Monday, 30 July 2012

Updated: Top 12 Team Tenures

Update: Now with actual order based on the numbers I'm using.  D'oh!

With the arrival of Rogue, this strikes me as an opportune time to update the longest-serving X-Men, based on the amount of time that appears to have passed.  Once again, each characters's time on the team will be given in the format (years, months, weeks, days).

=11. Polaris          (1,1,3,5)

=11. Havok          (1,1,3,5)

10. Banshee          (1,1,2,0)

9.  Wolverine        (2,0,0,6) [1]

=6. Storm             (2,0,3,0)

=6. Nightcrawler   (2,0,3,0)

=6. Colossus         (2,0,3,0)

5.  Beast               (2,6,0,6)

4.  Marvel Girl      (3,7,4,1)

3. Angel               (3,8,1,4)

2.  Iceman            (3,8,2,3)

1. Cyclops           (5,3,2,6) [2]

Sprite, it transpires, is not quite a year into her time in the mansion (by "not quite", I mean "four days off"), so she's just missed out this time.

[1] I assume here that Wolverine left the team immediately after UXM #168 so as to begin the preparations for his marriage to Mariko.

[2] Assuming Cyclops left just after returning to Earth, which seems to be what happened.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

DAZ #27: "Fugitive!"


Stone the crows, Dazzler's gone bi-monthly! Which is handy, since it means at long last I've caught up with UXM and NMU.  It's the little victories, y'know?

Anyway, onwards.  That's a lovely cover.  Particularly the way the checks on Dazzler's dress match up with those on the settee.  I presume that's a reference to the fact she's on the run and so she's trying to blend into the scenery.  I seem to say this a lot, but whilst it's hardly subtle, it still gets points for trying something different.

But is this lovely image indicative of a creative renaissance?  Or is it just to distract from another penciller-as-writer disaster lurking within?

Well, it starts off reasonably enough.  We get two pages which are basically a recap of the comic to date, but I guess that's forgivable when a new writer is taking over (though that said, I'm not sure the summary is particularly helpful).  This is no time for brooding on the past, though; the woman in the seat in front of Dazzler suddenly reveals herself to be Rogue!

Alison is stunned, as well she might be.  How did Rogue sneak on board wearing her trademark green hood without our heroine noticing?  And how did she know Alison was on board in the first place?  Actually, I'm betting this is probably - oh no!  Rogue's grabbed Lois, absorbed her power, and seems to have killed her!  Yeah, this is definitely looking like - CHRIST!  Rogue's used Lois' power to melt Dazzler's face!  There's no way this isn't a - oh, and now the bus has fallen off a cliff and everyone's dead.

EXCEPT IT WAS ALL A DREAM!  Phew, what a relief!  Except not really.  Three pages of reminiscence I'll grant Springer, but a seven page dream sequence?  That's not a good way to kick things off.  We're almost halfway through his first issue as writer, and all we know is that the half-sisters are still on the run.

As such, they find themselves a motel by the bus station.  Having now gotten to LA, their interim plan of heading west has pretty much run its course (Utopia still being some 350 issues away), and something new is called for.  Alison returns to the idea of contacting the authorities, but alas, she's still stuck on trying to convince Lois she might not have actually killed anyone (because girls are, like, totally hysterical sometimes), and making it worse by injecting some narcissistic "I know what it's like" bullshit into the bargain.  Newsflash, lady: you are not "haunted every minute" by your power.  You've used it to further your fucking career.  There's nothing wrong with that, obviously, but trying to compare it to a girl who's mutant ability is to kill people at random (plus melt ashtrays, apparently) is breathtakingly self-absorbed, even for our favourite starlet.

Unsurprisingly, Alison's suggestions seem to be falling on deaf ears, but events overtake our duo in any case, as pictures of Lois' struggle with the hobo from DAZ #26 are posted under the door, along with a phone number.  Lois puts two and two together and surmises that someone has been trailing them from New York, which seems obvious, but rather begs the question of why.  Is it blackmail?  Lois doesn't exactly look loaded, and there's going to be some expense involved in tailing her across the country.  It all seems like long odds, quite frankly, though I suppose given whomever we're talking about happened to be hidden nearby when the original fracas took place, and had their camera, perhaps they're just used to things breaking their way.

(Writing that paragraph suddenly gave me a mental image of Longshot as a stalker/peeping Tom, and I'm going to have to lie down for a while to recover.)

Not sure of what else to do, Dazzler calls the number they've been given.  A man picks up the phone and explains the deal.  It is blackmail, but he doesn't want money; he wants Alison and Lois to murder someone. He gives them an hour to consider the alternatives: snuff the man he wants snuffed, or the negatives end up with the police. With that done, our would-be assassin-maker phones his own boss, who it turns out is blackmailing him; he has to find Lois, or some rather interesting details are going to be sent to the FBI.

