Dazzler #37

Issue Date: 
May 1985
Story Title: 
The Girl in the Machine

Bob DeNatale (writer), Tom Morgan (penciler), Danny Bulanadi (inker), L. Lois Buhalis (letterer), Petra Scotese (colorist), Mike Carlin (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Upon visiting her old friend Diana, Dazzler finds herself embroiled in a twisted plot between Diana’s father, a corrupt organization called Revenge, Inc., and Diana herself, who is now terminally strapped to a computer that executes her commands. The men of Revenge, Inc. succeed in murdering Diana’s father, but Diana sends a pair of killer robots after them and slaughters them one by one. Diana tricks Dazzler, the other survivor and the computer itself into mercy-killing her, at which point she thanks Dazzler for still caring about her. With Diana dead, the entire mansion explodes, but Dazzler escapes with her life intact.

Full Summary: 

Alison Blaire, outside in a rainy forest, stops dead in her tracks, freezing like a statue at the sight of the oncoming beast. She may be the Dazzler—a mutant with the power to transmute sound into spectacular, radiating light—but she’s staring into the heart of eighty pounds of solid muscle, fang and claw. Maybe coming here wasn’t such a bright idea after all, she thinks as she stares down rain-soaked the Doberman pincer. She’s missing Dynasty to be there, after all! Plus, she hasn’t even seen Diana in years—so why did she drop everything to come all the way out here when she called her this morning?

As another hound approaches, Dazzler assesses the estate. It’s huge. She can’t fathom that Diana really lives there. Reality comes crashing back down and she scolds herself for letting her mind wander. She should be able to fend off the Dobermans with some pulses of light, she thinks; she just hopes it doesn’t further aggravate them.

Thankfully, at that moment, the owner of the two Dobermans emerges from the woods. He tells the dogs, Gawain and Percival, to back off; he doubts the lovely lady means them any harm. Dazzler graciously asks the man his name. After introducing himself as Peter Koestler, he asks what she’s doing there. She came to see Diana Simon, she answers; they went to school together. Astounded, the man asks how that can be—as Diana died six months earlier. Dazzler finds this equally astonishing.

Realizing this may require additional discussion, Peter suggests the two of them get out of the rain and go inside Diana’s old house. She can talk to Diana’s father if she wishes. Alison, after introducing herself, agrees. However, she has some reservations. After all, if Diana’s dead, then who called her?

Shortly thereafter, inside the mansion, Peter brings Alison to meet Diana’s father. The jocular, hefty old man jokes that it’s just like Peter to go out in the rain and come back with a woman on his arm. Before he even has to ask who she is, however, he correctly identifies her as Alison Blaire. Peter asks how he knows her. The man answers that she was Diana’s best friend growing up. Although he doesn’t say it, he’s secretly surprised that none of the others recognize her either, especially after all the publicity she’s received lately. Perhaps he can turn this to his advantage, he muses—before realizing he could not in good conscience endanger her life too.

Dazzler takes the opportunity to offer her condolences to Mr. Simon. If she had known of Diana’s passing, she never would have barged in like this. Mr. Simon, dressed in a bathrobe and ascot, thanks her for her sentiments. Seeing that she’s soaked to the skin, he invites her to come get some dry clothes; as he recalls, she and Diana were about the same size. She doesn’t want to be any trouble, Alison says. Nonsense, Mr. Simon tells her! It’s good to see her again.

The moment they enter the adjacent room, however, Mr. Simon turns deadly serious and tells Alison that they can’t talk long, so she shouldn’t ask him to explain; if anyone discovered he told her what he is about to tell her, it would mean his neck. Grabbing her firmly by the shoulders, he tells her she shouldn’t be there. The men outside are dangerous, as is the business they’re conducting together. Although he doesn’t know what brought her there, she must leave—as fast as she can! Alison asks what the matter is; does this have something to do with Diana. Moving toward the door, Mr. Simon tells Alison that seeing her brings back good, happy memories. Her friendship with Diana existed during a simpler time. He begs her not to make him ruin those memories for all of them—please. Reluctantly, Alison accepts this dire warning.

