Friday, 11 April 2014

DAZ #39: "Deathgrip"

(Mixed messages.)


It appears it's time for our second issue of O.Z. Chase Investigates feat. Dazzler.  Still, at least this time she's allowed to properly feature on the cover, pictured here trying to beat a man to death with a blancmange stepladder.

But at least some things have improved since last issue. Dazzler may be missing from fully one third of this issue, but with the X-Men gone, this no longer feels like a book accidentally mis-named. This is helped by a plot which returns to the central DAZ theme of mutant/human relations. Doctor Piper blames Alison for his daughter Melissa being in some kind of non-responsive state, unable to do anything but murmur "Look at the light...", ever since attending a mutants' right rally Dazzler had shown up for. It's not hard to see the link, of course, but multiple experts have suggested a Dazzle-blast was simply an inciting event, with the underlying cause being that the kid was a junkie, and he is a shitty father.

Whether this is actually a more sensible diagnosis of Melissa's condition, I shall leave to others more knowledgeable to decide.  It hardly matters here - Piper has concluded one single person is to blame for his woes, and there's nothing that will change his mind.

In one sense, Piper's quest for vengeance (which amongst other things keeps him from spending any time with the daughter whose doctors have told him is ill because he didn't spend enough time with her) seems ludicrously overblown. Certainly it's hard to muster up any sympathy for the guy.  On the other hand, push him backwards through whatever process turns actual people into literary metaphors, and it's perfectly clear who this guy represents; the dissatisfied and downtrodden (or those who insist on thinking of themselves as downtrodden) who need to gather all their frustrations and failures into a single avatar of their misery and hate it until it burns.  Applying bigotry like a loan consolidation company, essentially.

Here's the thing, though. When Piper catches up with Dazzler - incapacitating Chase along the way, because Piper's not the sort to share his toys [1] - and the inevitable throwdown begins, Alison brings the whole thing to a halt by hitting Piper with so powerful a flash that he too drops into borderline catatonia, unable to do anything by whisper about the light. Which, the fact Piper is a bigoted murderous cockmonger notwithstanding, means he was actually right.

Which suddenly forces us to take a screaming handbrake turn into a completely different story.  We've talked before about the fault line between mutants as a metaphor for minorities and a metaphor for metal barrels that kill people, and Piper's story straddles that divide in a rather complicated way.  On the one hand, the idea that Dazzler's powers can cause problems for those that surround here has legitimate story potential - the subdivision of "with great power comes great responsibility" that actually frames the use of power itself as the problem. On the other hand, though, if you're going to start cooking with the minority metaphor, you can't then bring in the gun metaphor, because the only conclusion to draw from the combination is that minorities are genuinely dangerous.  Yes, in this case, dangerous to exactly the kind of unbearable bastard who has more than earned a large degree of synapse-frying. But not, apparently, just to them.

The result then is two very interesting story ideas that combine into something problematic.  I don't want to ignore the fact that I'd probably have been very interested in either storyline, or that there's a legitimate case to be made that not realising (or agreeing) that the two in combination produce a rather unfortunate form of destructive interference isn't a particularly inconceivable position in the mid '80s. There's real promise here. You know, three issues from the end of the title.

Like so much of the mid '80s, then, we can label this as the birth pangs of a new, more progressive approach to the X-metaphor. Which, if nothing else, is better than the horrific teenage phase we're heading inescapably towards.

And speaking of things that can't be avoided, Dazzler ends this issue in Chase's custody, despite his increasing misgivings about hounding a woman essentially for the crime of singing whilst mutated.  He's got orders to take her to Colorado for some reason, but with Secret Wars II #4 standing between this issue and next, we can probably assume Chase is going to get himself gang aft agleyd pretty rapidly.

[1] This leads to my favourite DAZ moment in months, when Chase begs his dog Cerberus to free him from the collapsed phone-box he's been trapped in, only for the dog to saunter over and start devouring the treats in his pocket.  Everyone knows cats are pricks who'll betray you at the first opportunity, but clear-eyed dog-owners know full well how quickly man's best friend will turn against us the instant they figure they'll get a Dentarask out of it.


This story seems to take place over a single day and night. It's not clear how long Chase has been searching for Dazzler, but with the next issue of this story taking place after Dazzler's appearance in Secret Wars II, I think we're going to have to fast-forward the narrative some distance.  Let's assume Chase has been tailing Dazzler for a little over two months at this point, whilst taking other bounties on the way to keep him solvent.


Thursday December 27th, 1984.



Contemporary Events

It's the final day of the fourth test of the West Indies tour of Australia.  Yeah, I know.  I got nuthin' else; sorry.

Standout Line

"Street's clear... no trap'd be this obvious! Gift city, bro!"

A rather left-field choice this time, but I just love this line from a carjacker in San Diego.  Apparently if something looks too good to be true, it clearly can't be.

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