Okay.  I think I can just about tie together what's probably happening. Blackmailer #1 presumably want Blackmailer #2 dead.  Perhaps he lacks the will to try to do it himself, and the money to pay off anyone else to do it.  Instead, then, he's going to blackmail Lois into pulling the trigger.  If he was following her on the orders of Blackmailer #2, that explains why he has the photos, and this way, if Lois kills his boss, he's in the clear, but if something goes wrong, he can spring from the woodwork and point out he's delivered Lois.

Which is a reasonable plan, except that he's blown the fact he's following Lois, and if she fails to kill his boss, he has to find a way to explain why she was trying.  Other than that, it's a brilliant scheme.

Dazzler persuades her half-sister that their best move is to pretend to go along with their mysterious stalker's plan, but she phones Angel in the hope he's nearby and willing to provide back-up.  Alas, the call goes through to voice-mail, so our heroines get in the car provided by Blackmailer #1 without any idea as to whether Warren will show up before they're ordered to kill their target and rifle through his safe.

WWIII (as he likes to be called) hasn't shown up by the time they've gotten into their quarry's mansion, however, and Dazzler freezes, unsure of what to do.  Disgusted by her brief hesitation, Blackmailer #1 emerges from the shadows and accuses her of trying to pull a fast one.  He's got a gun in his hand.  JUST SHOOT THE GUY YOURSELF, we scream.

Maybe he'd have done it, actually.  Maybe his synapses would finally have started firing, and he'd realise he's inside the home of the guy he wants dead, and he's the only person there with a pistol.  We shall never know, though, because Angel chooses this moment to smash through the window.  Blackmailer #1 is so surprised he almost doesn't manage to immediately shoot him down.

Worthington's arrival has at least provided sufficient distraction for Alison to leap towards the TV set, turn it on full blast, and channel the sound into a burst of light sufficient to incapacitate their opponent.  Warren proves to be badly injured but alive, but they're not out of the woods yet.  The man Blackmailer #1 wanted dead has awoken (despite being drugged by someone: SHOOT THE GUY YOURSELF), and he and and Lois recognise each other...


It's been three days since Alison and Lois left Pittsburgh, and this issue takes place over a single day.

Dazzler describes the events going back to at least DAZ #8 as having taken place over a year or so.  By our count, it's more like seven months, but Alison might be thinking of earlier events as well, or just rounding up.


Saturday 6th of August, 1983.



Contemporary Events

Shehu Shegari retains his title of President of Nigeria following national elections.  His government falls to a military coup on New Year's Eve that same year.

Standout Line

"I'm all right! Alive! Pretty!"

If nothing else, Springer's got the character down, you can't deny that.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wolverine vs Rogue

Having had some more time to think about the central question in my last post - can the X-Men turn Rogue away having previously accepted Wolverine - it occurs to me that there's actually a couple of very important points to be made here that hadn't struck me at the time.

First of all, when Wolverine joined the X-Men, it was at the same time as everyone else in the Second Genesis team other than Cyclops.  The X-Men learned who Logan was as they went, which meant learning about his checkered past (as much as he was prepared to let on about it, at least), at the same time as they learned the guy was smart and dependable in a fight.  Sure, he was insubordinate and rude, but there was never any doubt that when the chips were down he'd pull you from a burning building.  The question was never "should Wolverine join the team", it was "Are the downsides sufficient to throw Wolverine off the team", which is a very different proposition. 

The second point involves why Wolverine signed up in the first place.  Basically, Xavier made him a better offer, suggesting something a little more interesting and worthwhile than beating up people Canada didn't really like.  He was on the team because he wanted to be on the team.  Rogue has joined up because she doesn't want her powers to go any further out of control.  She hasn't volunteered, she's been conscripted as the price of receiving potentially life-saving medical help (some would say that still counts as volunteering; such people are entirely wrong).  This might not be quite so bad if Rogue had offered up any contrition or desire for redemption, but she didn't, at least not on-panel.  The impression we get is that the Professor trusts her to keep to the deal they've struck, but it's rank sophistry to imply that deal in any way resembles Logan's motivations.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

UXM #171: "Rogue"

("House guests - like fish - begin to smell after three days." Benjamin Franklin (attr.))


There's a new sheriff in the Undertown.  Storm is handing out her commandments to the Morlocks, which basically boil down to "knock off all the anti-surface shit, and get on with being your own society."  The gathered masses aren't particularly pleased by her speech, but as Queen Stabby, her word is law.

