The story opens with various scenes showing that the war for Earth is still raging on, but that things are rapidly deteriorating for the Dominators and their puppet Earthgov. The young SW6 Valor and the older original Valor are teaming up to really start mopping things up. One cool bit that Keith came up with is that the Dominators’ caste system had really begun to work against them when the U.P. and the Legion-related characters began to capture all the command-level Dominators -- their underlings have been so thoroughly trained to take orders that they refuse to initiate any new strategy, even as the war effort crumbles around them. Finally, a lower-caste Dominator can take it no more and he takes command of his battlewagon. When a superior attempts to stop him, he points out (in a line that got garbled in the production stages, unfortunately) that it is not the superior’s role to question seizures of power. This upstart knows how to manipulate the rigid Dominion caste system to his advantage.
U.P. Chairman Anton Relnic delivers a crushing blow to the Dominators, an Omnicom message to all of Earth reporting that the Dominion home world has been conquered by unknown forces, so the Dominator fleet that’s attempting to hold onto Earth is orphaned and no longer has a home world for support or to which the fleet can return.
Jacques (Invisible Kid II) Foccart issues an ultimatum to the remaining Dominion forces — they can choose to abandon the fight on Earth and go attempt to liberate their home world or they can be wiped out trying to maintain their hold on Earth.
Finally, Pinnacle Command, the head of the Dominator force on Earth, who was captured in the prior issue, is convinced to order his armies to surrender so they can journey back to their home world and fight for its liberation.
There’s a page showing pandemonium breaking out as the surviving population of Earth celebrates the end of the war. I’d forgotten the slightly comic twist we put into the scripting of this page, where the correspondent on the scene can’t hear the anchor back in the studio because it’s so noisy in the middle of the celebration. So they spend the entire page stepping on each other’s lines, much the way newscasters do today when they’re dealing with a time-lapse between when a question gets asked and when the answer comes.
The scene also confirms that when we saluted Interlac member Kevin Gould an issue or two back by naming the news correspondent Cefn Gould, we had no idea Jason would end up drawing Cefn as a female, because in the narration of this page, the anchor (Khfeurb/Antenna Lad) refers to Cefn as a “he.” There’s another salute earlier in the issue where the captain of a U.P. ship is “Heiple,” named after Interlacker Gayle Heiple (though again, the character is physically very different than the Interlac member, since Captain Heiple is dark-skinned and male).
While the Dominator rank and file is being processed and then allowed to travel back to their conquered home world, Pinnacle Command is being kept in custody and will be shipped off to Weber’s World to be tried for war crimes. As he’s being escorted away by the SW6 Laurel Gand, Pinnacle Command sneers that humans are fools to let their enemies live, and he predicts that this aspect of “humanity” will ultimately destroy the race. Laurel coolly replies that it’s their “humanity” that has always saved humans, and in fact, it’s the Dominators’ hatred that is actually destroying their race. Given the recent turn of events, Pinnacle Command is forced to admit that Laurel just might have a point.
I feel some pride that we were able to work on a rare comic that so often celebrated ethical, civilized behavior and took a critical eye to brutality, whether it was initiated by the good guys or the bad guys. It's my guess that there's been too little of that in popular culture in recent decades and that it’s one reason the United State became a rogue nation in recent years, condemned around the world for its war crimes and abuse of human rights.
The issue ends with a scene I’d totally forgotten about, in which we learn that Universo and Leland McCauley IV are working together and that the message Relnic sent to everyone on Earth via McCauley Industries’ Omnicom devices are packed with subliminals that will help the two of them ultimately take over Earth. I don’t honestly remember if we kept this scene in mind as later issues showed Universo and McCauley individually attempting to exert control over post-war Earth. I’ll be curious as I re-read later stories, especially our Legionnaires run, to see if we ever pick up on this. My chief recollection is that we never got around to showing Universo make a play for Earth and were vaguely aware that our successors had Universo instead go after the U.P. shortly after our exit. I do remember that we further undermined our position at DC by not showing much enthusiasm for that Universo idea during our last days on the book, pointing out that Universo’s entire existence in the storyline was focused on control of Earth rather than on the U.P. And in our Legion, the Earth and the U.P. were very different entities going through very different challenges. Back in the 1960s, they did a story about Universo taking over Earth and a story about him attempting to take over the U.P. and there wasn’t a great deal of difference, because the U.P. was centered right there on Earth, as was the Legion. But by the end of our run, the adult Legion was out in space where the U.P. was trying to re-assert itself after many of its worlds were overrun by the Khunds, while the young Legion was set on an Earth that was trying to carry on after the devastation of the war with the Dominators and its aftermath.
In any case, back in #35, it was satisfying to see the universe of Legion characters finally experiencing the joy of ending this long, bloody war. And I thought this was one fictitious war that communicated a little of the real horror of war, so that when it finally ended, there was a sense that those who participated had been changed forever and will be scarred by the traumas they’ve endured. I think there’s at least a small sense of the true cost of war -- our family of characters suffered enormous losses because of the ruthless ambition of powerful, unscrupulous individuals. In that way, I think our story serves as kind of an eerie and precognitive parable, considering what America has wrought in the Middle East in recent years. Overall, I think the story makes a powerful anti-war statement by just giving a fairly straightforward depiction of war and its consequences.