Legion of Monsters opens with a defensive letter from editor Tony Isabella, responding to the Marvel faithful who were mad at the inglorious cancellation of the other black and white magazines. Isabella explains the books weren’t ever losing money; it’s just not in Marvel’s best interest not to make money. If readers really want black-and-white monster magazines, they better buy Legion.
They did not.
Although there’s a subscription form in the issue, Monsters only had this one issue.
And kind of for good reason.
There are four features. One Monster of Frankenstein, one continuation from Dracula Lives, and two original horror stories. All of them are uneven, starting with Doug Moench, Val Mayerik, Pablo Marcos, and Dan Adkins’s Frankenstein story. It’s after the Monster has woken up in the modern age, and he’s wandering around. He sees a princess, and even though he knows it always ends with villagers and pitchforks, he follows her.
Now, if it were just about the Monster following some girl, it’d be tired fast. But the Monster finds himself amid intrigue; it’s a costume party, and the jester tells him someone’s out to kill the princess, will the Monster help? Of course, he will. But will it be helpful help or disastrous?
The art’s sometimes excellent. Mayerik inking himself, Marcos inking Mayerik, it works out. The Adkins inks are wanting. And the story’s really dang long.
But at least it’s not the Secret Origin of Manphibian, the following story. Tony Isabella scripts from a Marv Wolfman plot. Dave Cockrum pencils, Sam Grainger inks. It’s about a Creature from the Black Lagoon type coming up through an oil well and getting in a fight with another monster from the same species, as well as some husband out to kill his wealthy wife. Or something.
It’s tedious. Maybe if the art were more distinct.
Ditto the next story, about kids picking on a former circus “freak” whose only friends are flies. It bleeds empathy, but the story’s way too long, and the art lacks Paul Kitchener pencils, Ralph Reese inks. They also share story credit with scripter Gerry Conway.
Maybe if Marvel wanted more people to be excited about Legion, they should’ve gotten together a better first issue.
The next chapter in Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula wraps up the issue. After a lengthy (and welcome) recap of events to date, this installment covers Mina going off to marry Jonathan in Europe while Lucy’s condition worsens in England. There are multiple diary and journal keepers: Mina, Steward, and eventually Lucy.
It sure seems like Lucy has no idea she’s been Dracula’s steady blood bag for months, and, to this point, Mina hasn’t read Jonathan’s diary, even though he wants her to do so. But what Thomas doesn’t fix—and Giordano doesn’t help with—is Dr. Van Helsing, who arrives this issue to commit medical malpractice.
With the timeline visually broken out so nicely, it’s even more apparent than usual Van Helsing messes up with Lucy’s initial diagnosis and then waits too long to tell everyone what they’re dealing with.
Giordano draws Van Helsing like a combination of Santa Claus and a leprechaun.
Otherwise, lots of good art, but Lucy’s the only sympathetic character, with Seward whining almost nonstop about her marrying someone else and Van Helsing blandly kind and incompetent.
There’s one page of single-panel strips from Stuart Schwartzberg. They’re a highlight and shouldn’t be. There’s also another text article recapping monsters in other media, like it’s a real magazine again. Too little, too late.
Is it a bummer Legion didn’t continue? Sure?
But it makes sense why it didn’t.