Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #260

[Jason Powell continues to look at stacks and stacks of Claremont X-Men comics, one at a time. We are almost at the first appearance of Gambit! I quiver with anticipation.]

“Star 90”

For his penultimate issue, Marc Silvestri illustrates a story whose premise he himself suggested to Claremont (sparing Dazzler from “death” at the hands of Mastermold). In a surprising move, the story takes as its departure point Jim Shooter’s 1984 “Dazzler: The Movie” graphic novel. A dreadful excuse for a comic, “The Movie” introduced a trio of Alison-Blaire admirers – shy, young Freddie Stanachek, evil millionaire Eric Beale and good-hearted movie producer Roman Nekobah (the last one being a Mary Sue for Shooter himself). Six years later, Claremont, Silvestri and Green present its sequel, “Star 90,” a marvelously successful attempt to bring the character of Alison Blaire full circle.

Freddie and Beale both return, the former recast as an up-and-coming Hollywood player and the latter as a cocaine-addicted psychopath. Roman Nekoboh appears only briefly, drawn by Silvestri to evoke Jim Shooter so that Claremont can thank the former Marvel Editor-in-Chief for supplying this issue with all of its core narrative elements. (“Gotta give credit where credit’s due, big guy!” enthuses Shooter/Nekobah’s companion. “This moment couldn’t have happened without you!”)

In the original graphic novel, Dazzler destroys the only print of her titular feature film, in an act of defiance against bad-guy Beale. Uncanny X-Men #259 showed Freddie discovering another surviving print and subsequently happening upon the post-Seige Alison in a nightclub. The present issue follows the Hollywood adventures of the amnesiac Dazzler as she is groomed for stardom by Freddie and stalked by the obsessive Beale. In a subversion of expectation, Claremont plays the Beale thread for laughs (despite the issue’s Jim Lee cover, which suggests a level of earnest – if overblown – menace); a sequence midway through the story goes particularly cartoonish, subjecting the villain to Yosemite Sam-levels of slapstick torture (complete with cowboy costume). Clearly enjoying himself, Silvestri makes the most of the Beale material.

Uncanny 260 also features more than a fair share of sexy Alison Blaire glam shots. Given the high level of both cheesecake and broad comedy, it’s easy to see why this premise appealed to Silvestri. It plays to two of his major strengths.
Claremont has a lot of fun as well, going unrestrainedly goofy with the stalker plot while still exercising a shrewd authorial hand in portraying the dramatic contrast between Beale’s psycho-level obsession and Freddie’s more subtle attempts to possess and control Alison. The interplay of the subtle and the outré is deftly handled here, as is Dazzler herself, whose “rebirth” persona is perfectly realized. As “Star 90” plays out, it becomes clear that despite Alison’s post-Seige naiveté, there is some instinctual level in which her past experiences are guiding her. (She’s “been through the wars,” as Claremont put it in the previous issue.) The attempts by Hollywood execs to manipulate her are always met with a wary dubiousness. She plays along, but only to a point. Considering that for the first part of her existence, Claremont was far from Dazzler’s biggest fan, he handles her arc with surprising craft and care here. Ali’s new personality is an effortlessly natural synthesis of all her previous characterizations in the past decade. And when she comes to her grand epiphany on the story’s final page (dressed, appropriately enough, in her original costume and roller skates), it feels refreshingly genuine, and movingly heartfelt.

(And, a bit of math-based trivia: This is Dazzler’s last appearance in Claremont’s first Uncanny run, and it occurs in issue 260. This is exactly twice 130, the issue that marked the character’s debut. Both numerically and textually, Alison has been brought full circle.)

15 comments:

Teebore said...

Having never read "Dazzler: The Movie" much of this issue's nuances involving the three characters from that story were lost on me until now (I never even knew they'd appeared anywhere before, which, before now, made the entire issue read very odd and random).

Once again, you've managed to clarify the story, and give me a better understanding of (and appreciation for) it. Many thanks.

renniejoy said...

Roman Nebokoh is Hoboken Namor spelled backwards. I'm sure someone with more backstage knowledge than myself can come up with a reason for that. ;)

Jason said...

Tee, glad I can help. I'm reading the sh*tty Jim Shooter comics from 1984 that help to contextualize Claremont's X-Men, so that you don't have to!

Rennie, that is crazy. I have no idea what the significance is.

Teebore said...

I'm reading the sh*tty Jim Shooter comics from 1984 that help to contextualize Claremont's X-Men, so that you don't have to!

A true public service indeed!

scott91777 said...

I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say that, maybe, the classic Fantastic Four story where they find him living as an amnesiac bum in Hoboken (the story that introduced Namor to the Silver Age) was a favorite of Shooters growing up.

renniejoy said...

scott91777 - That makes sense, thanks! :)

Jason - I am loving this series; thank you very much for putting yourself through it for "us". :)

Anonymous said...

Jason P here, posting from work.

Scott, thanks for that connection. (I googled "sub-mariner hoboken" and got nothin'!)

I just checked, and Roman Nekoboh was originally introduced in the Dazzler series. Not written by Shooter, I don't think -- but maybe that old FF story WAS a favorite of whoever wrote those issues. (I want to say it was Frank Springer.)

Hmm, can I still call Nekoboh a "Mary Sue" for Shooter if Shooter didn't actually create him? The way he functions in "Dazzler The Movie" is pretty shameless ...

Gary said...

Thank you for confirming that Roman is a stand in for Jim Shooter. I saw that unnatural height (head out of panel) when I was reading this yeaterday (you've got me fricking doing HOMEWORK for these things, Jason!) and recognized it as the traditional shorthand for Jim Shooter, but didn't know why. Without the Dazzler: The Movie (or, evidently, Dazzler: The Ongoing) background, the one panel throwaway that Shooter gets in this is fairly mysterious. But, no more!

scottmcdarmont said...

Actually, I just looked it up and, according to Wikipedia, it was the Bowery area of New York, not Hoboken, where Sub-Mariner was found... so the mystery remains! Who else is from Hoboken? Frank Sinatra? Is there some Sinatra/Namor connection we're missing here? if so wouldn't Roman Artanis have been an equally interesting name?

Anonymous said...

Wonder why this issue didn't have anywhere in it one of those helpful footnotes *

* See Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel


It would have made this issue seem a lot less random to me, too. I had no idea these guys had appeared anywhere else. It wouldn't have been the first time Claremont introduced some side characters, gave them a lot of characterization, and dumped them in short order.

ba said...

Interesting you bring up Frank Sinatra...wasn't Roman initially meant to be a kind of past-his-prime actor, along the lines of an older Sinatra?

renniejoy said...

Nebokoh must be referencing Sinatra. I just finished rereading Dazzler: the Movie and Roman is a washed-up performer turned movie mogul. He is nicknamed "blue-eyes" and "chairman", and is sent off at the end for a world-wide concert tour. I guess I should have done my own homework first. :(

cease ill said...

Hate to get off the subject of shitty Shooter comics or the lost potential of Dazzler, really. I think it's just hard to convey a musical comic book character, though you can provide the soundtrack of choice.

But Jason...I'm trying to get back into my IMWAN account, since the login page was disturbed while trying to get Angela DAwn an account. So I have no vay to communicate. luelyron@gmail.com

Tim said...

I'm surprised no one drew a link between the title of this issue and Star 80, the 1983 film about murdered Playboy Playmate and actress Dorothy Stratten. Given the themes of manipulation in the story I'm sure the title Star 90 was a deliberate tip of the hat to the film.

Jason said...

Nice one, Tim! Thanks!