To begin, I want to say that I am a HUGE fan of Dazzler. She's one of those Marvel characters that almost all comic fans know of, but don't really know or have had the privilege to see at her best. Hell, a lot of people don't even know that she was one of the very first mutants (the first, after Namor) to have her own ongoing solo series. Said solo last for 42 issues spanning over the earliest part of the 1980's. The story picked up just after her debut during the Phoenix Saga in Uncanny X-Men.
Back in those days, and despite being a mutant, Alison Blaire's character wasn't strictly associated with the X-Men or tied to Marvel's mutant teams in any way. While she did dabble with the team and a few of its select characters during this time, she was a very widespread MU character--having ties with the X-Clan (who she was invited to join twice, and declined), the Fantastic Four, the Avengers (whom she was also invited to come join), the Heroes for Hire, and Spider-Man. Not only were many of these heroes her allies and friends, but she got a taste of each of their rogue galleries, too, having fought everyone from the Enchantress, to Doom, to Galactus, to Doc Ock, and even the Brotherhood of Mutants.
Even her love life was a bit of a whirlwind. It included regular old human men (a doctor, a lawyer, and a Hollywood movie director), as well as some of the MU's hottest heroes: Qa-Sar, The Human Torch, and Angel and Beast of the X-Men.
However, despite all of her romances, pursuers, friendships and adventures, Alison's key character focus was her singing career. There were established and legitimate reasons as to why she'd turned down the X-Men and the Avengers, and those consisted of the fact that she wanted to live her life having fun and doing what she loved, and not putting her life on the line all the time. Alison had great control over her very powerful abilities, so she never had any problems hiding her identity from the public. She was a very real character who opted to stay in touch with her roots, and very often struggled with the fact that she was a mutant who wanted to live a normal life. This was a constant theme in her solo throughout the entire duration of its run, and also very thoroughly fleshed out her backstory, history, and family life. It was during this run that she finally met her long lost sister, Lois London, and the two were able to develop a brief and friendly sisterly bond. All-in-all, Alison Blaire was portrayed as a very strong, outspoken, fun, and casual character with a big back bone and an even bigger heart. Her dreams and personal life came before everything, and no matter how close she got to people or how tough her adventures became, she never let them drag her down or stop her from pursuing her singing (as well as her acting and modeling).
Even when Alison's solo series came near its end, Marvel blessed her with a graphic novel (Dazzler: The Movie) in which she was finally publicly outed as a mutant. Alison's personal life and successes finally clashed with her mutant status, and the public fully turned on her for the first time. Despite some of the supporting characters being real trashy, the novel itself was a very good outlook on Alison's level of self respect, her self image, and just how much her career and dreams meant to her.
Shortly after the release of the graphic novel, Alison starred in a limited series with Beast of the X-Men, showing some of the fallout and just how much the damage of her career and her powers affected her. Alison didn't take it well. This was why she'd chose to go into hiding at this time--at least playing as a backup singer and keyboardist in a band allowed for her to still get a taste of the limelight she loved, and Alison didn't give it up even when getting tangled up with the New Mutants and the Beyonder.
So what happened to this character? Why was her love for performing and standing up for herself and being her own hero pushed to the back burner? The moment Chris Claremont got his hands on her for the X-Men's Outback stint, almost all of these qualities about her character were lost. Suddenly Alison became a stuck up primadonna whose only concern was her looks and attention. She suddenly became the team 'newb' who had no idea how to use her powers properly. She covered up, hung up the mic for good, and was resorted to being a piece of arm candy for the X-Men's newest member: the mulleted man-child alien, Longshot. Longshot's powers were luck based and some part of his genetics forced women to be in love with him. All of that self respect that Alison had built up and thrived off of in the years of her solo series was destroyed so that she could be replaced with a catty, jealous, drop-everything type of girl for her new "boyfriend". Worse even, was the fact that her relationship with Longshot was forced on readers from the start with no real build-up; even Claremont didn't outwardly say they were 'dating' until some fan complained about it in one of the issue's letters pages.
