Friday, November 17, 2017

Young Justice #53

Dead Man Sprinting

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Pencils
Lary Stucker Inker
Tom McCraw Colors
Digital Chameleon Separations
Ken Lopez Letters
Tom Palmer, Jr. Associate Ed.
Eddie Berganza Editor

This month's cover by ... Todd Nauck & Lary Stucker, colors by Tanya & Richard Horie. This image shows the sad and frightening possibility of Secret turning against her teammates. And when you think about it, Secret really is nearly invincible, especially when she pulls people into the hellish abyss. Luckily, the fight in this issue doesn't quite reach the level depicted on the cover.

Our story picks up where last issue left off, with Robin revealing his new identity to the team — Mister Sarcastic. Wonder Girl excuses herself, shoves Robin into the girls locker room (where no cameras are) and demands to know what he's doing. Tim explains that as Robin, he wants to keep a low profile, something that would have been impossible on the "Super Vision" reality show. But he felt like he needed to maintain some kind of a presence on the team, especially for Secret. Robin tells Cassie how Secret took it personally when he left the team, and he wants to make sure she doesn't do anything foolish.

Meanwhile, Secret is hiding in her dad's prison, watching him be led to his execution. As Burt Hayes strapped into the electric chair, he's told he has been sentenced for the first degree murder of his adopted son, William Hayes. Burt corrects the warden, saying that when he killed his son, he was no longer Billy, but Harm, the super villain. Burt says he believes Harm killed his daughter, made it look like an accident, and would have caused more death and destruction if he'd allowed him to continue.

Slo-Bo casually walks through the door, explaining that he arrived in the prison via Secret's abyss teleportation, but she doesn't want to expose her father to that nightmarish mode of transportation, so it's up to Slo-Bo to bust him out the old-fashioned way. The warden calls for guards, which Slo-Bo views as a challenge and calls out louder for more guards. Soon, Slo-Bo has a full-on brawl on his hands, which he eagerly leaps into with a hook and chain. Secret appears before her dad, who begins to wonder if he's already died. Secret tells him nobody's thrown the switch yet, but as she says that, the warden does start to pull the switch down. Slo-Bo quickly tears the electric cord apart with his teeth, but is electrocuted for his efforts. Secret knocks out the warden, turns the switch off, then asks Slo-Bo why he didn't just knock out the warden or pull the switch from the wall. The fried Slo-Bo meekly realizes that that would have worked, too.

Back at the Catskills resort, Superboy and Impulse are playing their favorite game, Random Trivia. One asks a question from a card, then gives that question a random answer from another card. Kon asks Bart what got bombed on the day Franklin Roosevelt would call "the day that would live in infamy." Bart guesses Mrs. Roosevelt, but Kon's random answer is Ben Affleck. Wonder Girl explains the rules of this game to the confused Ace Atchinson, who then asks how they win it. Mister Sarcastic, who's playing a Freakazoid video game, says they don't win the game, they just kill time with it. Cassie goes to call Empress to she if she wants to hang out with them, but she's interrupted by Snapper Carr saying they have a big problem to deal with.

Anita, meanwhile, is taking care of her infant parents and sadly looking at the phone, believing her friends have forgotten about her. Ishido Maad, who's sharpening his knives, tells her that Young Justice is probably just busy, which makes Anita feel even worse to imagine her friends out saving the world without her. Anita's phone does eventually ring, but it's Cissie on the other end, who just wants to talk — not "go out and beat somebody up" as Anita suggests. Cissie is sitting in front of her computer, visiting, and she tells Anita how bad she feels for her having to take care of her parents. She calls it unnatural, saying parents are supposed to do everything for their kids. Bonnie is walking by with a basket of laundry when Cissie says this, so she dumps all the clothes on Cissie's head.

We then cut to the big problem Snapper mentioned, a random giant gorilla, which makes for the perfect action scene for "Super Vision." With a camera strapped to Superboy's shoulder, everybody takes a turn hitting the gorilla and getting in as many puns as possible. Impulse's contribution was to tie up the gorillas feet while saying, "This is more fun than a barrel of villains!" Mister Sarcastic delivers the finishing blow by throwing some knockout gas into the beast's mouth. Superboy says next time they fight a big ape, they should use a gigantic bunch of bananas (which they almost did during JLApe).

As Superboy and Wonder Girl take the gorilla to S.T.A.R. Labs, Ray and Impulse race back to the headquarters. They find in the kitchen, Slo-Bo, Secret and her dad (wearing one of Snapper's superhero-themed T-shirts). Secret introduces her dad as a friend who needs to stay with them for a few days. Ray asks if Snapper is OK with that, but Secret says he's not around. Bart offers to go look for him, but Ray, sensing something is wrong with this, advises Bart to stay put. The phone starts to ring, and Ray answers it before Slo-Bo can. Cissie is on the other end, telling Ray that Secret has gone nuts and he needs to get out of there.

Ray pretends like he's talking to a telemarketer, but Burt sees through this. He leans over to Secret and tells her that Ray's going to make trouble. She insists her friends will understand, but Burt says she has no real friends, except for him. As he talks, we see that Harm is actually possessing his adoptive father. Meanwhile, Cissie tells Ray that "Super Vision" isn't just a TV show — it's also a website with a 24/7 live feed. She says that the "friend" with Secret is her dad, whom she and Slo-Bo busted off death row. Cissie says that Snapper refused to let Burt stay there, but before Cissie can tell Ray what happened to Snapper, Burt pulls the phone out of the wall.

Bart asks Secret what's going on, and she snaps at him, accusing him and all the others for failing to help her. She admits that Burt is her dad and says she couldn't let him be killed. Ray demands to know where Snapper is, to which Secret darkly says, "You don't want to know! You SO don't want to know!" As she prepares to attack, Red Tornado suddenly enters the room, telling Secret to release Snapper. So Secret angrily agrees, dropping a shaken Snapper out of a hole in her chest. She asks Red Tornado if he's happy, but he immediately creates a whirlwind in the kitchen, saying he needs to restrain Secret for her own good. He starts to give Impulse orders, but Secret enters the android's body and quickly shuts him down.

