Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Kitty Pryde And Wolverine #1: "Lies"

(The Cross Time Zone Caper.)


For those keeping score, this is the fourth X-Men miniseries to date, all of which were released within the same three year period, and all but one of which were written by Claremont alone - the fourth being a collaboration with Bill Mantlo.  The X-juggernaut (if you'll forgive the phrase) has well and truly begun rolling.

As usual with these minis, then, the most immediate question is: why?  With two slices of Claremont action per month already available, what can we find here that we can't get elsewhere?  The three previous miniseries each had an answer, even if in the case of X-Men vs the Micronauts it wasn't really anything more than uncamouflaged commercialism.  Magik: Storm and Illyana filled in a back-story that one could at least make a strong case for being worth telling, for all that the end result left me cold.  Wolverine did best of all, being a brooding, exquisitely-presented tour through Wolverine's character, with added ninjas.

So what does this title bring to the party?

The first clue, as one might expect, comes in the name.  This is not Wolverine and Kitty Pryde.  Even in the mid '80s, with Wolverine-fever still far from peaking, giving Logan second-billing is a very notable choice, particularly since it was he who headlined the first X-Men spin-off in history (if we exclude the Dazzler ongoing, and for these purposes I think we should).  This is a story about Sprite, first and foremost.  Indeed, in this first issue, Wolverine hardly appears at all; literally being on page for a single panel and thirteen words of dialogue.  This is Kitty's time to shine. 

Not that she's all that interested in shining, what with Colossus having broken her heart.  This is our second clue as to what is going on here.  Claremont is using this opportunity to explore Kitty's response to being heartbroken, in a way he'd never have the space to do in either UXM or NMU (though he has the sense to skip the first week of endless weeping). That's a strong rationale for a character piece, for all that I have comparatively little love for the character in question, and for all that Claremont isn't really the writer I'd choose for the role (hyperbolic teenage rending of garments being a topic that desperately needs a writer stronger on dialogue and implication).

Note that I say "character piece", not "six issue limited series".  If the main thrust of this book is to explore Kitty's emotional fall-out, then it's reasonable to ask how long we could possibly take the results.  Claremont is walking a fine line here.  Too much melodrama and the whole thing will collapse, too much skipping around Japan fighting ninjas and there's a risk the whole exercise become superfluous; something we've all seen before.

Oh, did I mention Kitty's skipping around fighting ninjas?  That seems to be the basis of the plot here: Kitty discovers her father has been extorted into selling the family bank to the Yakuza - small Illinois banks being prime targets for Japanese gangsters - and is being shipped off to Japan to meet his new boss, and she surreptitiously tags along.

In this first issue, it's tough to know where this is headed, though of course no-one gets any prizes for figuring out this story is Nippon-bound so as to tie into Wolverine's past (his only appearance here is answering Kitty's international phone call for assistance).  It's not clear how returning Wolverine to the grimy world of Tokyo assassins will work alongside Kitty's domestic problems - certainly Sprite would have been horribly out of place in the previous Wolverine mini - but we'll figure that out further down the road.

For now, Claremont's interest is in putting Kitty through the wringer; without cash or sensible clothes, Kitty quickly ends up soaked in Tokyo rain and trying to steal money from cash machines in order to get a place to stay.  In the process she trips an alarm, leading to her being chased by the cops, featured on the Japanese equivalent of Crime Stoppers, and fighting a nasty (and ridiculously quick-developing) case of the flu.  Plus, she finds her father just in time to see him agree to funnel laundered money through his bank.  She even loses her favourite pair of skates.

Is the plan to try the patented "strip everything away from a character" approach here? It's too soon to tell.  Right now, all we really have are questions.  Which is fine; there's five issues for this to crystallise. Whether or not it does, of course...


This issue begins a week after Kitty and Peter's break-up in UXM #183.  Since that would make it a Saturday, though, and hence unlikely to be a day the bank is open in the late afternoon (actually, maybe US banks do that, I couldn't say), I'll knock things back to the Friday.  The flight to Japan presumably takes us into the following day.


Friday 3rd to Saturday 4th February, 1984.


X+5Y+340 to X+5Y+341.

Contemporary Events

The first transfer of embryos from one woman to another resulting in a live birth is announced.  Republicans across the US start planning ways to use this to prove women love getting things inserted into them under all circumstances.

Standout Line

"Traffic's lousy, as usual. The airport is jammed, as usual.  The cabby gets lost, as usual."

Maybe I wouldn't have picked this line if I wasn't flying to France next week.  But I am, so I did.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

ALF #16: "... And Forsaking All Others..."

("Anything could happen in the next half hour!")


It's time to dig out the running shoes in our sprint towards the finish line as the "what lurks beneath Lake Ontario" plotline finally reaches a conclusion.  For those who have forgotten, last issue saw the reappearance of the missing-presumed-exploded Master of the World (self-declared), who's apparently swapped his gigantic alien colonisation vessel for a snazzy submarine.  Apparently being buried beneath the Arctic Circle for four hundred centuries doesn't mean you can't watch Stingray.

