Legends of Tomorrow: The Justice Society of America

jsa

A unique version of the JSA

Legends of Tomorrow’s new voice-over intro is done by Sara, which makes sense given the events of the episode. At the end of last episode, the Legends met a version of the Justice Society of America (also the title of the episode), consisting of Commander Steel, Dr. Midnight, Hourman, Obsidian, Stargirl, and Vixen. I’ll offer my commentary on that line up in a separate section after the main review. Typical for a first meeting of heroes, they fight at first, and the Legends get their collective butts kicked. I’m not quite sure how Stargirl’s cosmic rod split Firestorm back into Stein and Jax, but that’s another issue.

The team ends up beaten and locked in a cell in the JSA HQ. The cell is wired for sound and video, which is really impressive for 1942, especially considering none of the brilliant inventor types seem to be members of this version of the JSA. The Legends bicker a bit about what to do next and Haywood manages to creep out Commander Steel, who just happens to be his grandfather. Isn’t time travel fun?

There’s a brief scene in Paris as the Reverse Flash is apparently trying to set up some kind of swap with the Nazis. Why someone with his power and lack of morals wouldn’t just take what he wants, I don’t know, but he offers some kind of super serum in trade. Meanwhile, Hourman tells the JSA he has no idea who the Legends are, because even though he warned them, they haven’t met yet (more fun with time travel). We then see a longer flashback to Tyler’s warning to the team, during which he just plain disappeared. In the now, the Legends agree they need a leader, and Hourman assumes it’s Stein because Stein is an older white man and it’s 1942. There’s some talk about danger in Paris, a Nazi called Baron Kreiger (probably a version of WWII era villain Baron Blitzkreig) and then Hourman asks the Legends to leave.

The Legends happily leave World War II behind, and decide Stein is their leader. Sara is talking to Haywood about his weird meeting with Commander Steel when they suddenly become aware of history changing. They check, and now the JSA dies on that mission to Paris. So the Legends go back after scenes of Haywood trying to brief them and not knowing how to run the computer, which was a nice touch, and Stein letting the leadership thing go to his head really quickly.

The Legends infiltrate a Nazi nightclub with a really weird cover that only works because Stein has some hidden talents. They run into Vixen, but end up blowing their cover when one of the team just can’t bring themselves to do the Nazi Heil. They do work in a decent Back To The Future joke during the scene.

The two teams reunite and the JSA is even less sure of the Legends now that they see the Waverider and how much tech the Legends have. In another nice touch, the JSA don’t know what either an AI or a computer are. The Nazis are after something called the Askaran Amulet, which, if it has a comic book analogue, I don’t know it. While Hourman and Stein debate strategies, Sara learns a secret about our new historian/mascot Nate Haywood.

Elsewhere on the ship, Ray is tinkering with his suit and has an ugly conversation with Vixen. She’s mad about her cover being blown, and says some really uncool things to Ray. This is one of several problems I end up having with the episode in general, and her in particular.

The combined teams attack the Nazi convoy with the amulet, minus leaders Hourman and Stein, which means no Firestorm. Normally, a column of soldiers should be no match for a group of heroes, let alone two, but neither group really does well, Stein fails as a leader really badly, and the Baron ends up taking the serum he got and becomes, well, a low-grade Hulk, managing to capture both Atom and Vixen.

Back on the Waverider, the ones who managed to not get captured lick their wounds and regroup. Obsidian and Stargirl are down for the count in the medbay. Bizarrely, Dr. Midnight, who all three comic book incarnations of was an actual physician, isn’t even in the room. After a lot of bickering, the Legends decide that Sara makes a better leader. Stein backs her on this, which Rex/Hourman is clearly uncomfortable with. Finally, the teams decide to attack the Nazi base, recapture the serum, and save Ray and Vixen. There’s also a scene with Nate and his grandfather that doesn’t go real well for either of them.