Later, Mr. Simon shoots a game of pool with his other houseguests. After telling Mr. Simon it is his shot, his opponent, Abrams, asks if they can’t finish their game and get down to business. Whatever he says, Mr. Simon answers. He doesn’t see why Abrams’s two goons have to stick around too, as the matter pertains strictly to him and Abrams. Abrams, who sports a slick haircut and sunglasses, sardonically remarks that Donald and Peter, his associates, are willing to overlook Mr. Simon’s snide little comment. He’d like to say in his report that Mr. Simon is taking his daughter’s death well; wouldn’t he agree that it would be a shame to let that nasty affair get in the way of their business?

Mr. Simon agrees wholeheartedly. However, he assures Abrams that although he is growing a little gray and a little paunchy, and although he recently lost the person most precious to him in the world, he is far from past his prime! With that, he lines up his pool shot, and sinks three balls simultaneously. He’s still rather formidable in his own right, he says—when he puts his mind to it. Abrams concurs.

Elsewhere in the mansion, Alison Blaire wanders the halls. Part of her thinks she should take Mr. Simon’s advice and flee while she can, but she can’t shake the feeling that there’s a good reason somebody lured her there. She believes they’re lying to her about Diana. A quick peek around the house before she leaves couldn’t hurt, she tells herself. But where should she start? The place is so big! If it really was Diana who called her, maybe she left a clue; Diana was always so fond of games.

Alison opens a door at random in the hallway. To her astonishment, behind it lies a massive laboratory, at the center of which sits a shiny, transparent half-dome structure. “Intrigued, Miss Blaire?” a voice asks. Alison turns to find Peter leaning suggestively in the doorway. Has he been following her, she asks? He answers her question with another: would she like him to show her how it works? Dazzler prepares to admonish him, but Peter tells her to not be so touchy; he didn’t mean anything. He explains the contraption is one big video game. To show her, he has her sit down and review the controls, while he takes the other seat. It’ll be fun, he assures her!

After taking his seat on the chair on the other side of the half-dome, Peter engages the power and tells Alison to press the reset button. Watch the fireworks, he says. As the machine whirrs to life, he explains that Mr. Simon built it after Diana’s death in order to lift his spirits. It’s not strictly a video game at all, he adds; the figures they control are holograms of samurai warriors. Alison watches as the samurai holograms form before her eyes. She finds the whole thing wild. While Peter begins controlling his samurai, he informs Alison that it takes a little while to get used to the controls. Still, he sends his samurai to attack Alison’s. She manages to instruct hers to block the attack. She’s learning fast, Peter says; she must be a natural.

As Alison’s samurai deftly drops to the ground, lifts itself up with one hand and kicks its opponent into the air, Alison begins doubting that she’s a natural at all. From her perspective, the game’s gone haywire! She’s not even touching the controls, and her samurai is still fighting! Peter struggles to keep up with what he believes to be his superior opponent. However, his command console begins going haywire before shorting out entirely. Alison’s samurai then impales his in the chest with its sword. Peter’s console explodes.

Dazzler rushes to his side to see if he’s okay. He tells her he’s fine—more shaken up than anything. She asks what happened, but he doesn’t know either. He assumes it’s a defect in the wiring or something. Insisting the need to tell Mr. Simon about this, Alison rushes out the door, while Peter stays behind to inspect the contraption a bit more closely.

Unfortunately, on her way to find Mr. Simon, Dazzler gets lost in the expansive corridors of the mansion. She tries to open the door she swears leads back to the study, but finds it locked. She tries a different door instead. To her horror, however, it opens to another hi-tech laboratory, only at the center of this one she sees not a translucent dome, but a familiar-looking woman strapped to an invasive machine! “Diana,” she asks, “is that you?”

The dark-haired woman, wearing a purple jumpsuit with an oversized gold collar, slumps forward in her chair, as if unconscious. Her arms are shackled to the throne-like seat, while wires and electrodes protrude from the mantle she wears around her head like a crown. Despite her dismal state, however, the woman—Diana—manages to communicate with Alison. “It’s nice of you to come visit,” she says electronically. “I’m sorry I’ve been so negligent, but I don’t get out much these days.”

