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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #260

"Star 90"
April 1990

In a Nutshell 
Dazzler faces off against her stalker.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the Hollywood Hills, Eric Beale plots to kill Dazzler, while in Malibu, Freddie screens Dazzler's movie for her, and asks for her help in drumming up support for a release, but she's reluctant to do so. Going outside to surf, Beale draws a bead on her with a sniper rifle from a nearby hill. However, he consistently misses her, enabling her to spot him and blast his rifle with a laser bolt, but Beale escapes. Determined to draw him out, Dazzler agrees to help Freddie release the film. In Manhattan, the woman with whom Peter is obsessed gets attacked by a group of muggers in X-Men masks outside his apartment. He and Jenny Ransome come to her rescue, but she runs off again before Peter can talk to her. In Hollywood, Freddie and Dazzler strike a deal with Baron-Fox Studios to release Dazzler's movie, unknowingly dodging repeated attacks by Beale.


On  Kyrinos, Banshee and Forge are about to board a charter plane bound for Cairo in search of the X-Men, but when they learn about Dazzler's return, they decide to head for Hollywood instead. The pilot, Cylla Markham, departs without them, and moments later is shot down by Fenris, who then destroy the airfield, but not before Banshee is able to fly himself and Forge to safety. In Malibu, Beale finally captures Dazzler and brings her to his mansion to kill her, but she fights back. However, Beale is too hopped up on drugs to feel any pain, so she instead uses her power to calm and soothe him, and realizes she can help other people in similar ways, giving her new life new purpose.

Firsts and Other Notables
Banshee and Forge's search for the X-Men begins in earnest, as they finally leave Muir Island. They go to the Greek island of Kyrinos, where Professor Xavier went to recover from his breakup with Moira/vacation with Lilandra, where Phoenix went when she believed the X-Men were dead, and where Storm and the New Mutants went after defeating the Shadow King, just before getting teleported to Asgard, en route to Cairo, Egypt, before getting diverted to Hollywood upon news of Dazzler's return.

Cylla Markham, Forge and Banshee's pilot, appears for the first time in this issue. She is seemingly killed when her plane is blown up, but future issues reveal she survived and agrees to be remade as a Reaver by Pierce, after which she'll pop as a villain in Wolverine.


Cylla's plane is destroyed by Fenris, the mutant children of Baron Von Strucker who attacked the X-Men in issue #200 (and who recently made an appearance in "Acts of Vengeance"). They say they learned of Banshee and Forge's plan via a mysterious informant; the informant will shortly be revealed to be a Shadow King-controlled Moira.


In addition to Freddie and Eric Beale, who appeared last issue, Roman Nebokah, the director of Dazzler's movie who appeared in the Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel, pops up in this issue.

Jim Lee provides the cover to this issue. Maybe it's just the coloring, but his Eric Beale has always struck me as looking nothing like the one who appears inside the issue. 

A Work in Progress
Peter Nicholas saves the model with which he's become infatuated once again, this time from a group of muggers wearing X-Men masks. Sad masks seem familiar to Peter, particularly the Colossus one, making him feel as though he knows the X-Men.


Banshee continues to worry about the change that's overcome Moira. 


Somewhat ironically, Banshee and Forge use the attack on them by Fenris to let the world think they're dead, so they can more easily search for the X-Men (Banshee is also talking and screaming again in this panel).


Dazzler discovers she can use her powers soothe and calm people, giving her new purpose as she decides to go out into the world and help people in pain.


Claremontisms
On the opening page, Eric targets one of his Dazzler mannequins and declares "Bang, you're dead".

Teebore's Take
As an issue of X-Men, this is perfectly acceptable stuff: the post-Siege Dazzler gets the spotlight and finds a new purpose post-X-Men (albeit one that doesn't seem all that different from her role as one of the X-Men, ie using her powers to help people), some subplots get advanced, the Silvestri/Green art is well done, all is good. But in hindsight, as the swan song of a character who, between her own solo series and her role in one of Marvel's top-selling titles, was prominent in the Marvel Universe for almost ten straight years, it's something of a disappointment.

