A longtime showbiz journalist and fan's thoughts on comic books, movies and other cool stuff.

Tag: Dazzler

Reading Comics: Astonishing X-Men (2017) #13-17

Astonishing X-Men #13-17 is a very flat story with some nice covers. Check ’em out.

Matthew Rosenberg does something here that is increasingly common: He’s focused more on the bits and on trying to write flashy dialog than he is on telling a clear story. It’s a bit of a disease, one that I think you could lay at the feet of Joss Whedon. There must be a lot of Buffy fans out there wanting to write comics.

This series wraps up this series of Astonishing with a limp tale about Alex Summers, recently freed from being falsely turned into a bad guy in Uncanny Avengers, trying to form a new team of X-Men. Of course, he can’t call them X-Men because Kitty Pryde owns the trademark to that name with Xavier dead, and explicitly tells him not to use it. They try to make that a recurring joke, but the artist’s limited ability to draw human facial expressions gets in the way.

The threat this time out is O.N.E., a generic government agency out to do something bad to mutants. Havok tries to recruit Beast, who’s teaching at Harvard until the Reavers show up and wreck the place. Also, Kitty has Warpath follow Havok to keep him out of trouble — and to keep him from calling his group X-Men. (Still not as funny as it wants to be.)

They all crash Dazzler’s third-rate anniversary tour for Sounds of Light and Fury looking for Forge, who’s running her light show and, I assume, doubling as her roadie. He says no to the offer and vanishes from this arc, but Dazzler is desperate for something to and signs. Then, the group finds Colossus drinking away his pain in a dumpy apartment after Kitty walked away from him at the altar. Piotr is easily the most interesting character in this weak bunch, which ends up with a strange showdown at the Xavier Academy that resolves nothing and has no impact. This is five issues of treading water at the most basic level and it’s pretty depressing to read.

A brand-new era? Not quite.

Bonus comic: Dazzler: X-Song #1 (2017) by writer Magdalene Visaggio and artist Laura Braga. This issue ties into the Astonishing X-Men run, with Dazzler going on tour incognito as part of a band with the groan-inducing name Lightbringr, that brings out fans in both the mutant and inhuman communities — often with conflicts popping up at the club venues. There’s some mutant jerks who are showing up at the concerts to buIly the inhuman fans that show up. And of course, Alison has to step in and stop it. There’s some strange scenes with Colossus trying to get Alison to come back to the X-Men. And if there’s a story in here, it’s very slight.

The art fares slightly better, but the interior is sketchy in that storyboard style and doesn’t match the promise of the cover, by Elizabeth Torque and Ian Herring. Dazzler remains a tough character to crack.

Lot of people love the character’s premise and look, but solid stories for Ms. Blaire have been hard to come by, with Chris Claremont’s run with her in X-Men from 1986 to about 1990 standing out as the real exception.

Comic du jour: Dazzler #1 (March 1981)

Of all the superheroes Marvel has created over the years, were created under stranger circumstances than Dazzler.

As chronicled by folks with a deeper love for this character (and I mean that in the most non-icky kind of way) than I will ever have, Dazzler began as a collaboration between Marvel and Casablanca Records in the 1970s. The idea was that Marvel would create a singing supehero character, Casablanca would find a real singer to fill the role and they’d make and cross-promote records, comics and even try to make a movie.

But having that many cooks meant there were many starts and stops on the project. Marvel’s then editor in chief Jim Shooter reportedly wrote a Dazzler movie treatment over a single weekend to try to make Casablanca happy. But things didn’t work out with Casablanca, and Marvel finally decided to put her out there as a guest star in a couple of top titles, namely The Uncanny X-Men #130-131 and The Amazing Spider-Man #203, before they gave her her own title about a year later. (BTW, the cover to that issue of Spider-Man was drawn by none other than Frank Miller. Also, the original art is currently for sale on eBay, though try not to gag at the asking price.)

Of course, by the time Dazzler #1 hit stands, the disco craze that inspired it was already dead and the character’s roller skates, disco slang and mirror-ball logo were instantly dated. Also, Marvel decided to make Dazzler its first comci book series to be distributed only in comic shops. The reasons for that aren’t clear, considering the character’s intended broad appeal should have been better served by the broader newsstand outlets. Either way, some 400,000 copies were pumped into comics shops — a sales figure that any publisher would absolutely kill for these days and a number that explains how I can buy this comic 29 years later for cover price at the Pasadena flea market.

The story itself isn’t that bad, though writer Tom DeFalco seems to go to great lengths to get wannabe singer Alison Blaire into the kind of trouble that requires superpowers to get out of. There’s also guest appearances from Spidey and the X-Men horned in here, too. The art’s decent but pretty dull, too — pencils were by John Romita Jr. before he’d really developed his own distinct style, with inks by Alfredo Alcala.

The villain of the piece was The Enchantress, who comes to Midgard and tries to take the singing gig Alison’s also trying out for. I don’t have a copy of Dazzler #2, but I really hope it’s a kind of superheroic proto-American Idol trashfest. I not only want to read that issue now, but I think I’d spend as much as 60 cents for a copy.

Who says comics aren’t cheap fun anymore?

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