Can You Trust an Alien?
My Adventures with Superman: Season 1
When last we checked in with My Adventures with Superman (after watching its series premiere) we found a show that tapped into the fun, effervescent joy of SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s.. This is a character that many have struggled to adapt, making him too dark, too emo, too... well, not the beacon of hope and lightness that the character should be. It's interesting because there were plenty of adaptations that managed to nail the core of the character -- the 1950s Adventures of Superman, the Donner-directed Superman films of the 1970s, and even The New Adventures of Lois & Clark in the 1990s -- but there was a trend in comics, that spread to films, that wanted to make him darker and broodier and, well, less Superman.
Thankfully we're on a swing back from that. We've pulled back from the ultra dark, Objectivism-led Superman of the Zack Snyder, Man of Steel era, and we're into a time of bright and shiny fun once more. Superman ↦ Lois has been handling that in live-action on the small screen and, with this first season of the animated series now complete, it's clear that we're getting that same colorful beacon of hope Superman in animated form as well.
Not that My Adventures with Superman is without its dark moments, but those moments are in service of a bigger story, one that was started in the premiere episode of the series. There, our heroes -- Jack Quaid as Clark Kent, Alice Lee as Lois Lane, Ishmel Sahid as Jimmy Olsen -- stumble onto a group of thieves attempting to steal high tech robots and sell them on the black market. Lois and Jimmy track down the thieves as they try to offload the goods onto a ship, and the thieves awaken the robots to kill the reporters. Clark then comes in, as Superman, and battles the robots, and, with the help of Lois, defeats them and captures the bad guys.
What we learn over the course of the season, though, is that those robots were actually controlled and operated by Task Force X, led by General Sam Lane (Joel de la Fuente) and Amanda Waller (Debra Wilson). And as it's revealed, they've been using these robots, and the tech derived from them, to create a set of weapons specifically to be used to battle an alien invasion. An invasion of Kryptonians. Because the Kryptonians came one time before and almost conquered the Earth. They're worried that Superman, who appeared out of nowhere, is the envoy for the next invasion, and they'll do anything to stop him. And, as Clark fears, what if that was really the reason he was sent to Earth and, just maybe, Task Force X is right?
That's a heavy plot line to drop into a show, but it works in the context. Superman in the series battles a series of foes each with powerful tech, each testing his limits. But in the process it also allows Supes to find new strength within himself, to build himself up to be the hero he needs to be. This is a Superman, bear in mind, still at the start of his career, before he knows who he is or where he came from. He has no idea what his powers might be. He certainly doesn't recognize the ship he arrived in, nor does he understand anything the hologram of his father says when he goes into the ship. There's no way for him to know who he is, so the journey of discovery helps to build his character.
And it works both for the overarching storyline as for character development between him, and Lois, and Jimmy. He has his secret, who he is and what he can do, and he fears telling his friends because it could change the way they look at him. Plus, with people chasing him, knowing who he is could also put his friends in danger. But as their friendship grows, and becomes the emotional core of the series, it's obvious sooner or later his secret will have to come out. There's drama there, but also humor and lightness. The show knows how to balance that well.
It's the humor that really helps drive the show. It's light touch with silliness, inserting joy and humor where it can to keep the show moving at a fun clip, helps to keep the show from feeling like a dark slog. The show is made by the same company, Studio Mir, that also made Voltron: Legendary Defender, and you can feel the same DNA in their work here. That light, fun touch that feels kid-friendly without pandering, and still manages to tell a deep and involving story that adults will enjoy. It works.
Of course, the show plays to those Voltron strengths, having reinventions of classic villains designed around repurposed Kryptonian tech instead of making them meta-humans. Versions of Livewire, Silver Banshee, Heatwave, Mist, Rough House, and Parasite all make appearances and tie into the main story, and they all look really cool. The show actually does a great job of reinventing all its villains, including Task Force X and Mister Mxyzptlk. It shows a level of care and control I wouldn't have expected from a cute little anime-inspired show, but I really enjoy all the work put in on this series.
And we come back to the core trio and that's what makes the series so good. The last couple of episodes tie into a Thanksgiving meal, with all the parties coming together and realizing who everyone is. Big secrets are revealed, the next level of danger arrives, and the plot expands. Yet, because of setting and the characters involved, the heart of the show is never lost. It's not a series about Superman battling armies. It's a show about Clark, Lois, and Jimmy working together to save the world through the power of friendship (and teamwork, and stuff).
That's what makes it better than so many other Superman shows to come along. It's a serialized story that builds, all while keeping the focus on the characters and letting them be real people. It has the right know how to let all its elements build and thrive, never feeling too silly or too dumb (a feat the various ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. shows couldn't always manage. And it does all this with the right, light touch that allows it to appeal to fans of all ages, bringing in old and new to enjoy the adventures of this Superman.
I'm sure there are fans that will complain about this series -- it's too cute, it deviates "too far" from established canon, etc. and so forth -- but I think they're wrong. This show has the smarts to be its own thing so it can be surprising, and it does while still delivering what we need from a good Superman story: hope. There's nothing better than that for old Big Blue.