Superboy, Wonder Girl and Robin finally arrive, and Cassie orders Greta to back off. They all try to talk Secret down, but she lashes out at them for refusing to listen to her when she wanted to help her dad. She says they invaded a whole country for Empress, but they wouldn't break into one lousy jail for her. Secret begins shouting about how she has the power to level the entire place or kill everyone where they stand. She says she's tired of having everyone be afraid of her and leave her. A boom tube suddenly opens up in the kitchen. Darkseid steps out of it, telling Secret that her anger and hurt screamed to him across the void. He says she is now ready to come with him, and he promises that he is not afraid of anything and he will never leave her.

The only thing worse than Secret being manipulated by the ghost of her evil brother and turning against her teammates has to be Darkseid himself appearing in the Young Justice headquarters. It's a pretty shocking (and exciting) development. And yet it doesn't come out of nowhere. Peter David has been slowly building toward this moment for years now, so this feels right in line with Secret's character, even if it is a bit heartbreaking to witness. Sadly, there wasn't much for Impulse to do in this issue. Ideally, we would have had more time to goof off with the reality TV show. I wanted to see our teenage heroes ham it up more for the cameras and manufacture some melodrama for the ratings. But with this series quickly coming to an end, there just isn't time for such diversions.

DC in Demand focuses on Arkham Asylum: Living Hell and a bunch of other projects that we don't really care about. So let's head on to the new ads:

Winter X Games VII in Aspen.

One day you will look back at all the destruction you caused and smile. Ratchet & Clank for PlayStation 2.

Fruit, meet the shock of sour. Sour Starburst.

The best-selling title in comics keeps getting better! Batman.

The 10th annual Wizard Fan Awards.

Superman & Batman: Generations 3. An imaginary series.

"This sure ain't gonna help my hangover." Black & Bruised for GameCube and PlayStation 2.

Next time, Secret's descent to the dark side continues as she exacts her own form of revenge on all those who have wronged her in the past. Is it too late for the rest of Young Justice to help her? Find out in Young Justice #54.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Young Justice #52

The Unreal World

Peter David – Writer
Todd Nauck – Penciller
Lary Stucker – Inker
Ken Lopez – Letterer
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Digital Chameleon – Separations
Tom Palmer, Jr. – Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza – Editor

This month's cover by ... Todd Nauck & Lary Stucker with colors by Tanya & Richard Horie. We've got the whole team on TV, and everybody's personality is coming through beautifully. Most are rather indifferent or unsure of the whole thing. Robin seems to be hating the whole experience. And, fittingly, Superboy and Impulse absolutely love it. But while Kon is capable of acting cool, Bart can't restrain his excitement.

Our story begins with a bit of a sales pitch from Superboy and Impulse for a side team called Young Justice Strike Force. Impulse has prepared a drawing of Damage, Supergirl, the Wonder Twins, Lagoon Boy, Wonder Girl, CM3 and the Star-Spangled Kid coming together with their special rings that alert them of emergencies, enable them to fly or teleport to Young Justice headquarters and call in reinforcements from the main YJ team. Kon claims this plan could make them the most organized young hero group in the world, and Bart can't help but brag about his artistic skills (he says he was too modest to put himself or Superboy in the drawing).

Wonder Girl is happy that Superboy is showing some initiative as the team's Deputy Leader, but she can't seem to find the right words to turn down this plan. So Robin steps in, bluntly asking where the money is coming from to finance this project. Cassie picks up on this, pointing out that flying rings and transport devices alone would cost a bundle, not to mention the necessary upgrades their current resort headquarters would need. Bart says not to worry about that, showing off blueprints he's drawn for the Young Justice Strike Force satellite headquarters. Kon excitedly says that's the perfect answer to their problems, before realizing that a satellite headquarters would also cost a lot of money.

So Kon turns to Snapper Carr, who set up the team's current monitor system. But Snapper says he's already called in a bunch of favors he's been stocking up for 10 years just to get the team to where it is now, and he does not have the necessary cash to finance Superboy's proposal. Ray says that the technology does exist, but he estimates the rings alone would cost $2 million. Slo-Bo says Y.J.S.F. is a lousy name, but Superboy says it's better than Impulse's suggestion: Super Heroes in Training.

One of Snapper's alarms goes off, indicating an unauthorized, but unarmed, presence approaching. Wonder Girl orders everyone to the monitor room to see what they're dealing with, but Impulse just zooms out to find their favorite reporter, Ace Atchinson, whom he promptly brings inside. Cassie asks Robin how he resisted the temptation to pound the snot out of Bart, and Robin says Bart's always too fast to hit, so it's kind of a moot point. Still being held in Bart's arms, Ace tells the team he's offering them a chance to participate in a new reality TV series. When he says he's willing to pay them $2 million, Kon knocks Bart down and holds Ace in his arms, prepared to discuss business.

We then cut to the jail cell of Secret's father, Burt Hayes, who has just learned that he is going to be executed in two days for killing his adopted son, Billy, aka Harm. Burt tells his lawyer that Billy was evil and if he let him live, then Billy would have killed hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Burt says he knows Billy was responsible for the death of his daughter, Greta, so he did what he believed he had to do, even knowing he'd face the electric chair. Burt admits that since he's been in prison, some days are a total blank to him, passing by without him remembering what happened. He once dreamed his daughter came to him in a fog, but he wasn't able to make out what she said. Fearing he's losing his mind, Burt hopes that death will bring him some clarity.

Secret was floating outside the window, listening in on this whole conversation. She's distraught that her dad doesn't remember the time she visited him and tried to tell him that she's an evil monster. Secret debates whether she should tell the authorities that her dad was right to kill her brother, who was a crazed killer, but she worries that even if people did believe her, it wouldn't matter since her dad was tried and convicted for murder. Secret acknowledges that if she broke her dad out of jail, then he'd live, but that would make her no better than some criminal. Weighed down with such a choice, Greta longs for the days when her toughest decision was choosing which cereal to have at breakfast.

