Monday, 30 December 2013

DAZ #37: Girl In The Machine

("What the hell is a 'bit rate', anyhow?")


It's probably really difficult to write fill-in issues of a well-established comic, even one so fractured as this one.  Sure, if you're lucky you get a decent brief outlining, or even capturing, the approach of the book.  Even then, though, you're essentially parachuting into unknown territory and hoping the map someone scrawled for you on a beer-soaked napkin will somehow have captured the local geography.

This is by way of saying that whilst "Girl in the Machine" is a mess, it's not clear how much of that we can fairly blame on Bob DeNatale. The issue's biggest problem is simply that there is nothing in the entire story that actually requires it be a tale told about Dazzler. Any superhero or superheroine who can defeat security cameras and walls would have essentially worked.  And yes, the villains here are Revenge Inc., who made their debut appearance in DAZ #34, but here they act as such generic malefactors (here they're hacking into computer systems to sabotage corporations, which I guess could be on the orders of those seeking revenge, but no illumination on the issue is given) that it hardly matters.  This is a superhero story written with hero and villain to simply be plugged in when necessary, and as such it is hobbled from the very start.

So far, as I say, it's not clear that this is something for which we can blame DeNatale for too much.  What we can savage him for is how exhaustingly ridiculous this plot is.  I mean, you come across a lot of nonsense when you dedicate a blog to (for now) Bronze Age comics, but this particular slice of narrative madness is in a class all of its own. Briefly, Dazzler is phoned by old friend Diana asking her to come visit, but when she arrives she discovers her friend has in fact been dead for six months (this is a great start, by the way, and is pissed away almost entirely almost immediately), or so insist the three faintly sinister men who have come to visit Diana's father. Confused by this turn of events, Alison decides to stick around long enough for one of the men, Peter, to show her a video game the family have had installed, wherein each player controls a hologram of a samurai (!) and tries to slaughter their opponent. Kind of like Soulcalibur II, only with technology far in advance of what exists in 2013.  Tragically, the machine goes haywire, and Dazzler heads off to find Diana's father. 

Instead, she stumbles onto Diana herself, who had faked her own death, and is now trapped inside a gigantic machine (!!), having been forced by Revenge Inc to hook her mind up to a computer so as to hack other computers, ultimately making her unable to live without being inside a computer herself (!!!).  Her plan is to get revenge upon Revenge Inc by inviting them to the house and then murdering them all with laser cannons hidden about the property, or through the use of hard-light hologram samurai when that doesn't work (!!!!).  Really, though, this is all just an elaborate way to trick the computer into letting herself commit suicide via the holograms (!!!!!) - which presumably the computer could switch off at any time - and she just wanted to say goodbye to her childhood friend one last time, whilst putting her in a house filled with desperate murderers and a computer willing to kill anyone who sees it rather than let its secret get loose.

Not only is it a plot that doesn't require Dazzler to be the heroine within it, then, it doesn't really require any heroine at all.  It's just an utterly standard revenge plot (with typical collateral damage; neither Diana nor her father surviving their attempt to massacre her former tormentors) spiced up with an astonishing ignorance of what private computers could possibly manage in 1985 - the year of Repton 2, for Pete's sake:

Don't even try the hard-light Repton 2:
those boulders really hurt when they crush you!
If anything demonstrates the fundamentally unsound nature of the plot, it's Peter, one of the three members of Revenge Inc.  He's simultaneously one of the moustache-twirling villains out for a quick buck, and the former lover of Diana horrified to find out what's become of her.  Which would actually be an entirely reasonable - even interesting - contradiction were he not one of the people who subjected her to the process in the first place.  The narrative can't decide whether he's a villain or a put-out ex-lover here, with the end result that he's the only person other than Alison to survive Diana's insanity, and then chooses not to kill the (unconscious) Dazzler because he's suddenly decided he's not a crook anymore.  The whole thing comes dangerously close to suggesting the person we should feel sorry for is the bloke who is no longer getting laid because he turned his girlfriend into a basket-case Amstrad, and who can be forgiven for wanting to get revenge on the girl who's taking revenge over having been used as an instrument of revenge (phew!) because the men who helped him abuse his girlfriend to the point of driving her to suicide also happened to totally be his mates.

In short, it's a terrible and rather insulting story crudely soldered onto a superhero tale, which is then crudely soldered into Dazzler's corner of the universe.  If you're the kind of person that gets a kick out of just how foreign a country the past of comic books can be sometimes, you might want to give this a whirl.  Everyone else: consider yourself warned.


This story takes place in approximately real time.  Alison gripes about missing Dynasty, which presumably makes this a Wednesday.

Donald - one of the Revenge Inc. goons - mentions the events of "Dazzler: The Movie" as having taken place some months ago, but that shouldn't bother us - it has indeed been months since Dazzler was outed, which is the important aspect of Donald's comments.


Wednesday 10th October, 1984.



Contemporary Events

Blake and Jeff continue to search for Fallon while Dominique makes her singing debut at La Mirage.

Standout Line

"When the samurai succeeds in destroying the computer, I will perish with it!" - Diana.

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