Friday, 2 December 2011
Dazzler #1: "So Bright This Star"
("Disco is not dead!")
I wasn't too enthused about going through the third UXM annual just after finishing the double-length UXM #150, even though the various players involved mean that the two stories have to be considered directly sequential.
How fortunate, then, that I'm able to take a quick look at the first ever X-Men spin-off (if you don't count The Defenders, that is): Dazzler.
Of course, have I been lucky? Or have I swapped forty pages of proven competence for twenty-four of rank embarrassment? Let's prize open that hideous '80s nightmare of a cover and find out what lies within.
Our story opens in an alley in New York, where several dodgy-looking chunkmeisters have spilled out of a car and started chasing our heroine. You know society has reached a new low when muggers can't even be bothered to walk to their hunting grounds.
These thugs are in for a big surprise, though: their target isn't just some average woman in a skin-tight silver jumpsuit. No indeed. She has magnetic wheels to turn her boots into rollerskates as well. Far out! Which she puts on in order to fight her assailants. Tactically questionable! More helpfully, she has a charmingly retro transistor radio with her, that she uses to generate the sound her mutant power can change into light. The resulting illuminations dazzle (natch) her foes, leaving them confused and disorientated. Then she brains them with a pair of dustbin lids, which seems a bit prosaic, all things considered. Still, she has to beat these thugs fast, or as she puts it, "Got to boogie these suckers out -- quickly".
I find it tough to believe that anyone at any point in history would ever say that, but if they ever did, you've gotta admit, it will have been in the '80s.
Anyway, Dazzler has trouble fending off her attackers, until Spider Man swoops in to save the day. Make a note, Marvelites. Four pages into her own book, and the heroine needs to be rescued by a knight in spidery armour. Far out!
Allison explains to Spidey (and thus us; which is one of the better ways of providing exposition) that the hoodlums had been hired by her managed to "persuade" her to accept a royalty percentage of zero point zero. Dejected, she heads back to her walk-up, and proceeds to explain to no-one fucking at all what a mess she's in. She might as well start with "As you know, empty apartment...". At least that would lampshade the clunkiness.
So what's the deal? She's broke, and can't go running to her father because he wants her to have some kind of, like, career, or whatever. Oops, sorry: that's slang from the wrong decade. Um. Life is totally bogus and she has no green, and that's... heinous? A lot of this is Bill and Ted. I really can't do this. Mind you, neither can DeFalco. BURN!
Alison decides to call the X-Men (presumably so they can be at least tangentially linked to the book), but that doesn't make her feel any better (though it does allow time for DeFalco to make Colossus look like a total idiot, so thanks for that). Instead, she "gentles down" with some Billy Joel, proving once again that in the '80s, no-one had any taste.
Her mind wanders back to the night her powers first manifest (exposition to the furniture is over, now begins the age of the flashback!) as she sings in a talent show halfway through a high school dance. But tragedy strikes! There is crashing of the gate, by a bunch of young ne'er-do-wells calling themselves the "Blazing Lords." Man, are they unhappy they weren't allowed entrance! Nothing baseball bat wearing leather-clad proto-hoodies want more than to watch teenage talent contests, you mark my words. "Cripple anyone who moves!" their leader demands. Dude. Spike had more class when he invaded Buffy's high school festivities, and he was a goddamned punk vampire.
This is the kind of crisis that calls for blinding every person in the room, which is just as well, because that's exactly what Alison does (fortunately, it's only temporary). After that, she practises her singing in public and her powers in secret, until eventually she loses her father, gains a fraudster for an agent, and ends up telling her kitchen table about how miserable she is. Man, the '80s sucked.
Or at least, it did on Midgard. Maybe things are better in Asgard. Let's go take a look, shall we?
Well, it's certainly not a good day to be a troll: two of them get their teeth kicked in trying to keep a wandering warrior out of the Enchantress' stronghold. Poor bastards. They should talk to their union. The Enchantress herself admits to being somewhat amused by her uninvited guest, which in Asgard basically translates into "I will not casually disembowel you this very second." Alas, he turns out to be nothing more interesting than a desperate groupie, so the Enchantress turns him into a tree. Never meet your idols, huh?
The Enchantress has more on her mind than creating an indoor arboretum, however. Apparently, the fabric of the universe is about to tear itself apart, offering infinite power to those who can anticipate ground zero. Which, according to her scrying pool, is somewhere in a glitzy dance hall.
Meanwhile, in Avengers Mansion, Beast gets sick of listening to the Wasp, and tries to swat her with his newspaper. Because, well, wouldn't you? Beast's found something that he thinks will interest Dazzler, and it's the perfect excuse to start hanging around her window (which you might do as well, but I'd suggest not telling anyone about that). Turns out a nearby shindig just lost their singer, and Hank figures Alison is a natural understudy. But the Enchantress has other plans! Having cast the spell that eliminated the original headliner, she's interested in filling the vacant spot, since this is the place where reality's gonna get all wobbly.
Tragically for her, Dazzler shows up, and beats her to the number one spot (following a brief nod to Parris' choosing of the most beautiful goddess, which is the wrong myth set, but whatever). For reasons passing understanding, rather than turning Dazzler and the judge into fruit bats, the Enchantress stalks off into the night.
But as the curtain falls on this issu, we are left in no doubt that she will have her revenge! Revenge! The very revenge she could have right now! She will have it! Later!
This story takes place over two days.
The make-up of the team at the mansion when Dazzler calls means this story has to take place between UXM #138 and UXM #148 (Angel hasn't yet left the team), though a helpful plug for UXM #143 means we can limit the range still further. Since Kitty didn't see the Danger Room until UXM #139, we'll have to place this issue after that one, and given Wolverine and Nightcrawler headed up to Canada early in that issue and hadn't returned by UXM #140, that doesn't give us much time to work with.
Indeed, we were forced to assume that issues #140 and #141 took place on consecutive days, so the only real option is to place this story on the morning of Halloween, just before Kitty's future self takes over her body.
Sunday 31st of October to Monday 1st of November, 1982.
X+4Y+215 to X+4Y+216.
"Come On Eileen" reaches the top of the Australian charts.
"Lo, within the turgid depths of its swirling waters, an image forms -- 'tis of Midgard! I behold a glittering palace of raucous sound and dazzling color -- an establishment referred to by its patrons as... a disco!"
Or, as a bonus:
"Unpack your underoos and take a rush at this!" - Beast.
Best... chat-up line... ever.