Separated at egg secretion?
(Actually I'm being unfair here.  The Master can't possibly have cribbed this design from Gerry Anderson, since it's taken five millennia to construct.  One wonders how much of that time was sunk into the flared nostrils.)

 Not only does the Master have a snazzy new ride, he also has a plan, and an explanation as to why he isn't dead.  It turns out he deliberately orchestrated Alpha Flight's attack on the alien ship that captured him all those eons ago, mainly because it wouldn't let him leave even after it got tired of dissecting him.  Once free and safely away in the Fishmobile, he was able to prepare the next stage of his plan, which is... well, I'm not sure.  He admits to having wanted Marrina dead originally, since her intended role as a destroyer of species makes her too dangerous to have around.  So why has he kidnapped her and regressed her into the very mental state that requires?  Why has he brought her into the depths to meet the only other surviving member of her race?  How did we get from executing genocidal bio-constructs to arranging blind dates for them?  Not that rendezvous goes tremendously well, the two aliens seemingly attack each other the moment they're introduced.

Whatever the Master is up to, there's only Namor and Puck around to stop him, which is more than a little tricky considering they're being almost totally dehydrated/asphyxiated in order to keep them quiet.

Almost only counts in horseshoes and Hold Steady albums, though, and Puck has a plan.  From watching the Master take such interest in Marrina's courtship ritual/battle to the death, Puck figures the man is a sucker for a good mystery - which is a hell of a leap, but it's not like the guy has much in the way of options - and makes use of a handy trick he picked up in the Orient to stop his heart and breathing for a few moments.  The Master is indeed taken in by this trick, baffled as to how a man locked in an airtight container almost devoid of oxygen could stop breathing and die, and he removes Puck from his tube.  Immediately Puck recovers, attacking the Master, freeing Namor, and stealing their foe's helmet in short order (no pun intended).

Puck's intent is to use the helmet as a missile, cracking the pressure-glass that keeps out the lake so as to get Namor to water.  The manoeuvre is partially successful, in that - with a little help from Namor's fists - the glass does indeed break, but the submarine's control systems were in that headgear, which the Master had rather rashly superglued to his face.  Ooh, he's ever so cross, and his mood doesn't improve when Marrina's playmate shoves his tentacles into the sub and starts thrashing around. In short order the craft is pretty much hollowed out, and its time to abandon fish-ship.  Namor wants to stay to help his girlfriend, but Puck takes the entirely practical position that he'd rather not drown whilst he tries to talk Marrina out of killing all humans.  As the old saying goes, not dying horribly is the better part of valour.

Namor does as he's asked and gets Puck to safety, moments before the sub explodes, taking the alien killer with it.  Of the Master and of Marrina, Namor can find no sign, despite hours of searching.  Heartbroken, the King of Atlantis returns to his dominion.

Which is when Marrina cones out of hiding.  She's been back on the shore all along, waiting for Namor to leave, having concluded she cannot trust herself to be around him.

On the one hand, I really like the idea that Marrina has concluded she needs to figure her own way in the world rather than relying on Namor.  Certainly, given this book's tendency to repeatedly have women forced to entirely rely on men to save them - in one way or another - is both desperately cliche and very annoying.  On the other side of the scales, though, this is basically another story about a woman not being able to control themselves, and ton this occasion it's quite literally because they've met a member of the opposite sex that renders them utterly unable to think rationally.  It's presented here as part of whatever genetic engineering Marrina and her male counterpart were subjected to all those centuries ago, but at heart this is still a story about a girl who falls for a bad boy because she can't help herself.

Anyway.  All this high-octane carnage means there's less time than usual for Byrne to wander around his other simmering plots, but we do get to see him birth a whole new one! Former Gamma Flight member Madison Jeffries responds to a summons from another former Gamma alumni, paraplegic Roger Bochs, who wants the "transmutator" to help him.  First of all, he wants assistance in ensuring his Box robot cannot be hijacked from him as Jaxon did back in issue #12.  Secondly, he wants Jeffries's help in tracking down Jaxon along with Delphine Courtney.  We last saw the villains comatose and actually a robot, respectively, but according to Bochs, they escaped, and it's time to bring them to justice!

Oh, also, Wolverine visits Heather in hospital to try and cheer her up.  Props for Marvel not splashing his guest appearance all over the front cover, I guess.  Perhaps they figured Namor was enough.


The majority of story takes place in approximately real time, but the coda takes place just before dawn the day after the Master's return.


Friday 13th to Saturday 14th April, 1984.


X+6Y+43 to X+6Y+44.

Contemporary Events

US President Reagan promises more aid to El Salvador in attempts to lower the risks of the USSR gaining influence in Central America.