We then head over to the Fite household, which now consists of teenager Anita and her parents, who have been turned into babies. (I'm not sure if Ishido Maad is helping Anita out or what.) Bonnie and Cissie King-Jones have stopped by, and Anita talks to Cissie about how odd this whole situation is — especially having to change her dad's diaper. But while the girls are upstairs, Bonnie and Ishido have a glass of wine and start making out. Anita and Cissie catch them in the act, and Bonnie pretends that she was asking Ishido to demonstrate resuscitation techniques. But Anita and Cissie aren't fooled by this lame excuse for a second, and they wonder what could be more humiliating than this.

Back at the Catskill resort, pizza has been ordered, and everyone is sitting around the kitchen table, listening to Ace's pitch. The show will be called "Super Vision," featuring cameras all over the headquarters and some on their uniforms for a first-person view. Ace promises to not show any exterior shots of their headquarters and to keep cameras out of the bathroom. Cassie asks why stop there, saying they should put cameras in the girls' showers to really put on a show. Ace considers this, saying they could "fuzz out" the naughty parts. Cassie says she was being sarcastic, and Ace tries to recover quickly, saying he's Mr. Sarcastic.

Needless to say, Cassie finds the whole idea rather intrusive. Slo-Bo says they have nothing to hide. Kon points out that it wasn't too long ago that people wanted to get rid of teen superheroes for good, and this show could be a positive way to show kids hanging out, having fun and saving the world. Ace agrees that this is the main objective of the show, adding that the network will happily donate $2 million to a charity of the team's choice. Superboy, however, makes it clear to Ace that they want the money to spend themselves.

Robin insists on never appearing on camera — not even if they fuzz out his face. Slo-Bo's confident Robin can find a way around that. On the whole, he's supportive of the idea, saying it'll liven things up for them, not to mention provide them with a big pile of cash. Cassie asks for the final "security" cut of the program, which Snapper explains as making sure no secret identities are compromised, visitors' faces are blurred, civilian names are bleeped out, etc. Ace says that shouldn't be a problem, then asks the final question: "Have we got a deal?" Cassie considers this a moment longer, then begrudgingly agrees, hoping she won't regret this. Bart calls this outstanding and wonders who's going to play him. Everybody looks at Bart, and he wonders what he's said this time.

With everything wrapped up, Robin boards the Super-Cycle to head home for the night. Secret catches him before he takes off, telling him about a boy she knows who's really sad because his mom was convicted of murder and is set to be executed. She asks Robin if it'd be right to break the mom out of jail, but Robin says even though he feels bad for her "friend," they need to respect the rule of the law as much as they can. He explains that this is a different situation from when A.P.E.S. took her prisoner. This person committed a crime, was tried and convicted. And that's pretty much that.

So Secret asks everybody else individually. Cassie, taking a swim, says it's out of the question. Ray, playing pool, "Definitely not." Snapper, working on a car, "It'd be wrong." Bart, playing with a paddle ball, says "We put guys in jail, not break 'em out." Superboy, watching TV, says it doesn't feel right. But Slo-Bo, lifting weights, says "Abso-fraggin'-lutely. Let's do it." Slo-Bo has seen right through Secret's story, knowing the "boy" is Secret and the "mother" is her dad. He confirms that the person her dad killed deserved to die, then agrees that he should be awarded for that action instead of being punished. Slo-Bo says he wants to remind his teammates that he's not really a good person, and he believes that those with power to break the law should use that power sometimes — a belief that Secret agrees with.

To avoid the awkward situation in the house, Bonnie and Ishido have gone out for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, Ishido makes things more awkward by revealing he used his detective skills to learn Bonnie killed Agua Sin Gaaz. He asks if she's told her daughter yet, and Bonnie says Cissie doesn't even know she took her place as Arrowette. Ishido says he won't tell Cissie, but he suggests Bonnie does, otherwise it'll eat at her. He says he doesn't judge her for killing Sin Gaaz, since he would have done it himself had he been able to. But, Ishido points out, it is his job to kill people — not Bonnie's. Bonnie coldly says it's just apparently her hobby, then excuses herself.

We then jump ahead to the first day of shooting "Super Vision." Ace starts off the show, telling viewers how he named a scrappy group of teen do-gooders "Young Justice" what feels like a lifetime ago. And now, he's pleased to show the world what these heroes go through every single day for the next month. He turns the camera to Ray, Superboy, Empress, Impulse and Wonder Girl (who's now wearing her old goggles again, but not her old wig). But before they start their introductions, Impulse runs off to see if he can move fast enough to see his own image on the TV in the monitor room. Even though the show is live, one would think there'd be enough of a delay that Bart could pull this off. But he can't, despite attempting the trick multiple times. (Perhaps he was just trying to make Snapper Carr laugh.) But the big surprise of the first episode was the introduction of a new hero, Mr. Sarcastic — who is Robin in a disguise with a shaved head, goatee, green glasses, tattoos and a cape with fur on the top and flames on the bottom.

This feels like getting back to good ol' classic Young Justice, especially the bits of Impulse goofing off with Superboy. It just feels ... right. These two had such ambitious, yet well-meaning plans for satellites and secret rings, and it just was not at all practical (which itself is a pretty good joke, coming in a world of impracticality). To everyone's credit, nobody was too harsh in putting down these plans. But what else would come to Superboy's rescue than the fad of reality TV? I guess reality shows are still going on now, but 15 years ago, they were VERY big. So it makes a lot of sense for Young Justice to be caught up in one themselves, offering plenty of opportunities for more wacky hijinks with these wonderful characters. Sadly, it wasn't meant to last.

