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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #217

"Folly's Gambit"
May 1987

In a Nutshell 
Dazzler fights the Juggernaut.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jackson Guice
Inker: Steve Leialoha
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Oliver & Scotese
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
On Muir Isle, the X-Men train, pitting Rogue, Dazzler and Longshot against Psylocke, unknowingly observed by one of Dr. Doom's scanbots disguised as a trawler fisherman. Over breakfast, Banshee evaluates their performance, while Moira and Callisto attend to the recovering Morlocks. Later, as the X-Men work out, Callisto taunts Dazzler for being weak, causing her to storm off in a huff. Needing a break and frustrated with the life of an X-Man, Dazzler takes a boat to the nearby town of Ullapool. Drawn by music to a local pub, she spends the evening dancing and enjoying herself, making friends with Conal, one of the locals. As they leave the pub, however, they're nearly rundown in the street by a car, and Dazzler recognizes the driver from the X-Men's files: Juggernaut.


Determined to stop him from killing anyone, she grabs a motorcycle to chase after him while Conal phones for help. Dazzler catches up to Juggernaut outside of town, but Juggernaut becomes reluctant to fight her when he realizes who she is, as he's a fan. Juggernaut gives her the chance to step aside and let him go about his business, but Dazzler refuses to back down, determined to prove herself as one of the X-Men. She pulls out every trick she can think of, but nothing slows him down. After putting all her remaining energy into one final blast, she collapses, exhausted, leaving an anguished Juggernaut to cradle her fallen form, believing he's killed her.

Firsts and Other Notables
Dazzler runs afoul of Juggernaut in this issue (what he's doing in Scotland will be revealed next issue), marking the villain's first appearance in the title since he was rescued from Nimrod by the X-Men in issue #194, and it's revealed that Juggernaut is a huge fan of Dazzler's music.


Banshee is on hand this issue, overseeing the training of this contingent of X-Men in the absence of Storm and Wolverine, a role that (unintentionally) foreshadows his time as the headmaster of Xavier's school in Generation X.


As Rogue and Dazzler fly over a fishing trawler, one of the fishermen refers to Dr. Doom as being his true master - this will be followed up in the Fantastic Four vs. X-Men limited series, which we'll look at in a few weeks.


Jackson Guice once again fills in on art, giving the book the same artist in consecutive issues for the first time since issues #210 and #211, though the series is still waiting for its new regular penciller to arrive. 

A Work in Progress
Psylock's bionic eyes grant her some protection from Dazzler's light-based attacks.


Dazzler insists that she did fine as a superhero on her own before joining the X-Men, and admits she holds a grudge against Rogue for the times Rogue attacked her while still a villain.


In a bit that's always made me chuckle, Longshot refers to ham and eggs as "burnt animal flesh and unborn baby birds".


Though she goes unidentified in this issue, the Official Marvel Index notes that Sharon Friedlander is on Muir Isle, attending to the wounded Morlocks, establishing that she came with them to Muir Isle from the X-Mansion.


Claremontisms
Dazzler is once again referred to as "Lightengale". 

In a neat use of her power (and, it should be noted, I'm not certain this can be attributed to Claremont, as another writer may have used it during her solo series) Dazzler charges herself up by absorbing all the ambient sound around, the end result being a globe of silence surrounding her.


Again, not guaranteed to be a Claremontism, but Dazzler also uses her power to attempt to hypnotize Juggernaut.


Jason Powell opens his post on this issue with a fantastic defense of Claremont's captions and his propensity for purple prose - definitely worth a read if you haven't already (having it pointed out that "I'm the best there is at what I do" is written in iambic pentameter remains one of the greatest things I've learned on the internet). 

It's in the Mail
Still no letters page.

Teebore's Take
Catching up with the X-Men stationed on Muir Isle, this issue effectively serves as Dazzler's formal introduction as a member of the X-Men. Though she's hung around on the fringes of the series, having debuted in its pages and served as one of the rare mutants to carry a title independent of the X-Men, this issue examines her in the context of being a member of the team. As such, it establishes the two characteristics that will define her tenure on the book: she is fiercely determined to prove herself capable of being a superhero in general and a member of the X-Men in particular, even while she laments the turns her life took that led her to become a full-fledged, outcast and outlaw, superhero because she'd much rather be a musical performer constantly in the spotlight.

