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Legion of the Superheroes, Vol. 3

Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 9, 2008
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted August 23, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Note: Instead of reprinting my thoughts on the first season of the Kids WB! cartoon "Legion of Super Heroes" here, I'll merely point you to my reviews of that show's first two DVD releases: Volume 1 and Volume 2. The following review discusses the final five episodes from the same season; my thoughts on the overall show so far have not changed, and there's not much else regarding the history of the show worth discussing, so I'll instead focus on the individual episodes themselves.

The DVD

So what does Warner Bros. have against "Legion of Super Heroes"? It's been a year since the show first landed on DVD, in the form of a four-episode collection. A second disc arrived months later, and only now do we finally get a release the rest of the show's first season. In that time, the series already broadcast a second (and apparently final) season, and at this rate, we'll get those episodes on disc midway through the next Winter Olympics.

Granted, these three volumes (thirteen episodes which would have fit just fine onto two discs, by the way, but that's price gouging for you) don't demand a strict in-order viewing pattern. Or does it? Like most Saturday morning cartoons, these episodes were designed to be juggled around the broadcast schedule quite freely, and yet the producers include an unusually high amount of character growth that charts over the entire season. A few storylines overlap from episode to episode, culminating in a two-part season finale that relies heavily on the episode before it. And the finale's charming epilogue ties in nicely with the early moments of the season premiere, all the more reason to view these as a complete set, instead of in three piecemeal releases.

As with the first two volumes, "Volume 3" presents these last five episodes in their original broadcast order.

"The Substitutes." The auditions from the previous episode ("Lightning Storm," available in Vol. 2) continue. Everyone's favorite silver age hero, Matter-Eater Lad, makes the cut, as does Star Boy, but most do not. Those rejects (among them: Porcupine Pete, Infectious Lass, and Chlorophyll Kid!) set out to prove their worth when the villainous Starfinger attacks.

This, really, is why people love the Legion: the goofy heroes. What's not to love about Stone Boy or Color Kid? With genuinely thrilling battle sequences and a winking attitude, this episode blends the series' two best areas, action and comedy, with terrific results.

"Child's Play." A bratty child sorcerer pops up on Earth and causes major havoc. As the Legion struggles to keep up with his unlimited magic, Phantom Girl travels to the sorcerers' planet to find help, only to get bogged down in a bureaucratic nightmare.

The weakest episode of the season, "Child's Play" combines an unbearable villain with a subplot bound to go over kids' heads. (What grade schooler wants to watch a dry satire on red tape?) The junior sorcerer, Zyx, is meant to recall the spry misadventures of such comical foes as Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, but it fails. The kid is a whiny brat, nothing more, and the episode is twenty-two minutes of screaming.

"Chain of Command." Lightning Lad's home planet is in peril when a major storm hits. The Legion arrives to find their former leader, Cosmic Boy, already at work. Will Lightning Lad be able to restrain his resentment for the leader who seemingly abandoned the group?

A major improvement over the previous episode, this one relies on far more character energy than your typical cartoon - although the expected action elements are in play, too. With storylines involving the conflict between the two leaders, the arrival of the mysterious Ferro Lad, the unexpected importance of Bouncing Boy, and the storm itself, there's an awful lot going on all at once, yet the episode balances itself perfectly. The ending is especially sharp and surprisingly emotional.

"Sundown Part 1." An ancient weapon called the Sun Eater (it does what you think it does) has been reactivated, threatening an entire star system. The Legion must work together to stop it - and figure out why a society of ancient beings would want to unleash it.

When you have a group as downright big as the Legion, you're begging for an episode like this, in which dozens upon dozens of superheroes team up to fight a single, seemingly unbeatable foe. This episode tones down the comedy and goes straight for the action, delivering the sort of exciting space battles that just don't show up enough on Saturday mornings.

"Sundown Part 2." The Sun Eater is heading for Earth, and the Legion alone may not be able to stop it. Dare they enlist the help of the Fatal Five? And will Superman be able to stop the menace of the Controllers?

Again, more of that spectacular action! Meanwhile, several of the season's plot threads come together nicely, including a conclusion for one character's story arc that displays a strong, welcome amount of confidence in the young audience on the part of the producers. As mentioned, the final scene fits with the season premiere, allowing for an overall story unity not evident when watching these episodes at random.

Video & Audio

As with Volume 2, the colorful animation looks splendid here, with bold lines and nice detail making the most of the series' sleek design. Presented in the original 1.33:1 broadcast format.

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is on par with the previous releases, crisp and vibrant. Once again, a 2.0 French dub and optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Extras

None, except for the batch of promos that play as the disc loads. (Oh, and there's that obnoxious "Wizard of Oz" anti-piracy PSA, too, because, hey, that'll teach those third grade criminal masterminds.)

Final Thoughts

That complete season set is looking less and less inevitable than I originally thought, and the quality of four of the five episodes presented here make for a tempting purchase. Yet the studio obviously put so little effort into this barebones release. It's impossible to recommend such a lightweight collection. Rent It.
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