DC in Demand confirms the rumors that Young Justice and the Titans will both soon be cancelled, and those teams would have their stories wrapped up in a crossover called "Graduation Day." This crossover will lead to the creation of two new series, the Outsiders and a new Teen Titans (not to be confused with the New Titans, which Impulse was briefly a member of). Here's the exact wording of the solicitation for the series that's going to replace Young Justice:

"Like fireworks? Geoff Johns and Mike McKone light the fuse on pyrotechnic superhero action this July with a new Teen Titans! In this ongoing series, old-school members Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy mix it up with newbies Superboy, Robin, and ... Kid Flash?!!"

I knew DC had planned for a while to turn Bart Allen into Kid Flash, but I didn't realize they were this open about it this early in the game. I wish they were still printing letters at this point, because I would have loved to see what readers thought of all these changes. I'm not happy about it, and I'm writing about this 15 years in the future! But seriously! Canceling Superboy, Impulse and now Young Justice?! And now Impulse is going to be Kid Flash?! Well, there's no point complaining about it now. Let's check out the new ads:

World Wrestling Entertainment Magazine and ShopZone. This is a very annoying small, fold-out card stock ad that starts at page 8 and reappears at page 17. It's one of those ads that I really want to tear out of the comic book, but I'm too scared to hurt the binding.

Joe Kubert's World of Cartooning Correspondence Courses for Comic Books.

Seven Sonic the Hedgehog games in one bundle for GameCube. I had forgotten it's been so long since Sega surrendered Sonic to Nintendo.

Wild Arms 3 for PlayStation 2.

More than 180 games. What a rush. Nintendo GameCube.

Marijuana. Harmless? Facts. The Anti-Drug.

The ultimate run and gun shooter returns. Contra: Shattered Soldier for GameBoy Advance and PlayStation 2.

Save our species. Exterminate theirs. Defender: Saving the Human Race for PlayStation 2, GameBoy Advance, Xbox and GameCube.

Bring the party home, baby! Austin Powers in Goldmember on VHS and DVD.

Play it again, man. And again. And again. Super Bubble Pop for PlayStation, Xbox and GameCube.

Earth is the battlefield. The Original Transformers Season 2 Part 1 on DVD.

Time Splitters 2 for Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2.

Next time, Secret becomes unhappy with her teammates! And things go real bad from there in Young Justice #53.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice

Writers: David S. Goyer • Geoff Johns
Penciller: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Jesús Meriño
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Guy Major

Cover Penciller: Carlos Pacheco
Cover Inker: Jesús Meriño
Cover Colorist: Guy Major

Frankly, I find this cover a bit boring. The top part shows some of the top members of the JLA — Wonder Woman, Atom, Superman, Green Lantern, Batman and Flash. The bottom has some JSA members — Captain Marvel, Doctor Fate, Mr. Terrific, Sentinel and the first Flash, Jay Garrick. Keep in mind that this represents only a portion of both of these teams, as they had fairly massive rosters at this time. (At least I consider those rosters massive compared to what I'm used to from the New 52 and beyond.) Anyway, my main complaint with this cover is that is implies a battle between the Justice League of America versus the Justice Society of America. And that is not at all what this book is about.

Virtue and Vice is a 94-page prestige-format book featuring dozens of characters. There's a lot going on here, but Impulse only shows up in one panel, so I'm going to give this the briefest of recaps. The story begins with the JLA and JSA deciding to start an annual tradition of having Thanksgiving together. Everything's going great until Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, Green Lantern, Mr. Terrific, Batman, Doctor Fate and Power Girl become possessed by the Seven Deadly Sins of Man, which are usually safely locked away at Shazam's base, the Rock of Eternity.

The possessed heroes turn on their teammates, throwing a handful of them into various prisons before  heading out to wreak havoc in the world. The remaining members of the JLA and JSA team up to try to figure out what's going on. To make matters worse, there's an epidemic of insanity spreading around the world, forcing all the rest of Earth's superheroes to try to quell riots across the globe. And this is where we see Impulse, fighting one such riot in New York, alongside Robin, Wonder Girl and the Red Tornado.

As you can see, this story perpetuates the error from the Secret Origins issue that forgot Red Tornado is no longer working alongside Young Justice. Anyway, to make a long story short, we find out the main villain behind all this is a powerful being named Johnny Sorrow, who teamed up with the ghost of Despero and enlisted the aid of a psychic from Apokolips called Doctor Bedlam (not to be confused with the Bedlam we've seen Young Justice battle several times). Johnny Sorrow imprisoned the wizard Shazam, releasing the Deadly Sins to possess the heroes. And Despero possessed President Lex Luthor to throw off the reader, I guess.

As interesting as the setup is, I found the the conclusion a bit wanting. After a brief pep talk from Dr. Mid-Nite, Batman is able to shake off the Sin of Anger through sheer willpower, I guess. Batman tells the others that Captain Marvel is the key, so Green Arrow shoots Wonder Woman's lasso around his neck, forcing him to say his magic word, which returns his powers to Shazam, who promptly entraps the Seven Deadly Sins again. Green Lantern and Sentinel capture Johnny Sorrow and use his powers against Despero, saving Lex Luthor and the world.

It's not a bad story. Just a bit disjointed and with an all-too convenient ending. But there was definitely a lot of fun here. It's always neat to see heroes turn evil, and this time, they weren't just generic evil, but different shades of evil — anger, lust, envy, sloth, etc. And this issue did include the DC version of the demon Surtur (although he was much cooler in Thor: Ragnarok).

Next time, we'll do an issue with a bit more Impulse, Young Justice #52.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Young Justice #51

Zand on the Run

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Penciller
Lary Stucker, Jaime Mendoza, Andrew Pepoy Inkers
Ken Lopez Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separations
Tom Palmer, Jr. Associate Ed.
Eddie Berganza Editor

This month's cover is by Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker. Colors by Tanya & Richard Horie. The image is an homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 by George Pérez. In place of the Anti-Monitor, we have Lady Zand, who kind of grows big like this in the story. I think it's a pretty fun cover, but sadly, Impulse is covered up by the words "Attack ON the Fifty Ft. Woman!"And the big purple box under the DC logo was an annoying ad for some preview pages of the new Aquaman series.