But while Dazzler takes center stage (pun intended), the real standout is Juggernaut. Claremont once again writes him as a more nuanced and sympathetic blue-collar criminal, someone who delights in his power but just wants to do his (criminal) job with a minimum of fuss, a far cry (albeit the transition is grounded enough) from the maniac who just wanted to kick in Xavier's face. The fact that Juggernaut reveals he's a Dazzler fanboy in this issue is a detail I've always gotten a kick out of (while his anguish over apparently killing her adds to the depth of his character), and it's a great use of Dazzler's past relative to the rest of the X-Men, even while it plays off Dazzler's unique role as a public figure amongst the X-Men. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants face off against the Marauders (or do they?) in New Mutants #52, followed by X-Factor #16 on Friday, in which Rusty faces the demons of his past. And next week, the rest of the X-Men join the fight in Uncanny X-Men #218. 

12 comments:

  1. I'm noticing that this era doesn't just seem to have a trend of fill-in artists, but that many of the covers were being done by a different artist than the interior artist.

    I always liked this issue. As per most issues from this era, there's lots of good character work. I especially like Rogue's mini-tantrum; she hasn't been on the team long enough to be an "elder statesmen" like Storm and Wolverine, but has been on the long enough to resent being left behind with the "new kids". and the fight scenes are fun.

    This is one of Guice's better looking issues from this era. Much better than the previous issue he did. I guess Steve Leialoha was a much better fit for him than Dan Green.

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  2. @wwk5d: I'm noticing that this era doesn't just seem to have a trend of fill-in artists, but that many of the covers were being done by a different artist than the interior artist.

    Yeah, and that's one of those comic trends that has become almost common place in modern comics which drives me nuts.

    I especially like Rogue's mini-tantrum; she hasn't been on the team long enough to be an "elder statesmen" like Storm and Wolverine, but has been on the long enough to resent being left behind with the "new kids"

    Good point. I do like that she reacts to being "the middle child" at this point.

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  3. I liked this issue because it showed that Dazzler is way more powerful and useful than most people giver her credit for. Too many comic fans think of her as the chick in the shiny disco outfit, and not the kick-ass woman who faced the Juggernaut solo and survived.

    Considering that she can shoot a laser through your skull from miles away and was sought by Galactus to become his Herald, people need to take Alison a lot more seriously.

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  4. Dazzler catches up to Juggernaut outside of town, but Juggernaut becomes reluctant to fight her when he realizes who she is, as he's a fan.

    I fully understand how ridiculous a comment this is -- but it has always bothered me that Juggernaut is a Dazzler fan.

    Juggernaut is depicted in this issue something of a blue collar villain, as you pointed out. In the past, we've seen him in dive bars (picking fights with Colossus). Is this really the sort of guy who listens to disco music? I mean, really?

    @FuryOfFirestorm: I agree that fans brush off Dazzler too quickly, largely because I agree that issues like this prove that she's an effective solo hero. But the Galactus herald thing has always been too much for me.

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  5. @FuryofFirestorm: I liked this issue because it showed that Dazzler is way more powerful and useful than most people giver her credit for.

    Agreed. Again, I don't want to unfairly credit Claremont if someone else came up with them during her solo series, but she uses her powers in some really clever ways in the course of her time on Uncanny, and it does a lot to show her as something more than just as disco-inspired cash-in character.

    @Michael: Juggernaut is depicted in this issue something of a blue collar villain, as you pointed out. In the past, we've seen him in dive bars (picking fights with Colossus). Is this really the sort of guy who listens to disco music? I mean, really?

    I guess I've always just assumed that she stopped playing disco music earlier in her career and shifted over to more generic 80s pop/rock when everyone else did. Maybe her solo series explicitly beat the disco drum, but I just figured by the time she was done wearing her original outfit, she was done with disco.