Regardless of how different, in function, using her powers to make people feel better is from using her powers as one of the X-Men, Claremont was clearly setting up a new status quo for the character with this ending, one that would, seemingly, return to the idea of Dazzler as a celebrity superhero. But nothing ever really comes of that idea, in X-Men or elsewhere, and like her former paramour Longshot and his similarly abrupt departure, Dazzler herself mostly disappears from the Marvel Universe, barring a few brief guest appearances, for over a decade after this. As a result, it's hard to read this issue and not think the pages could have been better used either on another character, or by giving Dazzler a proper sendoff, instead of a new status quo that ultimately turns out to be a false start.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable battles Freedom Force in New Mutants #88, followed by X-Factor #53 on Friday. Next week, another Wolverine tale in Marvel Comics Presents #48-50.

Collected Editions

38 comments:

  1. It seems weird that a story that's presented as partially comedic is titled "Star 90." If you know the sad inspiration for the title, it becomes rather disturbing to see the comic play it for laughs.

    Speaking of laughs, there is a slight dig against Jim Shooter contained here. Indeed, given the way Eric Beale, previously a sleazy corporate type, us now characterized as an unhinged buffoon, I wonder if this whole plotline was a big "take that" against the graphic novel.

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  2. I don't think it was meant as a dig. It reads to me as a straight sequel. Beale was not portrayed as a savory character in "The Movie." The psycho version here is a different take but not really a less flattering one.

    Meanwhile, in some heavy meta, Silvestri draws Nebokoh as a Shooter stand-in, and Claremont proceeds to thanks him for writing the original story. (In not quite so many words.)

    This issue is awesome. Silvestri's storytelling and comedic "acting" is marvelous. I also love the the incestuous vibe coming off the Fenris scene.

    And a great sendoff for Dazzler. A shame the ending was undone by Jim Lee just before he jetted, but oh well.

    Speaking of Image artists departing Marvel, it's interesting that Silvestri's penultimate Uncanny issue introduces Cylla. When she first shows up in the Wolverine solo comic, it will be in the artist's last three issues of THAT title.

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  3. @Jonathan: And the significance of Star 90 is?

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  4. I totally never understood the scene with the muggers in X-Men masks. Why are there muggers in X-Men masks? Is it just some weird excuse to jog Peter's memory? Whatever.

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  5. "They say they learned of Banshee and Forge's plan via a mysterious informant; the informant will shortly be revealed to be a Shadow King-controlled Moira. "
    No, it won't. Banshee and Forge will GUESS that it was a Shadow King-controlled Moira but we never get any sort of confirmation.
    "I totally never understood the scene with the muggers in X-Men masks. Why are there muggers in X-Men masks? Is it just some weird excuse to jog Peter's memory? Whatever."
    I always assumed that it was Masque that sent the muggers. But then again, why would he need to give his goons masks when he could just change their faces with his powers?
    While we're on the subject of stuff Claremont didn't clearly explain, why couldn't Calisto defend herself against the goons? Even if Masque changed her body to make it weaker and slower (which isn't clear at all from the story), she should still remember how to fight.
    Silvestri suggested this story for Dazzler, that might be why Claremont never really followed up on it after Silvestri left the book.

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  6. @Jonathan, considering going how they jumped in to film the story more than one time in Hollywood, and used the actual murder scene house for the set in the film, it's kind of totally in line of the undertones of Hollywood criticism.

    @Nathan, "Star 80" is a based-on-true-story film of a murder of a Playboy playmate by her ex-husband.

    Our published title for the story was "Star 92", what with the two year delay in publication. It's annoying (but understandable, sort-of) when they tweaked the dates for us. Kate Pryde actually returned Back from the Future to October 1985 as our continuity and announced on-panel dates go.

    @Jason: When there was NOT that in a Fenris scene?

    The X-muggers were one of the most disturbing things ever for me on a comic book back the day. That's my X-Men Claremont there had glued on top of a street gang (whatever happened to the canonical multiethnic outfits sporting offensive 80's outfits?), after having pushed them through a gem to a journey some have not yet returned from and others returned as something completely different.

