Beauty and the Beast #1-4
Issue(s): Beauty and the Beast #1, Beauty and the Beast #2, Beauty and the Beast #3, Beauty and the Beast #4
Another big set of problems that relate to this particular mini-series is Dr. Doom. First of all, Dr. Doom is dead. John Byrne has nailed that into our heads a hundred times by now, even in the face of the fact that he was obviously alive and kicking in Secret Wars until he seemingly died again. He appears here with no explanation, no footnote, nothing. The Secret Wars appearance was obviously an irreconcilable error; Marvel's premiere villain needed to appear in the highest profile Marvel event that also tied in with a toy promotion. And obviously communication with the FF creative team wasn't handled well. But this series is being published eight months after Secret Wars #1. Even so, let's say there was no time to change the plot at that point. How about something in the dialogue, a footnote, an editor's comment, something. This appearance will later be ruled a Doombot. There's really no other choice. But it kind of invalidates a portion of the story.
Leaving the continuity geek concern aside for a moment (although, i remind, that is the point of this site), Doom is just awful in this series. Like every character, he auto-narrates and prattles on.
And he's just snippy with the help.
And sure, Doom's a megalomaniac and he always talks aloud. But not like this, i promise you.
Worse, we're expected to believe that at some point Doom has fathered an idiot illegitimate son. And then denied and abandoned him. Say what you want about Doom. He's evil. He's proud. Arrogant. But he doesn't do that. He's honorable and responsible. If Doom truly doesn't believe the kid is his, that's one thing. But we're meant to believe, through the course of this story, that Doom does know it's his. He's got a lackey who informs him of his son's every move. And he's also programmed a robot to follow the son around.
Doom's son is named Alexander Flynn. There is some speculation that his mother is Valeria (click through to the Valeria entry as well), Doom's lost love. Doom sure doesn't act like he loves the woman he turns away in the flashback in this issue.
The New Mutants will later encounter Alexander Flynn, but he will turn out to be a hologram. The implication is meant to be that Flynn was always a hologram or projection of the Shadow King. Between Doom being a Doombot and Flynn being an illusion, that pretty much invalidates half the story. But it's not really possible for the Flynn in this story to be a hologram, despite Claremont's intentions in attempting to clean up this mess.
OK, but what if we forget all the Doom stuff. Forget the continuity problem, forget the bad characterization, forget the long-term damage of adding an illegitimate (and lame) son to Dr. Doom's backstory. Let's just pretend Doom and his son are generic bad guys in this story, and look at the main characters, Dazzler and the Beast.
The Beast arrives in LA. One thing that seems surprisingly tight from a continuity perspective is that the Beast has been on a leave of absence in recent issues of the Defenders. He's been lecturing at colleges. So the fact that he's available for a solo story right now works out nicely. He's not in LA to give a lecture, just sight-seeing, but there's a nice break in the Defenders where he can be here.
Beast arrives in the aftermath of the Dazzler graphic novel. He finds torn up movie posters promoting her movie, defaced with the word "Mutant".
Meanwhile, Dazzler is at an absolute low.
So soon after seeing the problem her boyfriend Roman Nekobah had with contracts, we see her signing away a contract with a shady guy (Flynn) without even reading it. She's desperate to perform, and doesn't care about the details. The graphic novel ended on a positive note. She rejected the extreme conditions of Eric Beale's contract, and decided she could take care of herself on her own. The book ended with her smiling and saying "You're going to be ok, Miss Alison Blaire." Didn't last long. Now she's down in the gutter signing everything away.
This is theoretically explained by the fact that Flynn has mind control powers. But i think they're only meant to influence the desperate; he's not meant to be Professor X (and he's not even in the room when she signs the contract - the guy in that scene above is actually the robot that Doom sent to monitor his "son"). Either that or we've got a character with no motivation of her own; she's just a mind-controlled cipher.
Anyway, Beast and Dazzler soon meet up at a party (The Beast's friend Wonder Man is with Beast). Beast immediately, and i mean immediately charges up and starts getting in the face of another mutant that Dazzler is talking to, a horse-faced guy named Rocker. This is one of those "why is the character acting like that" moments.
