DCAU #257: Where There's Smoke

IN THIS ONE... A pyrotechnic thief runs from the secret organization that trained her.

CREDITS: Written by Hilary J. Bader; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: Superman's back with an episode that doesn't seem to belong in the DC Animated Universe. Volcana is an okay creation, though not far enough from Livewire to be meaningful, just another villainess that shoots some elemental force around (not even sure why Superman is so hurt by flames), and with far less personality and back story. The whole idea of a school for paranormals is an ill fit, suddenly and pointlessly introducing "mutants" to the DCAU, and using it as a lame potential bank for making villains of the week. There's no need for that if you take characters from the DCU since they usually come with ample origins. Then throw a super-secret organization that seems to be based on SHIELD, complete with lookalikes for Nick Fury,  Dum Dum Dugan, Gabriel Jones, and Jasper Sitwell, give their goons AIM helmets, and oh, call it all Project Firestorm with no link to the Nuclear Man, and you've got me scratching my head.

But even without the Marvel riffs, the episode doesn't make a whole lot of sense. A fire-slinging villain who is also a thief of rare artifacts? Who essentially steals previous treasures while burning down the building they're in? That's incoherent and probably wouldn't work. Volcana (which is, by the way, a Marvel villain's name) is meant to be "hot", but she has no real chemistry with anyone she's meant to be seducing, including Superman who decides the best "punishment" for her is a deserted island because no prison can hold her. Absurd. We've seen the super-prison in Metropolis, and the tech needed to keep her in check already exists. You don't think Professor Hamilton can reimagine the stuff Project Firestorm had? I guess Superman is meant to empathize with the orphaned and abused Volcana, but when has that ever been an excuse?

I could go on. Jimmy Olsen taking creepy pictures for his "private collection". The whole "comedy" scene with the stunted telekinetic eating ice cream in Clark's apartment. That same guy politely asking a journalist not to reveal the government funds his school/lab, because it's all very hush-hush, even though he's the one who confirmed it. It's like Bader's forgotten how the world works. The DCAU's AND ours. A couple of cool super-tricks (the propeller, the foot stomp) can't possible save this one.

IN THE COMICS: Volcana has never appeared outside the DCAU. All the references are to Marvel properties, or misappropriated from other DC franchises (see above).

Volcana is voiced by Peri Gilpin, best known as Roz Doyle on Frasier. The biggest star, however, has to be William H. Macy, playing Project Firestorm's director. One of the Agents is played by Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit). Gregg Berger plays another; he was the voice of Grimlock in The Transformers, among others. And the last Agent is John Mariano (Tough Guys, Caroline in the City).

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Off-model and pointless.


Andrew Gilbertson said...

Interesting, though, how this one seems to really have a Bond theme. Secret bases, government organizations, an elaborate death-trap-esque device... the villain is even wearing the Dr. No radiation suit! Most of all, though, the score is REALLY channeling John Barry Bond, almost distractingly-so at times.

So, yeah, weird episode (I was also nitpicking the 'really, burning down a room of valuable artifacts and hoping they don't burn up while you try to steal them?', but also Clark slipping away from Jimmy in the smoke (what if he risks his life to stay and try to find and 'rescue' you, Clark?), and the bit where a government tough won't let Clark Kent into the burned-out yacht club with an obviously-fake story... and Superman DOESN'T think to use his x-ray vision to see what they're covering up inside (even though he uses it just a minute later to find the hidden base)), but noteworthy for the Bond theming. And I really rather liked his super-speed takedown of the fancy laser gun that an agent tried to threaten him with; it's nice to see Superman using his powers intelligently, and not being gotten-the-drop-on for once.


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