Standout Line

"A complex pattern of cause and effect has been unravelling itself beneath these dark waters, and now, at the very center of evil, one man has seized control."

The center of evil, my friends.  Not the centre of National Exhibition.  Not even the centre of Pompidou.  The center of evil.  The midpoint of malevolence.  The very radial intersection of rampant infamy!

Oh, my friends; the center of evil.  Oh.  Oh.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

NMU #21: "Slumber Party!"

("What is this Earth concept you call 'onesies'?")


OK, so this story has a pretty clear moral.  Charles Xavier, you see, is all liberal and forgiving and nurturing, so he gets a dozen or so high school girls to show up at his mansion and have pillow fights (sure, he's "away" for the night, but there's no way the security cameras ain't rollin').  Magneto is all angry and shouty and into the blowing up of things, so he's visited by a super-speedy asteroid that blows up his sexy new space station.  Bad times.

I really like the idea of seeing the Xavier Institute through the eyes of total newcomers - ones that aren't in on the truth - and whilst squealing schoolgirls might not have been my first choice, it certainly makes sense in the context of this series.  Plus, it's nice that none of the newcomers turn out to be spies or supervillains; all that's on their minds is mimicking Jackson's dance moves and prettying up Rahne.  Tonight's entertainment is all about the sentient stellar object that's ruined Magneto's new digs.

It's also about poor old Sam and Roberto, who didn't get invites to the pillow fights for obvious reasons - maybe Xavier paid for them to see the Yankees get their heads handed to them. Things get no better for them when they get home and find themselves barred from the front door by a tiny but gorgeous redhead. Psyche!  It's Rahne, but she's been make-up, er, upped, so that she's all pretty now.

Sigh.  The plain girl who could be gorgeous if she just put a bit of effort in.  I can't tell you how much this cliche pisses me off.  It's basically saying that the people society doesn't automatically deem sufficiently attractive should just make more of an effort.  Maybe if you tried harder to cling to the artificial concept of beauty we've developed as a culture, you'd have more luck with the lads.  I'm not trying to make some overarching point about the worthlessness of make-up, here - I like when my girlfriend puts on eyeshadow when we go somewhere nice, just as she likes it when I throw on some cologne and a proper shirt - it's the idea of it having massive transformative power to the point where every other visual cue a person gives off is overwritten that causes the problem.  If you're conception of Rahne is so predicated on her facial structure that you literally fail to recognise her once she's been visited by the Maybelline fairy, you simply cannot possibly be worth the effort.

Stung by being kept out of their own home (and, in Sam's case, being punched in the solar plexus by an outraged werewolf), the two boys head off into the grounds, and soon find themselves chasing down a meteorite that's come down nearby, and which veered ninety degrees in mid-air to do it.  The pair drag the rock from the lake where it landed, and leave it in the mansion's labs for Xavier to look at when he gets back.

The solution to the mystery of the meteorite is obvious, of course, not just for those of us picking through the history of the X-books, but for readers at the time.  This is no space-rock at all, but a sentient being on the run from his murderous father, just as he has been for a couple of issues now.  This is Warlock, and given the sheer size of his legacy, it's worth taking a moment to focus on what we can consider his actual introduction, as oppose to brief teasers.

The first thing to say is that he looks absolutely fantastic.  I've been banging on about my love of Sienkiewicz's work since he first arrived on the title, and that's not about to stop now.  A jet-black mix of circuits and cables and punk-fucking rock, all forced sideways through some kind of utterly alien filter?  Delightful.

Claremont deserves his share of the credit on this as well.  For all that Warlock's speech patterns can be charitably described as "Marmite" (charitable in the sense that I've never seen anyone but Claremont himself profess to like it), Warlock's method of consumption is both fascinating and disturbing, involving as it does changing organic matter into cybernetic structures and then sucking the life out to create strange circuit-laced statues.  It's one part Borg (four years before they appeared in TNG), one part Medusa, meaning its tapping in to two fears - that of being turned into stone [1] and that of being turned into the other - that have followed humankind around for millennia.

Of course, transmuting life into cybernetic snacks is all fun and games until somebody loses a dragon.  Lockheed has a near miss when he runs into Warlock, and the resulting ruckus alerts the New Mutants. From here things move into the standard pattern of heroes stepping up in strict rotation to fail to punch out the enemy. This offers Claremont a chance to remind us of Illyana's recent battle against acute armour manifestation, but otherwise doesn't offer us much to do.  I suppose the inclusion of a host of curious schoolgirls brings us something new, requiring as it does some fancy explanations from our regulars.  Rahne becomes a pet wolf, injured comrades become victims of falls in dark rooms, the remains of Warlock's snacks (most noticeably a demon Illyana summoned to fight him who got exactly nowhere) are now statues, that sort of thing.  At one point the girls see Sam flying past the window, but apparently the sight of his hypnotic tuckus helps distract them (he's in naught but a towel throughout the battle, which I suppose is intended as payback for months of excessive Dani-flesh), and he seals the deal by being so relentlessly unpleasant to them that all they remember is what a dick he is.