Was it lazy writing? Was it an actual effect of Longshot's powers that made Alison change so drastically? Pages from one certain 80's crossover seem to suggest that Longshot's abilities had a subconscious way of him getting what he wanted, so it was certainly a possibility. Even his return to Jim Lee's pages following the Outback's trip through the Siege Perilous indicated as such; when Alison lost her memories and didn't have any recognition of Longshot, the alien just had to turn on his charm and kiss her in order to make her follow him to his home world and help him there. A vulnerable woman with no memories of her time spent with the X-Men taken advantage of? There really wasn't any build up to suggest otherwise, especially since this was that critical point in Alison's life where she turned her back on everything she once was. Not only did she give up her life, her friends, her family, her career, but her freedom, too. With just one twinkle of the eye, Dazzler was no more and trapped in limbo to fade into obscurity for years.
Admittedly, it was during these years that I got my first exposure to the Dazzler through X-Men: The Animated Series. Like most, I never got the exposure to what her character had originally been built and established as, so I only ever saw her through the eyes of a curiously interested Longshot "fan". For years, as someone who was more exposed and knowledgeable of him, I saw Dazzler as the perfect partner for him. She didn't mind that he was an alien and helped him free his planet. Cool, right? Eh, not really. It eventually came off as more of a trapped partner situation than anything after educating myself.
Thankfully, too, Scott Lobdell seemed to have the same idea. He axed the "pregnancy" by having Dazzler miscarry, and brought her back to the X-Men fold a few years later during the 'Eve of Destruction' arc, which had Longshot presumably killed off. More hardened and just a little bitter now, Alison dropped the superhero gig again (FINALLY!!) and went back to trying to make a name for herself in the club circuit. Just like in the good old days of being widespread amongst the MU, Alison was popping up and being referenced all over. With references and cameo appearances, the classic disco Dazzler popped up in books like Deadpool, Runaways, Marvel Knights, X-23, and others. Mojoworld and Longshot were behind her, and she could finally get back to her roots and be herself again. Right? Right?
Chris Claremont got his hands on the poor broad again and, in typical Claremont fashion, ignored all of her appearances since he'd last gotten his hands on her, and reduced her back to the primadonna (but now butchy warrior type from hanging out with Longshot so much). Her career was put back on hold since she was so 'washed up' all of a sudden, and he plucked her up to be put into his new Excalibur team. Of course, this run served as nothing but a way for him to convolute her backstory even more (resurrection factor anyone?), gave her another bad attitude problem, and eventually reunited her with Longshot (whom she all of a sudden became suicidal for? I mean REALLY. She's lost him two? Three times now? She never tried to off herself before! Typical Claremont dramatics).
Thankfully, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and Mike Carey all had plans to incorporate Dazzler back with the X-Men while simultaneously pursuing her musical career in San Francisco. She re-joined with the team during the Secret Invasion special, and helped out with a few select missions. However, despite having gotten her footing back in the music scene, she didn't get much in terms of character development until the Necrosha crossover started. Back from Ali's past was her sister, Lois. For long time Dazzler fans, this was exciting as hell. For newer and more unexposed readers, however, this left a lot more questions than answers. Being part of the former group, however, I was ecstatic to learn that the pair had gotten their own double sized ones-hot to finally sort things out and get them into the open. This, my friends, brings me to last week's
Right off of the heels of Necrosha, we find our heroine in a club, leaving us with a little bit of an idea as to where she stood with her music right then. Due to the recent events of the Dark Avengers/Utopia crossover, Alison's career is tanked and she's not at all pleased about it. However, the fact that her sister has shown up and been looking for her is more important right then. Unfortunately for Ali, Lois skips on the meeting and has her drugged up and brought to Arcade's Murderworld, where the two killers set out to have some fun with poor Dazzler.
Not the least bit frightened, Alison gets into the classic Dazzler uniform and rollerskates, like instructed, and puts on a show for her captors. Murderworld is set up much like a full arena-sized Dazzler concert, and in the stands are her robot enemies. Who shows up here is a huge blast back from Dazzler's earliest years--Screaming Mimi, Hellfire!Emma Frost, Brotherhood!Rogue, Klaw, Galactus, Enchantress, and Doom. Jim McCann does a great job writing Alison's narrative here, as we see just what kind of insight she has on her classic appearance (acknowledging that rollerskates are out of date, Rogue had bad hair, and just how damn insane she as to have dealt with all of these people so casually back in her solo days).
