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.

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