    The effect may not have gone past the Marvel bigwigs of the era, it's too easy imagine the Mojoesque Those Who Sit Above In Shadow calling Bob Harras in for questioning: "Who does this person think he is, dishanding our commercial property this way?"

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  7. @Teemu: Thanks re: Star 80 (not familiar with the event).

    @Teemu and Co: And yeah how did the muggers know about Psylocke's costume mask since she had only worn that when the team were invisible to scanners, etc.?

    And off point I know but just who did CC intend Those Who Sit Above in Shadow to be?

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  8. "@Teemu: Thanks re: Star 80 (not familiar with the event)."

    Notably (or not) the film STAR 80 was released just one year before the DAZZLER: THE MOVIE graphic novel.

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  9. "@Jason: When there was NOT that in a Fenris scene?"

    I don't see much of it in the JRJr. issues that feature their earlier appearances ... but maybe I just needed Silvestri to take the blinders off of my naive young eyes.

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  10. "My, my, aren't we bloodthirsty, little brother? Laying in my bed, eating my caviar, drinking my champagne... relax. I won't punish you. This time." (#200)

    Also in a tiny bikini then, enough subtext to make a 7y.o. me reading his first X-book ever a lifetime Fenris fan. I'm not sure really if they should have allowed Claremont anywhere near a kids'(-also) book, and if he really should write a book together with E.L.James. I hear she would need some help with her dialogues.

    Gotta love their high society style though; if not out for a safari, then always yachting and raising champagne glasses.

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  11. @Teemu: Hey don't knock Claremont's age writing as in addition to X-Men being a major part of my childhood reading, also got me through the rejection of my teen years (as an alternative to other books capable that I wasn't allowed to buy;)

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  12. Ha, that other scene keeping our local second-hand book store business lucrative still up to the 90's for the benefit of us comics enthusiasts... 'second-hand' being a term of my usual usage and so not an intended pun here.

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  13. Given how CC only really used Fenris a few times over 50 issues ago, their appearance here is just so random.

    Banshee and Forge's search for the X-men is kind of symbolic of this era. Lots of random wandering around, changing directions, and no follow-up. The few X-men they find is due more to conveniently running into them than actually actively searching for them. They forget about Dazzler once they make it to the US, more or less. Not to mention, their travel plans are just so random in order to serve the plot (they could have just flown directly from London to Cairo, FYI).

    Speaking of Dazzler...CC really never clicked with her, did he? I have no idea if he had further plans for her or just couldn't be bothered/forgot about her. She doesn't even get a more definitive writing out the way Colossus will soon. Between this and wanting to kill her off post-Inferno...

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  14. "Given how CC only really used Fenris a few times over 50 issues ago, their appearance here is just so random. "

    It is, but also, it feels around this period that someone (whether Claremont or the powers that be) decided they wanted Fenris to take on a more prominent role, and then never really got around to it. They're mentioned in UXM 273 as one of the X-Men's most prominent threats, despite the fact that the X-Men have barely ever even met them. They also show up not too long from now in Excalibur in the Girls School From Heck arc.

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  15. Honestly, my favorite handling of Fenris came years later, from Fabian Nicieza, where he amped up the creepiness about a millionfold. He killed off Andrea and then, in order to keep his powers working (which required physical contact with his sister), Andreas had her skinned and used the human leather as the binding on his sword hilt when he became the new Swordsman.

    So disturbing, but not at all surprising for those two.

    Also, with all the action taking place in Malibu and Hollywood, I would've appreciated an extended scene in this issue where Dazzler or Beale or someone described how they arrived at a location by listing off all the freeways they took to get there.

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  16. ""My, my, aren't we bloodthirsty, little brother? Laying in my bed, eating my caviar, drinking my champagne... relax. I won't punish you. This time." (#200)"

    ... Yes. Yes, I see it now.

    "Also, with all the action taking place in Malibu and Hollywood, I would've appreciated an extended scene in this issue where Dazzler or Beale or someone described how they arrived at a location by listing off all the freeways they took to get there."

    Is that a Claremontism?

