Tuesday, December 6, 2016

JLA: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes #1

Writers: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman
Penciller: Mike McKone
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Letterer: Bob Lappan
Colorist and Separator: David Stewart

Cover Penciller: Mike McKone
Cover Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover Color: David Stewart
Logo Design: Todd Klein

Our cover shows this Elseworlds version of the JLA in a very serious pose. Their costumes are slightly different, but they're still recognizable — Hawkgirl, Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Atom, Green Lantern, Metamorpho, Plastic Man and at the very bottom in yellow, this world's version of Bart Allen. The statue of blind justice on the side implies that this story will explore the deep themes of law and order and the role superheroes play in it.

Our imaginary, out-of-continuity story begins in 1943, with a young Clark Kent learning lessons of doing good anonymously from his parents. Skip forward to today, Clark is the aging editor of the Daily Planet, nearing retirement, and his powers are beginning to fade. Lois Lane is working at a tabloid, investigating wild stories of people being abducted by a man in a green suit. Bruce Wayne works at the FBI, and he's also investigating the reports of hundreds of people mysteriously vanishing without a trace.

We then cut to Keystone City, where we're introduced to Bart Allen. He's a bit older than the Bart we're used to, and he's living with his parents. This Bart has an earring and a rather acrimonious relationship with his parents, who are currently chewing him out for wrecking the family car. Bart's mom complains that she was pulled away from showing a house to her client, and Bart's dad complains that the repairs will cost $4,500. He accuses his son of being careless. Bart tries to explain that it wasn't his fault and it was just an accident, but his parents don't care for his tone. Bart clenches his fist, which is surrounded by lightning, but his parents don't notice. He then walks out on them in the middle of the lecture, and they're shocked to see their son is long gone when they open the door just a moment later.

Bart runs all the way out of Keystone City, worried about what his parents would do if they found out he had super speed. He visits a diner he comes to every Thursday and orders his usual, a blueberry pie. But Bart doesn't notice that while he eats, a young man with blondish/orange hair is closely observing him. (The coloring isn't particularly consistent.)

We then see Clark Kent enter a secret underground base to conduct a meeting of the Kryptic Order, comprising all the heroes we saw on the cover, minus Bart Allen. The topic for discussion once again is the debate on whether the team should go public. Green Lantern is leading the charge for this, with the Flash, Atom and Plastic Man on his side. But Wonder Woman, Metamorpho and Hawkgirl agree with Superman's longstanding mandate, so that continues to be the team's policy as long as there's a tie. Flash reports that he's located a potential new member for the team, but he doesn't know how he'll vote. In the meantime, Flash has this candidate under constant surveillance, and says he's made his first contact with him. We soon find out that this "first contact" came in the form of a letter with the haunting message, "I know what you can do." Bart is understandably freaked out to see this.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane cross paths, as they're both investigating the same mystery, and they agree to team up. We learn the Kryptic Order is able to maintain is secrecy by using technology from Wonder Woman to become invisible. And the Atom causes a financial crisis by hacking into the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Even though Bart was scared by the letter from the Flash, he follows its directions and heads to the same diner he was at earlier. There he meets Wally West, who eats Bart's hamburger, but assures the teen that he's not going to expose his secret. Instead, Wally demonstrates that he, too, has super speed. He assures Bart that he's not a freak, and he takes him on a quick "jog" to tell him all about the secret world of superheroes.

We then see that the Kryptic Order has a habit of capturing criminals, judging them, and exiling them to a lifetime in the Phantom Zone. Meanwhile, Green Lantern is working behind the Order's back by abducting all potential super-powered individuals to conduct DNA tests on them. But after 39 subjects, he still hasn't found any new recruits. Clark Kent has a heart attack at work, and he's shocked to see that his skin has grown weak enough for the paramedics to pierce it with a needle.

One night, Bart tells his parents he wants to go to UCLA to study history. Bart's dad, Barry (we never find out his mom's name), is mad at his son for changing his plans from last week, when he said he wanted to be a pharmacist. But he coldly says Bart may have only wanted to pursue that career to acquire drugs. Bart insists he wants to study history, saying it's important to learn the mistakes of the past to stop them from happening again.