Our story picks up where we left off with our main hero, Impulse. He and Ray have just defeated the Trickster, prompting Bart to say, "I'd call it trick and treat." Ray adds, "Just another case of spring forward, fall back." But Bart doesn't like this additional comment, and he accuses Ray of trying to "outquip" him. Ray takes offense at this, and before too long, the two begin attacking each other.

Turns out, this conflict was the result of two villains named Fear and Loathing (I assume they have some sort of psychic powers). Luckily, Wonder Girl, Devastation and Slo-Bo (who got wrapped up in their fight) come falling out of the sky and land on Fear and Loathing, breaking their control of Impulse and Ray. Wonder Girl and Devastation continue their personal and emotional fight, leading to Devastation throwing Cassie into Superboy and Damage. As Devastation moves in for the kill, Lady Zand appears and tells her that's enough. Devastation makes the mistake of threatening Lady Zand, who takes her out with one hit. So Slo-Bo leads an all-out attack against the leader of Zandia.

We then cut to Agua Sin Gaaz's mansion, where Empress, Ishido Maad, Secret and Bonnie King-Jones are gathering themselves up after their big fight against the Baron. Ishido, who was unconscious for most of the fight, asks if Sin Gaaz really is dead. Secret confirms this, saying she pulled him into her, listening to him screaming and calling out to his gods, who only laughed and condemned him to unbearable torment. Everyone wishes Secret hadn't gone into such detail, and they all begin to head out, first passing through a room filled with tons of babies in pods. Empress asks if these babies are alive, and Secret says she can tell that they're not. Suddenly, a disco-ball-like device from the ceiling shoots a beam through Secret's chest. She loses control of her powers, and a big, swirling hole emerges from her chest. She calls out to the other to make it stop, but Bonnie's arrows and Ishido's bullets bounce off a force field protecting the device.

Back outside, Lady Zand has somehow fused herself with the land of her country, becoming an enormous earth monster. So we get a scene similar to the cover, except Lady Zand is made of mud. As she attacks the heroes, she tells them that Agua Sin Gaaz is dead and their mission is accomplished, so she offers the chance for them to leave in peace or leave in pieces. Wonder Girl and Superboy debate whether she's telling the truth, but both are distracted by the bright lights coming from the Baron's mansion.

Secret's condition is growing worse, and she cries out that she's being turned inside out. Anita remembers how her grandfather boasted of once killing a warder before, and she fears this is a booby trap he set up for her. Ishido tries to find the power source of the device, when two lights suddenly fly out of Secret and go into two of the baby pods. The hole in Secret's chest closes up and she collapses to the ground. Ishido tries, but fails to pick her up, while Anita examines the two baby pods, becoming shocked by what she sees. Impulse shows up, saying Wonder Girl sent him to find out what's going on. He sees what Anita's looking at and says, "Whoa. Well, that's unexpected."

The battle against Lady Zand rages on, with all the other villains of Zandia retreating back to their mansions to leisurely watch the carnage while sipping drinks. Lady Zand says she can keep this going all night, so Robin theorizes that she can only use this power during the nighttime. He tells this to Wonder Girl, suggesting they fight back with light, so she orders Ray to light up the sky with everything he's got, and for everybody else to shield their eyes. Ray's worried about draining himself of energy, but he follows the order, anyway. After a huge flash of light, Lady Zand returns to her human form, and everyone else is left with a bit of a sunburn. With the fight finally over, Empress teleports out to the group, holding two babies in her arms. She says she can hardly believe it, but according to Sin Gaaz's records and Secret's confirmation, the two babies are her parents.

That was a pretty wild ending to a pretty amazing story. I do wish we could have had even more fighting scenes between all these heroes and villains, but that wasn't the focus of the story. The focus was Empress vs. Baron Sin Gaaz and his insane life creation experiments. And the continuing creepiness of Secret's abilities. And all that's great, intriguing stuff. And the art was still good, even though we had three inkers. I imagine Todd Nauck got a little behind after last month's double-sized issue, but he still managed to pencil every page — most of which were filled to the brim with dozens of characters. So all things considered, this was another impressive performance by Nauck.

DC in Demand talks about a bunch of comics we really don't care about, except the Flash, which is beginning a three-part story featuring Gorilla Grodd. The Aquaman preview came in the form of an eight-page insert in the middle of the comic book. But it only showed five pages of Aquaman #1, putting them side-by-side on three of the pages of this insert, leaving the rest for ads. And this whole insert was bookended by four more full-page ads, so pages 12 and 13 of this issue were interrupted by  12 pages of unrelated content. Very annoying.

An entirely new edition, an epic DVD experience. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Special Extended DVD Edition.

Egg Mania for Game Boy Advance, Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2.

Use everything at your disposal. Dispose of everything. Metroid Prime for GameCube.

It begins as a dream. Then it gets real. Haven: Call of the King for GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance and PlayStation 2.

The Clone Wars are far from over. Star Wars: The Clone Wars for GameCube and PlayStation 2.

Gave peace a chance. MechAssault for Xbox.

That'll leave a mark! Tekken 4 for PlayStation 2.

You've been ready for this game since you were a little kid. Superman: The Man of Steel for Xbox.

Truth, justice, and the American way. Superman and JLA sticker books.

Unleash the power of three in a stunning new RPG. Suikoden III for PlayStation 2.

RoboTech: Battlecry for Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2.

Eight Legged Freaks on VHS and DVD.

Dr. Muto for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and Game Boy Advance.