    Then again, an argument could be made that Juggernaut being Dazzler fan, even of her disco stuff, is part of the charm of the idea: of course someone like Juggernaut shouldn't like her music, but he still does. How many "guilty pleasure" bands or music styles do we all have? Probably at least a few, and I could see this version of the more blue collar Juggernaut being similar.

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  6. I agree with you; I've always loved the bit about Juggernaut being a fan of Dazzler. It's one of those great Claremont humanizing elements. His development of Juggernaut is on of my favorite aspects of his time on the series. In fact, I suppose Claremont's Juggernaut is to me as his Magneto is to you and many other readers, because while he didn't outright reform Juggernaut, he certainly made him more relatable and interesting.

    And of course I'm glad to see Banshee pop up here, and even being useful rather than just captured/in bed/reading/etc.!

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  7. Juggernaut was such a great character. His joining the team years later under Chuck Austen (the ONLY good idea Austen ever had) had so much potential and it bothered me quite a bit to see it squashed so quickly afterwords. Not only that, but last I checked Juggernaut was back in outright villain mode, which doesn't really work with me. I think that at his worst, he's just kind of a son of a bitch. He shouldn't be an outright evil or malicious character who tries to kill people (even Xavier). That belongs in the Silver Age. In that regard, he and Magneto did have similar trajectories. Juggernaut's evil days should be long gone. Make him a reluctant member of the team (someone for Wolverine to bitch at) or maybe a gun for hire who occasionally aids the X-Men.

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  8. @Matt: And of course I'm glad to see Banshee pop up here, and even being useful rather than just captured/in bed/reading/etc.!

    I think this is a great use of Banshee, even before Generation X came along and made it a bit of fortuitous foreshadowing.

    @Dan: His joining the team years later under Chuck Austen (the ONLY good idea Austen ever had) had so much potential and it bothered me quite a bit to see it squashed so quickly afterwords.

    100% with you on that, both the fact that having Juggernaut join the team was Austen's only good idea and the frustration at how quickly that idea was backed away from.

    I'd love to see him as a quasi-heroic gun-for-hire.

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  9. Chuck Austen having Juggernaut join the team and reform was a good idea. Just lousy execution. It doesn't look that bad though when placed next to many of his other ideas, I suppose.

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  10. @wwk5d: It doesn't look that bad though when placed next to many of his other ideas, I suppose.

    When it comes to Chuck Austen, the bar for "not a bad idea" is certainly incredibly low.

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  11. Insanely stereotypical from me of course, but I have always found Jugg's fanboyism towards pop star Dazzler to be completely in line with how Black Tom Cassidy was always introduced as his "partner".

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  12. // Jason Powell opens his post on this issue with a fantastic defense of Claremont's captions and his propensity for purple prose //

    I agree. His post and comments are good stuff. For the second issue in a row, the words stood out to me in a net positive way.

    As much as I enjoy the pure visual poetry of silent comics and feel strongly that the medium is, strictly speaking, a merging of story and pictures (or, more precisely, story in pictures) rather than words and pictures, in practice the vast majority of comics made incorporates captions and dialogue, and in this era of serialized superhero sagas we're revisiting Claremont really does stand out among his peers.

    // Dazzler charges herself up by absorbing all the ambient sound around, the end result being a globe of silence surrounding her. //

    I simultaneously admired that and felt like it was ginormously wrong. She uses sound to generate light, the louder or just plain more of the sound the more potent the light, but if she literally did turn the sound into light as she's doing here (well, storing it for later use, but same difference) then either her concerts would have been totally silent once she started up the visual effects or the sound engineer would have to constantly modulate her band's volume to an impossible degree for the music be heard at a consistent level.

    On another note, honestly no pun intended, just as I write this it dawns on me to hope that the natural pairing of Dazzler with either Siryn or Banshee (after he regained his abilities*) occurred at some point. [*Banshee lost his powers due to injuries suffered in X-Men #119.]

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