Let’s Talk Legends of Tomorrow

Thursday I took us through a deep examination of the trailer for November’s Supergirl series. A deep, deep examination. And yet, still missed a couple of details. For one, it’s struck me that the Supergirl trailer has managed to anger both feminists and MRAs. Not sure if that’s an accomplishment or a red flag. Regardless, I chose to only address the feminist complaints, because I’ve yet to hear an MRA complaint about anything, ever, worth addressing.

Second, I forgot to mention that two of her supporting cast have names that suggest they turn evil eventually, becoming The Toyman and the Cyborg Superman. But since, as of this writing, Caitlin Snow has yet to become Killer Frost, let’s put a pin in that.

I also wondered why the show is set in “National City.” I mean, I get it, I know, DC has a long and storied history of using fictional cities, but if breaking that habit and using, say, Chicago is so hard, why not use any of the many, many fictional cities that already exist?

But then it hit me. They can’t use Metropolis, because Superman’s probably still lurking around there. Even if it made sense for Supergirl to live in Gotham, that’s being used by some other show whose name escapes me. And as for Central City, Star(ling) City, Opal City, Coast City, and Blüdhaven, they’re all being used by the people behind our next entry.

Ladies and gents, the unfortunately named but promising looking DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Let’s take a look.

0:06 “I started this alone.”

Our first 45 seconds are a montage that serves as both a brief history of, and victory lap for, the DCW-verse, as I’ve come to know it. As Oliver says… it began with just Arrow. They weren’t trying to build a three-show empire. They were just trying to tell a story about Green Arrow, and then piece by piece, decided to see who else they could work in. As evidenced by the shot of the Arrow leading Arsenal, the proto-Canary, Nyssa Al Ghul, and a horde from the League of Assassins into battle.

And thus came The Flash.

0:19 “And then things just got stranger.”

I could talk a lot about The Flash’s stellar first season, how it rose to become the best comic book show on TV… but I just want to flag the music.

The Flash’s primary theme is four notes at its longest. You can hear it right at 0:19. But for four notes, it can do a hell of lot.

The history concludes with a few team-up shots of Flash and Arrow, which, yes, were a highlight of each show’s season. Flash and Arrow manage team-ups and cross-continuity in a way not even the Marvel cinematic universe does. And then… we see the next level.

Okay I think I’m done sweet-talking Flash and Arrow. Let’s get into what we see here.

0:52 “Sometimes the world needs a team.”

Okay, one more quick handy to Greg Berlanti and company, masterminds of the DCW-verse. Upon being told that they would not tie into Man of Steel or be featured in the planned Justice League movie, they said “Fine. The DC Universe is full of cool characters. We’ll build our own team.”

Okay, maybe slightly less photogenic than Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck.

Okay, maybe slightly less photogenic than Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck.

At first glance, they might not look like much. But with one exception (she’s new), you’re looking at a collection of the best recurring characters the last two years of superhero shows have produced. Okay, let’s call them the best recurring characters from the DCW-verse, I’d really rather not get into a whole thing about Daredevil right now. Or Kyle MacLachlan’s work on Agents of SHIELD. For those unfamiliar, let me introduce you to some folks.

1:01 “A girl with wings and a past lives complex.”

The newbie.

The newbie.

Hawkgirl, frequent partner and occasional paramour of Hawkman, is one of three newcomers on the show. Hawkman is one of those characters who’s had a rough ride as far as continuity goes, and Hawkgirl was dragged along with him. In the 40s, They were Carter and Shiera Hall, an archaeologist and his girlfriend-turned-wife who believed themselves to be the reincarnation of Egyptian prince Khufu and his lover, Chay-Ara, who used wings made out of a substance called Nth-metal to fight crime. In the 70s and 80s, they were Katar and Shayera Hol, hawk-themed police officers visiting from Thanagar, the planet Nth metal comes from. In the 90s… I don’t have time to get into that. Let’s just say Hawkman got weird, and then ended up being retired for a while.

This Hawkgirl is the one that showed up after that, in the late 90s. Kendra Saunders is haunted by past lives, including Shiera Hall and Chay-Ara. Throughout the centuries, she’s been reincarnated as a series of adventurers and crime fighters, always falling in with the reincarnation of Khufu (aka the eventual Hawkman), her eternal lover.

