to something far better (we hope).

Superman literally saved the episode by being not falling prey to the schtick going on around him. The fact that he adopted all of the now-homeless endangered space species and plunked them down in his arctic Fortress of Solitude is entirely endearing to me. I hope that we get to see more of this side of all the characters next season. It would be nice to be able to develop deeper interpersonal connections between them all, if not at the very least see more attempts by the writers to reach out to the audience in a more personal way. What I would really like to do is care about what happens to Superman. I need my relationship with the cast to build enough for me to feel the stakes rise when a character is threatened. If the stakes never rise, the show never becomes interesting. Interest, for me, is then a direct product of relationships. So far, there is only a vague rapport between Clark and Lois, a superficial acquaintance between her and Superman, and a passing reference to Luthor as an ex-boyfriend of Ms. Lane in addition to his sexy parties on a yacht. He has a kick ass bodyguard... what's her deal? Do we get to know? Jimmy is supposed to be Superman's best friend, so why don't they ever have an actual conversation? This is the kind of stuff I want to see.

I don't want boring episodes filled with fluffy fight scenes that have little to no bearing on the overall arch of the story. That is what today's episode was. It broke the flow of the series and that was a disappointment. I feel like we took steps backwards in terms of learning more about Superman and his world. Episodes like this are bound to happen in any show about superheroes. I just don't want it to become a crutch.

Final Thoughts: Thank God that's over! Season two... don't fuck with us.

Evan's Episode Rating: 2/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: Does Not Appear.) - Can we bring Lois next time we have to go into space?

Kristin's Episode Rating: 1/10 - What a snooze fest. I have higher hopes for next season, so we'll see what direction this goes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Episode Nine: The Main Man - Part 1

The first part of our season finale opens with Superman working with STAR Labs to test retrofits made on the shuttle that brought him to Earth.  Meanwhile, a mysterious collector of alien species hires Lobo to track down Superman so that he can be added to his collection.  Lobo travels to Earth and battles with Superman in an attempt to get his attention.  He leaves the planet, causing Superman to give chase in his kryptonian shuttle, but it turns out to be a trap as the collector alien captures him in his intergalactic zoo.  And also Lobo, as he too is the last of his species.  To be continued...

Evan:  This series gave twenty-two minutes to Brainiac's return last episode...

Lobo arrives for a two-part finale and the show is forced to decline sharply into a slapstick parody of itself.  I hate Lobo.  I hated Lobo in the comics and now I hate him in this cartoon.  Superman: The Animated Series gave us a season of relatively character driven stories that asked us to consider the dynamics between our main cast as they established an animated status quo for the series to build on.  This is a show that has taken itself seriously, and in return I've had no problem treating it with that same level of interest.  I'm willing to care about these characters, and their struggles with and against each other.  In this episode, however, the series decided to jettison all of that.  This was a radically different show than the one that Kristin and I have been watching.

Was this a failed back-door pilot episode for a Lobo cartoon?  From his first appearance in a space bar, the cartoonish Lobo immediately clashed with the tone of the series.  His fake-swearing, rocket motorcycle and other 90s cliches drained any interest I had in this episode, and I found myself bored watching him brawl his way though a group of aliens.  When he arrived on Earth, character was superseded by easy, unfunny and obnoxious jokes.  Luthor's office was repeatedly damaged, which he found annoying!  Lois and Clark are trying to save each other, and both think they're succeeding!  Lobo forgot he's also the last of his kind! IT'S SO FUNNY!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

... I really, really didn't like this episode.  However, I will try and point out the things that I think will be important later on.  Superman is now fully working with STAR Labs, and has given them everything he has about Krypton.  This should open up the possibilities to more space sagas, technology run amok and alien intruder stories, although they will hopefully not feature Lobo.  I liked the frustrated Lois that was finding it difficult to understand how Clark was beating her to the punch and Clark's joking response that it was because he's Superman.  Unfortunately, that interplay simply came off as more broad "typical Superman jokes" that made fun of the conventions of Superman as a story that were in contrast to the reverence the show has generally had for these conventions up to this point.

I also noticed Starro in a jar in the zoo.  I would rather have had him as the villain in this episode.

I am not looking forward to the team-up to escape the space zoo next episode.  I'm looking forward to season two, but I just want this season to end.

Kristin: Let me start by saying that I am still under the heavy influence of a stubborn cold, so please forgive any additional rambling or haziness. Secondly, allow me to express the deep satisfaction I get from seeing how much Evan hated this episode.Where to start, where to start...

Well, why don't I start with the crazy 90s stereotype who looks like he's straight off my childhood bike helmet featuring characters from (I know you remember this!) Biker Mice from Mars.

From the 2006 "what-the-heck-we'll-do-it-again".
Yep, that horrible show that we all want to forget and that they apparently thought it would be fun to try to revamp in 2006. That one. I even recall one of them having an almost identical name to Lobo... perhaps it was Modo? In any case, I'm not sure what made the creative team of this show decide that injecting this bad biker trend into the series would be a good idea. I guess they were high on some pixie stix, because it completely throws off the rhythm of the entire story! We have a (nearly) sane series up until this point that appears to be attempting a serious crack at a fairly comprehensive telling of some Superman mythology. It would have to be the decision of a higher-up trying to ride the bike-craze to increase ratings, surely. From the start of the episode in the space bar called "Steaming Load", I'm not even certain that the writers can believe that they have to use this garbage material. Yet I can't decide if they are trying to do it seriously or completely undermining everything that they've built up until this point by succumbing to a bullshit trend and making a joke out of it. The music that plays every time Lobo is on screen is even worse than that strange jazz anthem from earlier in the season. It sounds like a bad Guitar Hero cover of a 90s rock ballad... but only about 3 bars of it on repeat. His character design even seems out of place with the entire cast. His 90s biker threads jar my already-nostalgic brain into overdrive, removing the essence of timelessness that I think the design of the show had up until this point. This loss is huge considering the longevity it lends to the series and the Superman story itself. Superman is a hero for all time and this ridiculous whoring that the creative team has done to the show cheapens not only their own work, but also the entire Superman canon.

But let's try to forget that it happened. Even just for tonight. I know he'll be back tomorrow, but maybe if we don't speak his name he'll leave our psyche for a brief repose.

There were elements of the show that I enjoyed. I liked the little bit of competition we got between Lois and Clark again. I particularly loved watching Lois try to beat He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named with a lead pipe. Priceless!

Final Thoughts: What the fuck.

Evan's Episode Rating: 0/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: WITHHELD.) - If they don't want to take crazy Lois Lane seriously, neither will I.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 1/10 - For Lois and her pipe.