Is DC’s Legends of Tomorrow the best comic book show out there? Okay, before I start a total fan war with comic book geeks doing their best Braveheart berserker-like mode impression, I want to say that I’m well-aware of Netflix’s venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the already released Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I have high respect for those shows and I do not think that Legends of Tomorrow beats them in terms of quality. Daredevil and Jessica Jones are gritty dramas focused primarily on character development and drawing in an adult crowd. As dark parables, they are very good at what they do.
Legends of Tomorrow is, at its heart, a small-scale popcorn flick. Am I saying that it’s light on character development and drama? Also a big “no.” Legends of Tomorrow‘s primary mission is to entertain with spectacular action set pieces while having a strong dose of character development. The show’s venture into the fantastical also blends multiple genres — sci-fi, comedy, superheroes, action, and suspense. What does that sound like to you? It’s, of course, very much like the crazy conglomerate universe of comics.
That is what I mean by “being the best comic book show out there.” No other medium has introduced a potpourri of varying characters — from multiple genres that dramatically differ in tone — all playing in the same field. Comic books were and have always made that as a staple and signature of their art form. Legends of Tomorrow has these disparate genres displayed in spades: the magic and fantasy from Hawkman and Hawkgirl; anti-heroism and heist thrills from Captain Cold and Heatwave; noirish atmosphere from the femme fatale White Canary; and the space-operatic sarcastic comedy from Rip Hunter and Gideon. All of this is complemented strongly with the traditional sci-fi heroism of The Atom and Firestorm.
Now that I’ve explained what I meant by my “controversial” statement, would you not agree that “Pilot: Part 2” cemented Legends of Tomorrow as a comic book fan’s fantasy come true? The opening mission, wrought with conflict (debating who will lead the team), showed exactly how an ensemble series should be executed. It didn’t look like a comic book-inspired show — it looked like a show that would inspire comic books. That was how impressed I was by the action and character interactions.
The episode also didn’t shy away from consequences. Many shows seem to forget the old screenwriting adage borrowed from Isaac Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Yes, I’ve seen too many writers take the convenient path because a hero’s powers will just fix everything. Or because they’re almost at the finish line, they have a character do something he or she would never do in a story just because it’ll finish it off cleanly. Legends of Tomorrow takes what the characters have done, and slaps them right back in the face with it ten-fold. It’s karma at its finest … or maybe worst? Let’s just say the writers of Legends of Tomorrow aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
We had Martin Stein thinking that he succeeded in stealing the tracker from his younger self, but the consequences are that he suddenly never met his wife. The team successfully stopping Vandal Savage from selling a nuclear warhead, only to have Ray lose a piece of his tech during the fight — causing a massive ripple in the timeline which resulted in an even more horrible future. And finally, Carter dying because he thought that he had all the pieces to destroy Savage once and for all — but ignorant of the fact that Kendra had to wield the weapon.
That’s how comic books operate. It’s one exciting panel after another — conflict after conflict. Legends of Tomorrow has proven that an almost direct translation of comic books can work in live-action. If Legends of Tomorrow continues this sort of quality writing without resorting to gimmicks, it will draw in new fans. I cannot say enough good things about this new series, and I’m definitely looking forward to what surprises the writers have in store for us. Who knows, it would be coincidentally fitting if the show turned out to be a legend itself — one which other comic book shows will draw inspiration.
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Steve Lam (Slam of Steel)
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