Next time, we'll cover Impulse's very brief appearance in JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

JLA/JSA Secret Files & Origins #1


Jim Beard / Writer
Clément Sauvé / Pencils
Serge La Pointe / Inks
Kurt Hathaway / Letters
Tom McCraw / Colors
Digital Chameleon / Seps

Cover by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Meriño, with color and separations by Guy Major. From time to time, DC will attempt a horizontal cover, but they never fully commit to the idea (just like the Sins of Youth covers). The picture is going one way, but all the words are going the other. Anyway, this is your standard posed image of all the major members of the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America. It's alright, I guess. Nothing too striking.

In keeping the tradition of Secret Files & Origins, this issue features a main story, several quick backup stories and a handful of profile pages. The main story serves as a prologue for the upcoming special, JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice, which we actually will cover on this blog because Impulse does make a very quick cameo in it. But all we care about today is this issue's backup story that includes Impulse.

We begin in Johnsville, Ohio, which is being threatened by the flooding Ohio River. Aiding in the relief effort are several members of the JLA, JSA and Red Tornado, which confuses a news reporter, since he's not sure which team the android belongs to. Red Tornado works alongside the townspeople to help create a massive wall of sandbags. Superman and Jay Garrick both join up with Red Tornado, and Superman asks him to rejoin the Justice League right before Jay asks him to come back to the Justice Society.

Red Tornado is honored by the requests, but he tells the two heroes he has to decline the invitations. As he talks, Impulse, Superboy, Robin and Secret show up to help, and they're all in a bit of a rowdy mood. Red Tornado tells Superman and Jay that Young Justice needs the guidance he once received from the JSA and JLA. The android says he has long searched for an identity, and now he has found one in a parental role to these teenaged heroes. He then takes off to scold Impulse about spilling sand in Superboy's face.

Bart had his own experience with a flood in Manchester, so I'd imagine this mishap with a sandbag was a mistake, and not just him goofing around with Kon. But more importantly, I have to point out the glaring continuity error in this story. Red Tornado put Snapper Carr in charge of Young Justice, and he hasn't been with them for quite a while now. And even when Red Tornado was the official supervisor of Young Justice, he still was an active member of the JLA. So the idea that he doesn't have time to be on the JLA or JSA is a completely ridiculous one, thus rendering the entire purpose of this story null and void.

Next time, I promise a much more meaningful story in Young Justice #51.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Year in Review: 2002

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the year 2002 is the Winter Olympics that were held in my own backyard, Salt Lake City. It was an incredibly exciting time to have the entire world focused on my small state for two cold weeks in February. It was so fun to go downtown and see all the exhibits, events, people, concerts, merchandise, etc. Even now, 15 years later, you can still find lots of mementos to that time all throughout Utah. Looking back on it, I'm now a little disappointed that DC didn't do anything for the Olympics. We had that unofficial mention of the "Australia Games" in Young Justice, but you'd think that for the Olympics visiting America, DC (or Marvel) would work out a licensing deal.

The world of film saw an explosion of sequels in 2002. The top four highest-grossing movies, in order, were The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Spider-Man and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I loved each and every one of these. Still do, as a matter of fact. The one "non-sequel" of that list, Spider-Man, was especially significant. It was the first superhero movie to gross more than $800 million worldwide — a feat that wouldn't be surpassed until Spider-Man 3. And in case you're wondering, Chicago won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Sadly, 2002 was not particularly kind to Impulse. I mean, it can't get much worse than having your own series canceled, right? Bart Allen started the year off during his "sabbatical" away from being a superhero, which put a bit of a damper on his own adventures and kept him away from Young Justice for most of the year. He also completed two consecutive years without appearing in The Flash, but that's more Geoff Johns' fault than anything. Impulse was involved in the three-part SpyBoy/Young Justice crossover and the five-part World Without Young Justice crossover. But none of these events were able to prevent Impulse from suffering the same fate as Superboy and soon to be Young Justice.

Best Issue: Young Justice #45

For the second straight year, this award goes to Young Justice instead of Impulse, which I guess goes to show you the quality of Impulse stories at the end. Todd Dezago struggled to weave a cohesive, compelling narrative around the crossovers, and clearly struggled with some ill-advised editorial mandates. That said, there were a lot of moments I enjoyed — just not one particular issue I could point to as the best. I strongly considered Impulse #87, but it just didn't take enough time to show the fun — and dangers — of the world Bart created. So I went with the conclusion of World Without Young Justice, the event that was the highpoint of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed four of the five issues in the one and only Young Justice/Impulse/Robin/Superboy crossover. Young Justice #45 featured the thrilling and wacky final showdown with Bedlam, complete with the unexpected arrival of the original Red Tornado. And more importantly, it showed Bart pushing himself to the limit and working past his fears that he would die for real this time.

Best Writer: Todd Dezago

This is Dezago's third award, putting him one behind Mark Waid on the all-time list. True, I didn't like everything Dezago did this year, but he did do more with Impulse than Peter David did. That's not to say he won this award by default. I really liked how Bart decided to become Impulse again, as well as his reaction to (inexplicably) being forced to live with the Garricks in Denver. The last four or five issues of Impulse had a lot of interesting material, but Dezago unfortunately had to rush to reach the finish line. In the end, though, it's kind of impressive how many loose ends he was able to wrap up.

Best Artist: Carlo Barberi

One of the many tragedies of losing the Impulse series was missing out on Barberi's art, which developed beautifully in 2002. Even when he went through a carousel of inkers at the end, his pencils still shown through, giving us an incredibly expressive Impulse with appropriately huge hair and feet. Todd Nauck was once again incredibly impressive, not only with his 100-character, 48-page Young Justice #50, but also with the Christmas special flashback that successfully made all the characters look a year or two younger. But Barberi gets the nod for quantity and a very good quality. Heck, I'd almost give him the award just for the cover of Impulse #89. Three-time winner Humberto Ramos was once again eligible this year, but he really let me down with the World Without Young Justice covers.