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  17. Personally, I can't really blame Andy&Andy. They have that twin touchy element to their powers, which likely manifested in their teenage, and with their dad often out of town in business, it's not too far-fetched them finding together how the tingling goes away in a somewhat disturbing neo-nazisque Blue Lagoon style. Though, "heat up the Satan Claw and think of Hitler!" wouldn't probably have been much advice for young Andreas anyway.

    At least, no one has to masquerade as completely other person to get it on, sister-girlfriend way. Sometimes I wonder from exactly where George R. R. Martin got his idea.

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  18. Jason -- "Is that a Claremontism?"

    No, it's an Armisenism. It was a (very) oblique reference the "Californians" sketch on Saturday Night Live.

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  19. Just checking. Sometimes Claremontisms are invisible to me, because he is the only author I read.

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  20. @Ben: Re: Fenris's importance, back in the 1980s Claremont revealed in interview he intended to reveal a classic Marvel villain as behind Weapon X (this was before Apocalypse was created). With the flashback scenes in Uncanny X-Men #268 with Baron Strucker's alliance with the Hand contrasted with the contemporary scenes with his children, Andrea & Andreas, and Matsuo Tsurayaba, one has to wonder if Claremont intended finally revealing Wolvie’s origin through flashback during his proposed Dark Wolverine Saga, with Wolfgang revealed as that CLASSIC Marvel villain he earlier hinted at!? Out of all Marvel's major villains the Baron seemed to be the one most significantly tied into mutant history what with not only his children as increasing threats against the X-Men (intended to take a more prominent role in the Wild Boys grouping that would take over the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, a plot replaced with the dull Upstarts one directly after CC left), the flashback scenes in #268, and of course the historical Uncanny X-Men #161.

    @Teemu: I agree re: the implied incest, since they would never feel that confident alone as when they were with each other, given the "curse" of their power subset. Plus being raised by a Nazi supervillain, the pressure to become all-powerful would force the reliance on each other if only super-powered when together.

    @Jason: I love it that your focus is so narrow (and that being said, I can talk;)

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  21. Oh bloody hell.

    Here I joke of the von Struckers, but I never realized both generations of them are in Madripoor Knights! Of course, the Baron has all the makings for a top notch X-villain, having been the first common enemy to Xavier and Magneto.

    From the MCU point of view it's interesting really that old von Strucker is one of Marvel Studios while the twins would probably fall in with the Fox license. Hilariousity ensues as magneto's kids Wanda and Pietro kind of have to play ersatz Fenris twins.

    Oh how can they not steal what everybody today considers a page from the Game of Thrones playbook!

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  22. Never having read this issue, I thought the guy on the cover was Arcade gone grim n gritty because of his (never before mentioned) obsession with Dazzler.

    I agree with wwk5d that CLaremont either didn't grasp or never really warmed to a Dazzler. The Juggernaut issues were good but that's about it. After that, she became a fame junkie then a non-factor. Same with Longshot, no wonder he linked them romantically.

    We're coming to The Adventures of Forge & Banshee, and I'm kind of dreading it but weirdly fascinated. I'm off to Marvel Unlimited to give them a read, hope I survive the experience.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  23. @Teemu: Now how cool would it have been to reveal Strucker as not only the classic Marvel villain behind Wolverine's adamantium bonding (in preparation for him to become the Hand's assassin and after his death his children follow through with his commitment), but that the evil Baron gets payback on Logan for Madripoor by doing it. But I'd go one step further, and suggest Strucker also gets payback on the other mutant he has a mad-on for, Magneto. That is, he captures Magneto just prior to X-Men and uses the master of magnetism to bond the adamantium to Logan's skeleton. And it is not Wolvie that destroys Camp X, but Magneto once he awakens from his brainwashing. And it is this, his discovery of world governments allying themselves with ex-Nazis to experiment on mutants that tips him over the edge to become the villain Magneto. And the programme was called Weapon X not because of Logan, but him! Why does Wolverine go feral on Magneto in X-Men #1? Because he starts remembering… And what if Strucker's claim he was going after Gabrielle Haller for the location of Nazi gold was a cover? What if Strucker had pursued her due to her being a slave in a "House of Dolls" experimental programme he was running in Auschwitz? And what if Magda was also part of this and she did not end up on Wundagore but Strucker intercepted her after she fled Magnus?