Unless Callisto decides to give mortal combat another whirl, of course, though right now she's so badly injured she can barely stagger out of bed to make ridiculous threats.  Storm basically tells her that her absolute best case scenario is that Storm will wait until she's back on her feet before stabbing her again.  Nightcrawler is surprised at Ororo's vehemence, and I can understand that, but Callisto has crossed too many of Storm's lines at this point.  An underground community of mutants alternately hiding from their oppressors and attacking them is something Storm can understand if not permit.  Callisto is a kidnapper and a would-be rapist, and if she's not a cold-blooded killer yet, it's not for lack of trying - certainly she'll use the approaching agonising death of a teenage girl as a bargaining chip.  There is, we're starting to learn, only so far that you can push Storm.  At least the Brood had the excuse that they were predatory aliens.

Back above ground, big trouble's brewing.  Carol Danvers has returned to Earth to visit her parents, but with  so much of her personality gone, she's got nothing for them but some distant sense of affection. This is of some concern, of course; phenomenal cosmic power combined with no real connection to humanity tends to lead to some fairly poor outcomes.  Meanwhile, over at the mansion, Colossus finds himself prevented from getting his cook on by a knock at the door. And it's... Rogue?

This is another one of those issues which would have been far more interesting if the cover didn't give away what was coming.  Still, that explains what Binary's doing in the book.  I assume there's going to be a fairly major grudge match going down before we reach page 22.  And, whilst the cover art ensures Rogue's arrival isn't much of a surprise, I still love her first line here: "Don't hit me, please -- don't hit me!".  It's so far removed from anything you'd expect from the erstwhile supervillain that you know something serious must be up.

Specifically, Rogue is losing control of her powers, and she's terrified that robbing people of their secrets and memories and putting them in a coma whilst their own abilities are used against them and their friends won't come cost-free anymore.  The X-Men, not surprising, pool their fucks and conclude they ain't giving so much as one of them.  So angry are they over the idea of a known criminal asking if she can get help in mastering the very powers she's used to damage their friends, Xavier has to ask them all to leave so that he can talk to Rogue without their burning desire to see her eaten by rabid ducks messing with his internal monologue.

Less then elated, our heroes head to the Danger Room to blow off some steam, but even this goes wrong for them, when Illyana subconsciously programs the computers to replicate the horrors she faced in Limbo at the hands of Belasco.  I assume that Claremont's building to something here, though my memory is patchy enough that all I can say at present is that I wish Illyana's resulting soul-sword freak-out had finished Kitty off, rather than cut her just badly enough to allow for another round of self-absorbed sulking.

Speaking of introspection, Storm is having problems dealing with what she now realises is a fairly extreme change in her recent temperament.  Contra Nightcrawler's earlier fears, she's very much bothered by the idea that leading the X-Men is making her cold-hearted and calculating, but as she notes, it's probably not a bad trait in someone tasked with keeping other people alive in the midst of combat.  There's a fair amount of mileage in this idea, actually, particularly when you think about the comics of the time, in which the traditional concept of the heroic character is for the first time (in mainstream comics, at least) starting to look incongruous when compared to their own violent adventures.  How deep can you submerge your basic humanity before you can't bring it back to the surface?  If you train yourself not to care, then where exactly lies a reason to be a superhero in any case?

Storm's musings on the subject are interrupted by a psychic communication from Xavier: he's come to a decision.  Rogue gets to stay, not just as a house guest, but as a probational X-Man.  No-one looks happy about this, but Ororo is particularly angry, not just because the Professor has made such a baffling choice ("Are we expected to fight alongside someone we do not -- dare not -- trust..."), but because he thinks so little of her as team leader he didn't discuss the matter with her or even inform her of his decision in private.  Whatever you might think about his plan regarding Rogue, that's not cool.  Fortunately, further recriminations are halted when Binary returns from visiting her parents, and punches Rogue into high orbit.

Colossus manages to hold Binary back for long enough to stop further fisticuffs, but Binary is furious, and she's far from alone.  Xavier insists Rogue is under his protection, which just makes things worse. Storm doesn't help (not that she's trying) when she chooses this moment to finally give sarcasm a test-drive: "The child repents, my friend, and has been forgiven.  Behold our newest X-Man."  Nightcrawler pipes up, letting Charles know that none of the team intend to stay if Rogue does.

It's at this point that Xavier makes a fascinating point: why deny Rogue the help they offered Wolverine?  Yes, the nature of Logan's past is exceptionally murky, but the man has put enough into implying he's killed more than a few people in his time that hiding behind unknown specifics isn't going to cut it. That said, can it really be true that the only logical choice is to decide which crimes can be forgiven, sight unseen, and apply that criteria with total fairness irrespective of circumstance?  Would Charles demand Lilandra allow Deathbird to stay with them? I've been turning this over in my head for a little while, and I still don't know where I stand on it.  Which, of course, is what storytelling is supposed to do.

