Dazzler #1 – Reviews Of Old Comics
I’ve been a huge proponent of the potential Dazzler has a character. The success of Jem and the Holograms in portraying a music group, complete with performances, shows that it can be done and done well. Part of her past trouble in connecting to audiences was from a lack of perspective from male creators on how to treat a female character. Marvel did not have many major female characters to carry a title until the 1980s. The most successful of them were Spider-Woman, who even had an animated series, and She-Hulk, although her series was relatively short-lived. Dazzler was the first time Marvel gave a large push to a female-led title that wasn’t derivative of a male character.
Does that significance mean that the series, or even the character, is worth the effort? Not necessarily, and that’s why I’m taking the time to review the first issue of Dazzler.
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Pencillers: John Romita, Jr. (credited) , John Buscema, John Romita (uncredited)
Inkers: Alfredo Alcala (credited), Bob McLeod, John Romita (uncredited)
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover Artist: Bob Larkin
Dazzler is running from some thugs, but is cornered in a dead end alley. She turns on her radio and begins a blinding light display while she attacks them with trash can lids. Spider-Man is swinging by and investigates the display from the alley just as a stray bullet shatters her radio. Spider-Man captures the goons in his webbing. Dazzler explains that were sent by a shady club owner to force her to sign a 0% royalty contract. Spidey leaves, assuring Dazzler that all she needs is time.
Dazzler returns to her cold apartment that she is two months behind on rent. Her dad wanted her to follow him into law, but she loved singing so much she’s decided to go it alone. However, being broke and hungry, Dazzler calls the X-Men, but when Storm tells her joining the X-Men means quitting her singing career, Dazzler balks at asking to join. She thinks back to how she discovered her mutant powers at a school dance and when a gang attacked, she channeled those powers into a blinding surge of light. Over the years, she secretly practiced, both her powers and her singing. Instead of going to law school, she alienated herself from her father by pursuing a singing career.
In Asgard, a lone warrior battles his way to visit the Enchantress, only to have her turn him into a tree. Looking into her magic fountain she learns of a cosmic rift opening on Earth at a disco. The rift can be a source of immense power for her, so she schemes on how to obtain its power.
At Avengers Mansion, Beast spots a notice in his morning paper and rushes out past the other Avengers to show Dazzler. The notice is for a replacement singer at a disco. She shows up at the disco just after the Enchantress uses her magic to enthrall the club owner, just as easily as a spell incapacitated his singer. Enthralled, he doesn’t want to even give Dazzler an audition, but once he gives her a chance, assuming it to be futile, the soul-stirring power of Dazzler’s song gets her the gig. Enchantress storms off, destroying a wall, and swearing revenge on Dazzler.
I’d be lying if I said this was a great comic. The creation of this character has been well-documented to be one by corporate committee. She was created to cash in on the disco craze of the late 1970s, but when disco died, Marvel’s corporate partners backed out. For the character, this might have been for the best. She’s a tabula rasa, able to tell a variety of stories, giving us a look at a reluctant super-hero. In this issue, we see her struggle with a career defined by a dying genre, and tempted not only by her promising past in law, but a promising future as a super-hero. At least the story has Dazzler making the choice to pursue her passion, despiteit being the hardest path for her. Despite the flaws in the plot, shoehorning in the Enchantress as an opponent in an audition, and working in enough cameos to choke a horse.
The X-Men are written for comic relief, and there is apparently no reason for Beast to know who Dazzler is, much less for him to know where she lives to show her the notice for a new gig. The space devoted to it could have been better used on the finale and making Dazzler’s performance a full page montage instead of a single panel.
Those cameos hurt Dazzler, making it seem like the editor and/or writer doesn’t think she can carry the story on her own. In the case of Spider-Man’s cameo, it immediately makes her weaker, needing to be rescued from a rather mundane threat, which she finds herself powerless because of a chance ricochet so unlikely, it’s almost impossible.
John Romita Jr.’s art is great in spots, such as the introduction of the Enchantress and in the opening scene with Dazzler using her powers. Elsewhere, it’s just mundane. In the X-Men scene, it’s absolutely embarrassing to the medium. Once again, the art has its moments, but the strength of those moments makes the weak points look so much worse.
This issue has been collected by Marvel a couple of times, most recently in Essential Dazzler, Vol. 1. Unfortunately, that is not in color. Fortunately, a copy of it shouldn’t cost very much, and may even be available in bargain boxes. Most often, I’ve seen this as a set of all of the issues of this series, usually for a very good price. There is an error variant of this issue where two ad pages were printed without color. This variant is more expensive, due to its legend as a recalled comic.
FINAL RATING: 5.0 (out of a possible 10) Completely average. Every gain in quality is destroyed by the weak points in both story and art.