Society disdains the misfits it has birthed. Alison Blaire quickly became the most notable of these misfits when she revealed to the world that, as the Dazzler, she was indeed a mutant. She has been on the receiving end of this disdain ever since. She has, however, found temporary respite at the Heartbreak Hotel.
Beast crouches on a chair in Dazzler’s makeshift bedroom. Alison, drained both emotionally and physically, still emits massive amounts of light energy beyond her control. This impotence weakens her already fragile emotional state even further. She tries to hide under the blankets, but Beast tells her to knock it off. “No more hiding. No more secrets,” he says. Her glow is beautiful, he says. She looks like a star from the heavens.
Dazzler chuckles. She is finally a star…only not the kind she set out to be. She tells Hank her condition is improving with the help of everyone at Heartbreak Hotel. “The people are so sweet here,” she says, pulling a teddy bear out from under the covers. “Look what someone left me while I was sleeping.” Hank comments the ratty teddy bear looks a bit like him. Recalling her recent behavior toward Hank, Dazzler is struck with pangs of guilt. She apologizes to Hank for being so stuck-up when they met at the party, and wonders why he still tried to help her after she acted like such an ice queen.
“I…had to,” Hank says. Dazzler laments that she has somehow failed in life; she let her guard down for a minute, and hordes of malignant forces swarmed in and brought her down. Clutching her teddy bear as she speaks, her nervous fingers unconsciously play with one of the stuffed animal’s eyes. Beast sympathizes with her feelings about the world. “Sometimes just getting up in the morning is like getting hit with a shovel full of dirt,” he says. He predicts she will be okay, however, now that she has friends.
A tear rolls down Alison’s cheek as she listens to Hank’s kind words. Sensing a sympathetic ear, she unloads her story on him: hitting rock bottom after her outing as a mutant, meeting Hugo Longride and Alexander Flynn, the drinking, clubbing, and tabloid attention, her powers spiraling out of control. “I don’t understand what’s happened to me,” she sobs. “But if the world couldn’t accept me when I was in control, what would they think of me now?”
Hank notices she is shaking uncontrollably. He reaches out to comfort her, but she nervously withdraws from his touch. He can tell she is still afraid of other people, even someone as gentle as Hank. You have to learn to trust people again, he tells her. “Look at what you’ve done to this doll,” he says, motioning toward the teddy bear she has mangled during their conversation. “Your actions tell me what you can’t.”
Later, along the beachfront near Heartbreak Hotel…
Dazzler goes for a walk with Kate, the Heartbreak Hotel’s operator, and the shy teenager Lucy. Alison thanks Kate for being so kind as to take in misfits, but Kate objects to the use of the term. “It’s the world that’s the misfit, Alison, not those that don’t fit in,” she says. “In some ways, the only sane act in this crazy world is to not fit in.” Alison asks if everyone at Heartbreak Hotel is a mutant, and Kate responds affirmatively. She is even a mutant herself, but decided to stop using her powers as she grew into old age. It saddens her to no longer use her abilities, and while Dazzler may wish she were normal like everyone else, she too would miss her powers if they left.
As they walk, Kate’s flower basket begins to shake uncontrollably. The sudden tremor startles Alison, but Kate knows it is only a result of Poltergeist’s presence; the more emotional young Michael Silk gets, the crazier his surroundings become. Sure enough, the lanky lad comes running to meet up with the ladies. He greets Dazzler with enthusiasm; this is the first time he has seen her up and about. Dazzler immediately asks Poltergeist big question on her mind: does he control a poltergeist, or is he the poltergeist? Michael, revealing insecurity about his powers, responds that he does not know. Dazzler immediately cheers him up. “Boy, we’re two of a kind, you and me,” she says to the star-struck boy. “Two folks with powers that have gone crazy.” Mickey enthusiastically agrees, perking up at the comparison.
Dazzler then formally introduces herself to Lucy. She vaguely recognizes the girl from her time at Westchester. Lucy admits she flunked out. Mickey, however, prompts her to show Alison her mutant ability, so Lucy reluctantly complies. She reaches into Kate’s flower basket, plucks out a blue flower, and compels it to change color from blue to white to pink. Is that it? Alison asks. “Yeah,” Lucy says. “Dumb, huh?”
A voice calls out from the porch of the hotel. “Hey! I saw that,” it says. “That’s great, kid! What a nifty power!” They turn and see Hank McCoy crouching on the banister. The agile mutant somersaults and lands next to the dawdlers standing in the rain. He tells Lucy he envies her talent and encourages her to be a performance painter. He keeps his true analysis of Lucy’s powers to himself, however. Hmm…makes sense that nature would have scattered a few lesser powers among all us big-time mutants, he thinks.
