Wednesday, 15 October 2014
DAZ #41: "Revelations"
("At least in dying you don't have to deal with New Wave for a second time.")
It's the little things that make a difference.
The basic "revelations" approach - and how nice of Archie Goodwin to flag up his use of it - is a well-used one. Just about any story built on an mystery connected to an antagonist has to go out on two story beats. First you unveil the truth beneath the mystery that (you hope) has had your audience squealing in confused delight, thereby allowing them to check their beautiful theories against your ugly pronouncements of "what really happened", and then you move onto your finale.
The gravity well generated by this approach is difficult to escape, and in that sense it might be unreasonable to criticise Goodwin too much for falling prey to it. But then it's not the familiarity of the move that's really the problem here anyway. It's how poorly is matches up to what surrounds it.
When you take time in your narrative (six pages in this case, or one eighth of the space still available to the title has left available to it) to unravel your mystery, you're implicitly claiming that your mystery is interesting enough and/or long-running enough to make the big reveal interesting to the reader. In this case, though, neither applies. Dust and Silence aren't totally without merit (Dust in particular is responsible for some lovely moments of gruesomeness), but there's little to distinguish them from any other villain-of-the-week. What's more, they were introduced all of one issue ago. Chase's hounding of Dazzler has been going on for just three more. Even in the best of circumstances, neither "who are Dust and Silence" nor "who hired Chase" are fascinating mysteries begging to be untangled via the kind of Powerpoint presentation approach to exposition comics at the time were still unwilling to evolve beyond. Even the short version - Dust and Silence try to create mutates, the treatment proves eventually fatal, the children of the test subjects (their "New Wave") prove to inherit aspects of the treatment, Dazzler's light proves able to unlock these youngster's powers without killing them - feels like it might be taking more words to explain than is probably necessary. Six pages, this does not need.
But in any case, these are far from the best of circumstances. For one thing, Dust's plan here is pointlessly Byzantine. Why have Dazzler arrested and taken halfway across the country before faking a rescue by mutants (the trio of bikers who caused such trouble last issue)? Why not just phone Alison up and nook her for a gig? It's bad enough that Dazzler is once again being pressed towards the margins of her own book so that this recently introduced master-plan can be revealed. Did it have to be so obviously stupid as well?
The problem here is that Goodwin is dipping his toes in the same ocean which eroded my interest in Secret Wars II. It's a tale too caught up in the author's own additions, at the expense of those ideas they inherited. And whilst DAZ #41 isn't nearly as bad as any given issue of the Beyonder's second outing, that's an exceptionally low bar to clear - less of a high-jump and more like stepping over an underground cable - and in Shooter's defence, given he wrote the original Secret Wars at least the property he trashed was his own. Goodwin can't claim that here. Turning this title into the Dust & Chase Show (feat. Dazzler) is co-opting what the comic is supposedly about, for all that the sales figures at the time must have suggested no-one particularly cared all that much. I don't want to end up one of those people who argue no franchise should ever be allowed to evolve, but if you're going to shake something up so profoundly, you've got to be damn sure you're bringing your A-game. All I see here is the laziest and least pleasant route to "importance" possible; the murdering of a supporting cast member, in this case Dazzler's father. I mean, I appreciate that for once I'm watching a man get fridged in order to spur a woman to action, but - no pun intended - that's somewhat cold comfort.
What these final issues should be doing, in addition to sending Alison out on a high, is reminding us of the potential the series always had, and why comic readers should be sad to lose it. Instead, Goodwin seems intent on squandering this potential still further.
There's just one chance left to make it all work.
This story takes place over the course of four days. It's not clear how much time has passed between this issue and the last, but presumably Stomper headed to Camp Silence pretty quick to beg for forgiveness, for all the good it did. So we'll place the beginning of this story the day after the last one.
Friday 25th to Monday 28th January, 1985.
X+6Y+330 to X+6Y+333.
A French Defense Ministry official is murdered by Action directe, a self-styled libetarian communist terrorist group with ties to the German Red Army Faction.
"She can't shoot many light blasts if she's choking to death!" - Hoodlum #1
Chosen for accuracy as much as for anything else. I'm not getting an awful lot to work with, here...