Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blue Romance, part 2: Stars (and garters) get in your eyes!

Jean Grey and Cyclops, Daredevil and Elektra, Spider-Man and Mary Jane — these are names that represent comicdom's fairy tales of everlasting love*. And while these well-known stories from the Marvel Universe chronicle the never-ending bliss of big-name characters, that doesn't mean the second-tier characters are left out in the cold.

Take for instance, oh ... Beauty and the Beast.

Written by Ann Nocenti with pencils by Don Perlin, this four-issue mini-series was nothing less than the classic tragedy of unrequited love as seen through the eyes of a mutant disco queen and her shaggy blue boyfriend. Yes — it is EPIC.

Now, as far as I know there was never any hint of even a smidge of attraction between Dazzler and the Beast before, and the script seems to hint they only had a passing acquaintance before this series. But drop them in a Hollywood party or a gladiator pit and it doesn't take long for them to start making goo-goo eyes at each other.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Beauty and the Beast #1 actually starts the way all stories should — with Doctor Doom.

All Doom wants — I mean, besides total power and the complete obedience of his subjects — is some alone time with his art. Can't a guy decompress a little? No! Not when the bastard son you turned your back on years ago suddenly surfaces in California, you can't.

Man, that's cold. By coincidence (*cough*), Doom isn't the only one headed for the land of sun, surf and drive-bys. The Beast is taking a vacation from the Defenders (and the X-Men and the Avengers, because he's a member of all of 'em, as he'll mention like a bajillion times), and he's decided Los Angeles is weird enough to accept a mutant covered in nothing but blue fur and a Speedo.

Think again, Hank! Even though he mentions it a few times to himself, Beast is still surprised that the anti-mutant craze sweeping the nation has come to L.A., too. In the Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel, Dazzler was outed as a mutant and now the whole country hates "muties." 'Cause Dazzler betrayed her audience? Or something? I'm not sure how Dazzler became the cornerstone of mutant/human relations, but thinking about her fall from grace makes Beast get all frowny-face.

Meanwhile, Dazzler is dealing with her new image problems head-on by going to parties. She blazed a trail for Paris and Britney more than 20 years ago! As far as I know, though, Daz is still wearing underwear.

At the party Dazzler meets Alexander Flynn, and this guy is smooth. Alison speechifies about how mutants are going to have to start drinking out of separate water fountains soon — Nocenti hits the "mutants as misunderstood outsiders" thing pretty hard — and Alex gives her the ol' "yeah, yeah" before convincing her to sign a contract with slimy producer-type Hugo Longride. He's cagey about exactly what kind of show he produces, but Dazzler signs anyway, because as we'll see, she's not very smart. I mean, c'mon, Longride? Even if it's not what it sounds like, shouldn't that name itself be a red flag? It's like taking a job with Dick Stickyfloor**.

Alison doesn't have time to sweat the details, not when there are more parties to go to and a battered reputation to sabotage. But, like a lot of people who party too hearty, Alison suddenly has a problem with leaking in inappropriate places.

A week later Wonder Man (who's with the West Coast Avengers at the time) thinks a wrap party is just what Hank needs — that and a bright yellow shirt with no buttons. And hey, guess who else is there drowning her sorrows? Before he can even say, "How're YOU doin'?" Beast is defending Dazzler's dubious honor and roughing up a guy with a look that the Fall catalogs call "The Seabiscuit."

That guy must spend a fortune on toothpaste. Soon Dazzler is breaking up the fight after squinting at the furry blue dude and saying, "Hey, you look familiar," then skedaddling when her unpredictable light show freaks her right out. Luckily, Wonder Man is there to be the voice of optimism.

Wonder Man: Ultimate Douche. Anyway, Dazzler proceeds to lose it a little more, and Beast convinces himself that Alison needs some sweet, sweet rescuin' while he cranks up the pining from "wistful" to "stalkery."

Yikes. Dial it down,Hank — it just isn't attractive. But what's a lovelorn Beast to do? How does he save his Beauty from a nebulously defined fate-worse-than death? Well, tracking down and beating up a guy with a horse face is a start. While all this is going on, Dazzler has emo'ed herself all the way to the beach. She gets out another, "I am the light," before a gang of beach bums with a cart pick her up and carry her away.

Yeah, seriously.

At the same time, Beast has pinned the horse-faced Rocker (I know, I know) in a half-gelding and forces him to call his boss so he can find out where Dazzler has gone. Somehow Beast was right to guess Longride would have her followed, and with an address in hand he throws himself out a closed window and hotfoots it across town.

The address turns out to be an old hotel and — even though he's supposed to be the thoughtful intellectual — Beast immediately busts in the door and starts making demands of the old lady and the kid who are just kind of hanging out. They make a half-hearted try at hiding Dazzler, but she's easy to find since her light power is really out of control now. Dazzler figures glowing a lot makes you grotesque, but Hank is there to handle damage control.

Hank. Dude, seriously.

Beauty and the Beast week continues tomorrow with a trip to ... the Heartbreak Hotel!

* This might be sarcasm.

** I'm so, so sorry.

Ann Nocenti, writer; Don Perlin, penciler; Kim DeMulder, inker

Missed the beginning? Here's Blue Romance: Part 1

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