Meanwhile, the toroidal tapestry of endless violence begins to fray when Dani determines Warlock is sentient - by scaring the crap out of him, natch - and decides that communication should be the order of the day.  Lacking any other means to get through to their visitor, the teenagers have little choice but to recruit Doug Ramsey as a cypher.  This causes no end of headaches, since it involves simultaneously revealing to Doug that a half dozen of his acquaintances are mutants, and they're a secret superhero team, and there's intelligent life outside the solar system, and one of them has arrived and is trying to kill people.  Oh, and that he's a mutant too.  If I were Doug I'd have been calling Sam the rudest word imaginable in every language on the planet, in strict alphabetical order.

As understandably put out as Doug is, the plan is at least successful.  Warlock has already managed to interface with the mansion's computer, so it's not hard for Doug to do the same, and the first seeds of a friendship are born.  Warlock explains the rather brutal reproductive methods of his kind: babies are mass-produced on an assembly line, but apparently each is a clone of an earlier individual.  Some time after being "decanted", a child must fight against the previous iteration to the death.  That's an interesting way to keep a population stable; you always have the exact same number of people, and they're regularly replaced by younger versions of themselves when they get too old to effectively defend themselves.  It does make me wonder who settled on the number and identity of those individuals, but that's just me.

Anyway.  The New Mutants are successful in befriending Warlock, and thanks to his experience with the computer (I assume) Warlock now knows how to draw power from a wall-socket without overloading the system.  The inquisitive giggle-pack are all safely squirrelled away, and when Xavier returns later that evening, he gets over his surprise at Warlock's arrival (and associated property damage) with commendable speed, welcoming him to the team.

[1]Just as a parenthetical, I wonder exactly what that's about, anyway. What in the idea of being turned to stone grabs people so much? Is it all from the same source? Is it some kind of comment on mortality, in which people escape the inevitable march towards death, but in the most horrible way possible - kind of a worst-case scenario for gaining immortality? Or have I just watched "The Five Doctors" one too many times?


This story takes place over a single night.

It's not clear how long Dani has been convalescing in hospital.  I assumed Healer had fixed her right up at the end of last issue, but perhaps that would have raised too much suspicion.  It seems a bit strange to force Dani to spend her time in the hospital because a total recovery would strain credulity when you've already reassembled her spine, but then I'm not the strategic genius that Charles Xavier is.

Regardless, this presents us with the useful opportunity to pull New Mutants forward to synch with our newly rechronologicalified UXM.  Slumber parties strike me as kind of a Friday thing (we didn't really go in for that sort of stuff in the north-east of England in the '90s; we pretty much spent our evenings getting wasted on glue and hunting mutants in the Middlesbrough hinterlands), so we'll place this two days before the Direwraiths attack Eagle Plaza.


Friday 30th March, 1984



Contemporary Events

Champion tennis player Samantha Stosur is born.  The US ends its participation in the multinational peace force in Lebanon.

Standout Line

Warlock opens a fridge.

"How marvelously this person stores within itself organic fuel, maintaining freshness for future consumption.  Why does it refuse even the simplest binary comcall?! Perhaps the inhabitants of this orb are not hospitable to visitors?"

Well, that or the fact that you've opened some dude up and are playing around with his internal organs, 'Lock.  Who's to say?

Friday, 14 June 2013

Questions That Need Answering #1

I've decided to start putting our slowly growing list of burning questions (where "burning" can be taken to mean "of interest only to ludicrously hyper-engaged people like me") in separate posts, now that it's gained some size.  Right now the list looks like this:
  1. How did Magneto find the X-Men's base to strike at them in UXM #17?
  2. Who built the Magneto robot Mesmero was unwittingly working for until UXM #58?
  3. Who was the mysterious mutant detected outside the Sentinel base in UXM #59?
  4. What is the relationship between Nightcrawler and Mystique?
  5. Why can Kitty see Illyana whilst the latter is using spellcasting to travel from her body?
  6. How did Selene escape her two millennium exile in Nova Roma? 
  7. What is the armour that keeps springing up around Illyana whenever she's attacked?
  8. How is Storm able to see through the mystic illusions of the Direwraiths?
  9. Who is the entity that linked Storm, Naze, Forge and the Direwraiths into a single consciousness?
My fuzzy memory suggests that last question (or maybe the last two) might be dealt with in UXM #188, but we shall see.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Timeline: 1984 (Take 2)