The next day, an upset Bart heads to the park and skips stones on the lake. But his stones are traveling way too fast, and one of them destroys a kid's remote control boat. Wally appears out of nowhere and gives the kid money to buy a new boat. Bart tells Wally that he had another fight with his dad, and Wally tells him that he can't change his dad, but he can change his reaction to him. Bart says things will be better once he's 2,000 miles away from his dad at college, but Wally insists that Bart's dad really does love him. Wally speaks in more depth about the Kryptic Order and he formally offers Bart a spot on the team. But he does warn him, though, that once he's in, there's no going back.

We take a quick peek inside the Phantom Zone and see that hundreds of criminals have been sent there over the past half century, including the Martian Manhunter. But J'onn J'onzz has made the prison a rather pleasant place, transforming it into a peaceful community focused on meditation and harmony.

Bart is taken to the Kryptic Order secret headquarters, and he observes the team training against a bunch of robots. Wally introduces Bart to the whole team, but while they're doing this, Bruce and Lois have made a breakthrough in their investigation and have discovered the entrance to the headquarters.

This is a pretty interesting story. It's a fairly realistic premise with layered, nuanced characters. No one is purely good or bad, and there isn't one particular threat for the heroes to deal with. This works to the story's benefit and detriment. This issue, 48 ad-free pages, is pure world building. There's no clear direction to work toward or character to focus on. Superman losing his powers and place in the world could be an interesting framing device on its own, but it's competing with the equally interesting stories of Bruce and Lois investigating the elusive superheroes and Bart Allen trying to figure out what to do with his powers and find his place in the world. And all this is confounded by the countless subplots involving Martian Manhunter, Lucious Fox, Green Lantern, the Atom, etc., etc. Ultimately, there's just too much story here. We will have a second 48-page issue to conclude this tale, but that issue will feel equally overburdened.

This version of Bart Allen is a real interesting character, and I wish his story could have been the main focus here. Bart feels like a very realistic teenager who often gets in trouble and can sometimes be a jerk, but ultimately wants to do good, yet is held back by his insecurities. I'm not exactly sure, though, why he's so scared that anyone will find out he has super speed. Nor do I know why his dad is a powerless Barry Allen. Wally has powers, and all the other superheroes seem more or less the same, so why not Barry? All in all, this Bart is not as fun as the impulsive version we're used to, but he does have potential for some thought-provoking stories.

Ultimately though, I can't say I'm a fan of this issue. While there is lots of potential present, it's too difficult to form any connections to any characters. And it's not a particularly pleasant comic to look at, either. The art is subpar, at best, failing especially in the action scenes, hair coloring, and facial recognition (many characters are impossible to distinguish when they're out of costume). This is also one of the rare times where I'll criticize the letterer. It feels like all the letters were written with a shaky hand, and it is very annoying.

Next time, we'll take a break from this disappointing Elseworlds tale and review something great — Young Justice #25.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Impulse #65

Bart's Evil Twin – Mercury Falling Part 4

A Dezago - Van Sciver - Kaalberg & Rollins - Chiang - Jones - Jamison - L.A. collabo
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Van Sciver, Faucher, and Martin raced against time and certain Death to bring you this month's cover. It is a pretty exciting cover, showing a very serious Impulse racing to save the dying Max Mercury, who is now very thin and weak. I don't mind the symbolic image of the grim reaper with a giant hourglass, but I am a bit surprised that Van Sciver didn't draw this as the Black Flash. I'm personally not a huge fan of the Black Flash, but he was seen in the last issue of Impulse, and is more or less supposed to be the symbolization of Death for speedsters, right?

Our story begins with the return of an old villain — the Glory Shredder, who has captured the Green Cigarette and is preparing to execute him right there on the street. Impulse has arrived on the scene, and he wonders if the Glory Shredder could be any more insane. The psychotic ex-military is a bit more verbose than he was when we originally met him, and he now insists on launching into long-winded, rambling speeches before ridding the world of criminal scum. Luckily, this gives Impulse more than enough time to rescue the Green Cigarette, tie him up so he doesn't get away, and dismantle Glory Shredder's gun. Glory Shredder accuses Impulse of being a criminal sympathizer, and he boasts of how he'll still be able to defeat the "commie runt" without his gun. Glory Shredder talks so long, he doesn't notice a dog peeing on his leg. Meanwhile, a crowd gathers, including some old friends we haven't seen in a long time — Jasper Pierson, Gamal, and Green Cigarette's lawyer, Gaspar.