There really are a lot of great throwback moments, too, as a lot of her history is referenced. Alison makes a jab at her old pink hair 'do; a song she wrote for her mother back in her solo was used as a way to get under her skin (lyrics and all); and a lot of great power feats we haven't seen in awhile, including: holograms; eye lasers; levitation and flying; hard light constructs; movement of people/objects via surrounding them by light; and even the long forgotten weakness Dazzler has when her sound is cut off.
Once revealed that it was Lois who had hired Arcade, we get a lot of great and forgotten insight on Alison's personal life (including a very conveniently placed narrative about her very bad past decisions over Longshot's image), her relationship with Lois, why she'd left Lois behind way back in Dazzler #28, her murdering Klaw, and how badly she'd felt about giving into the mutant label. All of this is a bit overwhelming for Dazzler, obviously, but she manages to keep her cool despite the fact that she's freaking out on the inside. Her and Lois exchange the words they've been waiting to exchange, and they have an emotional fight that ends with Dazzler laying her sister out with one punch. Lois is knocked out and drugged by paramedics, and from there Alison is left with some decisions to make.
Where does she stand right now? What does she want? What's the priority? Alison doesn't want to make the same mistake that caused Lois to go off the deep end in the first place, and acknowledges the fact tat Utopia is a place for all mutants. Dazzler is willing to risk everything to bring Lois back there to get her some help, despite past fights and grievances. It doesn't matter what her team says, Lois is Alison's first priority. Alison also realises then that all this time she thought she'd been missing heroics and fame and her career...but this whole experience teaches her that she wants her respect back. Her self respect, mostly, and she's done caring about what everyone else expects from her. Ali Blaire is her own woman again.
Which leads us to Utopia. We see a heated argument between Alison and Cyclops. Despite this being a pretty consistent portrayal of recent Cyclops and his cold, militant attitude, this really did showcase a lot of old school Alison, too. She rightfully points out that Magneto and Emma were given second chances, and that more than one X-Man has had psychotic siblings who needed help. Scott blows her off and tells Ali that Lois is a lost cause and that she'd hurt Emma too much during Necrosha to be worthy of the X-Men's help. Thankfully, Psylocke (Alison's closest friend) offers to induce Lois into a coma and spend a few weeks trying to help mentally rehabilitate her. Alison is very grateful for this, and appreciates that Betsy is the only mutant willing to set aside differences and help someone who needs it. Alison was all heart and passion here, and not at all afraid to stand up for what she believes in.
Finally, the third part of the story wrapped up all of the loose ends that Alison had left hanging from her mother's abandonment. Back in her solo series, Alison hadn't seen her mother for many years before Angel had helped her relocate her family. Despite being happy to meet her again, it was implied that Alison still held a lot of resentment toward her mother. This was definitely the case shown here, as Alison now was faced with the responsibility to call her mother and tell her what had happened with Lois. We get to see what Alison really wanted to say to her mother through quick glimpses in her mind, and then parallel panels of what she settled on saying instead. While Alison retained that calm, strong outer appearance, she was again freaking out on the inside and cursing her mother for ever having abandoned her daughters. It was a very emotional, and well thought out epilogue that did an excellent job of tying up those loose ends. We get to see Alison step up and take responsibility for her sister and what'd she done to upset her, and in the end we see Lois remaining on Utopia in her catatonic state to be taken care of by Dazz from here on out.
Having seen so many of her dangling plot points and old quirks picked up here again was very refreshing. There were no Mojoworld attachments, no mention of Longshot, no wallflower type panels that she's been receiving in Uncanny--just raw power, passion, heart, and soul. All of the things that made Dazzler a success to begin with back in the 80's.
Following this one-shot, of course, we see Alison taking part in Second Coming with the Hellbound team in a three-part mini series. Thankfully, because of this, we know that she will continue to play a part in the X-Teams for the time being. I can only hope now that this one shot and display of powers will open up the eyes of the other current creative teams so that they can realise and understand just what kind of potential this character carries for them. I, for one, will be holding out hope that we can see more of THIS Dazzler...campy catchphrases and and all.