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  24. @Nathan Adler,

    Cool idea, but then we wouldn't get Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X," which I absolutely loved. I'm trying to picture Strucker & Magneto in place of the Professor & Cornelius and it changes the story too much for me. Maybe he could be the unseen head of the Weapon Plus program.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  25. @Mike: Chris was dirty about BWS writing Weapon X, and being the Claremont purist I am. This I suspect is what lead Chris to not complete Lifedeath 3 with him.

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  26. @Nathan: Wow, I never knew that! I can see why Claremont would react negatively, and with Bob Harras backing Jim Lee on Uncanny X-Men I can see why he left Marvel.

    I'm not a Claremont purist and didn't have any interest in reading the most of the post-Paul Smith issues until I read Jason's posts on his run. Since then, I've read up through the issue before this one. I've come to appreciate just how good Claremont is. While I think Lee added some much-needed energy to the book, I can't believe Marvel discarded him the way they did. What's worse is he's far from the only writer or artist to get the shaft. Much as I love the medium, comics are a terrible business.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  27. @Mike: Yeah the X-titles never recovered from Claremont's departure, and we missed out on his grand epic as he was writing the X-Men and his "Great American Novel".

    He actually intended to originally keep the team in Outback Australia for a hundred or so issues, so would have been great to see that unfold, as it's my favourite period.

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  28. @Mike: I also understood why Claremont never warmed to Ali, since could you really see Olivia Newton-John as a member of the X-Men? Although I did like his work with her in Annual #11 and #228. I liked Lila more though and wished we'd gotten to see more work from him on her (and the questions about her I've recently asked about her in the comments thread to Teebore's New Mutants Annual #1 revew).

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  29. "I'm not a Claremont purist and didn't have any interest in reading the most of the post-Paul Smith issues until I read Jason's posts on his run. Since then, I've read up through the issue before this one. I've come to appreciate just how good Claremont is."

    ***Ah, that does my heart good. :)

    "He actually intended to originally keep the team in Outback Australia for a hundred or so issues, so would have been great to see that unfold, as it's my favourite period."

    *** Mine too! Surprise.

    "@Jason: I love it that your focus is so narrow (and that being said, I can talk;)"

    ***Well, I'm trying to widen it. Reading a bit of Cerebus. Dave Sim has got this great character he created named "Charles X. Claremont." And there's just something about him that I like -- familiar somehow, I can't put my finger on it ...

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  30. Mike: I'm not a Claremont purist and didn't have any interest in reading the most of the post-Paul Smith issues

    Oh-aww, the best bit!

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  31. @Jason: Yes I know you're an Ozzie at heart;) We must do that trip to Columbia University one of these days too:)

    Oh and yes Cerberus, and my second-favourite version of the character Peter Porker (by Mark Armstrong;)

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  32. @Nathan, I actually hate every bit in that particular fix, and will not hear Bova being called a liar, but it is not beyond imaginable that von Strucker would have had Lord Dark Wind among his contacts in the Far East and it IS curious that Silver Fox, a former Weapon X participant is the acting Madame Hydra during Hama's run. Anyway, If we presume Madga was pregnant when running away from Magnus, what about the kids... did von Strucker maybe adopt them after they had been confirmed to be mutants, or what?

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  33. @Teemu: Claremont never wanted Magda revealed as the mother of Wanda and Pietro (that was a Byrne retcon approved by Stern). The Professor could easily have been Kenji Oyama, and his claim to wear the mask from kamikaze disfigurement could have been a lie to cover up the fact Wolvie cut up his face when he broke free.

    As for Silver Fox, Claremont never intended her to be part of Hydra, or for the memory implant BS. Prior to Hama taking over the Wolverine ongoing, Claremont had written Logan as remembering his past but just choosing not to talk about it, like any typical return veteran.

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  34. @Teemu: Plus who then do you propose Claremont meant when he said he intended a "classic Marvel villain to be behind Weapon X" (before Apocalypse was created)? Magneto and Strucker were the only classic Marvel villains with ties to the X-Men's history then.