Storm sums it up best: "Carol is right, professor, and you are right."  Whilst the other X-Men unhappily agree to stay, and Binary takes off in disgust, Ororo alone is unsure about what comes next.  She wasn't too happy about her life in the team before Rogue showed up, and now it must seem like a well-constructed but horribly vicious joke. Who will she choose, she asks herself: Ororo, or Storm?

Meanwhile, up in Alaska, Scott and Madelyne are still getting to know one another, and this time, is Ms. Pryor's turn to drop a bombshell: she's suffering night terrors over the day she crashed her plane and was dragged almost dead from the wreckage.  It was the same day that Jean Grey died.  I'm not sure what Claremont is going for here, this doesn't make any sense in terms of where the character ends up, unless she genuinely was originally intended to be a reborn Jean Grey, something which to the best of my knowledge has always been denied.  Still, it's not like anything else about her makes sense, is it?


Yet another issue in which we're told it's spring, and once again we'll have to ignore such foolishness.

We're also told that Jean Grey passed away on the 1st of September, 1980.  That's surprisingly close to our estimate of the 14th of October (especially given that at the time, Claremont was insisting it was winter), but by our count it happened just the previous year.  Clearly Claremont intends for two and a half years to have passed since Jean's death.  This, though, would make Kitty sixteen years old, which we know isn't true.

In-between last issue and this, Plague has cured Kitty and the Morlocks' healer has saved Callisto.  There's no other indication of how much time has passed, so we'll assume the story starts on the following day.  The story itself takes place over the course of a few hours.


Thursday 4th of August, 1983.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.71 standard years

(Colossus is 26 years old)

"Quiche lorraine.  It looks simple enough."

Contemporary Events

Thomas Sankara becomes the president of the Upper Volta, through a coup d'etat.  Precisely one year later, the country is renamed Burkina Faso.

Standout Line

"Have fits and tantrums become your solutions to everything, Kitty?" - Illyana

Actually, and it causes me physical pain to write this, Kitty's in the right here, and Xavier's way off.  Asking teenage girls to keep their mouths shut is fair enough (though somewhat optimistic), but shouting at them because you don't like what they're thinking is bullshit on rye, especially if you're in the middle of deciding whether to forgive someone who's only not a murderer because those she's tried to kill keep escaping.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

DAZ #26: "Against The Wind"

("It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw.")


It's an end of an era today as we wave goodbye to Danny Fingeroth, who wrote every issue of Dazzler from #8 to this one, other than #25, and who's really responsible for what the book was, namely an occasionally silly and occasionally maddening but always interesting alternative to a "standard" superhero book.  Next issue scripting duty is being taken over by the book's penciller, Frank Springer, which is not really an idea that inspires me with confidence, though that might just be my experiences with Whilce Portacio and John Bryne colouring my judgement.

Anyway, what treats does Fingeroth have on hand to leave us with?  The first few pages show us how far Dazzler has come: she sees some gun-wielding hoods offstage hassling the owner of a club she's singing in, and this time there's no fretting or self-absorbed histrionics, just a quick state off-stage and some blinding of enemies, and then back into the spotlight to finish the song. No fuss, no muss; if Dazzler had been like this from the beginning we could've gotten here in seven issues.

Still, let us not dwell on the past.  Not when it looks like Alison's half sister might finally be about to get to the bottom of her recent blackouts (obviously, when I say "it looks like", I mean "The cover makes it clear that").  Indeed, whilst Dazzler goes back on for her second set of the evening, Lois takes a stroll outside the theatre to get some fresh air and, when assaulted by a tramp, burns his face off by accident with black fire spurting from her hand.  That's what happens when you demand kisses from passing women, guys.  Your eyes are melted by eldritch flame, and serves you right. Lois doesn't see it quite like that, though, and she flees into the night.

A few hours later, Dazzler has returned home after the gig, to find her half-sister missing, and the local news "screaming" over a horribly murdered hobo.  I figure for a dead tramp to make it onto the NYC news, it's gotta have been a fucking hideous corpse.  Alison is terrified that Lois will get similar treatment, until the killer herself walks in and confesses all.  Death by onyx conflagration.  The touch of the burning void.

Alison asks if Lois is exaggerating, which what the fuck? Does she think Lois might only have generated standard-colour flames?  Maybe the Hungry Dark which erupted from Lois' fingers merely injured her assailant? I guess "exaggerating" might be intended as a euphemism for "'shroomed up like a motherfucker". When that ends up as being the most generous interpretation, something's gone wrong.

Unsurprisingly, Lois is not impressed by her half-sister's attempt to calm her down, and insists she makes the call: turn her in, or become accomplice after the fact.  At this point, Alison has a brainwave.  Why not phone her boyfriend Ken, the lawyer.  I'd forgotten about Ken.  We'd all forgotten about Ken.  Especially Alison, unless she needs some validation or someone to pay for dinner or for legal advise regarding relatives with blood on their hands.

