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.
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.
Agent Gyrich swings into action: "Draft a carefully worded memo as to our actions."
Ooh, Henry! You're so... maverick.