Over the years, DC Comics has experimented with the Legion of Superheroes off and on. First introduced in the comics in 1959 as an outlet for Superboy, The Legion have steadily grown into fan favorites. Although these days, Legionnaires don’t hold as much mainstream relevancy as The Teen Titans. The team features an innumerable cast of futuristic aliens and metahumans from the far future inspired by The Justice League. The newest incarnation utilizes Supergirl to introduce the team for the animated Tomorrow-verse. Supergirl joining the legion is not a foreign concept. In fact, Supergirl was a standout in the Supergirl And The Legion Of Super-Heroes comic and the Justice League Unlimited series.
“Welcome to the 31st century and the Legion Academy, where a new generation hones their powers with hopes of joining the Legion of Super-Heroes! Devastated by tragedy, Supergirl struggles to adjust to her new life on Earth. Taking her cousin Superman’s advice, Supergirl leaves their space-time to attend the Academy. There, she quickly makes new friends, as well as a new enemy with old ties: Brainiac 5. But a nefarious plot lurks in the shadows – the mysterious group known as the Dark Circle seeks a powerful weapon held in the Academy’s vault.”
Orphaned & Abandoned
Legion of Super-Heroes briefly reintroduces audiences to Supergirl’s refugee origin story. Before Krypton faces extinction, Kara gets a small opportunity to bond with her mother. Consequently, their relationship becomes one of the emotional foundations for the film. At least, that was the intention. Kara’s paternal relationship unsteadily centers on extremely unclear themes. As a result, Kara’s emotional baggage feels light and unhelpful to her journey. Particularly, the emphasis on Kara’s military badge’s importance. On earth, Superman takes Kara under his wing the best he can, but the only things Clark gives her are glasses and 90’s Flash merch. Personally, I find that stories built on shaky foundations inevitably come with bad omens.
Much of the actual plot follows Kara’s new-new life as a student in the 31st century. The film opens with Kara attempting to live under Batman and Superman’s scrutiny. The opening fight is an exciting action sequence that sets up much of the running premise. After confronting a gun-toting Solomon Grundy, Batman realizes Kara needs more training. Therefore Superman, in all his wisdom, gets the great idea of sending the “fish out of water” somewhere else she will feel out of place. Ultimately, the movie introduces the premise of Kara training with the Legion of Super-Heroes to hopefully return as a well rounded hero. At the very least, Kara is already a positive and optimistic protagonist to follow.
The Legionnaire-Boys and Girls Club
The Tomorrow-verse’s version of the Legion of Super-Heroes is a fully functioning superhero academy. Much like Marvel’s X-Men, The Legion’s elder members have taken to educating the younger lads and lasses. Nevertheless, the incoming class of Legionnaires joining Kara are a batch of unimpressive losers. The least of which include versions of Bouncing Boy, Dawnstar, Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, and Invisible Boy, while Mon-El and Braniac 5 far outshine the rest. A heap of the conflict involves pitting Kara against her classmates for a single slot on the actual team. Of course this means every recruit gets an opportunity to show what they can contribute. While Mon-El fawns over and encourages Kara, the anti-social Braniac 5 becomes her heated rival.
As a consequence of fast forwarding through Kara’s story, new audience members never get a true sense of what Braniac means to Kara. In most versions, Braniac is responsible for bottling Kara’s home city, and sometimes destroying Krypton himself. In the Tomorrow-verse, Braniac first appears in the prologue and epilogue of Justice Society: World War II. Not only does Kara’s Braniac backstory happen off-screen, but Superman also receives his first Legion invite off-screen as well. Anyway, Braniac 5 is the original Braniac’s heroic successor with a chip on his shoulder. This doesn’t stop the two of them from bickering anyway, and devolves into a “cape measuring contest” with a surprising amount of romantic tension.
The Circle Is Unbroken
The main villains of the film are the mysterious time travelling Dark Circle cult. These antagonists tend to pop up every now and then in the comics, but play an original part in this adaptation. The Dark Circle often feature in thrillingly violent scenes of them enacting their plans. There is even a brutal clash between them and Batman at Star Labs. Sadly, I will admit the past scenes have no worth to the overall narrative, but are at least cool to look at. Audiences discover very early on that the Academy safe contains whatever they are willing to kill for across the timeline.
One of the other mysteries behind Legion is the disappearances of major Legionnaires like Lightning Lad or Saturn Girl. Consequently, the remaining teammates such as Shadow Lass or Timber Wolf must take leadership and investigate. Somehow this was the most fascinating aspect of the movie, albeit a tired trope of films like The School For Good And Evil (2022) or Sky High (2005). What worried me was if Kara’s character arc could integrate properly with the larger mystery. Given some time to think about it, I found Kara to suffer from the same issue John Stewart had in the last Tomorrow-verse film. The film ungracefully struggles at balancing the Supergirl film with the needs of The Legion film.
My overall issue with Legion of Super-Heroes is that it wastes a promising premise on an unfocused plot. The positives are easy. It has a great cast of quirky characters, shocking action sequences, and the look and tone of the comfortable house style Warner Brother’s Animation is using. Negatively, Kara doesn’t have the strong narrative backbone needed to make her story mean anything in particular, especially when buried under Legionnaires. Moreover, at a run time of around 85 minutes, I never felt like the movie used its time or characters wisely. On one hand, some of the twists and turns go off without a hitch, while others misfire completely. At the end of the day, it is a fun cartoon adventure for teens with time to kill. The structure may not be all there, but it has heart. Even if it isn’t always in the right place or time.
Legion of Super-Heroes is now available on Blu-Ray, Digital HD from Amazon Video, and iTunes.
Fun Jug Media, LLC (operating Batman-News.com) has affiliate partnerships with various companies. These do not at any time have any influence on the editorial content of Batman News. Fun Jug Media LLC may earn a commission from these links.