2nd   NMU #14: Do You Believe in Magik?
3rd   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
4th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
5th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
6th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
7th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
8th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
9th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
10th UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
10th SWA #1: The War Begins!
10th SWA #2: Prisoners of War
11th  NMU #15: Scaredy Cat!
11th  SWA #3: Tempest Without, Crisis Within!
11th  NMU #16: Away Game!
11th  SWA #4: Situation: Hopeless!
11th  NMU #17: Getaway!
11th  SWA #5: The Battle of Four Armies!
11th  SWA #6: A Little Death...
12th  NMU #17: Getaway!
12th  SWA #7: Beserker!
12th  SWA #8: Invasion!
12th  SWA #9: Assault on Galactus!
12th  SWA #10: Death to the Beyonder
12th  SWA #11: ...And Dust to Dust!
13th  NMU #17: Getaway!
13th  SWA #12: ...Nothing to Fear...
14th  NMU #17: Getaway!
15th  NMU #17: Getaway!
16th  NMU #17: Getaway!
17th  NMU #17: Getaway!
18th  UXM #181: Tokyo Story
21st  UXM #182: Madness
22nd NMU #18: Death-Hunt
23rd  NMU #18: Death-Hunt
23rd  NMU #19: Siege
24th  NMU #19: Siege
28th  UXM #183: He'll Never Make me Cry
30th  UXM #184: The Past... of Future Days

29th DAZ #33: Chiller!
29th ALF #11: Set-Up


1st  DAZ #33: Chiller!
1st  ALF #11: Set-Up
2nd DAZ #33: Chiller!
2nd ALF #11: Set-Up
2nd ALF #12: ...And One Shall Surely Die
29th MGN #12: Dazzler: The Movie
30th UXM #185: Public Enemy!
30th MGN #12: Dazzler: The Movie
31st MGN #12: Dazzler: The Movie


(MGN #12: Dazzler the Movie continues throughout)
1st  UXM #186: Lifedeath
1st  UXM #187: Wraithkill!
7th  ALF #15: First Date
13th ALF #14: Biology Class
15th ALF #15: First Date

Monday, 10 June 2013

UXM #187: "Wraithkill!"

(Yes, this is going to be a stand-up fight.)


This will be a quick one, since basically this is an issue-long action sequence as the Direwraiths attack Eagle Plaza.  Their first attempt at egress sets of an alarm that they quickly silence, but not so quickly that the heartbroken Storm fails to hear it as she leaves.  Reluctantly she decides to investigate, and quickly encounters the Dire Wraiths.  Her initial contact with the aliens is almost fatal, but she's saved at the last second by a gun-toting Naze, and the battle lines are drawn.

Ororo and Naze try to warn Forge of the danger, but the wraiths get to him first.  Naze cannot risk the death of the last, best hope of his tribe, and Storm has no intention of allowing anyone or anything to kill Forge until she decides whether or not to let him live.  The two of them are separated after an attack by the Direwraiths pets - they've biologically altered innocent doggies, which is all the proof one needs that they are purest evil - but struggle on regardless.

Naze's path is a simple one; he goes from room to room blowing the crap out of lurking aliens with his trusty shotgun. Things are a little trickier for Storm, however, who discovers a thrashing, blinding blizzard inside the building.  In some way this proves to be a benefit, since she's able to trap a wraith in there until it freezes to death (apparently Storm has now reached the point where she will kill sentients, she'll just feel bad about it afterward), but what was it doing there in the first place?  Part of Naze's magic?  One of Forge's holo-projections combined with a powerful thermostat? Or something else.

Smart money is on the latter.  The instant Storm realises her opponent is dead, she's hit by some kind of psychic steamroller that combines her soul and anima with those of Naze, Forge and the Wraiths, as well as something utterly cruel and otherworldly.  Has the ancient enemy of Forge's tribe returned at last?  And what is it with the Cheyenne all having to fight off supernatural horrors from their history these last few months?  Is this shit going down all the time?  No wonder Custer didn't scare them...

Anyway, back to the fight in progress.  The Direwraiths try to regain the initiative with cloaking spells and illusions, but Forge taps into his mystic heritage, and Storm... does... something... which allows both of them to see the truth, and alongside Forge's various defensive gubbins, they hold out long enough for Naze to reappear, and then the X-Men to arrive, having gotten Storm's whereabouts from Val Cooper.

Naze seems to be behaving strangely - he doesn't mention the weird mind-meld a few minutes earlier, and then disappears.  Fortunately, the X-Men prove more reliable, and with the help of Forge to determine what's real and what's a wraith illusion, they carve through the enemy pretty quickly.

Or do they?


The events of this issue pick up directly after the conclusion of "Lifedeath", and take place in roughly real time.

As mentioned in our consideration of "Dazzler: The Movie", we're going to have to rearrange the timeline of UXM to deal with a still-powered Storm appearing in the former book.  With previous events forcing us to place recent Dazzler issues in March, the absolute earliest Storm's appearance can be is the 29th of March.  This in turn must be at the latest the evening before her encounter with the Nullifier.  That means Storm's recovery in Forge's apartments can't have taken place any earlier than the beginning of April.