Best Supporting Character: Max Mercury

Each year, this award seems to come down to a tight race between Max and Carol Bucklen. Carol was technically Bart's girlfriend for most of 2002, but she was largely absent, and when she did officially come back to the present, she essentially broke up with Bart. She did it in a kind, caring way, but still, those two are no longer a couple and we're never going to see Carol again. So, the award goes to the Zen Master of Speed for the fourth time. Max also went missing for an extended stretch, but when he came back, he made it count. He was the only one willing and able to fight to take away Bart's unlimited magic powers, saving the world and Bart's soul. The Phantom Stranger did perform the grunt work of this operation, but Max was able to vibrate out of reality on his own, and it was his love that reached Bart and enabled him to surrender the power of Bedlam.

Best Villain: Bedlam

Bratty Matthew Stuart wins this award for the second time, after reappearing for one last reality-warping attack. This time, he focused most of his revenge on Impulse, abusing Bart and twisting his new power to fulfill his evil scheme. It was also fitting that after Bedlam united Young Justice in the first place, it would be him to reunite the team after Impulse and Robin had left. And even after Matt had been defeated for the final time, the corrupting power of the genie remained for one last hurrah, granting its evil powers to Bart and nearly destroying the universe in the process. I do feel a bit bad for Matt, though, who was mostly a victim of circumstance in this ordeal and ended up in an endless coma because of it. Maybe I can pretend that Matt woke up after the Phantom Stranger permanently locked away the power of Bedlam.

Next time, we'll begin 2003, the 10th year of Impulse's existence. We will see Bart make a few more appearances in The Flash, which is good. But we'll also see Young Justice come to an end, which is bad. But we'll see Bart join a new iteration of the Teen Titans, which is ... well ... it's something, alright. All this begins with a quick cameo in JLA/JSA Secret Files & Origins #1.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Young Justice #50

Fighting Maad Part Four: MUBAR (Messed Up Beyond All Recognition)

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Penciller
Lary Stucker Inker
Ken Lopez Letterer
Tom McCraw Colors
Digital Chameleon Separations
Tom Palmer, Jr. Assoc. Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

Nauck and Stucker went all out for this special 50th issue cover. Against a clean white background, we have Young Justice charging into battle with most of their "league" they've assembled. I'm not going to try to name everyone we see here, but I will just say I think it's a great cover, and I love that Impulse is front and center.

Our story begins in Baron Sin Gaaz's Zandia home, where the leader of Zandia, Lady Zand, is paying a visit. Lady Zand has heard how Sin Gaaz has goaded Young Justice into invading their country, and she is not happy with it. In fact, Lady Zand even grabs the Baron by the throat to remind him who's boss. In the end, though, she does allow Sin Gaaz to recruit any forces of Zandia who are willing to fight.

We then cut to the Young Justice headquarters at the Catskills resort, where Wonder Girl is shocked that the Point Men's Serpenteen has invited a date, Snake Girl, to their invasion. Cassie questions Snake Girl's credentials, who promptly demonstrates them by transforming into a giant snake and swallowing Cassie. Snake Girl spits Cassie out before too long, and Cassie agrees to let her join the mission, then heads off to take a shower.

Everyone else is enjoying a barbecue out on the lawn. Empress is still amazed to see so many people be willing to help her, and Superboy and the Ray assure her she's part of the Young Justice family, which is a pretty extended family. Spoiler approaches Secret and asks if they're cool, but Secret acts like she doesn't know what she's talking about. Robin steps in to help smooth things out, reminding Secret that she nearly killed Spoiler when they last met. So Secret reluctantly tells Spoiler that she doesn't have to worry about being attacked by her.

Empress spots Arrowette off to herself, getting in some last-minute archery practice. Anita thanks Cissie for joining them, especially since she knows how hard it must be for her to be Arrowette again. But Anita points out how Cissie has barely said two words to anyone since showing up, which Anita knows is hurting Cassie's feelings. She starts to suggest that if Cissie really doesn't want to be here, then she shouldn't be, but Arrowette cuts her off, simply saying, "I'm here. Okay?" Empress accepts that response, saying if Arrowette's satisfied, then she is, too. As Anita walks away, Robin and Arrowette stare at each other for a moment, but he walks away without saying anything.

Wonder Girl then checks on the progress of Impulse's spaceship, the Max. Slo-Bo is finishing up the last bit of repairs and patches, while Impulse and some of his scouts are loading it up. Cassie asks Bart how his systems check is going, and he shows her he's brought in tons of CDs for the ship's sound system, games for the video game system, and junk food for their digestive systems. Cassie asks about the weapons systems and the guidance systems, to which Bart plays dumb. This makes Cassie quite frustrated, so Bart quickly assures her he's kidding. He reminds Cassie that they were able to take on the whole planet Myrg with a much smaller team, and he asks if becoming leader has cost Cassie her sense of humor. She tells Bart he's making her crazy, to which Bart says, "Cool beans."

With the ship prepped, Superboy calls out to the crowd that they're moving out. Damage jokingly starts mooing. Feeling like Noah, Wonder Girl tells everybody to find a seat. No less than six of them want to ride shotgun, but Cassie explains that Slo-Bo gets to fly the ship because he's the best pilot and Impulse gets to sit up front next to him since it's his ship. Cassie then calls Robin aside to make sure everything is OK between them. Robin says she's earned the leadership role, and he gives her an encouraging hug.

Cassie then addresses the troops, telling them their objective is to bring Agua Sin Gaaz to justice for the murder of Donald Fite. Damage asks why the A.P.E.S. organization isn't handling. Ishido Maad says it's complicated, so Damage asks them to simplify it. Empress tells everyone that Donald was her father, and that Sin Gaaz also killed her mother ten years ago. This satisfies everyone's curiosity, so Wonder Girl gives Slo-Bo the order to take off, saying they're not getting any younger. Slo-Bo notes that not even he can say that every day. Impulse happily cries out, "Road trip!!!" And as The Max blasts off, Slo-Bo teases Cassie for hugging Robin.