The group, sensing the chemistry brewing between Alison and Hank, decide to leave them alone. Hank tells Alison she is looking much better; Alison returns the compliment, and comments she cannot get over Hank’s blue fur. “Strange, huh?” he laughs. Dazzler giggles and runs her fingertips along his hairy chest. It is strange, she admits, but not on him. Alison notices the pouring rain is matting down Hank’s fur. She asks if he even noticed it was raining. “Nope,” he says, his eyes locked on the beautiful starlet.
Over the course of several relaxing days, Dazzler’s powers fall back under her control. One lazy afternoon, she enjoys the sunshine by lounging in a hammock while Hank keeps her company from a nearby tree branch.
Their rest is interrupted by the arrival of the clownish Link, one of Heartbreak’s young mutants. He tells them of his most recent excursion into street performance; the crowd loved his act, until the time came to make a donation into his tip hat. No matter, he says. He has no need for money, as everything he would ever need is here at Heartbreak. “This place is so blessed, even Romeo and Juliet would have made it here,” he says, sticking a dramatic theater mask in front of his face. “Orpheus would never have looked back and lost Eurydice! Beauty would have loved the Beast, had they a haven like Heartbreak!”
While Beast applauds Link’s soliloquy, his latest analogy makes Dazzler uncomfortable. She sits up in the hammock and tells Link to stop his chatter. Walking away, she asks what Link was implying about her and Hank. Link, however, meant nothing by it. He tries to apologize but Dazzler will not listen. After she leaves, Hank pats him on the back and assures him it was not his fault. Alison just needs some time to think.
More time passes. Beast and Dazzler, continuing to spend time together, lounge around in the arboretum one afternoon. Neither person speaks, but each of their minds race. I still hardly know her. I have no right to think she wants me. I wish I knew the right words…maybe I should just go away, Hank thinks to himself while casting his eyes toward the floor.
Dazzler looks in his direction. A short while ago I had no time for him, she says to herself. Now I hope he never leaves. In many ways he’s still a stranger. However, she sees familiarity and trust in his eyes. Beast feels the same way. He finally works up the courage and embraces the singer, telling himself he sees things in her he has spent a lifetime searching for.
Unbeknownst to the lovebirds, Mickey Silk enters the arboretum and observes their tender embrace. He keeps quiet and witnesses their first, passionate kiss. Crouching out of sight in the corner, he bottles up his true feelings about the situation. He wishes he could feel emotions, but such things only fuel his poltergeist; he has to restrain himself for the safety of himself and others. This time around, unfortunately, he fails. The greenhouse begins rumbling and cracking in response to Poltergeist’s emotional unrest. By the time he notices, it is too late. The greenhouse windows shatter inward, and it is only because of Hank’s quick reflexes that he and Alison avoid the shrapnel.
Mickey rushes forward, realizing what he has done, and apologizes to Beast and Dazzler. Dazzler expresses nothing but sympathy for his plight; she, too, has powers that rage out of control, and believes both of them will overcome them. Mickey’s perspective is not so optimistic. “If I feel anything, I hurt someone!” he cries. “Did you ever hurt anyone with your power?!” Alison replies she has, but only in self-defense. She would never want to harm anyone with her abilities. Never.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in the small Balkan country of Latveria…
From one of his castle’s towers, Dr. Doom observes a shepherd tending to his sheep in a meadow. “As the peasants care for their sheep, so do I care for my subjects, as they plod through their aimless, insignificant lives,” he says. His servant interrupts him with an important telegram. Doom scolds him for the interruption, but the messenger claims the telegram is too important to wait. Apparently, Doom’s alleged son has been seen in the company of Dazzler! “Do not speak of that impudent whelp and his sordid affairs,” Doom says, carelessly tossing the scroll over his shoulder. “What care have I for that heretic and some tawdry nightclub singer?” He looks his servant directly in the eyes, and once again asserts he has no son; there is no other man in the world whose veins course with blood as rich as Victor von Doom’s.
Back at Heartbreak Hotel…
The days continue to pass unnoticed. One evening, Beast and Dazzler are exercising together in the studio before dinner when they hear the doorbell ring. Dazzler wonders who it might be, but Hank tells her to be silent while he answers the door. The door swings open, and standing before Hank is a large, canine mutant in gladiator armor. He and his two guard dogs have come to collect the Dazzler for his boss, Hugo Longride. Beast tells him that contract is broken. “Yeah? When?” the gladiator asks. Beast responds with a punch. The gladiator falls to the floor, but immediately pounces back on his feet and begins emitting a guttural, growling noise. Beast begins to feel a ringing pain inside his head; the awful growl is attuned to just the right frequency to incapacitate Hank. He has only a moment to act before defeated, and he uses it well. Planting his hands on the floor, he swings his legs in an arc and kicks the mutant directly in the face.