The Glory Shredder finally attacks Impulse, who quickly removes all of the villain's armor, leaving him in just his underwear. (Even though Glory Shredder had a cybernetic hand with bombs in the fingers previously, Van Sciver drew him here with two normal, human hands.) The narrator finally reveals to us that this Impulse isn't really Bart Allen, and hasn't been for weeks now. He has grown his hair out, dyed it brown, studied Bart's habits, speech patterns, and even mastered Bart's expression of insipid innocence. But every now and then, this imposter falls out of character, and allows his true, malicious nature to come through. And this is one of those times.

Even though Glory Shredder is defeated, Thaddeus Thawne, aka Inertia, insists on pummeling him to a pulp. As he does so, he rejoices in the success of his plan. As part of the Allen-Thawne feud spanning millennia, Thad was 'gengineered' to be a far more superior clone of Bart, spliced with pure Thawne DNA. But it wasn't enough to defeat Impulse — Inertia sought to steal Bart's glory, his persona ... his life! And when Bart pushed Morlo's mudbug into an alternate dimension, Thad used this opportunity to place Bart in a virtual reality prison and replace him in the real world. Thad is pulled out his memories by Gaspar, who politely tells him that he's assaulted Glory Shredder quite enough. Thad quickly puts on his best Bart impression, and says he was just making sure the villain was down, since you never know about these big ones.

Thad continues his impression as Bart at school, where he gives a report on Pavlov's dogs and conditioned behavior. Thad is happy he has the excuse of Max's illness to account for Bart's suddenly increased focus. He's confident he's fooled everyone, but Thad doesn't seem to notice that Carol is still suspicious and oddly interested in "Bart's" hands. The time after school presents the biggest challenge for Thad, since he's had a hard time relating to Bart's friends. But he's gotten better at it these past few weeks, and now he's become bold enough to attempt some humor with Preston and Roland (who, by the way, is wearing an awesome Batman shirt).

Thad jokes that Ms. Dalrymple wears so much makeup because what's underneath is worse. Roland's not comfortable with making fun of their teacher's appearance, but Thad presses the issue, saying that when Dalrymple was a baby, her parents had to feed her with a slingshot. This gets Roland laughing, even though he knows it's unkind, but Preston begins to protest. Thad is able to get him to laugh, though, by asking, "Does the name 'Pavlov' ring a bell ... ?" Both Preston and Roland double over laughing at this, and Thad actually feels happy to be accepted by his peers. He decides that maybe Bart's friends aren't that insufferable, but once again, he fails to notice that Carol has remained silent during the entire conversation and refused to join in the laughter.

The greatest threat of Thad being exposed is the experienced speedster Max Mercury. But so far, Thad has been able to fool him, as well, thanks in large part to Max's deteriorating condition. In fact, Max is so thin and frail now, he is unable to join Impulse on patrol. So they've enlisted the help of Oracle to have Max coordinate Impulse's efforts around the world from a computer chair. After saving an elderly couple from a rampaging rhino, "Impulse" is sent to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to battle another familiar foe, White Lightning. Thad joins Robin, Wonder Girl and Secret on a random mission, and he's thrilled to see he's fooled Young Justice, as well.

Max sends Thad to deal with a tornado in Oakley, Kansas, which he quickly neutralizes with a vortex in the opposite direction. Max is shocked that Impulse came up with this solution on his own, and Thad is shocked when he's congratulated by a couple of beautiful women, thanking him for saving their farm. Thad quickly runs away from them, and Max tells him it's OK to allow himself a little "thanks" every now and then. And Thad begins to believe Max might be right. As he runs home, Thad basks in the feeling of having someone else be proud of him — something he's never felt before. The clone realizes that all of Bart's friends and family really care about him, and he feels like he could learn to enjoy being a hero and keep Bart's life. Thad even thinks that maybe, just maybe, he won't go through with his plan to kill Max at the Speed Force.

