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.