Dazzler, at this point, has had enough. She releases a brilliant flash of light and stuns both Beast and his opponent. “There’s no reason to fight!” she says. Beast thanks her for the effort, but assures her he had things under control. Alison pauses for a moment, and explains to Beast that he misunderstood. With her powers out of control, she needs to seek help, and perhaps returning to the stage is the best treatment. At this moment, Alexander Flynn appears in the doorway and tells his starlet he can help her. Hank is merely shocked to see Dazzler cozy up to the man without any hesitation, but becomes furious when she declares she will be returning to fulfill her contract. She asks Hank to come with her; Flynn tells Hank he should attend Dazzler’s first show, which will be that very night.
“Get out of here. Both of you,” Hank says in response. Flynn has some mysterious control over Alison, and Hank intends to find out exactly what it is.
The featureless exterior of a warehouse in Los Angeles starkly contrasts the wonders and horrors that lie inside. It is at this warehouse that the jaded elite of Hollywood convene to observe the last form of entertainment that actually excites them.
Hank McCoy, however, attends simply to rescue the Dazzler. He wades through the swanky crowd and finds a seat overlooking the arena, his thoughts totally focused on Alison’s strange behavior earlier that afternoon. Below, Rocker and the other gladiators prepare to perform. Alexander Flynn comments on the strange fascination the rich audience seems to have with the bizarre; Rocker says the fascination stems from the fact that the audience will never feel so alive themselves. Hugo laughs and agrees. “Yeah, what they really want is to be down there themselves killin’ each other, instead of just gettin’ their kicks watchin’,” he says. He adds they will certainly get their money’s worth tonight, as his newest star, Dazzler, will be entering the fray.
Back in the stands, Hank takes a moment to take in the decadent scenery, but finds it gaudy and distasteful. Large statues of monsters and demons surround the coliseum while an enormous model of the solar system sits overhead. He watches some of the warm-up acts and realizes the performers are actually fighting each other! It still might be an act, but Alison could be hurt. As the opening act dies down, one of the performers announces the next act: the debut of the Dazzler!
Alison, standing nervously in the entryway, wraps up her conversation with Hugo, Alexander, and Rocker. She tells Hugo she is excited to be back onstage, but expresses reservation about the fighting aspect. The performers appeared to be battling for real! Hugo assures her it was just a warm-up, and instructs her to get out there and sing. As soon as she steps into the arena, Dazzler’s fears melt away. She missed performing for crowds more than anything. She begins belting out one of her familiar songs amidst her usual synthesis of light and perfectly coordinated dance. The awestruck crowd loves it…at first. Then, one drunken Hollywood high-roller stands up in his seats and yells at Dazzler to shut up and fight! The crowd quickly follows his cue, and begins pumping their fists, booing, and demanding some action.
Dazzler does not take the rejection well; she has never been told to shut up by her audience. She runs out of the arena. Hugo stops her at the exit and instructs her to get back out there and fight, but Dazzler will have none of it. “It’s humiliating!” she says. Hugo explains that staged fights are this theater’s specialty, and it is her duty as an actress and a performer to give the crowd what it wants. “The whole idea is repulsive,” she replies. Hugo grabs Alison by her shoulders and makes himself very clear: without this venue, Dazzler’s career would be over. She has no choice but to get out there and give the audience the thrill it came to see. When she refuses to fight once more, Flynn interjects. He assures Alison the whole thing is staged. This crowd needs more than her singing and dancing; they need a show. If Alison can give this to them, they will love her forever.
A sucker for this sort of attention, Alison agrees and takes to the stage once more. The crowd roars with excitement. Dazzler looks across the arena and sees her opponent emerging from behind his gate; it is a large, burly mutant with the features of a rhinoceros named Horns. He snarls at Alison. “Good thing this isn’t for real,” she says to herself at the sight of her ferocious opponent. He charges at Alison, horn-first. Dazzler barely avoids this first attack. She tries to remind her opponent there is no need to take a fake fight so seriously.
The roar of the crowd quickly erases any hesitation Dazzler had. “I never got cheers like that for singing! They do love me,” she realizes. She decides to give them what they want. Dazzler turns toward her opponent and blasts him with a soft beam of light, knocking him to the ground. The crowd eats it up, but Beast has a hard time understanding what has overtaken Alison.
In the arena, Horns picks himself up and tells Dazzler to take a dive; he wants to win this fight. He lunges forward and punches Dazzler in her torso. After falling to her knees, she clutches her side and asks what the hell her opponent is thinking; he could have killed her! Enraged, Dazzler gets up off the ground and hits the man with a high-powered beam of light. “You asked for it!” she yells. “You want to fight? Compete? Vie for cheers? I’ll fight – like you’ve never seen before!” The audience goes wild. Their roars of enthusiasm fuel Dazzler, both physically and emotionally. Riding the wave of energy, she lashes out at Horns with another light beam. “I’ll kill you!” she shouts. She pauses after speaking these words, however, and takes a moment to consider what she has become. Dazzler is many things, but she is not a killer. Startled by this epiphany of what she is becoming, she flees the battlefield.