Empathic, Dazzler approaches. Diana tells her she doesn’t need to worry about her feelings; she knew she would be a shock in her current state. However, she had to see Ali one last time, with her eyes, and not through some infernal camera lens. She needs to talk to her. After Alison asks how she can be of help, Diana tells her she just needs to listen, before the computer system wins and shuts her lips forever. “Lips! That’s almost funny,” Diana laughs. She explains that the built-in speak supplies her voice. The computer, meanwhile, will soon consume her consciousness. However, as horrible as that is, she doubts she would ever return to what she had before this happened. She explains that she lost her mother to a long, painful and expensive battle with cancer. It drained their savings, and when she finally died, her father’s will to live seemed to run dry. They were at the point of despair when an organization called Revenge, Inc. approached them. Diana doubts Dazzler’s heard of them—few people have. Anyway, they offered the Simon family money and prestige in exchange for Diana’s help with certain experiments. It seemed, they said, that she possessed mental affinities that made her an ideal candidate for their schemes.

Revenge, Inc. operated on her, creating a mental link between her and their computers. Unknowingly, she began executing acts of corporate sabotage and intellectual property theft for them, all while safely inside the Revenge, Inc. headquarters. As time went on, however, she began to lose her autonomy to the machines. She discovered she could no longer live for any great amount of time without them. Vowing vengeance, she escaped and faked her own death. By that point, her father had risen to a high rank within Revenge, Inc.—after his miraculous recovery after his wife’s death, of course. Together, they used Revenge, Inc.’s own funds to finance a plot that will finally allow them to get their revenge on Revenge, Inc.!

Diana explains that the three men currently visiting the house are all from Revenge, Inc. Abrams, she says, is the regional manager. Donald is the man who designed the machine to which Diana is strapped, and who supervised the early stages of the process that did this to her. As for Peter, she has her own reasons for hating him. Tonight, she says, they will all die. She asks Ali if she can forgive her. Ali doesn’t quite understand what she means, though. Diana continues, adding that she will also require forgiveness for one more thing. Emotionally, she says, she needed to talk to someone, to relieve her soul of this terrible burden. But, she is no longer her own woman, and logic dictates that she cannot let Alison Blaire leave the house alive. “There must be no witnesses,” she says coldly.

Instinctively, Alison responds with a forceful burst of radiance. Her attack succeeds, and Diana shrieks in pain. Regardless, she tells Alison her powers can’t save her; she controls the entire house, after all! Secretly, Alison knows this to be true; she can blind and confuse Diana all she wants, but if she doesn’t make it to the exit before Diana recovers her wits, who knows what she’ll do to her? She dashes toward the door, while Diana taunts her. This is like a nightmare, Alison thinks as she slips free. She can’t even tell if it’s Diana or the computer speaking!

Once outside the door, Alison, realizing Diana can still see her via surveillance, destroys the video camera with a burst of energy. With the initial trial overcome, she asks herself what her next move will be.

Meanwhile, Mr. Simon meets in his den with the men of Revenge, Inc. Standing by the fire, he expresses his with that his guests would hurry up and get to their point, as he would rather not stand around chatting all night. Surprisingly, Peter agrees; he wants to get this over with too. He asks aloud where Abrams went.

At that moment, Abrams bursts through the door in a panic. They’ve got to get out of there, he shouts! He begins to say something about Diana, but suddenly falls forward, landing flat on his face. Peter and Donald rush to his side. It only takes them a moment to see the wound on his back and realize he’s dead. Who could have done this, Peter asks? He turns to Mr. Simon for an answer to his question. First, it was that accident with the samurai game, he says, and how this murder. What on earth is happening? What did Abrams mean about Diana?

Mr. Simon emits a sinister chuckle. This is just too perfect, he says. After all Peter and Diana endured together, it now comes down to this! He informs Peter that Diana is very much alive—and that she’s about to kill each and every member of the rotten, thieving—

Mr. Simon suddenly cries out in pain. He screams Diana’s name and, in what are his last words, hopes she doesn’t let him down. He falls to the floor, dead. Behind him stands Donald, brandishing the knife he used to stab Mr. Simon in the back. He asks Peter to forgive his impetuosity, but insists this line of work has whetted his appetite for revenge. Peter tells his associate to cut the small talk; they’ve got to vamoose, and fast.

