Arguably more so than any other network before it, The CW has become the sweet spot for comic book fans old and new, having introduced viewers to both the mood-driven action of Arrow and the fantastical adventures of The Flash. Later this month, characters from each of those shows will join a few new faces for the spinoff Legends of Tomorrow, and I have little trouble saying that while not perfect as a whole, it’s an absolutely perfect combination of its predecessors, complete with the massive scope and scale that such a mash-up of sensibilities and personalities requires.
Kicking the multi-facted story off as if it was the standard blueprint for such things, Legends of Tomorrow puts us right into the future to introduce the half-virtuous ringleader Rip Hunter, played with the perfect amount of snideness from Arthur Darvill. He intends to use heroes from our present to save the world of the future, which has been put through the wringer thanks to Vandal Savage, the devious and deadly big bad we first met in the crossover between Arrow and Flash. Savage embodies all of the worst things about conquerors, with the added bonus of being immortal, and Rip Hunter will have to go to the furthest lengths to stop him.
Enter our post-motley crew of heroes and rogues, gathered by Rip by persuasion or by force. From Team Arrow, we’ve got the size-shifting brainiac Atom/Ray Palmer and the resurrected and sassy White Canary/Sara Lance, while Team Flash is represented through Firestorm’s duo of genius Martin Stein and wildcat Jefferson Jackson, and the fire and ice of villains Heat Wave/Mick Rory and Captain Cold/Leonard Snart. Rounding out the team are the reincarnated lovers Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders and Hawkman/Carter Hall, whose continued existence plays a role in Vandal Savage’s undying reign. All in all, though, Rip is the most interesting of the bunch, since we know the least about him.
Legends of Tomorrow is more of a limited series than a full-fledged one, due to its lower episode count, and the time crunch is definitely felt in the best of ways. There isn’t a lot of fluff to this series, which has a lot of ground to cover, both all over the map and all over the timeline. Every scene fills a role, just as each of the central characters do, and viewers can expect equal doses of exposition, fisticuffs, explosions and humor. Of course, there are cameos from other recognizable characters as well, and one of them is particularly interesting given the timeframe, but my lip-sealing powers are engaged on that.
The titular legends don’t exactly jump out of the gate as a cohesive unit, and it’s fun to watch the group dynamic form as they’re guided by Rip to some incomparable circumstances. Average people who travel back in time to the 1970s and then meet a younger version of themselves wouldn’t be capable of comprehending simple tasks, much less trying to save the world from a centuries-old madman. But these characters’ lives have taken unexplainable turns in the past, so they’re more suited for it.
Because of the limited episode count, our heroes are also put into danger more frequently than expected, as Vandal Savage isn’t the only threat that’s trying to bring the team down. And thankfully, that danger isn’t always just a temporary setback for our heroes, and the consequences are both minor and major, with reverberations down the timeline. There are shocks here that can’t be undone by time travel or Lazarus Pits, and not all of these characters will be around by the time the finale gets here.
If you’re looking for a nuanced perspective on the nature of crime and the hero’s journey, you might find the quips and frequent suspension of disbelief a bit much. (And you also should have known better.) But if the remaining episodes of Legends of Tomorrow retain the constant action and story twists that are packed into these first installments, then our rampant expectation for it will have not been formed in vain. After all, Captain Cold is vain enough for everyone.
Grab whatever you think would make a good costume and get ready to try and save the world with Legends of Tomorrow when it premieres on The CW on Thursday, January 21.