Dazzler: X-Song #1

Writer: Magdalene Visaggio
Artist: Laura Braga
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artists: Elizabeth Torque, Ian Herring
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

Originally announced as one of the “Marvel Legacy” one-shots that came out last fall, Dazzler’s issue was the only one of the lot that didn’t actually make it to publication. Thankfully, Marvel seems to have decided that Alison Blaire is too good of a character to waste as this week it released Dazzler: X-Song #1. But was the wait worth its hype?

Dazzler is one of the many X-Men characters who are beloved by a small —but loyal— segment of fandom. Because of it, her publication history up to now has been rather spotty. Though she appeared in Brian Michael Bendis’ X-Men, worked as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and even became an Avenger over the last few years, Alison hasn’t been fully part of a team book since X-Treme X-Men, which ended in 2013 after 13 issues. But at long last, X-Song teases Dazzler’s official return to the merry band of mutants.

When we last saw her, Dazzler was a member of A-Force, an all-female faction of the Avengers led by She-Hulk. Over the course of that series, she not only beat the M-Pox, but also met an alternate universe doppelganger of herself who wielded Thor’s hammer. Both aspects are touched on here, but they’re blink-and-you-miss-it references that don’t rely on knowledge of that series. Instead, X-Song is more concerned with bringing readers back up to speed with Dazzler, showing where she’s at in her life now.

After leaving A-Force, Alison became the frontwoman of a Jem & The Holograms-esque band called Lightbringer — which she isn’t exactly advertising, but not hiding either. When Piotr Rasputin (better known as Colossus) approaches her with an offer to rejoin the X-Men’s cause, she refuses. But, little does she know, her declination might not be so final after all.

While this isn’t her first Marvel work, writer Magdalene Visaggio makes an exceedingly good impression with her take on Dazzler. As the co-creator of Black Mask’s Kim & Kim, as well as DC’s Eternity Girl, X-Song is an apt distillation of Visaggio’s best writing qualities: girly, subversive rock & roll. In many ways, Dazzler is the ur-example of what Visaggio has become known for in the comics industry, so this one-shot materializing is something of a full circle moment for all parties involved.

And without dwelling on it, Visaggio’s identity as a queer trans woman is important in critiquing the story here. While X-Men may have started as an allegory for racism in the United States back in the 60’s, that metaphor is a bit outdated nowadays, and they’ve since become a general euphemism for anybody who might stray from the societal norm. Since X-Song is being released during Pride Month, now’s a better time than ever to remind the powers that be that the X-Line could afford to have wider representation of queer and trans people. Make it so!

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Laura Braga and Rachelle Rosenberg’s art, because it is loooooovely. A character like Dazzler has evolved a lot through the decades, and while not all of her looks have been home runs with fans, I think this iteration of her visage (partially derived from Ben Caldwell’s 2016 redesign, which I loved) is the best synthesis of an 80’s creation like herself with contemporary sensibilities.

Another possible issue in drawing Dazzler is how to convey her sound-based skill set — how do you illustrate something you can’t see? Visaggio had the right idea to stick Alison in plenty of concert-set scenes, which gives Braga ample opportunity to show characters reacting within a sound-filled environment i.e. through dancing. And having been to many concerts in Brooklyn, where this issue is set, Rosenberg’s vibrant colors and dramatic lighting are totally indicative of the rock show experience.

Not unlike the Mockingbird one-shot that preceded her ongoing title by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk (which Rosenberg also colored!) in 2016, I’d love for X-Song to be a backdoor pilot for an extended run. I don’t exactly see that happening, unfortunately; the issue ends with an advertisement for Dazzler’s first appearance in the upcoming run of Astonishing X-Men by Matthew Rosenberg, where she’ll officially rejoin the X-Men. I can’t see Marvel Dazzler-fying two ongoing series at the same time, and that’s a shame.

But who knows! Weirder things have happened. 2018 is a scary new world, but as we have fun superhero comics like Dazzler: X-Song keeping us sane, I’m willing to brave it.

The Verdict: Buy it.

As a reintroduction to one of Marvel’s most beloved (and niche) mutants, Dazzler: X-Song #1 both exceeds expectations and leaves you wanting more.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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