Suddenly, Dazzler barges in the door. “Am I next on your list, Peter?” she asks defiantly. She asks what kind of madhouse she’s in; she came there to warn Peter, but now, she doesn’t know if he deserves a warning! Surging forth, Donald suggests they not waste any time on self-righteous mummery. Peter agrees and shoves Dazzler out of the way. She can wait there to die, he says; he has other plans, like making it out of the front door in one piece. Unfortunately for him, he finds the front door locked. Diana has them right where she wants them, it seems. With dread in his voice, his associate suggests he turn around. Peter turns in time see the holographic samurai leaping at him with its sword drawn. He shrieks.

Dazzler, however, doesn’t quite understand why he’s afraid; after all, it’s only a hologram. It can’t hurt them. Peter informs her that isn’t true at all, as they programmed the game with figures of solid light! That doesn’t explain how they can wander around the house like they are, though. He surmises these must be Diana’s modifications.

It’s a moot point, as the samurai strikes with his gargantuan sword. Dazzler and Peter dodge the attack, and it rends in two a nearby piece of furniture instead. Dazzler tries to thwart its approach with a beam of light, despite not knowing whether or not it will actually have any effect. It appears to have none at all. Meanwhile, while she singlehandedly fends off the lifeless attacker, Peter and Donald run for their lives. Donald does note her display of power, however, and finally connects that she is in fact Alison Blaire, the mutant! He suddenly remembers her from all the exposure she received during the shooting and subsequent abortion of her movie. Peter remembers her, too, and even recalls her superhero name, the Dazzler.

The three of them regroup in a room hidden away in the house. Peter begins formulating a plan that involves using Dazzler’s powers, but she objects; what makes them think she’s going to help a group of murderers like them? She doesn’t have a choice, Peter says; Diana is after her too. Alison begrudgingly agrees with him. They have to work together, or they’re all finished. Still, Peter secretly realizes that he will have to kill Dazzler when this is all over anyway; she knows way too much.

Moving on, Peter declares that their only hope will be to locate the control room and confront Diana face to face! Alison informs him that she has already located the control room and seen Diana. It was horrible, she adds. Upon learning this, Peter instructs her to lead the way.

Suddenly, the hard light samurai bursts through the door and zaps Donald in the back. The attack is lethal. As Peter checks his fallen friend for signs of life, he once again vows vengeance against Diana. He asks Ali if she can handle the intruder. No sweat, she tells him—for now! However, she fears it’s going to be a very long night. She blasts the hard-light samurai into the wall. As they flee, Peter tells her he finds her gift for understatement endearing. Alison remarks to herself that everything is happening so fast; if she’s not careful, she may do something she regrets. Besides, there must be some way to save Diana.

Peter turns and glances at the pursuing samurai as he exits the room. He notes aloud that it’s now blurry, like bad TV reception. Alison’s blasts must have fed back and damaged some of Diana’s circuitry, he deduces. She’s not invincible after all!

Before long, the two of them find themselves in the darkened hallway outside of Diana’s chambers. All that stands between them and the door is a security camera. They’ll never get past it without Diana knowing, Alison says. Peter, however, has an idea. He asks Ali if she can use her light-projection powers to create a hologram. Although she hasn’t ever tried before, Ali assumes she can. With that, Peter asks her to create a hologram of Mr. Simon; if Diana doesn’t know he’s dead, they can fool her into opening the door! It takes some work and some constructive criticism from Peter, but after a while, Dazzler manages to craft a convincing avatar. However, she has a hard time keeping the image clear and preventing it from fading. She sends the hologram in front of the camera and to the door. Peter just hopes that if the camera is malfunctioning the same way the other holograms are, Diana may not notice the imperfections in the Mr. Simon figure. Ali sighs; it’s not like they have any other options.