A little later, Dazzler is reported missing, and Beast busts into Rocker's place again and immediately goes on the attack. Violent. Wolverine/Punisher type abuse. And insults that just don't make sense from a a guy who is, himself, a mutant with scary features.
And just look at this dialogue. "I'm relentless.. Compulsive. Driven. Obsessed!". No one talks like that. The Boisterous Beast certainly doesn't talk like that. This is some sort of psychological narration.
Also: "I ain't gonna give up!"? "Act cool!"? That's not the Beast.
We continue with the Beast talking like he's being driven to pursue Dazzler. It's never said why. He says it's fate. I say it's because the plot demands it, even if the character doesn't have any motivation.
The Beast winds up at a place called Heartbreak Hotel, which is where mutants who have useless powers or who choose to no longer user their powers go. Poltergeist, from Nocenti's Spider-Woman run, has wound up here.
And the Beast finds Dazzler here as well. Her powers are going haywire. Her first thought when the Beast sees her? "Oh great, you're a super-scientist with lots of connections to other super-scientists. You can help me!". No wait, that's not it.
The Beast tries to comfort Dazzler. But this is where we really get into "Nocenti" dialogue. Again, it's my understanding that some people like it. It just reads like bad poetry to me.
The Heartbreak Hotel concept is actually very cool, though. As the Beast says (arrogantly), "...makes sense that nature would have scattered a few lesser powers among all us big-time mutants". The poster child for the Hotel is Lucy (who they say is "the girl that used to go to school in Westchester" but "flunked out"). Her power is changing the color of flowers.
There's also some drama clown guy. He's perfect for a Nocenti story.
I've got nothing to say about him. He terrifies me. Let's move on.
The Beast and Dazzler are falling in love, although they both talk like they don't know why.
Unfortunately, that's when the dog man shows up. I don't know anything about this guy; this is all we see of him. But he and his two growling dogs are just awesome. I take it all back, Ann Nocenti. You have given us Dog Man, and therefore you are awesome.
I want those dogs! Grrrrrrrroooooowww! Rrrrrrrr!
Dog Man wants to take Dazzler back to Flynn, but the Beast fights him off. Then Flynn shows up and exercises his mind control, and Dazzler goes with him freely. Despite recognizing that she's clearly being mind controlled, the Beast allows her to go.
Now, all this time, Dazzler thought she was going to be singing. It turns out that Flynn actually runs a gladiator pit. So Dazzler comes out singing, the crowd starts booing, and soon enough she's fighting a skull-horn guy.
Dazzler initially loves the reaction from the crowd when she starts to fight, but then she runs out when she discovers she'll have to kill her opponent. In order to appease the crowd, a whole battalion of gladiators are sent in.
Now, Nocenti is trying to raise the usual points about how arena fighters feed off of the cheers of the crowds, and how all these wealthy civilized people in the audience have a secret bloodlust, but honestly. Where is it coming from? Up until now, we had a desperate woman getting herself into a bad situation but also falling in love with a good guy who wanted to help her. Lame plot, but at least it was a plot. Now there's gladiators.
When a boxer dies in the ring, who killed him? The boxing commission for condoning such a sport? The manager of the boxer? Society for birthing such fighters? Nature for giving us such desires? How about the audience for cheering, for revving the fighters up -- it's the crowd that supplies the juice.
They had their outlet. They are alive - invigorated by the violence they have been witness to. Go home and sleep well, beautiful people -- but don't look into each others' eyes -- or even your own mirrors!
Just so judgmental. Pretentious. And again, out of left field.
Back to the geekier concerns, where are all of these mutants (we're told all the gladiators are mutants, even though they mainly look like rejects from a Dungeons and Dragons cartoon) coming from? The whole group at Heartbreak Hotel, and now all of these. There was a time when Professor Xavier knew every mutant on Earth (and had a little board with their names on it that would light up when they were causing trouble). Obviously we're past that now. But two large communities of mutants living in LA, you'd think Xavier would notice.