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  35. From http://www.uncannyxmen.net/secrets-behind-the-x-men/strip-mining-wolverine

    "In 1991 Barry Windsor-Smith wrote and drew a Weapon X serial in Marvel Comics Presents #72-84. "Wolverine's adamantium heritage had never been explored, so I aimed at that device," Windsor-Smith told Wizard Tribute To Wolverine. "After I created several Weapon X stories, I had a conversation with Chris Claremont in which he told me that he had always intended for Apocalypse to be the villain behind the adamantium experiment. For no reason other than courtesy to Chris, I devised the situation where the professor in the story was taking his orders from a higher-up. Despite this hindrance to my plot, I felt it best to give Chris the chance to eventually fulfill his wish to have Apocalypse be the real villain behind the adamantium experiment. Chris never got the chance to do his ultimate origin for Wolverine, but know that whenever the professor is being belittled by the guy at the other end of the phone in Weapon X, it's Apocalypse.""

    Note that this account is all from BWS. Another excerpt from the article:

    ""To me, Wolverine should have no official origin," Claremont told Berserkher.com. "Pieces of his life should forever remain a closed book. As for the rest, every writer has their take on the character, and their stories reflect that. What I did with Wolverine was what saw print. What I would have done remains in storage for another day, should I get the chance to write him long-term again.""

    So, take what you will from that...

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  36. Someone already pointed out the Star 80/Star 90 connection. I just found it a bit disturbing how comedic this story is compared to how the other one...isn't. In addition Eric Beale was taken seriously as antogonist during Dazzler: the Movie and he's generally a buffoon here.This, combined with Nathan's statement regarding Claremont's feelings toward Alison, is what made be believe that Claremont was basically taking the piss out of DtM (well that and that generally, Dazzler: the Movie is to comics as The Lonely Lady is regarding to movies.) And it's not like creators were shy about voicing their disapproval of Shooter-related projects (both in and out of universe.)


    The rather campy cover doesn't exactly help either.

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  37. My first encounter with this issue (or with the cover anyway) was when I got some X-Men trading cards in the early 90s that featuring repurposings of Jim Lee artwork. I had never seen the cover before and had no idea who the guy was, but it stood out more than any other card because the picture was cropped in such a way that Beale looked like he was masturbating with a manical look on his face. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it as an 8 year old.

    One of the better issues of the no team period though. Probably second only to the Reavers vs. Muir Island X-Men two-parter from 254-255 imho.

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  38. // Maybe it's just the coloring, but his Eric Beale has always struck me as looking nothing like the one who appears inside the issue. //

    I thought it was Arcade, too, at first glance — when seeing the thumbnail here, before reading the issue.

    The broad, Looney Tunes humor of Beale’s repeated interceptions and indignations on the movie set didn’t work for me in the context of the story. I get that he mostly had a run of bad luck, such as Ali sitting up on her surfboard the exact moment he took the shot from that cliff. Given the scenes in his lair at the start and finish of the story, though, Beale clearly isn’t a flat-out joke, so the tonal shifts were jarring and it was hard to buy his repeated misses.

    I feel a bit churlish calling bull$#!% on Dazzler — upside-down, in midair, tossed off her surfboard — managing to get her laser beam straight down the barrel of Beale’s rifle from that distance, but she isn’t Captain America, Green Arrow, or even Black Widow. Or is she? I’ll wait for Matt to check her Marvel Super-Heroes RPG stats. 8^)

    My sense of time in these stories continues to be jumbled. I appreciated Freddie’s remark that movies don’t just get released, they have to be sold, yet it felt that the premiere came awfully quickly. I suppose it could’ve been a festival-style advance promotional screening, and we do get those scenes at the studio as well as evidence that enough time passed for Ali to make it on the cover of People. That means Beale has gone to ground for weeks if not months after the attempt on the beach, however.

    I have no inclination to be charitable to this material from a nostalgic perspective, granted, but this issue was less than the sum of its parts for me. Oddly enough, I enjoyed the Silvestri/Green art more than usual, contrary to what I recall from recent comments about the combo’s final stretch on the series.

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