Still, at least bringing Ken in allows the script to remind us that Dazzler herself ended up in trouble with the law after she also accidentally killed a man who was trying to assault her.  On that occasion the assailant had stated murderous intent, and the jury still seemed likely to convict until Ken begged them to remember that bigotry is teh sux0r.  Ken confirms that in the current climate, Lois has less chance of getting a fair trial than Bradley Manning.  He points out that his profession requires him to recommend Lois turns herself in, but as Alison's boyfriend, he tells her she has to work it out for herself.  The next morning, Dazzler announces a road-trip, to buy them time to plan their next move without the NYPD sneaking around.

But it's not really New York's Finest that our heroines need to worry about. Agent Gyrich has learned of the death of the tramp (named Robert Smith, apparently, which rather makes me wish things had turned out like this), and he's sure it's the work of a mutant, because Christ knows there's not a supervillain to be found beside the Hudson, or any number of expat aliens and ill-tempered magical beings.  It's time to get serious and release the mutant hunters (sic), and only a sap or a Communist would think there's time to advise Congress first.  A person who may or may not exist may or may not be a mutant! To the WIDEAWAKEcave!

Meanwhile, Alison and Lois have hopped a Greyhound to Pittsburgh (no sign of Simon and Garfunkel at the other end, though, which would have been fun, at least).  Dazzler isn't making any headway in formulating a plan because Lois is far too sulky and self-absorbed (hey, look at that; a family trait!), but she does at least cajole her into heading out to see a movie, which I guess will have to do for now.  Even the pleasures of a Nicholas Ray double bill are denied to them, though, when people in the queue recognise Dazzler, forcing her to flee with Lois.  All this sneaking around seems a tad like overkill (if you'll excuse the phrase), considering there's no reason to believe Lois is so much as a distant suspect in the minds of the police, but it's hardly out of character for Alison to be acting as though whether or not people know who she is represents the most profound question of modern times.  Either way, she takes her half-sister back to the hotel, and then nips out to by some disguises.  Gods, this is painful.  It's like watching Norma Desmond on the first day of training to become utterly mental.

Back in the hotel, Lois is playing with the owner's flat.  "You're a cute little cat", she tells it, "But then... all you've got to do is sit and eat or lick your fur -- or look for someone to play with."

"My life was like that..."

At this point the kitty decides it's heard quite enough, thank you, and registers its displeasure in the manner of domestic felines the world over; it tries to gouge open a human artery.  In response, Lois registers her displeasure in the manner of exactly no-one anywhere, and freezes it to death with a burst of jet-black fire.  This seems to freak her out rather more than doing for that transient did, which is an ugly fact best not dwelt on, but when a heavily disguised Dazzler arrives, she convinces Lois to flee with her to a new town, rather than turning herself in for the crime of moggy-murder.  The next morning finds them, exhausted, riding the Greyhound for a destination unknown...


Thelma and Lois, it would seem, have escaped just in time: the mutant hunters have found their hotel room, and the cruelly executed cat.  One of them describes the kitty-corpse as a "mutant calling card", which is clear evidence the guy is a douche, and then claims they can follow the girls by adapting their scanners to the "residual metabolic patterns" in the room, which is clear evidence that Fingeroth has never read a biology or chemistry textbook in his life.

(Or physics, probably.  I don't know on that one, because physics is shit).

Well, that wraps it up for Danny "Dan" Fingeroth; I don't believe he ever wrote another X-book. As mentioned, his was a fairly enjoyable run, if somewhat uneven, though that hardly marks him out as particularly unusual with regard to Silver Age comics, or indeed comic writers in general.  Good show, old boy.  Good show.


This story takes starts in the mid evening and takes place over approximately 36 hours.  There's no clue as to how much time has passed since DAZ #25, but since UXM #169 came out the same month, we'll assume they take place at roughly the same time.


Monday 1st to Wednesday 3rd of August, 1983.


X+5Y+105 to X+5Y+107.

Contemporary Events

Peter Arne passes away, aged 62.  Arne had small roles in many films, including Ice Cold in Alex, Straw Dogs, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in which he portrayed the captain of Baron Bomburst's army.

Standout Line

Agent Gyrich swings into action: "Draft a carefully worded memo as to our actions."

Ooh, Henry!  You're so... maverick.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

NMU #4: "Who's Scaring Stevie?"

(Never play Frisbee with a werewolf.)


Time for a bit of a break from life-threatening alien-chasing hijinks for Xavier's junior class: this month their biggest problem is the series of threatening nuisance calls their friend/dancing teacher Stevie Hunter is receiving.  You'd think that the guy who built Cerebro could slap together a call tracers, but Hunter's prickly about the whole thing and hasn't told Charles.

