Saturday, 17 November 2012

DAZ #30: "The Debt"

(Barney unleashed; Bob unbound.)


You can tell things have gotten serious around here. On the very first page, exclamation marks outnumber full stops nine to one!!!!!!!!!

Actually, "serious" is not really a word that applies to this issue.  Apparently it's "assistant editor month", which seems in practice to mean a large degree of clowning around.  This affords us an interesting contrast with UXM Annual #7 which we looked at not too long ago, because this comic too is determined to break the fourth wall as obviously as possible, but does much better at getting away with it, almost entirely because it's so much funnier.

Indeed, I'd say this is the funniest single X-book Marvel had produced up to this point.  There is admittedly not a massive amount of competition for that accolade; Claremont seems to go in more for zaniness rather than outright comedy (though his humorous writing is so miserably unfunny that it's difficult to be sure), and Obnoxio the Clown was less funny than the restaurant menu of the German hotel I read it in.  This, though, is not just funnier, it's funny, at least sporadically.

It also seems in some haste to polish of last issue's cliffhanger so as to get to the new stuff, so let's similarly run through the preliminaries (short note on that cover: that cover is fucking awful). At the end of DAZ #29, our heroine found herself on the private plane of exceptionally famous musician/actor/movie producer Roman Nekoboh, only for her host to be knocked out and the pilot, Hack, shot in the chest when an incoming fighter craft opens fire.

Fortunately, Roman reveals the plane carries parachutes, though only two ("I wanted to expand the liquor cabinet!"). Dazzler straps Roman into one and rather unceremoniously tosses him out of his own plane, which now that I think of it is flying oddly level considering its pilot is bleeding to death.  Maybe he had enough strength left to hit the automatic pilot before he passed out, or maybe planes are designed to fly level if you're not holding the controls; I can see how that would be useful. Anyway, Dazzler straps Hack into the other parachute, grabs onto him with all her strength, and throws them both out into freefall. My physics isn't good enough to know if this would work (though I guess Dazzler doesn't weigh that much, ample bosom notwithstanding), but in comics land, at least, everything's good.  A quick light burst to attract attention, and Hack is whisked to hospital.

Alison follows in a police car alerted by her skyflash, to find Hack is going to be fine and that Roman has made his way to the hospital too, where he's engaging in bragging and autograph signing in strict rotation. Alison gets back to Brown's mansion, where he berates her for not sticking around in the hospital and pretending to be mortally wounded. What's the point of nearly getting killed if you can't milk it for cheap publicity!  That's just the kind of unpleasant cynicism you'd expect from a former wife-beater and drugs-pusher.  Mind you, his theory that the fighter plane was piloted by an enraged fan who hated Nekoboh's last album is pretty funny.  I wonder if any Metallica fans were tempted to try something similar after St. Anger?

(Which reminds me; whilst Pitchfork remains an entirely useless site for anyone with any interest in reading anything that fulfils the most basic qualities of a useful review, their evisceration of Metallica's eighth album is a work of genius.)

None of this goes down well with Alison, of course, and things only deteriorate when he admits he basically whored her out to Roman. Disgusted by Brown's moral bankruptcy, and more than a little put out by Lois taking his side simply out of a refusal to risk having to make her own choices, Dazzler walks out of the mansion and into the California rain.

Except it isn't rain, so much as some kind of shimmering cataract standing in for the fourth wall; Dazzler has barely gone three steps when a guy names Ralph pulls up, offering her a ride out of town, perhaps as far as his final destination of San Diego, where he's going to a comics convention.  He's an editor, you see.