Speaking of Ray and Vixen, those two don’t do well in captivity. Ray’s suit has been taken from him, as has Vixen’s amulet. They bicker with each other… well, more like Vixen picks on him. Ray agrees to “fine tune” the serum for the Baron in exchange for he and Vixen not getting shot. This is another fine example of writers not understanding how science works. Ray’s expertise has always been shown as mechanical. Now he’s a bio-engineer, working with 40’s equipment to modify a serum that’s likely from the future? Ray and Amaya (apparently this Vixen’s name) manage to escape and meet up with the other teams as they come in to rescue them. Improbably, before the teams meet up, Vixen boasts to Ray she’s a 5th degree black belt. Really? In 1942, a black woman is a black belt? This seems unlikely at best. Unfortunately, Hourman had no real faith in this working, and has called in an air-strike on the base. Seems a bit extreme to me…

There’s another fight with the Baron, which goes about as well as last time. Then everything goes worse when Hourman’s bombers show up. They do apparently stop the Baron, but take a toll on the good guys, too. Nate ends up in critical condition, but Ray cleverly uses the modified serum to save him. So all’s well that ends well, right?

Of course not. The JSA make it back to their base, but get a really nasty surprise. Let’s just say that the special guest villain really is too much for the team. Tragedy strikes and leaves behind a clue that’s going to likely set at least part of the JSA against the Legends.

As a more general note, it’s odd that the JSA is back in World War II on this show, while in the comics DC has been pushing to remove all World War II heroes from the comics.

What I liked: It was cool seeing a live action JSA for only the second time (Smallville beat them to the punch back in the day). I like that Martin came to his senses and realized Sara was a better leader. Baron Blitzkreig (if that’s who that was) was a nice nod to the comics history.

What I didn’t: So many things, sadly. A lot of things didn’t fit the time period, as I mentioned above. Dr. Midnight did nothing, I don’t think he even got a line in. Vixen picks on Ray for “your superpower is wearing a suit,” yet she gets her powers from an amulet? How did the Baron change back to human between fights? Hourman showed nothing that made him special or explained his name. And I didn’t like the way the episode ended.

I’ll give this one a low 2.5 out of 5.

JSA Guide:

This is a strange version of the team, so I’m going to give a quick rundown of the characters as they appear in the show and the comics. I will say that overall, they got the costumes for everyone at least somewhat close.

COMMANDER STEEL- On the show, he appears to be a sort of version of the comic book Captain America- no powers and patriotic costume. In the comics, he was nearly killed in an explosion and “rebuilt” with metal bones and tough skin, kind of an early version of the Six Million Dollar Man. He was a member of the All Star Squadron, but not the Justice Society as far as I know.

DOCTOR MIDNIGHT- Ummm… yeah. He didn’t really do anything except briefly see in the dark. In the comics, there have been three versions- two white men and a black woman. All were actual medical doctors who were in accidents and could see in the dark. They carried “blackout bombs.” The last one was the man of choice to go see for all heroes with special injuries or problems.

HOURMAN- He’s the only founding member of the JSA in this episode. Aside from showing him being the team leader (which he never was) and showing him fighting, he doesn’t really do much. In the comics, Rex Tyler creates a pill called Miraclo that gives him superhuman strength, speed, and endurance for an hour (hence the name). Eventually, Miraclo was revealed to be addictive. I can see why they might avoid this story on tv but then, why use him at all?

OBSIDIAN- On the show, all we really see him do is make things dark in one scene. He can do that, but his powers are usually more like turning into a shadow and showing his enemies their dark sides. He’s the son of Alan Scot, the Golden Age Green Lantern. Obsidian was most active in the 1980’s, and wasn’t a World War II character.

STARGIRL- On the show, she flies around and fires blasts from her staff. In the comics, she does those things, although she doesn’t get the staff until well after she’s started her career. She’s a legacy hero for the earlier heroes Starman (a few of them) and later Skyman/Star Spangled Kid, not active until the 1990’s. She’s sort of the new hope for the team/poster child for her generation of heroes. She’s also the only JSA character that was on both Legends of Tomorrow and Smallville.

VIXEN- While there was a Vixen both in her own cartoon and on Arrow, this is a different version of the character. Like the other one, she draws on the powers of animals through the Tantu Totem. In the comics, they have never shown a 1940’s Vixen. The modern era one has been a member of at least two different versions of the Justice League, as well as one of the field minders for the Suicide Squad. She does have probably the coolest special effects on the team.

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