Whilst Stevie deals with her anonymous malefactor - brilliantly, she responds not with fear but by basically telling the guy to go fuck himself, and prepare for loss of limbs and organs when she finally IDs him - the students are still trying to process their recent brush with death at the hands of XaviBrood.  The Professor faces the problem head on, stressing to his charges that they should feel free to leave if they're uncomfortable, but the(by his standards) heartfelt speech persuades them all to stay.

Shan is sufficiently worried about Stevie to spill the beans, and so Xavier gives the class their first assignment (other than "train until I eat you", anyway): come up with a way to help Ms Hunter out. Psyche complains that this is a fairly cold-blooded way to take advantage of the situation, which isn't an entirely unreasonable point, but Charles knows full well she's just saying it to be difficult, and suggests she considers not being such an unbearable pain in the arse.

Later that day, the team puts their plan into action.  It turns out Xavier can build a phone tracer, and helps out Roberto in doing so. I'd have thought getting Charles to help would rather defeat the purpose of the exercise, but whatever.  After a few hours waiting, Stevie's harasser makes contact again, and our heroes trace the call to a nearby phone booth.  Their target has skedaddled, but Rahne is able to pick up their scent, once she's cut through the reek of hobo piss (that's not my joke; that actually happens).  They're looking for a teenage boy.

Following their quarry's stink trail, the mutants find themselves at a local high school dance. Indeed, it's the same "spring mixer" they were invited to in NMU #2.  The plan is walk into the dance with Stevie, whilst Wolfsbane and Cannonball watch the guests for any reaction that will identify the perp.  Ms Hunter suggests the plan is a bit thin, and I don't blame her, but Da Costa is convinced everything will be fine.  When has confronting a stalker ever led to problems, after all?

Ultimately, Operation: Walk In Slowly generates mixed results.  Their target does indeed give himself away (Rahne notes his increased skin temperature, which is apparently something a dog can do through a pane of glass); turns out it's Peter Bristow, one of Stevie's dance students, who handily showed up briefly at the start of the issue in a classic example of Chekov's Twunt.  On the other hand, our budding detectives haven't given any thought to what to do once they've loudly pointed the guy out, so Bristow is able to run to his car and tear off.

Cannonball gives chase, being the only one with any chance of catching up, but he's delayed by having to save a mother and child from being run down by Bristow, which gives Bristow himself time to crash his Corvette into one of those abandoned explosives stores they have everywhere.  Gods, this kid would be too stupid to qualify as one of Skeletor's henchmen. I wonder if the team looked back on this caper fondly when the Beyonder showed up to kill them all?  Simpler times, they'd think, back when they just had to chase a teenage boy until he got himself blown up.

Somehow though Peter avoids injury, and hides himself before the New Mutants arrive.  Leaving Sunspot to drag the car from the fire started by the crash (and to look after Stevie, whose bum knee has kicked in and left her unable to walk), Shan, Dani and Rahne begin searching the nearby area.  When you have one team-mate who can sniff out a target and another who can take over their mind, hide-and-seek isn't a particularly difficult game, but complications arrive when Roberto learns what a "DANGER BLASTING" sign means: the area is littered with boxes of TNT!  By the time Karma has Bristow's mind in hand, the boxes of explosives are already going off, and the building Peter had hidden in is rapidly disintegrating.  With help from Sunspot and the timely arrival of Cannonball, everyone trapped inside manages to escape, including their new captive.

For some reason, our heroes choose Stevie's apartment as their interview room.  Bristow has no intention of saying anything, other than begging them not to tell his parents.  So great is his fear of being ratted out, he becomes impossible for Xavier to read.  Concerned (or perhaps merely frustrated), Xavier orders Dani to project Peter's fears, so they can learn what they're up against.

What happens next is kind of interesting.  Dani admits to herself that she's not really sure it's OK to dig around in people's heads in order to cow them with their own secret fears.  That's a fair point (though sadly left undeveloped), and it makes it all the more surprising that on this issue, Psyche decides not to object to Xavier's instructions.  It's not clear why she does this, and it's possible Claremont is simply moving the story along, but personally I like the idea that Dani will butt heads with the Professor over the small stuff, but lacks the confidence to challenge him on the big decisions.  That reminds me of more than a few teenagers, and older people besides.

In any event, like all the most interesting head-fucks, Peter's fear comes in layers.  First off, Dani discovers the boy has a major crush on Stevie, which isn't particularly surprising.  What comes next is far more disturbing - Peter has been regularly beaten by his father since he was a little boy, to the point where he can no longer distinguish between affection and violence. His harassment campaign against Stevie was purely because she was nice to him but never smacked the crap out of him.

