THE SERIES "Heroes Reborn"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 8 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A terrorist attack has hit Odessa, Texas. Who? Why? In the wake of the attack, Luke (Zachary Levi) and Joanne Collins (Judi Shekoni) go on a rampage killing "evos," evolved humans with special powers. But why? Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) is just trying to get his life back together -- until he meets up with Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski), a self-styled "truther" who knows what happened at Odessa. Meanwhile, there are many "heroes" out there -- like awkward teen Tommy (Robbie Kay), who can make people disappear. This remake is produced by Tim Kring, who produced the original NBC hit.

MY SAY The first "Heroes" arrived on NBC in 2006, which, in calendar terms, was just about 10 years ago, but in TV terms was just about 10,000 years ago. Everything has changed since then -- the "hero" ecosystem in particular, which is now crammed with Marvel and DC Comic characters who drift between cinematic and TV universes at will, enriching (and complicating) their mythologies. Viewer bandwidths have been absorbed. Attentions scattered. Brains numbed. Who's got time for this?

In Thursday night's opener, you can almost sense Kring glancing over his shoulder -- anxiously -- at the superhero crowd out there. He knows this reboot has to come out with a bang but also knows he still has to spin a complicated, nuanced yarn that comes with a vast amount of backstory. The result is as you might expect: a baffling quiltwork of stories, names, powers, themes, good guys, bad guys, along with that "Heroes" specialty, good guys who may be bad, and bad guys who may be good. "Reborn" doesn't just demand close attention -- it demands working knowledge of the "Heroes" universe.

Kring probably didn't have much choice in the matter. Most of the original "heroes" aren't along for this ride, so a sprawling new cast is here. They're all good, as are the special effects. But keeping track of them can be like keeping track of individual cards from a deck tossed in the air.

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BOTTOM LINE Often confusing, requires some "Heroes" expertise, but some striking special effects.

GRADE B-