With this change to the timeline, then, we have that the X-Men celebrate their sixth anniversary in between arrival of Rachel Summers and the return of Selene, and the encounter with Peter Gyrich's forces which costs Storm the use of her powers.

(I've decided to start giving the current date in my "X is Y years old" line below, since it still seems to be confusing people, and that seems pretty unambiguously my fault.)


Sunday 1st April, 1984



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.48 standard years

(Rogue is 27 years old as of June 2013)

"Gangway, suckers!"
Contemporary Events

This is actually the last day in history in which no Indian had ever been to space, their Earthbound streak coming to an end the next day when Rakesh Sharma travels aboard the Soyuz T-11 craft to the Salyut 7 space station.

Marvin Gaye is shot and killed by his father over a business argument.

Standout Line

"Been among the whites too long, that's his problem.  Lost all sense of courtesy..."- Naze

Friday, 7 June 2013

MGN #12: "Dazzler: The Movie"

(File under "softcore erotica".)


Ye Goddesses, this is problematic.

I mean first of all, it's not very interesting. Yes, it's never going to be another "God Love, Man Kills", and given the focus of Dazzler as a book on the soapiest aspects of the already soap-heavy world of superheroics means it's right not to even try. Even so, seventy pages is a long way to wade through such thin material - Dazzler gets a movie deal, Dazzler is outed, Dazzler is hounded by bigots, Dazzler destroys her own film rather than be exploited.

But that's just why the graphic novel isn't all that interesting. What makes it actively unlikeable is, unsurprisingly, a strong dose of mid-'80s comic book sexism.

Fundamentally, this is a story about three men who are all hot to trot for our heroine. There's slimy moneybags Eric Beale, faded mega-star and expert in self-deception Roman Nekoboh, and self-professed awkward geek Freddy. Given the target audience of this story, it's not particularly difficult to figure out which of the three the audience is supposed to be rooting for. So when Dazzler accepts a ride home from Freddy in his car as the story opens, telling him how wonderful he is and letting him kiss her ("you're a great kisser", she insists), it seems abundantly clear that this is intended to be a blow for geeks everywhere.

And look, I'm not remotely unsympathetic to the idea that it's nice to make geeks feel better. Sure, Geek Pride Day gets some stick every year for allegedly attempting to draw parity between the centuries-old struggle of minorities with the decades-old discomforts of a subculture which frequently has problems with interacting with those same minorities, but that's an argument (to the extent it's fair at all) about how to boost the self-image of the geek, not that it shouldn't be done at all. If a comic mainly bought by geek boys wants to do a bit about how being a geek boy is not an automatic social death sentence, I'm all for it.

Except here, there's something else going on as well. Dazzler, as I have argued more than once, isn't really a tremendously nice person. Which is fine, because she's often not tremendously nice in some fairly interesting ways (though, much like Buffy twelve years later and - far more obviously - Doctor Who's Rose, there's an odd disconnect in how these stories seem to want to portray their heroines, and what they actually have them say and do). But she's not an obvious choice for a woman to make geeks feel good about themselves except for one thing - she's gorgeous.

This hits on a very pernicious aspect of sexism, one that's almost impossible to avoid encountering amongst teenagers and which survives far too often into a man's adult life, the idea that men who are nice should be rewarded with relationships with women who are pretty.

The cognitive dissonance on display in such an assumption is remarkable. It can perhaps be forgiven in teenagers because impenetrable self-absorption is so fundamental to the immediately post-pubescent character - in a sense, there's nothing any deeper at work here than "I want a pretty woman, I cannot have one, this is therefore unfair", which is a statement teenagers will make endlessly no matter what the object of the sentence is. Somehow, though, when men get old enough to recognise this idea as foolish in general, there's still one strand they frequently refuse to relinquish: nice men should get pretty girls.

Often this is expressed through its obvious complement: "Why do women always go for bastards?". This was something I frequently asked myself as a teenager until two related realisations hit me. Firstly, I was only wondering about why pretty women would always go for bastards; the women I found unattractive could have been going for sea otters for all I cared. Secondly, a lot of these girls I was pining for actually weren't tremendously nice, indeed no nicer than the men I was cursing for their top-secret use of bastardly bastardness to get themselves some action. The true formation of my complaint was actually "Why are women who are too hot for me to mind that they're unpleasant so interesting in men who are sufficiently hot that they can get away with being unpleasant."

Having Alison kiss Freddy so the guy can feel better about himself is playing right into this fundamental sexist hypocrisy that men should be recognised for their fantastic internal characteristics so that they can end up with women with fantastic external characteristics. If only they were truly understood, they might get to make out with a woman who's character is a supreme irrelevance so long as she's pretty.

So there's a real problem in how totally this story is on the side of the geeks who just want to be loved by hotties. This is hardly helped by at least three panels in which Dazzler is topless - one of which only has her nipples covered by a few errant strands of hair. This is titillation, pure and simple, and whilst I'm not objecting to that in all circumstances, it interacts very poorly with the idea that pretty women are prizes to be won for being a sufficiently pleasant geek.