That's actually a great and disturbing conclusion, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't belong within a million miles of this book.  Claremont often displayed a tendency to combine light-hearted superheroic prancing with gut-wretching tragedy (hell, see Magneto, origin of), and a lot of the time it's difficult to process.  This is certainly one of those occasions, especially since there's so little time for the kids to process what they've discovered. Xavier wipes Peter's mind of the evening's adventure - though not, and this is something which should really have been brought up, his memories of constant violent abuse - and hands him over to social services, promising he will help in the boy's therapy.  In fairness, Charles does end the issue with a nice little speech about how the night's events are what truly demonstrate the worth of the New Mutants, but it still all sits uneasily together.

 Part of me wonders if I should be kinder here; that the fact such issues are discussed at all in comics aimed for young people helps spread awareness, but even if that were true, I think you'd need to introduce the issue  more than four pages from the end of the issue.


Given the snow on the ground, it seems likely that this issue takes place just after Kitty was repromoted from the New Mutants' ranks in UXM #168.  We discussed at the time that the local weather patterns make little sense given the length of time the X-Men were in space, and the chronology problems are brought into focus once again here as the New Mutants end up at a high school spring dance, something that would be far more likely to take place in March (or even more probably, May) than around Christmas.

It's clear from the first few pages that the events of UXM #167 were only a short time ago, so we'll start this issue on the first Friday after Kitty leaves the team once more.  This story itself takes place over a single day.


Friday 22nd July, 1983.



Contemporary Events

Australian Dick Smith completes the first helicopter circumnavigation of the globe.

Standout Line

"This idea worked on 'Magnum P.I.'!" - Sunspot

Friday, 6 July 2012

DAZ #25: "The Jagged Edge"

(Stalk into the light.)


Dazzler dressed as a buccaneer?  Works for me!  It's photoshoot time for our heroine, but alas neither she nor Osgood is as impressed by her costume as Lance and myself.  Indeed, Alison is sufficiently pissed off by the whole thing that she storms out, convinced that people would take her so much more seriously if only she stuck to her skintight silver catsuit open to the navel.

Lance tries to talk her out of her strop, though since he insists on using his trademark brand of arrogant bullshit, he doesn't get very far.  Indeed, he succeeds only in fanning the flames of Dazzler's irritation, and she responds to his condescension by insisting she knows what she's doing. And how will she prove that?  By meeting a secret admirer who's sent her roses after the show!  Fame won't change her! (I was going to argue that this was just the latest in a seemingly endless series of idiotic choices Dazzler has made in order to move the story forward, but all my female friends have told me they'd definitely meet a total stranger alone after dark because he's sent them flowers, so I guess it's OK.

Or is it? Someone named Karl Fredericks is watching Alison from across the street, timing his arrival at his job at a key-cutters to coincide with Dazzler's established pattern, and living with both his mother and a metric fuck-ton of guns. He's also clearly massively screwed-up by a war he participated in and is now trying desperately to get over, though not so desperately that he's willing to get help from the VA.  Not that he's worried. By tonight he'll "Have everything [he needs]".  This, for those not paying attention, does not bode well.  It's boding badly.  It's a deeply fucked up bode, is what it is.

That night, Dazzler rather presciently ends her set with Talking Head's "Psycho Killer", which is a damn fine song, if a rather unfortunate choice. Soon after, Fredericks gains backstage access for being "the guy who sent flowers". Does Karl have a guy on the inside?  Or did he really just assume Dazzler was as awesomely goddamn dumb as she's turned out to be?

Whichever it is, his plan pays dividends when Alison agrees to join him for a late dinner. This, she tells herself, is a way of asserting her independence, because nothing demonstrates being free of your meddling management than putting yourself entirely in the hands of some random.  Not that it starts out too badly; Dazzler gets a slap-up meal and expensive champagne, which probably puts this in the top quintile of blind dates, but things turn ugly fast when she brings up the idea of not wanting to stay with him forever, starting now.

In response, Karl grabs her, and formally announces that she loves him (so nice when you can skip past all that annoying dilly-dallying whilst a woman insists on exercising her own agency).  Ultimately, Alison has to put the dazzle on him, buying her enough time to leap into a taxi.  Karl has no intention of giving up, though: Dazzler is his!

The next day, Alison arrives at Osgood's office to discover the place has been ransacked (where does that word come from, anyway? Is it because thieves ran from the scene holding sacks of stolen goods? These are the things that keep me awake at night). Strangely, all that's been taken are the promotional pictures of Dazzler, which is good news for Lance at least, since that only leaves the pirate photos for Alison to sign.

Osgood's phone rings, and Cassandra takes the call.  It's for Alison, and exactly no-one is surprised to learn that it's Karl, calling in to apologise for smashing up her manager's office, and promising that he will prove his worthiness to her soon. Psychotic.  Fortunately, Frederick's boss literally pulls the plug on the call: even stalkers have to do some work occasionally.  This never would have happened if Carter had won re-election.

