Thursday, October 19, 2017

Reboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #92

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #92 (May 1997)
title: "Swan's Way"
writers: Tom Peyer and Tom McCraw
pencillers: Lee Moder

inker: Ron Boyd
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Frank Berrios
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Alan Davis
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Gates, Saturn Girl, Spark, Triad, Ultra Boy

Curt Swan, 1958 Americans

Time Trapper (behind the scenes, does not appear), U.S. Secret Service

Part of the Legion has been lost in time in the late 20th Century. After Cosmic Boy falls into a coma due to an attack by Dr. Psycho, efforts to contact the 30th are doubled and the entire Legion is brought together in the time stream. Unfortunately, they are once again separated, this time with Triad part of the "Legion lost", but only Apparition, Ferro and Shvaughn make it back; even Cosmic Boy is gone!

Without explanation, the time-lost Legionnaires are reimagined as all-American kids going to school in 1958. When art class, taught by Curt Swan (who on Earth-Prime was a celebrated Silver Age comics artist), lets out, the kids - all hiding freakish powers from one another - are set to meet at and decorate the town's band shell, where President Eisenhower is going to give a speech later that day.
Unfortunately, even as the U.S. Secret Service gives some of the more truant kids trouble, an un-reimagined Gates pops out of nowhere, and is immediately attacked as a commie Martian threat. He teleports away, but the alien's apparent relationship with the kids (which they seem to know nothing about) makes the Secret Service edgy, so they are detained in a lighthouse. There, a G-man reveals he knows at least about Ultra Boy's powers and forces him to prove his patriotism by finding Gates. He does, there's a short battle, and the unconscious Gates is brought to a hospital to be vivisected. The Legionnaires are there too, and when the student with think of as Brainiac 5 refuses to help, motivated by the humanistic words of his art teacher, the G-man punches him and smudges Caucasian make-up off his face. He's an alien too!
Suddenly, all the kids remember they have powers and use them to overpower the Secret Service. Then they realize they're wearing Legion flight rings and it all comes back to them. Still not knowing what entity was responsible for throwing them into a manufactured scenario where their futuristic humanism would be tested, they fly off. Cosmic Boy once again falls in a coma, and down below, art teacher Curt Swan looks up proudly at his students.
This was probably one of the issue I had the most fun reading! We’re so used to see the gang being in the middle of some epic action, for them to be heroic and save the day, this change of pace was like a breath of fresh air. I love the idea of seeing the Legionnaires as “normal” teenagers. Joe’s the jock, Brainiac’s the nerd, the triplets with their different attitudes and the switch in character for Inferno was a lot of fun too. I love the 50’s look. It almost felt like a crossover with Grease – I mean Joe in his car flirting with the nice and innocent Sandy… COME ON!!! I think the thing I like most about all this is their names. They easily adapted them so they became acceptable for the past.
If what Gates says is true, I can’t wait to see whose idea it was to brainwash the gang and make them forget their true identities. I guess seeing Rokk awake and well is a good sign even though he passes out by the end of the story. He’s not lost yet and it might be easier than I expected to bring him back to his former self. Whoever did this must be really powerful, but what really interests me is the motives behind this plan. Why was this social experiment necessary? What would he/she gain from this? Now I wonder if this person is also to blame for the team being split in three different times. If that’s the case, perhaps by finding this person, the gang will be able to FINALLY find a way back to the 30th Century while collecting the rest of the group on their way.
Though at this point we're at least a year away from the Legion's 40th Anniversary, the recent death of Superman and Legion artist Curt Swan seems as a good an opportunity as any to pay tribute not only to the man, but to the early Legion. The time-lost Legionnaires are thus transplanted into the year where they were born, white-bread teenagers whose utopia said nothing of the McCarthyism comics had just narrowly escaped (but not exactly unscathed). The "test" already had a foregone conclusion because the Legion was a product of this era of "hate and fear" and yet denied their power in their idealistic future. The issue comes complete with a cover that homages an old horror/sci-fi movie, and the story definitely taps into the era's Red Scare (great idea to have Gates spout his usual socialist propaganda). As for Curt Swan, I know virtually nothing about him as a man, though I've read countless stories he drew. Is this humanistic portrayal anything like him? I would like to believe so. And I certainly like having him be instrumental in the Legion's awakening, just as he was instrumental in their development visually, and especially liked the joke about having to draw so many of them in each story.
Aside from the touching tribute, what we have is a kind of Elseworlds, which is one of my favorite types of comics stories. The Legionnaires as if they were high school kids growing up in the late 50s. The Grease connection is a good one to make, Shotgun, I hadn't realized Inferno is actually called Sandy. It's all a lie, of course, one engineered by entities unknown (unknown, but guessable by older Legion fans), so it must be dispelled before long. Too bad, because in a way, I could have used a longer story about this iteration of the Legion, if only to see more of them dealing with their "freak powers" before they all just explode in battle.
Science Police Notes:  
  • All-inclusive Legion numbering: 1997/10.
  • This story is a tribute to legendary Silver Age artist Curt Swan who had died the year before. He may not have drawn the first Legion story (in 1958, the year this story is meant to take place in), but he would end up drawing a great number of them and originating the early looks of many Legionnaires, working on their strips in Adventure Comics up through 1968. As part of the tribute, he is named "honorary Legionnaire" in the final caption, and appears as an art teacher in the story itself.
  • While in 1958, the Legionnaires have unfuturized versions of their regular names: Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krynn) is Rick Crane, Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen) is Irma Arden, Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox) is Earl Docks, Spark (Ayla Rand) is Ella Rand, Ultra Boy (Jo Nah) is Joe Knotts; and Triad (Luornu Durgo) is the triplets Laura, Lorna and Lauren Dugan. Inferno (Sandy Anderson) keeps her name, while Gates is billed as "a Visitor from Beyond".
  • Earl Docks is seen reading Edmond Hamilton's City at World's End, specifically passages that could be about the Legion. Hamilton wasn't just a proper science fiction writer, he also wrote several Legion stories in the 1960s. 
  • Though the villain behind the scenes isn't revealed, word to the wise, it's the Time Trapper.


  1. Even though my favorites are the silver age legion, I did find this story enjoyable. The fifties setting really worked. Gates is a fun character and his spouting leftist dogma in a story set in the McCarthy era really worked for me. Also liked the Hamilton reference. His "Inn Outside the World" is one of my favorite stories.

  2. This and the "Legionnaires" issue in the Golden Age are two of my all time faves from the Reboot Legion era. I've even got commissions of "Joe Knotts" and "Sandy Anderson."

  3. This was a fun little digression but overall I'm glad it was only one issue. There's a bit too much "imaginary story" / "it was all just a dream" here in the long run -- the stakes are almost zero in the long run. I don't think it would have held up for a multi-issue arc.

    Honestly, some of these LSH issues in this timeframe just really feel like filler. We're waiting for the three-parter that ends on Issue #100 so we can bring the team home ... so what can we do to fill up time? They vary in terms of how successful they are, but most of them feel like one-offs that aren't consequential.