During this period, Curt Swan who penciled a good many of the Silver Age Legion stories died and this issue was a tribute to him. The striking cover hearkens back to the “alien space monster” theme popular in sci-fi during the late 1950s, where the story is set. That seem like as good a place as any to launch into the story recap, so get ready for some fifties themed monster fun.
Mr. Swan, an art teacher in a stereotypical high school, is teaching a group of teens that look suspiciously like our familiar Legionnaires. The names are plays on their alter egos: Rick Crane (Cosmic Boy), Irma Arden (Saturn Girl), Earl Docks (Brainiac 5), Ella Rand (Spark), Joe Knotts (Ultra Boy), Laura, Lorna, and Lauren Dugan (Triplicate Girl), and Sandy Anderson (Inferno, but we never learned her real name). The teens are also members of the school design club who are preparing for a visit by President Eisenhower. On the way home, Joe Knotts true to his young hood nature, hits on the cheerleader Sandy, whose rescued by teen lovebirds Irma and Rick. Joe instead follows the Dugan triplets. Ella thwarts some mushiness between Irma and Rick as Joe observes the Dugans merge in their bedroom using X-Ray Vision, revealing to us that there’s something odd about both, uh all four(?) of them.
G-Men are monitoring the work on the stage by the Design club when missing Legion member Gates materializes above them. When Gates refers to Rick as “boss,” since he is the only one that remembers them as the Legion with Cosmic Boy as the team leader, the G-Men detain the lot of them. Joe is recruited by one of the G-Men that secretly observed Joe break the steering wheel of his car. Joe uses his Ultra Boy powers to spot Gates hiding under the podium, and thinking that he’s an alien out to kill the president captures him.
When confronted with the G-Men’s intentions to vivisect Gates, Earl leaps to his defense and a blow from the G-Men reveals Earl to be wearing make-up to conceal green skin, which restores the memories of the Legionnaires. They subdue the G-Men and escape, wondering who stranded them in 1958 without their memories and they fly off to the astonishment of the crowd, including Mr. Swan who reminds the crowd, and us, that nothing is impossible.
This is a great tribute to Swan with a complete story within one issue of a comic, with just a little nod to the running story-line near the end. The hole being how the Legionnaires return to the 20th century at the end. Eventually, the Time Trapper was revealed to be the one behind this little detour, but that wasn’t made clear here. Tom Peyer and Tom McCraw crafted an excellent story, and the feel of a cliche 1950s story is there. It’s very refreshing and breaking the story up into chapters retains the feel of the 1950s. The art is what breaks that feeling, with computer color gradients and modern visual storytelling techniques.
I’m not totally dismissing the artwork. Lee Moder was a really good artist for the Legion, and was successful in believable anatomy, perspective and reference that was dynamic, yet not overly exaggerated. His shots are cinematic, and his characters are unique, and similar where they need to be, such as with Triplicate Girl, which proves to be a challenge for any artist, as they have to draw the same character multiple times within the same shot. I imagine that Jamie Madrox is a similar challenge for artists. I would have liked to have seen the artwork with a 1958 feel and color separations to resemble to four color printing of the time, evolving as the characters remember their identities.
Like most Legion stories of the modern age, this issue has never been collected. Given that this was the tail period of the great glut of the 1990s, there should be plenty of copies out there and be easy to find. Don’t pay too much for it, as you should be able to find a decent copy in bargain boxes, provided that you look hard enough.
Curt Swan was one of the artists that lured me into comics, and the week he died he was scheduled to be at a convention near me. I wanted so much to meet him and tell him how much he meant to my development as a fan. He would draw fantastic things with the same care that he drew mundane ones. His characters existed in their world and he never cheated on his work. The comics industry is richer that he was a big part of it, and poorer that he’s no longer around to pass on his perspective and knowledge to a younger generation.
FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of 10)
Again, this could have been done much better if the artwork had reflected the period. This is a good comic for a casual Legion fan, even one that abandoned the Legion after the first reboot of Legion history.