Confused and embarrassed (and probably more than a little afraid), Dazzler explains to her assembled colleagues that Karl is responsible for ransacking Osgood's office, but refuses to report him to the police, hoping she might be able to reason with him.  This is actually my favourite part of this issue; watching Alison struggle with the idea that she is somehow to blame for how her admirer is behaving.  Logically, of course, she shouldn't feel that way at all, but it's certainly a common enough reaction out here in the Desert of the Real.

(It occurs to me, actually, that I'm maybe coming across as too down on this issue.  I've been saying for months now that this title is at its best when focusing on Alison's general life rather than stacking up ever more implausible super-being battles.  This, in theory, is what I wanted: the story of an obsessed fan is hardly original, but a tale almost entirely devoid of preternatural abilities was precisely what I've been clamouring for.  Maybe I should just shut up and eat what I ordered.  On the other hand, of course, whenever someone says "You demanded X, and when you got it you hated it, what the hell is it you want from us!?!", the answer is almost always, "I want you to do X, and it not be shit".)

Alison's sympathy diminishes rather quickly, though, when she gets back to her apartment and finds Karl has been there too, and left a note promising to "destroy the creep who hurt you the most". Dazzler is baffled as to who Karl could possibly mean.  Personally, I don't think it's at all hard to guess, so I'm mainly baffled as to how Karl could possibly know.  In Alison's defense, though, she works out quickly enough how Karl can have gained access to her apartment, and heads to the key shop beside Osgood's offices to confront him. There she finds Karl's boss, shot by her stalker in an altercation and now barely alive, and a Rolodex containing Frederick's address.

Dazzler springs into action, heading straight to Osgood's office and borrowing Lance's car.  Another blow for independence, clearly.  Not that Lance appreciates that Alison is striking a blow for women everywhere; he's too busy bitching about having to loan out his wheels.  Not sure what the fuss is all about, to be honest; it's a fucking ugly vehicle, even discounted the word "SPORT" painted on its side in bright white letters, though that comes and goes from panel to panel, so it's possible Lance shelled out for a hologram or something and we're all just too square to appreciate it.

Following Karl to his home, Alison discovers his mother, who is quite delighted that her son's fiancee has turned up to drag him out of his fantasy about being 'Nam like his father.  That's a little bit too much crazy for even Dazzler to take, and she does her best to brush the poor woman off.  This strategy of keeping out the crazy lasts just long enough for Alison to get to Karl's room, at which point mental to be repulsed the only parts of the guy's crib not covered in photos of her are either littered with pictures of her father, or plastered with firearms.

One of which is missing.

Dazzler arrives at her father's chambers just in time to stop Karl from shooting Judge Blaire.  But though the resulting display of weaponised pyrotechnics scares Karl off, it's merely a temporary reprieve; indeed, so humiliated in Fredericks by his defeat, he comes to the only logical conclusion and decides that Dazzler's worse than any other three people put together.

Joining the infinite cue of those who have turned their humiliation into hatred, Karl arrives at Alison's gig that evening, intent on killing her for the crime of not being who he'd assumed she was, and secretly pouring scorn on all those who are stupid enough to enjoy the show and then head home without ever finding out what she's really like, a process which only Karl knows requires breaking and entering followed by attempted assassination.  This is another moment in which this book really works, considering as it does the utter refusal of some people to comprehend the idea that their idols are entities within themselves, rather than screens onto which the viewer can project their own image. The Uncertainty Principle tells us a subject under observation changes by the very fact of being observed, but I don't think Heisenberg was suggesting girls will fuck you so long as you want them bad enough.

Karl's second stab at homicide (no pun intended, honest) goes no better than his first, and Dazzler quickly defeats him before handing him over to the authorities.  This tale doesn't end when the police bundle Fredericks into the paddy wagon, though.  Alison still has to process the fact that she was the proximate cause of a man's descent into madness.  Lance points out (almost certainly correctly) that absent Dazzler Karl would simply have found an alternative way to freak out, but does that make any difference?  Is brooding over one's ability to "flip the switch" of a lonely, mentally disturbed man in itself a form of self-obsession?  I'm less sure about the answer to that question than I usually am regarding Alison Blaire.  That, I suppose, is at least a certain kind of progress.


There's no indication of when this story is set in relation to the events of DAZ #24, so we'll fast forward a whole month, thus placing this issue within days of UXM #167 and NMU #3, the former of which was published in the same month, and the latter of which seems a great deal like it was meant to.


Wednesday 12th to Thursday 13th July, 1983.


X+5Y+103 to X+Y+104.

Contemporary Events

Abeche changes hands for the final time during the Chad civil war, as Hissene Habre consolidates his power.

Standout Line

"Shut up! You're accused of arrogance and I find you guilty!"

Ten quid says this is the last sentence I ever hear.