Also, Dazzler is convinced to stay with the Gladiators and kicks out the Beast. The Beast is correctly under the assumption that she's being mind-controlled. And kept with a large group of violent mutants. Does he call his friend Wonder Man, who he's been hanging out with, and ask him to help out, or call in the West Coast Avengers? Call his teammates in the Defenders? Call up Professor X and alert him that there's a big community in LA that he might be interested in, and oh by the way I could use your help with a mind-control issue? No, he falls into the Nocenti Despair.
Dazzler and the Beast continue to see each other but it's a rocky relationship.
Eventually the Beast gets motivated to do some investigating, and determines that Dazzler is being poisoned so that her powers can be manipulated. But he's caught, drugged, and sent in the arena to fight Dazzler.
Dazzler is so messed up at this point that she's willing to kill the Beast to please the crowd. But of course, she eventually resists. This triggers Flynn to make his move. Yes, he... kills his partner (the guy who is really a Doombot) so that he can take over the Gladiators. Whaaaah? Where did that come from?
But Dazzler and the Beast are also taken captive. Get a load of this dark "joking" from the Beast.
Now we're into straight super-hero fare. Rocker finally decides that Flynn is nuts, and secretly frees Dazzler and the Beast. Flynn puts on his Dr. Doom Jr. outfit and confronts the pair with his Gladiator lackeys.
With the help of Poltergeist and the clown-guy from Heartbreak Hotel, the heroes hold out long enough that the Gladiators turn over to their side. When Flynn is defeated, "Doom" shows up to gloat.
Then Dazzler and the Beast break-up.
The Gladiators decide to stick it out on their own.
So, like i said at the beginning, i don't know what to make of this. As a love story, it's not believable. The Beast (as he says several times himself) isn't drawn to Dazzler for any particular reason, he just feels compelled to be in love with her. Dazzler is mind-controlled for most of the arc, and as far as i can tell just goes with the Beast because he's there.
Beyond that, i find it slow paced, with odd stilted dialogue and terrible characterization. But unlike, say, a Bill Mantlo or Gerry Conway story, i feel like Nocenti is striving for something more. The story is meant to be something special. It either fails, or i'm just not getting it.
I'm going to go with my gut on this and say it's just not a very good story, but i'd love for someone to 'splain it to me.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Beast appears here while he's "taking some time off from the Defenders". The MCP places this between Defenders #133-134, while the Beast is doing his college lecture circuit. The MCP also places this between Dazzler #34-35, and after the Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel. The West Coast Avengers have formed by this time and Wonder Man is a member. The Dr. Doom in this series is a Doombot.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): showAlexander Flynn, Beast, Dazzler, Ivich, Max Rocker, Poltergeist, Wonder Man
The best thing about this mini-series was the Bill Sienkiewicz covers. The gladiators quickly came back in New Mutants, where Bill gave Rocker a literal horse head and gave that green-skinned woman(for no apparent reason) a Frankenstein monster head.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 9, 2011 1:59 AM
I can't defend Nocenti's stuff, because to me two of her sins (writing established characters incorrectly, and not paying attention to continuity) are mortal sins and are not up for debate.
Her actual style, which you obviously dislike, has its charms. Not always, not in this mini for instance, but there were times and places it worked to good effect.
She wrote the Longshot miniseries. Art Adams is very responsible for that project as well, but still, she was there. And I think that one went off so well in large part because it minimized her trouble areas - continuity wasn't an issue, and the characters had no previous voices to adhere to.
So she has that, and she had a very good run as Claremont's editor (though who knows what that actually entailed, if anything), plus she created Typhoid Mary, who is quite cool. As you point out here in the Heartbreak Hotel part, she had some very cool, very fresh ideas. And this is one of the key things - it's probably because she had no familiarity with comics or with genre storytelling in general. She was able, from time to time, to come up with ideas or see things from perspectives that those steeped in comic books would probably never have come up with. But her not having even read comics before, let alone written them, also means she's woefully incompetent to handle characters like Beast and Dazzler, or deal with continuity issues, or understand the seriousness of something like giving Dr Doom a son.
