Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Temper, Temper, Dani!

You know who has Situational Anger Disorder? Dani Moonstar. Dani is the Marvel Universe's answer to Sean Penn, but with braids. While over at DC, no two writers ever seem to write the same Cassandra Cain, Dani has been through more powers and character iterations than anyone but the geekiest hardcore New Mutants fan (me) can keep track of... and yet the latest to script Dani's adventures Zeb Wells has somehow managed to synthesize an updated version of our (my) favorite de-powered mutant that is believably consistent with her earliest characterization, complete with rage.

Let's take a look at ur-Dani, from her first appearance in Marvel Graphic Novel No. 4: The New Mutants. Here, young Dani's beloved grandfather has just told her he's sending her to Professor Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters:

Right away writer Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod set up a lifetime of stimulus response for Dani. Input situation A, output incandescent rage. And the stronger stimulus, the stronger the response. Bad news makes her snappish. Murder a loved one and she turns downright scary:

Drunk Mel Gibson scary. Married to Madonna scary. Making Naomi Campbell and Liam Gallagher nervous scary:

Did I lay-diagnose Dani with Situational Anger Disorder? This is more like Situational Anger Disorder with Aggression. After the graphic novel came the regular series and writers cycling her through all kinds of funky powers, including a bizarre stint as a Valkyrie from Asgard. As opposed to a Valkyrie from Brooklyn Heights, I suppose. She joined a pro-mutant terrorist group, turned double agent, became a teacher, lost her powers. And now she's back with her original friends, the New Mutants, in the ongoing New Mutants series.

After all of this insanity, Wells still manages to write a recognizable Dani Moonstar. She's grown up and still angry after all these years:

This is what happens when Dani finds herself thrown in jail. She's so embittered by it, she can't even accept visitors with good grace. Of course, her first visitor is a particularly self-involved, murderous personality inside a powerful mutant with plans to rub out her angry ass. Obviously, he's not going to slip her a cake with a metal file inside.

I think even I would get a wee bit upset in a similar situation, and I'm as meek as a teeny-tiny passive-aggressive church mouse.

Her next visitor also does nothing to improve Dani's mood:

Jesus! Look at those eyes! In this case, it's her old pal, Sam Guthrie, who has pissed her off. Sam, compassionate soul that he is, decides Dani is safer behind bars-- or maybe it's the rest of the world he's worried about-- while the team fights Legion, the reality-bending mutant with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Apparently, multiple personalities versus a scaldingly angry Dani Moonstar would not a happy ending make. Sam's idea pleases Dani about as much as the existence of Barack Obama pleases Glenn Beck. Yes, I think we can definitively rule out Situational Anger Disorder Without Aggression at this point:

Poor Sam. He means well, but try telling Dani that. Actually, you'll probably just keep your fool mouth shut if you know what's good for you.

Another Dani personality trait Wells gets right is her determination. She's the unstoppable force of the New Mutants. Even though she no longer has her mutant powers, she retains command of hard-won tactical knowledge and unarmed combat skills, plus the wherewithal to put them to use. Did I say "unarmed?"

The damned T-800 Terminator packs less heat than that. What destructive maniac thought it was a good idea to teach this volatile young woman how to handle firearms? Weren't we all a lot safer when she only had Black Eagle's war knife to bury in our craven hearts? Giving Dani access to police weaponry is like giving Andy Dick the keys to your car at 3:00am; nothing good can come of it, but whatever happens is bound to be spectacular.

And that's just Dani in Wells's first storyline. Obviously, once the team settles into their comic, Dani will accept setbacks with a charitable...

In this panel, from New Mutants 5, Dani reacts to a series of slights against her by the hapless Sam Guthrie. Earlier in the issue, she learns from Cyclops Sam left her off the New Mutants roster. Right cross! Interestingly, Wells then has her goad Sam into hitting her back. That's all it takes to reestablish mutual respect between these two old friends... and sometimes rivals.

And later, during another mission, with her team status established, Dani finds that inner calm, right?


Special note-- Notice how many of these panels show Dani as a lefty. Yes, her right hand seems to be her craven-heart-stabbing/rifle-holding hand, but she appears use her left as her angry-fist-shaking/Sam-punching, pistol-shooting/door-control-smashing hand. I'm going to assume the single right cross is a clever tactic to throw Sam off, the same way Mickey had Rocky train to fight right-handed in order to protect his bad eye and fool the champ, Apollo Creed, in Rocky II. Do you think Dani's a southpaw? Is there perhaps a correlation between left-handedness and Situational Anger Disorder With Aggression?

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