The audience refuses to stand for this. They came to see a bloody fight, and Hugo intends to give it to them. He orders all of his gladiators to take the floor, with Rocker leading the surge of mutant fighters as they head to battle. These mutants fight only for the glory and attention that comes from battle. They use their powers to entertain the rich instead of to help the downtrodden. They measure success by the scars they accumulate, not by the causes they uphold. They have no interest in heroics.
Beast springs out of his seat and enters the battlefield to defend Dazzler, but she has already left the arena. Offstage, she scolds Hugo for lying to her about the show, as it was no performance. Her opponent actually tried to attack her! Hugo brushes off her complaints. Based on what he saw, Dazzler was the one who made the battle real. It was she who almost killed someone, not her opponent.
Meanwhile, things escalate in the arena. Horns makes up for his humiliating defeat by fully unleashing his inner beast. He charges head-first at another gladiator at a terrifying speed. His horn buries itself in the man’s gut, and Horns vaults the gladiator over his head. The man hits the ground with a lifeless thud. Horns walks over to his fallen opponent and hoists his corpse into the air for the audience to see. They go nuts; they come to these shows to see blood, and Horns has given them exactly that. Their morbid curiosity does not come without its own price, however; they will leave the arena tonight in shame, making sure to avoid eye contact with their fellow voyeurs.
Out of everyone at the arena that night, only Beast and Dazzler express disgust at the use of a human’s death for entertainment. Beast sees now that he must get Alison as far away from this wicked place as possible. Alison, meanwhile, is horrified at what she has just seen. She accuses Hugo of being an accomplice to murder, but he once again defends his establishment. “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,” Hugo says. “No one is responsible. People need violence, and they’d rather see it out being aired than lurking in the shadows. This event vents their own violence.”
Hugo’s words haunt Alison as she tries to relax in the dressing room. She sees through his rationalizations, as there is no defending what happened tonight. This, unfortunately, forces her to recognize her own contribution to the atrocity. Suddenly, her fellow gladiator Ivich returns to dressing room. Alison gets up and rushes to the green-skinned woman and frantically asks her to make sense of what happened. Ivich tells her not to get worked up; this sort of thing happens in the real world too. “You know what it’s like. Look what they did to you,” Ivich says to Alison. The arena may be brutal, but Ivich refuses to dismiss it entirely. “This is the only place I don’t feel like the freak that I am. The only sane stance to take on this planet is to not fit in.” To Dazzler, none of these explanations matter. Murder is always wrong.
Flynn and Rocker enter the break room, interrupting the conversation between the two women. Rocker commends Alison’s performance. Flynn, however, tries to ease her unrest. He explains that the fighter’s death was merely an accident, an unfortunate by-product of Hugo’s desire to please his audience. Horns violated the gladiator code, he assures her, and will be punished accordingly. Rocker walks over the bar and prepares Alison a drink. With her back turned, he slips in a few mysterious capsules. Give it up, Flynn, Rocker says to himself. This will convince her, while all your arguments might not. He offers this freshly prepared drink to Alison, who at this point will gladly accept anything that might clam her nerves.
Hank bursts in. He tells Dazzler it is time to leave. She hesitates, regurgitating some of Alexander and Hugo’s pro-arena propaganda as justification. Hank holds her in his arms and asks again, but she tells him that in this community, they can finally be accepted. “Daz, we have nothing to hide. If the world doesn’t like or kind, that’s their problem,” Beast says. Dazzler almost agrees to leave with him, but when she puts her hand on his shoulder her light powers once again flare out of control. Recoiling in horror, she insists she must stay.
Hank finally loses it. “Does being a star mean that much to you? Have you lost sight of everything but some vain quest for the limelight?” he shouts. He understands she lost her fame, control of her powers, everything. However, these losses do not excuse her descent into moral decay. She and Hank are heroes; they should be better than that. She responds only with silence. “Ah, forget it! You’re all just sick. You and the rest of the world can just rot away. Do what you want, Dazzler,” Hank yells as he walks out the door. “I’ll be seeing you…in the headlines and the gossip columns. I’m through chasing after you.” As he leaves, Dazzler turns away to hide the tears in her eyes.
Later, Hank sheds tears of his own he sits alone on the hotel’s porch. How could this have happened to Alison Blaire? She was the sweetest, most reasonable girl. Why did it have to be her? He stares off into the distance in contemplation, sitting appropriately under a sign that bears the words “Heartbreak Hotel.”