My Adventures with Superman 1×09 Review – Man of Steel

One theme you can’t avoid in Superman stories is the possession of power; who has it, how they use it, and what they’ll do to protect it. Most people in Metropolis seem to agree that Superman is a protector and defender, but certain parts of the government undoubtedly see Superman as a wildcard–a potential and possibly inevitable threat. Beware spoilers for My Adventures with Superman Episode 9, “Zero Day: Part Two.”

“Zero Day: Part Two”

Superman is in captivity deep underground, chained up in a futuristic stockade in a red-lit room. Above ground, Lois and Jimmy are scrambling to find their friend, willing to try any idea that might lead them toward their friend, including letting the News Kid Legion feed them useful information.

If you’re a regular DC fan, you’ve probably figured out who the two leaders of the military/government response to Superman actually are, and this episode reveals one and drops some more hints about the other–though you might already know who they are.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

As the General explains to Superman, 22 years ago there was a short-lived invasion of Earth. We flash back to see a much younger General, sneaking out to call his wife at home. His friend Amanda finds him in there and refers to him as Sam. These are younger versions of General Sam Lane, father of Lois Lane, and of Amanda Waller, leader of Task Force X, better known as Suicide Squad.

Lane, Waller, and their squad have made base beneath a floating obelisk. The obelisk opens a portal showing an army fit for a full-scale invasion. Some initial forces get through, including some robots, and an armored man with a flowing red cape fires lasers from his eyeless helmet. And then, all at once, the portal collapses, sucking the armored man and most everything else back through. Since then, General Lane has devoted his whole life preparing for their return. Superman is, worryingly, a flying man who can shoot lasers from his eyes wearing a flowing red cape.

This flashback explains Lane and Waller’s suspicion toward Superman pretty succinctly. Superman, meanwhile, knows none of this. While Lane isn’t ready to give Superman a big hug, Supe’s sincerity puts a few cracks in Lane’s armor, turning this into a fight between Waller and Superman with a conflicted Lane between them.

Differing Intentions

The difference between Lane and Waller here is that Lane seems to be interested in protecting people, while Waller is more interested in acquiring and consolidating power. She has the criminal members of her team, Task Force X, locked up in individual cells. Ivo in particular is screaming–he was promised a fight with Superman.

Things come to a head when Ivo and the rest of Task Force X escape their cells with help from Livewire and go after Superman, destroying his cell and breaking him out of his shackles in the process. Ivo and Amanda are each villains in their own way, but they want and strive for very different things. Once Ivo has his suit back and he’s sucking up every energy source he can find, his armor growing and mutating, turning him into what amounts to a kaiju, something like the semi-alive EVA units in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Ivo comes across as a bitter gamer; he’s a genius with technology but he handles competition and defeat poorly. Superman’s victory initial victory, to him, amounts to cheating. You can’t win–that’s cheating. The giant monster jabs armored tendrils into the buildings around him, looking for electric lines to charge up with. Lane sees civilians being put in danger and armed. Waller sees a few eggs in the process of being cracked–necessary casualties.

The Villains Help the Hero Grow

Instead of feeling overcrowded, though, it feels like a full spectrum of perspectives on Superman. He’s a threat, an opponent, and a force of nature. Different Superman stories handle the question of power differently. My Adventures with Superman is an optimistic show that takes an optimistic view. Jimmy mobilizes his Firebird viewers, asking them to turn off their lights and hit the breakers in their buildings, hoping to deprive Ivo of the power he needs to keep his suit working. This is the part viewers looking for reasons to dismiss the show will point at–even if everyone turns off everything in the apartments, there’s still power going to the buildings, and there are still conduits underground that Ivo could tap into.

Regardless, it works, and we get our first glimpse of what appears to be a fully-formed Superman. He’s met Lois, Jimmy, and some of his classic early villains. He’s figured out his powers one by one. Ivo is crushing him, but as the power goes out around them, Superman sees the support of Metropolis all around him. His eyes crackle blue as they have each time he wakes up a little more, and he flies through Ivo’s exo-suit like a spear, destroying the suit and extracting Ivo–still accusing Superman of cheating.

As long as Ivo is still alive, he’s going to keep charging Superman like a rabid dog, while Waller will attempt to keep outmaneuvering him. But finally, it seems like Superman knows who he is and what he wants. This almost feels like a finale, but this is the penultimate episode for the season (Season 2 is already happening!), so we have a little more growing left to do, but this Superman feels much better prepared to face villains like General Zod, the Eradicator, and Lex Luthor.

It’s very rare that we get to see Superman grow as Superman in this kind of format. He’s fully formed in Superman & Lois and Man of Steel. 1979’s Superman has to skip over much of the growing, literally fast-forwarding through it. Even the Superman of Lois and Clark didn’t get much of a chance to grow. This alone makes this ten-episode season stand out, and the Superman we’re seeing as this episode ends feels like a different character from the one we met at the beginning, and that’s really rewarding for viewers. If the showrunners can keep up this pace and feel in the next season, My Adventures with Superman is going to be a joy to watch.