Of course, "Who will win the prize that is Dazzler?" may as well be this story's title. Eric's early attempts result in him getting a brush-off, and following their kiss, Freddy disappears from the plot (which on the one hand simply highlights his role as a reader stand-in, but equally, it's probably best the graphic novel goes no further with what that implies), leaving the way clear for Roman Nekoboh to try another run at Alison.

This is the next major bone of contention I have with this story. Let's not be coy here; Nekoboh is an utter dickblister. He's been a pain in Dazzler's arse for several issues now, but just in this story he has the media hound her over a non-existent affair he's implied their having, chases her in a car (breaking the law in the process), chases her on foot, and fakes a heart attack, all whilst Alison repeatedly and loudly turns him down. Worst of all, though, he breaks into her apartment to demand they go out together, and despite her unequivocal refusal he grabs her and tries to lay her down as he kisses her. Breaking and entering followed by sexual assault. All of this is played for laughs.

Still, at least Dazzer is appropriately enraged by proceedings, even if the comic doesn't seem really to be following her example. Except that unbelievably, Nekoboh doesn't give up, and upon learning Alison is looking for a decent-paying gig, immediately switches from obvious stalker into generous benefactor, which Dazzler falls for almost immediately. A few pages later, and the two are officially an item.

So let's review. Nekoboh has physically endangered people in order to chase her, has ignored repeated requests to leave her alone, has broken into her home, has sexually assaulted her, and is now promising her payment in exchange for dates. What, you can be forgiven for asking, the hell?

A couple of days later, she fucks him.  After quoting his dialogue from when he assaulted her.

It's not, of course, that the storyline of a girl desperate firstly for fame but mainly for a hot meal allowing herself to be used for sex in exchange for opportunity isn't one that should be told, though a quick look at the history of cinema might lead one to ask whether it need be told so often. But it absolutely needs to be handled better than this. It's difficult to feel sorry for Alison because she's just being so horribly dense. It's even suggested on several occasions that she's doing this out of concern for Roman's career, which suggests she's literally fallen for an utterly self-absorbed sex criminal because he's started being nice to her. The whole structure of the story is dependent on the idea that Dazzler will fall for whomever you put in front of her if the plot requires it, and that's straight up bad writing even before we get onto the underlying gender issues.

So, yes, the plot. After some time being pampered by Roman, Alison starts to think better of the whole arrangement, partially because she's put on weight and accidentally developed a smoking habit, but mainly because she learns the picture is being financed by Eric Beale, who Dazzler wants nothing to do with. Alas, the matter is quickly taken out of her hands when Roman reveals to the media that she's a mutant.

Dangerous driver, sexual assaulter, and outer of mutants. What a prince. Alison is furious at first, as is entirely understandable, but she soon calms down, which absolutely isn't.  Roman has basically bought her a one-way ticket to an entire world of trouble, which he doesn't understand, and he never checked with her first, because he doesn't give a shit about anything but the bottom line.  But yes, Roman has not only revealed a secret that could quite literally get her killed, but he's set up a media event so she can demonstrate her powers to the country.  Naturally, she agrees ("She don't look like no dangerous mutie to me!  Check out those bazooms!").  The crowd take one look at her light powers and freaks out, causing a riot Roman only just manages to pull Dazzler out of alive.  Naturally, she fucks him in his limo.

This becomes something of a theme, in fact, with Dazzler cycling through filming, fucking, professing her love for Roman, and wading through protesters or finding her apartment ransacked.  The actual portrayal of anti-mutant sentiment is quite good - which is to say, profoundly unpleasant and aggravating, particularly the talking head guy who lays into Dazzler like FOX News during Black History Month - but it can't convince when our heroine is spending all her time making kissy faces at the dumb berk who's responsible for the whole mess (the story goes out of its way to tell us Roman is a phenomenal lover; apparently it's not just young geeks who need to believe they can score with hot twenty-somethings).

The story tries to square the circle by having Alison insist the film will strike a blow for mutant equality by demonstrating their capacity for good, which is a noble goal, and personally I'd argue the fact it's so clearly doomed to fail gives the whole affair a tinge of tragedy rather than making Dazzler look even more foolish.   In fact, that story - the attempted release of the film followed by inevitable disaster - might have been quite interesting, though probably some distance away from the kind of thing Marvel would be interested in doing.  We'll never know, though, because the story ends with Eric Beale confronting Dazzler to explain he forced Roman to reveal Dazzler's status in exchange for saving his career with a new contract, which among other things forbids him to ever see Alison again.  With that done, there's no need for the film to be released, and Beale is pulling the plug.  He takes this opportunity to mock Dazzler for being so foolish, which, fair cop, but obviously he decides to do it in as misogynistic a manner as possible (her "bust measurements exceed [her] IQ", we learn, because titties, boys, amirite?).