If it weren't for the front cover mentioning assistant editor's month twice, this might seem like nothing but a little nod, or even slip under the radar altogether.  Clearly, that will never do, so we switch scenes to Bob Harras in a funk the next morning, waiting impatiently for Ralph to call while the staff plot universal domination and/or multiple lunch breaks. Perhaps it's being surrounded by such egotism and apathy that does it, or it's the constant teasing Bob takes for refusing to do anything without Ralph's say-so, but something snaps in his head, and the comic world's newest dictator is born.  His first order of business: banning Frank Springer from drawing any more dodgy pin-up girl shots. "There'll be no more of that!"  Frankly, it's worth all this post-modern noodling just to call that sexist bullshit out.

Over in San Diego, trouble is brewing. Elements of an entirely undeveloped and generic military force are out to kill Alison for being a mutant, and having failed to shoot down her plane, they plan to get up close and personal.  They follow her into Ralph's comic convention so she can repay him the $20 he lent her last night (I don't wanna know how she raised the money overnight in San Diego). With their military gear drawing no odd looks amongst the eclectically-dressed crowd, the group set up a machine designed to make any nearby mutant lose control.  One wonders how they got their hands on such a device.  One might also wonder why such mechanisms are never referred to again, though it's likely someone pointed out the risks inherent in causing super-powered beings to go indiscriminately mental inside crowds of people.

And if that doesn't persuade people, you could always just show them video of what happens next.  Alison is hit by the wavefront of the strange device and immediately starts struggling to hold in her light bursts, but she's not the only mutant in range.  In an all-too bitter irony, one of the soldiers is a mutie too!  Which is a nice touch, but maybe a bit obvious, you know?  Even in some senses cliche?  Well, McDonald's got you covered, never fear.  You want original?  How about a guy who spontaneously changes into a giant purple lizard man!

No, wait.

YAARRH! He's a bit... piratey, isn't he? That costs him a little in the way of scariness, I'd think, though obviously nothing is ever going to knife you through the heart with fear like Barney the Dinosaur.  Not with this shit going on.

But I digress.

Right, so.  Giant purple lizard smashing up comic convention.  What's Dazzler gonna do?  Well, first of all, she has to release all the energy the machine has set percolating inside her.  Sensibly, she uses the resulting laser burst to gank the device itself (not sure if this qualifies as being unreasonably prescient; no-one told her what the machine does, but it's fucking huge and the thing-that-once-spake-as-Zalme is stood right next to it).  Destroying the generator restores Alison to normal, but the dino-beast is as rampagey as ever.  Sterner measures are required.  Dazzler alternates between pleading with the beast and shooting it in the face, before eventually enough damage is done for the roof to collapse on it.  This seemingly returns Zalme to normal, and he flees whilst Dazzler is saving Ralph from being flattened by a falling pillar. 

Having been handed his twenty, Ralph wanders away to find a phone and call in, and therefore ends Bob's reign of terror just as he's demanding each cover features a picture of himself. Sic transit gloria Harras, I guess.

Like I said, this all works better than Claremont's similar take, and it's not only because this version is funnier (though as I say, it is).  The fact that we get two brief trips to Marvel that bookend the plot is part of it; it intrudes far less than the pages and pages of fight scenes in the bullpen that we had to suffer through in the previous year's annual.  You've also got the fact that no-one at any point suggests Dazzler is a Marvel character, whereas "Scavenger Hunt" was very clear that Claremont himself was responsible for the X-Men's rampage through Marvel HQ.  Not so much fourth-wall problem as an issue with recursion.

Anyway, that's enough justifying my hypocrisy for one post.  We'll leave DAZ #30 on its final panel, as Alison boards a bus to return to LA. This time she's determined to make it work. Her half-sister's father might be a worthless turd, but at no point was she in danger of being eaten, and for a woman like Dazzler, those kinds of details are still worth something, dammit.


This issue picks up immediately from DAZ #29, and carries on into the following day.


Friday 29th to Saturday 30th of July, 1983.


X+5Y+102 to X+5Y+103.

Contemporary Events

Tony and Emmy winning stage actress Lynn Fontanne dies, aged 95.

Standout Line

"And furthermore, I want all dialogue balloons coloured red!" - Bob Harras.

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