So that's the pro and the con and the "How come?" or Annie Nocenti. I'll also say that a lot of people like her just as a person and think she's cool, which she in fact is.
Posted by: Paul | May 29, 2012 8:45 AM
I should also add that if her story (about not having even read comics prior to starting at Marvel) is literally true, her writing has to be considered really impressive, even as bad as it is. I mean think about it. I've known plenty of very smart people, very literate and intelligent, who, if they tried to write comics after a lifetime of not having done so, would churn out stories far worse than Nocenti's.
Posted by: Paul | May 29, 2012 8:49 AM
Dazzler's personality was kind of all over the place, even taking Nocenti out of the equation. In her first appearance in X-MEN, she's...I don't quite know how to put it. "Street"? She's rough-hewn and uses a lot of substandard English, and has lines like "You ruined my dy-no-mite debut, Chuckles!" There isn't a trace of that in her own book, where she's, for the most part, refined and introspective. Then when Claremont brings her back to the X-MEN, she's a bit of an airhead.
Posted by: Todd | June 5, 2012 3:12 PM
The Dr. Doom problems may be due to this series being first announced(as "Dazzler & Beast") in January 1983.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 9, 2013 6:07 PM
I took out the 4 ish set, read the first comic and then banged my head against the wall for a half hour. It was the worst 15 min of my life! Couldn't get over how dumbed down Beast was and how dishonorable Doom was. I put the set back and vowed never to open them again!
Posted by: Greg | December 24, 2014 12:11 PM
This is so awful, I'm surprised it was published during Shooter's tenure as EIC. I could believe it in the seventies or during the nineties publishing boom, but Shooter's minimum standard was much better than this. Maybe an issue or two in an anthology title with new or less popular characters, but a 4 issue limited series with prominent characters like Beast, Dazzler, and Dr Doom?
I wish Shooter was back blogging so we could ask him why this was greenlit.
Posted by: Chris | September 11, 2015 9:55 PM
Perhaps her idea (not really explained in the book) was that Flynn had "emotion amplifier" powers. As you said, he was not Professor X's level in "controlling" her, and aparently only affected depressed people.
What if he was affecting Hank, too, not as mind control, but just making his disgust grow to unmanageable proportions?
A line or two (like the "I am attracted to her, but do not know why") could fit into this. So she may have been consciously writing them doing things they would never do, and simply forgot to mention the important fact that Flynn's influence worked that way.
Posted by: Cesar Hernandez-Meraz | August 11, 2016 6:53 PM
Chris, wasn't Shooter responsible for the travesty that was Dazzler's graphic novel? That and this mini-series take her character, and completely drag it through the mud. If Shooter wrote the graphic novel, I can see why he authorized this.
Posted by: Vancelot | June 26, 2017 3:55 AM
In late 1984 a house ad for this miniseries appeared in a number of Marvel books. I was eight years old at the time, and it made an immediate impression on me. The stunning Bill Sienkiewicz illustration, the dramatic text about "the Mutant Theatre," the inventive logo, and the thumbnails of those cool Sienkiewicz covers (complete with Doctor Doom) all promised that this was going to be an amazing comic book miniseries! I really, really wanted to read it. Of course, back then there weren't too many comic shops in my area, and I don't think I ever saw this on the newsstand, so I never got to read it back then.
Fast forward a decade or so later, in the mid-to-late 1990s. I found all of the issues for Beauty and the Beast at some comic book convention or another. At long last I could read it! And guess what? It was... really underwhelming!
Seriously, I found it boring & pedestrian. I'm actually a huge fan of Ann Nocenti, but this was quite mediocre. This has got to be one of my least-favorite stories that she's ever worked on. Likewsie, both Don Perlin & Kim DeMulder are talented, but their art on this miniseries was rather, um, average.
Oh, well... at least those Sienkiewicz covers are still really nice!
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 15, 2017 10:24 PM
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