The only way Beale will allow the film to be seen is if Dazzler signs a monstrously draconian contract, basically signing on for a lifetime of exploitation at Beale's hands.  Do that, and the film might just help her people out.  Refuse, and he'll burn the film's only copy.  Now there's a dilemma that's worth thinking about, a mere 66 pages in.  Let's try and set aside how unsatisfying the rest of all this is, then, and noodle about Dazzler's choice for a moment.

It's actually not an easy call to make.  I mean, here it might be, because there's two obvious short-circuits to the problem.  On the one hand, Alison wants the life she's being offered, so the fact she won't have either as much money or as much freedom as she'd want in the process is significantly less of an issue than if she were, say, signing on to become Beale's housemaid.  On the other hand, the basic premise of the dilemma is based on Beale's insistence that the movie will be a major net positive for mutants, and he's obviously not to be trusted, so Alison might in fact gain nothing for anyone by signing.

So let's put those two points aside, and work on the principle that a) Dazzler is giving away her future here, and b) it's in exchange for a known boost in the struggle for mutant equality.  Is she obligated to go for it?  I think the answer has to be no, in the same way I'm not obligated to fly to Australia to give blood, even if I'm the only person in the world whose blood would save the life in question.  Depending on the person I'd be saving, the amount of free time available, and who's paying for my trip, I might be a colossal arsehole to refuse, but that isn't the same thing.  And whilst it's true that an argument can be made to say Dazzler's fellow superheroes might have an obligation  here (if you dedicate your life to helping people, it's at least arguable that you are obligated to do so because you've created expectations), Dazzler's never made claim to be anything other than a singer with ambition who occasionally does nice things.

In any case, Dazzler's choice is to destroy the film reel, along with the contracts.  Despite everything that's happened, she still forgives Roman, but decides she should make it on her own rather than being an anchor dragging her lover down. Which, I... Jesus.  What do you call it when something goes beyond trolling?  It would make more sense for Eva Braun to dump Hitler because she's worried she hates Jews too much.  Yes, I've Godwinned "Dazzler: The Movie".  That's what this piece of crap has reduced me to, with it's casual sexism and geek wish-fulfilment and cack-handed message and tits, tits everywhere.

There.  I've commented.  This has been commented on with comments. We shall never fucking speak of this again.


This story starts during another of Alison's keep-fit sessions, and takes place over an astonishing two months at a bare minimum.  Frankly, given the amount of time necessary to make a film, six months seems more likely (if we assume post-production never got started, which seems to be what is being implied), so that's what I've gone for here. This could end up causing all sorts of problems down the road.

Early in the novel, Dazzler has a phone conversation with Storm, who is clearly shown to still possess her mutant powers.  We're going to have to fiddle with the UXM timeline to deal with this.


Thursday 29th March to Friday 29th September, 1984.


X+6Y+28 to X+6Y+212.

Contemporary Events

Well, a lot, obviously.  GCSEs and Virgin Atlantic Airways make their first appearances, the Earth passes directly between the Sun and Mars, the Upper Volta changes its name to Burkino Faso, the agreement between UK and China to return Hong Kong to the latter is signed, and the USSR has a good time of it when its submarines break the record for depths reached, and their cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to perform a spacewalk.

Standout Line

Roman has a lot of fun dialogue in this story, some of which isn't even gob-smackingly sexist.  I think though the WKMC editorial on the horror of mutants carries the day, though, just because it's so close to something you'd expect to see coming from Rush Limbaugh or the Daily Mail:

"Good evening.  Two weeks ago, filming began on Roman Nekoboh's latest movie, which co-stars one Alison Blaire, an admitted mutant!  The film is said to focus on the problems of mutant-kind! I suppose there must be some -- any wolf in sheep's clothing has to put up with that annoying, itchy, fleece!

Protesters, barely restrained by police and Nekoboh's own hired thugs, have constantly picketed the shooting!  These people are afraid -- and we don't blame them!

Mutants are an entirely new race, each member of which possesses abilities which seem like science fiction to us normal humans!  We have heard that they refer to themselves as 'homo superior' - the next step on the evolutionary ladder above homo sapiens!  Some mutants have mounted blatant attacks upon human-kind -- demonstrating to my satisfaction that they plan to supplant us 'lower' creatures as the dominant species on this planet!

The worst thing is that these... beings, may look like you or me!  They walk among us unsuspected!  One of your friends... a neighbour, perhaps... or, God forbid, even someone in your own family may be quite capable of reading your thoughts - or levitating into the air... or, like Alison Blaire, killing you with just a wave of her hand!

We here are WKMC believe that the mutant menace is real!  We support the protesters!  If something isn't done about mutants... if we humans do not take positive action to protect ourselves -- then it shall not be the meek who inherit the Earth..."