Does CW’s “Invasion!”Rise To The Occasion?

I considered complaining about Supergirl last week when I made the acquaintance of a Cold Steel razor tip broadhead blow gun dart, but I opted to give it an entry off since this will be the “Heroes v. Aliens: Dawn of Invasion!” crossover review. Agents of SHIELD sure picked the wrong week to return form hiatus! (It was actually a great episode, but no fair trying to distract me when I finally have a theme!) I will tell you upfront without hyperbole that mine will be better than all the other CW “Invasion!” reviews you can find on the Interwuzzle. You made the right choice coming here! Now I’m sending SPOILERS to invade your brain!

The CW’s marketing insisted that the crossover began with this week’s Supergirl. The fact that this episode wasn’t named “Invasion!” like the rest tells you how accurate that was. So before the cameo of Flash & Vibe at the end, this installment mopped up a bunch of dangling plot threads because it was also a mid-season finale. (That crazy plot about Miss Martian’s blood turning Martian Manhunter white sure was pointless.) The center was filled with scenes that seemed to stop prematurely before they could contribute much or reach their full dramatic potential. Hank Henshaw wearing a metal Phantom of the Opera mask over his exposed metal endoskeleton didn’t make him calling himself Cyborg-Superman without resembling Superman any less dumb. Since her mom is Lillian (Lex’s mom was originally named Agnes in the comics before they went alteration mad), the insane part of me wishes they’d gone full Smallville & named Katie McGrath Lutessa Luthor.  Maybe it would’ve felt less perfunctory if they hadn’t rushed through thwarting Cadmus to get Supergirl to from Earth-38 to Earth-1. Also, Alex stealing Winn’s beer at Thanksgiving was neither chill nor sanitary.

So why would Kryptonians name their bio-weapon Medusa rather than something from their planet’s mythology? How did Henshaw know to look up a secret government bio-weapon by name at the Fortress of Solitude (& reprogram Kelex against Kara)? If Kryptonians engineered the virus to kill non-Kryptonians, why wasn’t it deadly to humans too? If they were able to modify it to be harmless to humans, why couldn’t they have also made it deadly to Kryptonians too using Kara’s blood? How nice of Guardian, the one superhero that would definitely be immune to Medusa, to not help out his alien buddies on this. More importantly, why tease us with an episode called Medusa without adapting this cover?

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Supergirl’s true power is the magic of friendship!

The actual meat of the crossover began on The Flash. In fact, you could’ve skipped Supergirl entirely this week since its epilogue was inserted into this episode. This third major CW crossover has even more characters than before, but they somehow all get something to do. I was surprised at how many character beats they worked in & how they resolved some plot points introduced on Legends of Tomorrow. (They got their crossover invites at the tail-end of their previous episode but the CW didn’t advertise it as the event’s start.) I’m probably more excited about Thea being back in her Speedy suit than I should be. Instead of training in the Ferris airstrip shown in season one, they meet-up in a STAR Labs hangar that has an inexplicable reflecting pool to make it look like the Hall of Justice (proving something good came out of Flashpoint.) Collectively embarrassing themselves against the indomitable beast that is Supergirl, who even has a  setting on her heat-vision for instantly burning a perfect logo, was the chief team-building exercise since they forgot to tag in any sorcerers.

After Vibe threw him under the bus during crisis strategy time, it was sweet of Green Arrow to support the Flash. It’s hypocritical for the Legends to call Barry out on Flashpoint when they play by “Roswell That Ends Well” rules. Don’t get sanctimonious if you’re not going to prevent Reverse-Flash from murdering Nora Allen, Tess Morgan, & Harrison Wells yourselves, Leg-Ends! (I’m glad at least last week Iris pointed out Dante might’ve died regardless of time travel since Barry missed a few months of current events whilst living in Flashpoint.) Supergirl’s conversation with Heatwave was obviously the best. It was refreshing that the superheroes were waited until after the mind control to start battling each other. The Dominator’s mental domination allowed for an awesome super-brawl without making anybody into irredeemable jerkwads! Congratulations on not letting your differing viewpoints come to intentional violence, unlike several cinematic superheroes I could mention!

 Legends of Tomorrow wrapped things up without gelling the story together as strongly as I’d hoped. The superheroes absent from part two seemed to have been waiting for this episode to do something which lessened the immediacy of the Dominator threat. The Dominators’ weapon turns out to be a gene-bomb to eradicate everyone carrying the metagene because even they’re displeased by Flashpoint, which is an inversion of the Invasion! mini-series where the Dominators activated the metahuman populace with a gene-bomb. They promise not to detonate the gene-bomb if the Earth hands over the Flash, whom they should’ve just teleported away at the end of part one. Negotiating makes the Dominators seem less dominant than they ought to be even if it could be a feint.

Upon time traveling to 1951 to get intel from a captive Dominator, the Legends decide that the US government torturing one is wrong. It’s only right when Professor Stein & his time-aberration daughter make a nano-torture machines to compel them to dis-invade Earth. At least time-meddlers Vibe & Stein (Vibenstein is coincidentally the name of my new line of personal massagers) realized the hypocrisy of blaming Flash, so baby steps. Had they chased the Dominators away with the Medusa virus, it would’ve actually made this week’s Supergirl relevant to the crossover. Somehow these nanomachines are deployed in a rooftop battle between the heroes & a handful of Dominators that forgot their ray guns, then Supergirl & Flash zooming around the country. It’s not as thrilling as the mind control or dream battles, but Firestorm finally gets to use their transmutation powers again on the gene-bomb. Then the brand new President (the heroes were very unhelpful about preventing her predecessor’s vaporization) gives a speech at their victory party (where many players including Killer Frost, Speedy, & Kid Flash weren’t invited), & Supergirl gets a Let’s Do This Again Sometime doohickey despite mixing up her comic book publishers. The Atom thoughtfully breaks the fourth wall so I don’t have to.

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The Dominators weren’t developed beyond generically evil alien invaders, but it was cute that their contingency plans were ALL of the tropes. Their mind probes from part two didn’t seem to have paid off for them. I liked their design which kept them recognizably Dominators without being overt Yellow Peril caricatures. Despite the story’s title, they barely invaded. The subplot about shady spooks should’ve been snipped to give us more superheroes vs. Dominator action. They’ve been promised to return on Supergirl, so hopefully they’ll be developed further there.

This probably would’ve been even better if the sprawling crossover was actually a four-parter so it’d have some room to breathe. It was reminiscent of a Marvel movie where so much time is spent with the heroes that they forget to make the villains equally compelling. Fortunately I really enjoyed seeing the assembled I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League! Another issue was that certain characters just fell out of the narrative because the episodes maxed out their guest star budgets. (Flash, Supergirl, & Vibe are the only ones to have appeared across all four series.) It was clever how they managed to retain the unique feel of each series rather than homogenizing them while still remaining pretty accessible to new viewers. Consequently it lacked the tight focus of last year’s crossover, but it was more consistently fun (for not having Oliver’s secret baby drama or the least charismatic Hawkman). Overall it’s astounding that the different casts had such amazing chemistry with each other & the entire shebang was pulled off on a TV budget. Next year’s crossover better make its Supergirl episode pertinent & work out a deal with Fox to rope in Gotham while they’re at it!

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