Review: Netflix offering 'Shadow and Bone' keeps a light on

Jessie Mei Li and Archie Reneaux star in new "X-Men" derivative series

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

In the grand tradition of Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto and Mystique comes…

Princess Sunbeam? The Human Light Bulb? Miss Megawatt?

Yes, the central character in the new Netflix series “Shadow and Bone” is cut straight from the X-Men mold. Yet again we have a group of people with special powers co-existing with, and often despised by, normal folk. 

Archie Renaux and Jessie Mei Li in "Shadow and Bone."

Earlier this month HBO debuted “The Nevers,” with Victorian super-females, and “The Umbrella Academy,” Netflix’s other X-Men derivative, is currently shooting its third season. The marvel and appeal of mutant types is apparently endless.

This time around the gifted ones live in some Otherworld where a gargantuan dark cloud filled with flying monsters separates countries and cultures. If you want to travel from place A to place B you have to either go around the cloud — which takes a long, long time — or you have to go through it, in which case you’ll likely end up a monster meal.

That’s where Princess Sunbeam comes in. Her actual name is Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and she was raised in an orphanage alongside her best friend Mal (Archie Reneaux). As underling soldiers they’re put on a boat attempting to make it through the dark cloud. Then, just as the monsters attack and begin eating their colleagues, Alina’s unknown light bulb powers switch on and turn the monsters to ash.

Turns out Alina is part of the super-powered tribe. Beyond that, legend has always foretold the coming of a high wattage savior who could destroy the dark cloud. Suddenly everybody wants a piece of her, including the leader of the super people (Ben Barnes) and an amiable trio of criminals (Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young) who hope to kidnap her.

Complications ensue, super powers are wielded, all as you’d expect. Actors keep straight faces despite the silliness (possibly a real superpower) and the show maintains a young adult sheen. It flows by, which is all it intends to do.

At least nobody sings “You Light Up My Life.” Maybe next season.

'Shadow and Bone'



Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.