As indicated, TV Hawkgirl is haunted by past lives (one of which popped up on a movie poster in an early Flash episode), but I wouldn’t expect to see Hawkman in a hurry. The Kendra Saunders Hawkgirl has preferred to work separately from Hawkman more often than not. Anyway, Hawkgirl can fly and whoop your ass with a mace. We mostly see the flying here. Since she hasn’t shown up yet, there’s not much more I can tell you.

1:07 “A deceased assassin.”

Okay. Some spoilers for Arrow here. Skip forward if you want to avoid them.

Still here? Okay then.

When Arrow viewers first met Sara Lance, she was the sister of Oliver Queen’s girlfriend, Laurel, who he’d chosen to invite along on the disastrous yacht trip that left Oliver stranded on an island and everyone else apparently dead. A year later, Sara turned up in Starling, now played by Caity Lotz, while we learned that she and Oliver had also met up on the island back when. Was the recast an attempt to obfuscate the newcomer’s identity? Maybe, but it was a smart move.

Sara was now on the run from the League of Assassins and fighting crime in a costume reminiscent of frequent Green Arrow paramour Black Canary. The thing is, we’d assumed that Laurel, full name Dinah Laurel Lance, was destined to be the Black Canary. Which implied a dark end for Sara.

As the Canary, Caity Lotz soon became a key and valued member of Oliver’s supporting cast, both in the present and his flashbacks to the island. She brought heart and a healthy degree of ass-kicking to the show’s second season. But since Sara Lance doesn’t exist in the comics, just her sister Dinah (or Laurel, to Arrow viewers), it seemed inevitable she’d meet an unpleasant fate. I won’t spoil when, but she wasn’t called a “deceased assassin” for no reason. Hence a great deal of confusion when she was announced as part of the cast. But one thing seems pretty clear from the trailer.

Well, okay, it's not super clear out of context...

Well, okay, it’s not super clear out of context…

For those who haven’t seen the back half of Arrow’s third season, that right there is Sara Lance emerging from a Lazarus Pit, magical waters capable of extending life and raising the dead. Somehow, Sara’s body must find its way to one of the pits. Not improbable, since Sara’s on-again, off-again lover Nyssa Al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul (yes, Sara’s bisexual), has access to the pit and motive to bring Sara back. But as Oliver was warned, the person who comes out of the pit isn’t always the same as whoever they were before. So the impact of her resurrection remains to be seen.

She still kicks ass, though.

That's her with the staff, surrounded by fallen foes.

That’s her with the staff, surrounded by fallen foes.

1:14 “A pair of criminals.”

Second most confusing in the cast announcements? Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold, followed by Dominic Purcell as Heat Wave. Captain Cold and Heat Wave are two key members of the Central City Rogues, a band of Flash villains who were returned to prominence as some of DC’s best supervillains by Geoff Johns, an executive producer on Flash and Arrow, and Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, a job he landed by being DC’s best writer. Johns made it a mission to give all of Flash’s villains time in the spotlight, and took a particular interest in Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold, striving to put him on the same level as, if not the Joker or Lex Luthor, certainly the Riddler or Brainiac.

As of this writing, Captain Cold has made four appearances on the Flash’s TV show (Heat Wave, only two), plus a brief cameo in the season finale, and each one has been a highlight. He’s one of the only villains able to outsmart the Flash more often than he doesn’t, and Wentworth Miller makes him a joy to watch. Which led to a dilemma… if he’s on the spinoff, then how can he ever lead the fully formed Rogues? But on the other hand… it would mean way more appearances by Captain Cold next year, and that can’t be a bad thing.

And from the trailer, he’s still having fun, even if circumstances have him on the opposite side as normal. Although what’s weird? The only shots of Heat Wave are from his first appearance on The Flash and the Superhero Fight Club short they released a couple of weeks back. Maybe he’s not in the pilot? And yet he’s referenced… huh. Time will tell, I guess.

1:20 “More tech than he clearly knows what to do with.”

The third season of Arrow had some flaws. The season’s arc was a little muddy, it’s been accused of catering to shippers too much, discarding a relationship that made sense in favour of one fans seemed to prefer (clearly not all of the fans, from the online complaints…), and having a conclusion that, while good, was less massively satisfying than their second season blowout battle royale against… well, just watch it.

But there’s one thing they did absolutely right, and that is Ray Palmer.

Yes, fine, hello Ray.