As Ali readies the hologram, she asks Peter what they’ll do once they enter the chambers. Peter corrects her; only he will be entering the room, he says—and he’s going to kill Diana once he does. Don’t, Ali shrieks! She reminds him Diana is her friend. Peter, however, refuses to argue; they don’t have any options left, he insists.

Luckily, the gambit with the hologram works, and Diana opens the door. Peter tells Alison to wait outside while he does the deed. It’s going to get hairy, he says. Moments after he enters the room, Diana addresses him and tells him he should not have come. “Diana, my love, please,” Peter replies. Diana, however, reminds him she is his lover no longer. The machines have taken care of that by twisting anything she may have felt for him into hate. He’s a faithless, treacherous liar, she says, and all she wants now is to witness his death! Brandishing a gun, Peter tells her he’s sorry it has to end this way—he really is.

Just as he prepares to fire, however, Dazzler enters and obliterates the gun in his hand with a well-aimed plasma blast. There has to be another way, she insists! Besides, she can’t believe what she just heard. He and Diana were lovers, yet he has no compunctions about killing her! Peter tells Dazzler she doesn’t understand. She’s not Diana anymore, but a cold-hearted killer.

Unfortunately, Dazzler’s intervention allows the samurai holograms to get the drop on them. They find themselves cornered. The ominous samurai approaches and raises his sword to strike, despite their cries for mercy. The blade comes down—and strikes the computer mainframe. While it continues its destruction, Diana, struggling to speak, addresses Dazzler. She tells her dear friend she doesn’t have to fear her anymore. She doesn’t know if she understands her plan, either, as she had only half-formulated it herself. Diana explains that she had to keep her plan from the computer and trick it into thinking she was luring Dazzler and Peter to their deaths—all so she could end her own life. Lifting her grizzled head, she thanks Alison. Seeing her again, and learning she still cared enough to save her life, has given her the strength to proceed with her plan. When the samurai succeeds in destroying the computer, she says, she will perish with it! Diana experiences immense pain as the samurai thrashes the mainframe, but it’s her only way. She implores Ali—and even Peter—to escape while they still can. Her death-throes are tearing the house apart!

The two of them begin to run. Peter tells Alison to hurry; there’s nothing they can do for Diana, he insists. Regardless, Alison has doubts—and tells Peter to shut up. While running through the collapsing mansion and searing flames, Dazzler puts together the remaining pieces of the puzzle. Diana was trying to leave her clues after all, she says: the samurai game, their private discussion, etc. It’s a shame she didn’t catch on sooner; what if she could have done something differently and saved Diana?

Peter’s shouts snap her back to the situation at hand. What if the front door’s locked, he asks? Dazzler doesn’t care about the door; she can easily pulverize the walls and create a new exit, which she does with ease. She explains to Peter that she could have escaped whenever she wanted. It was her concern for Diana that kept her indoors. Peter calls her crazy as she leaps out of the makeshift hole she created.

They manage to get clear of the mansion mere moments before it explodes. The shockwave knocks them both to the ground. Peter is the first to wake, however. He approaches Dazzler’s motionless body and realizes he should probably kill her right away, quickly and painlessly. Just get it over with, he tells himself. However, that may be what he should do, but he’s had enough of this death-dealing—and enough of Revenge, Inc. It’s time he paid attention to life instead. He walks away, thus sparing Dazzler’s life.

Characters Involved: 

Dazzler/Alison Blaire

Diana Simon

Mr. Simon

Abrams, Donald and Peter Koestler (Revenge, Inc.)

Gawain and Percival (attack dogs)

Story Notes: 

This issue’s title refers to René Descartes’ concept of “the ghost in the machine”, a metaphor for the supposed dualism of man’s mind and body.

Dynasty was a popular soap opera during the 80’s about a wealthy oil family.

Gawain and Percival were both members of King Arthur’s legendary Knights of the Round Table.

Dazzler’s bad publicity stems from her outing as a mutant in MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #12: DAZZLER THE MOVIE.

Contrary to Diana’s assumption, Dazzler does actually know of Revenge, Inc., as she encountered them in DAZZLER (1st series) #34. The organization does not appear again.

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