During the flight, CM3 (Captain Marvel Jr.) asks Wonder Girl if he should change his name to The Marvel. Cassie's not a fan. She's then horrified to see the Wonder Twins eating her favorite Flood CD. Ray explains that the twins are Jan and Zayna, shape-changing aliens from the planet Exor. Slo-Bo, who is fluent in Exor, hears the twins talking bad about Cassie, so he chews them out and smacks them in the back of the head. Kid Devil jokes that if they're from Exor they must be Exorcists.

One hour later, the ship arrives at Zandia. Snapper Carr is a bit worried, but Robin tells him this isn't their first rodeo. Slo-Bo then picks up a visual of Zandia's "welcoming committee" — Devastation leading a large horde of the Baron's antibodies and Kite Man acting as lookout. As our heroes approach the harbor, they unleash their secret weapon — Lagoon Boy leading a pod of whales to create an enormous tidal wave. The mermaid villain Siren swims up alongside Lagoon Boy and tries to hypnotize him, but the Wonder Twin Jayna leaps out of the ship, transforms into a purple sea serpent and attacks Siren.

With the harbor flooded and Zandia's forces scattered, Kite Man flies back to Lady Zand's mansion to give her an update. Lady Zand essentially shrugs off this news, admitting to Kite Man that she actually hopes Sin Gaaz is defeated, as it would serve him right. Young Justice makes a very muddy landing, and Wonder Girl tries to organize the forces, telling Alpha Team to follow her, Beta Team with Robin and Charlie Team with Superboy. Unfortunately, many of the teenage heroes can't remember which team they're supposed to be on, and others wish they could change teams. Before they can sort any of this out, they're met by Zandia's second line of defense — a large group of super villains (I'm not going to try to name them all). So Wonder Girl comes up with a new plan: "Hit anything that's moving that's not us!!!"

The Fisherman gets his line around Robin's neck, but Kid Devil manages to free him. The Flash villain Angle Man then makes all the heroes feel like the Earth is tilting upside down. Jakeem Thunder sends out his Thunderbolt to take out Angle Man, but Devastation is actually able to harm the genie, with what I can only assume is a magic sword. Wonder Girl then manages to get some of her biggest hitters — Superboy, CM3, Hardrock and Blockade — to come in front to form a wedge driving straight toward Sin Gaaz's mansion. Wonder Girl, meanwhile, takes on Devastation herself.

Baron Sin Gaaz is watching the battle from his balcony, when Empress suddenly teleports right next to him with Agent Maad. But teleporting someone else with her over such a long distance has made her weak. Maad pulls a gun on Sin Gaaz, telling him he's under arrest. Sin Gaaz teleports behind Maad, knocks him down, and prepares to shoot Maad with his own gun. Empress manages to recover enough in time and slices the gun in half.

Back to the battle, the new Trickster, Axel Walker, has ensnared several heroes in a big bubble of special chewing gum. He turns to launch some springs at other heroes, but Impulse and Ray quickly hit him from behind and tie Trickster up in his own springs. Impulse calls this "trick and treat," and Ray dubs it "another case of spring forward, fall back."

The fight at the Baron's mansion has now reached his laboratory, filled with large tubes of bubbling pink liquid. Empress is no match for the Baron, who grabs her wrists and shoves her against one of his big vats. He tells her the pink liquid is the pure essence of distilled life, which he uses not to clone, but to redefine nature itself. Empress finally manages to push the Baron off her, and she tells her grandfather that she'd never be able to love or understand someone as twisted as him. The Baron says she might not love him in this life, but she might in the next. He stabs her in the side and hangs her over a big vat. He says the truly tragic thing about him having to kill her was that he had prepared a gift for Anita, had she freely given him her love.

Before Sin Gaaz can drop Empress into the liquid, though, an arrow suddenly strikes him in the heart. Arrowette reveals herself, saying, "You deprived a child of her parents, Monster. No one does that on my watch and lives. No one." She shoots another arrow into the same spot, splitting the first. Agua Sin Gaaz falls into the vat, where Secret is waiting for him, demonically saying, "Well well ... we meet again." Anita tells Cissie she owes her life to her, but Arrowette takes off her hood, revealing herself to be Bonnie. She says she feels responsible for creating Arrowette, who then inspired Anita into taking up this "insane line of work." But most importantly, Bonnie insists that Anita never tell Cissie what happened, saying this is one of those situations where mother knows best.

Now that's how you do a 50th issue! A 48-page adventure bringing together the entire Young Justice team, along with every character anybody ever wanted to be on Young Justice. Impulse came back just in time for this adventure, and Arrowette came back, too, but with a neat twist! And once again, Todd Nauck has found another way to amaze me. Not only did he have twice as many pages to draw, but between all the heroes and villains, he had more than 100 characters to draw. And as usual, Peter David perfectly balanced humor with action and emotion. I really don't have anything else to say. This was just an incredible issue, perfectly representing everything Young Justice is about.

With this month, DC replaced the letters to the editor page with a feature called DC in Demand. It's a very busy page, filled with tiny pictures of a whole bunch of different comics they're promoting. It's quite a shame, because from a historical perspective, I loved looking back at how readers reacted to the stories and how their opinions shaped future stories. I think half the heroes in this issue wouldn't have been here if readers hadn't been asking for them to join Young Justice. Now for the new ads:

Make a killing. MechWarrior: Mercenaries.

Be an action figure.

Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters for GameCube.

PlayStation 2. Now online. Introducing the Network Adaptor for PlayStation 2. Reach out and smoke someone. (Nowadays, it's hard to find a game that doesn't require an Internet connection.)

Catch major air. Big Air Freestyle for GameCube.

One cunning devious thievius raccoonus. Sly Cooper for PlayStation 2.

The hunt begins. Star Wars Bounty Hunter.

Justice League: Injustice for All. For Game Boy Advance.

Do you have what it takes? Sneakers for Xbox.

Not surprisingly, Tom likes his milk on ice. Got milk? with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Next time, our Year in Review for 2002!