Ray Palmer in the comics is a scientist who used white dwarf star matter (don’t give me that look, it made sense in the 60s and now we’re stuck with it) to build a belt that let him shrink to sub-atomic size, becoming Justice Leaguer The Atom. Ray Palmer on Arrow’s third season is a much, much richer scientist who builds himself a flying, ray-shooting suit of armour that he intends to use to protect the people of Starling City (which he wants to rebrand Star City to distract people from the fact that terrorists try to wipe it off the map every May). Sure, he talked about miniaturization and nanotech a lot, and still calls himself the Atom, but he didn’t get around to shrinking this season.

So, yes, a little more Tony Stark than classic Ray Palmer, I’ll grant you. But damn it, he works.

Brandon Routh, known best for his last attempt at playing a DC superhero, brought a wit and charm to the character that Arrow had lacked since Oliver’s best friend Tommy learned his secret identity and got all broody about it. Ray is more than a little nerdy, super enthusiastic about his mission and tinkering with his suit, and despite his dark, admittedly women-in-refrigerator-y motivation, generally a beam of light on what was otherwise a fairly grim season. When rumours of a third DCW-verse show began swirling, I was torn between The Atom and our next entry for who I wanted to star.

Oh, and the final seconds of the trailer reveal that yes, The Atom will finally learn how to shrink. Here’s hoping Ant-Man doesn’t ruin that for him.

1:29 “Half a hero.”

The other character I wanted to see in a spinoff? Firestorm. The Flash took Firestorm back to his roots: a nuclear-powered, flame-headed hybrid of Ronnie Raymond (played by Robbie Amell, cousin to Arrow’s Stephen Amell, and upgraded from college student to structural engineer) and physics professor Martin Stein.

I started reading comics seriously back around 1985. Back then, Firestorm was at his prime. He/they had a major role in the mother of all “event books,” the universe-redefining Crisis on Infinite Earths, and was soon added to the latest iteration of the Saturday morning cartoon equivalent of the Justice League, the SuperFriends.

In short, I loves me some Firestorm. And the fact that Alias’ Victor Garber was playing Martin Stein was icing on the cake. So when it was announced that the new spinoff would feature both Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer and Victor Garber’s Martin Stein? Move over, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, we have a new set of Science Bros on the way.

However.

Above “But she’s dead, isn’t she?” and “But they’re villains, aren’t they?” the biggest question being asked of Legends of Tomorrow is “But where’s Robbie Amell?” Firestorm is still, last we saw, a hybrid of Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein, and when fused, still looks like Ronnie. So why isn’t he on the show? And it’s not because Stein doesn’t become Firestorm anymore. While a lot of the shots of Firestorm in the trailer come from Flash episodes, he’s right there in the “big action” section.

FWOOSH

FWOOSH

Well… Martin Stein, in his breakdown of the group, did refer to himself as “Half a hero.” And when he goes on to say “My other half is… combustible,” they cut to another shot when he says “combustible.” Which implies that that isn’t how he actually ends the sentence. Makes one suspect that he uses another word, like, say, “gone.” Maybe early next season, something happens to Ronnie.

Because there’s one more character who doesn’t appear and isn’t mentioned in this trailer: Franz Drumeh as Jay Jackson, a name that means nothing, absolutely nothing, to DC fans. So it’s possible that Martin now fuses with Jay Jackson to become Firestorm. Which would be an odd choice. Firestorm lore already has an alternative to Ronnie Raymond: Detroit teenager Jason Rusch, who has been at least half of Firestorm in the comics since 2004, has been introduced on The Flash, and would even add to cast diversity in the same way Jay Jackson does. But whatever, give me more of Victor Garber’s Martin Stein and I’ll make do.

Final thoughts

  • This was supposed to be shorter than the Supergirl entry. That did not happen.
  • Casting Doctor Who vet Arthur Darville as time traveller Rip Hunter is a genius bit of fan service. Proving again that Greg Berlanti and company live to please me specifically. And that swagger on “I’m from East London. Oh, and the future,” looks good on him.
  • Do I need to tell you anything about Vandal Savage that the trailer doesn’t? No, probably not.
  • They sure do like that giant battle scene at/in the dam. We spend almost half the trailer there. Looks okay so far. Arrow has always had good fight choreo, but they might need to step up their game to compete with Daredevil. Blending proper fight choreo with powers is a good start. Something Agents of SHIELD should start experimenting with.
  • I do not want to wait until January for this thing. I really very do not.
  • I can only hope that in a year or two, this fan-intro becomes more accurate:

Alright. Done now. No new Writers Circle this week, so on Friday we’ll talk about… something.

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