The Iron Age #3

A comic review article by: Ray Tate
Dazzler is a mutant with the ability to transform sound into light. Created to exploit disco fads, Dazzler was originally thought of as a frivolous character. In the Marvel Bullpen, she was only beloved by her co-creator Jim Shooter, but today writers and artists are starting to clue into the immense power and potential of the Dazzler. She can transmute sound into light. Sound is everywhere, and a focused beam of light is what we call a laser. She can make lasers out of "Last Train to Clarksville."

I doubt Shooter or Dazzler's regular writer Tom DeFalco saw this potential, else they would have introduced it in her original run. In fact, Dazzler's series is significant for just the opposite. This third tier, roller-skating glittery human light show earned the rage of Enchantress, the respect of Dr. Doom and the temporary employ of none other than Galactus. Seriously. Galactus. All Dazzler wanted was a recording contract, humble wishes in the context of a superhero universe. The contrast of the down-to-earth versus the cosmic provided the underlying entertainment of a generally well-written series that starred a female hero that really should not have taken off or resonate the nostalgia that she does.

Surprisingly, in her salad days, Dazzler never actually met a time traveling character. Funny, because at the time, pun not intended, Marvel had license to Doctor Who. Louise Simonson remedies this oversight in Iron Age. Present day Iron Man has traveled back through time. He intends to change the history of his earth since it ends in a blaze of Dark Phoenix armageddon. The reconstruction of Dr. Doom's time machine is the only way to stop the destruction. The final piece of Doom's machine rests in Dazzler's disco age.

Simonson's premise is rock solid. This little jaunt still jibes with Marvel's sliding six-year timeline. Every once in a blue moon, some idiot pulls the stake out of disco's heart, and the miserable tuneless music resurfaces. So Dazzler could have been spinning her wheels within the six years necessary to validate the relative youth of the Marvel heroes. Simonson produces some very smart work in Iron Age. After he saves her from a group of tricked out security guards from the Hellfire Club, Iron Man decides to divulge his time traveling nature to Dazzler. She accepts his word, and Iron Man finds a willing ally. This is a refreshing change from the traditionally secretive nature of time travelers, and Dazzler's ready acceptance indicates a sharp mind, hinting at her future as a mind-bogglingly powerful superhero.

Neither Iron Man nor Dazzler knew from whence the assailants came from. Imagine their shock when they discover the attackers received their paychecks from the Hellfire Club. Dazzler has an invitation to perform at the Club, and that's where the last piece of Iron Man's puzzle lies. The Hellfire Club actually wants to recruit Dazzler into their ranks, if not voluntarily then by force. It's a plot filled with complications borne from hidden knowledge.

As well, the plot runs smoothly through future information. Iron Man as Tony Stark is a legacy member of the Hellfire Club, but he had no idea in the past that the Club fronted a group of mutants trying to take over the world. Present day Iron Man, in our respect, knows exactly what the Hellfire Club is. He even regrets using Dazzler as a distraction because he knows how much danger she faces. He furthermore knows that Club-member Pierce is a cyborg, but that won't save him.

The desperation in Iron Man's narration in fact reflects an Iron Man from a What If? world. While reading, I was reminded of the Iron Man who tried to take the Hulk on himself and failed. That Iron Man built armor for the remaining defunct Avengers. That Iron Man ultimately sacrifices himself to recharge the armor of Hank Pym and cement a team to combat the menaces to the globe. It's this kind of heroism that Simonson instills in Iron Age's time traveling Iron Man. He wants to save the world. He wants to save his friends, and this time, he's not working with a machiavellian plan. This time he's flying by the seat of his pants and working with champions not against them. This time, he's Iron Man.

Todd Nauck returns to comics with this issue of Iron Age, and it's a welcome one. Nauck does justice to Simonson's story. His Dazzler is young and energetic. His Iron Man issues fatigue and perspiration that you cannot see. It's actually remarkable how much Nauck has matured as an artist. I was already impressed by his work on Young Justice, but over the years he has just continued improving and without losing his old school sensibilities. The moment for example when Dazzler sings captures her sheer talent. The way in which she appears to simply drop into the zone and the way in which the audience just delights in her show exemplifies Nauck's ability to provide not just an action-packed narrative--amply demonstrated in Iron Age--but also convey palpable emotion.

The art in the second story by Roberta De La Torre is much darker in tone but no less notable. The shadows and the overall style translate the elegance of John Byrne's original into edgy hindsight informed as a piece of Marvel History. At the same time the creative team take a moment for Iron Man to reflect on the camaraderie of the Uncanny X-Men. That said, I really can't buy into this idea of Iron Man visiting the X-Men at such a pivotal moment. Although I do like the way in which writer Rob Williams literally shatters Iron Man's easy victory, it's still too close to what I've actually read. In other words, I've read that issue of Uncanny X-Men, and Iron Man wasn't there. I tried to rationalize his presence as being outside of panel, but it just doesn't work for me. However, there are a lot of elements that do work in the flawed chapter. So, I was at least for the moment willing to overlook the harsh realities while reading. That's why this is an almost perfect issue of Iron Age.

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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