When Thad gets home, he realizes that Max and Helen have created a much more comfortable and warm environment than the featureless, warehouse-sized computer he had previously only known as his home. Thad is amazed at how Helen is able to act like a mother to Bart even though she's not related to him. And Max impresses Thad by maintaining such a positive and selfless attitude as the Speed Force is literally tearing his body apart. Even though it requires an enormous amount of effort, Max insists on getting out of his chair to give "Bart" a big hug and tell him how proud he's in him, even if Morlo's plan doesn't work. Thad is overwhelmed by this act of love, and he can barely stammer out a thanks.

Of course, Thad realizes that he was never able to fool Bart's nameless dog. But now he's finally figured out a way to make the animal act more friendly around him by constantly feeding it dog treats and trying to avoid entertaining negative thoughts and schemes in its presence. Helen suggests that he finally name the dog since he's had it since Christmas (and it's now, what, June?). So Thad dubs the dog Ivan. Max laughs at this play on Ivan the Terrible with Ivan the Terrier, but Thad says he actually chose the name in honor of the behaviorist Ivan Pavlov. "Clever, no?" Thad asks, but Helen and Max are quite perplexed to hear such words coming from Bart.

Shortly, Max and Thad throw on their uniforms and head to Morlo's to run one more test before making "the jump." Helen wishes them luck and says she'll be there in a few minutes to watch them leave. Carol, meanwhile, has been hiding in the shadows waiting for Impulse to leave. Once he's gone, she knocks on the door, and gives Helen a cover story about needing to take back a book she lent Bart. Helen lets her in, and Carol eagerly heads to Bart's room, hoping to find out why he's been acting so suspiciously lately.

In Morlo's lab, Thad passes the final test with flying colors, and Dr. Morlo begins to set things up for the jump to the Speed Force. During a break in the action, Max almost collapses, and Thad is shocked by how scared he became for Max's welfare, and he wonders if he actually cares for him. Max tells Thad again that even when they get to the Speed Force, there's no guarantee it'll be able to revive him. But he wants the boy to understand that they've still succeeded in the long term with their mentorship. Max says that he's finally become everything they were working toward, and now he looks on him like a son. Thad is thrilled to hear this kind of love being directed at him. It's everything he's been working toward! It's all his! Max loves him! But then, Max calls him Bart, and that completely kills the moment for Thad. In one instant, with that one word, Thad's villainous upbringing returns, and the look of love and admiration on his face quickly turns to one of scorn and disdain.

Back in Bart's room (decorated with posters of Superman and the Afterlife Avenger), Carol is shocked to see how neat and tidy it is. The first clue she finds is a family picture of Bart, Helen and Max. Carol realizes why Bart's hands caught her attention during school — he's not wearing his Impulse ring anymore. (In case you were wondering, like I was, Bart was wearing his Impulse ring during all the concurrent Young Justice issues. So I guess his trip to Australia happened before he was replaced by Inertia.)

We return to Morlo's lab, where the former mad scientist has set up the speed portal and he warns the speedsters that their window is only a few minutes. Max begins to have some last-second doubts, saying once again that he can't ask Bart to attempt such a dangerous task. But Thad angrily insists they have to leave now. Meanwhile, Carol finds her second clue, hair dye (chestnut brown for blond hair). This is followed by the discovery of something even more shocking — a holographic recording of Inertia detailing his plans to kill Max Mercury at the Speed Force and then obliterate all of Bart's friends and family. Carol rushes downstairs, tells Helen that Bart's really Inertia in disguise, and they rush off, hoping to stop him before it's too late.

But it is too late. With the speed portal open, Thad gets a running start on a treadmill, achieves the right vibrational frequency, and pulls Max into the portal with him. Helen and Carol come rushing in just a second later, shouting at Morlo to not let them go. But before Morlo can answer them, the real Bart Allen suddenly arrives, demanding to know where Max and Inertia are.

This was such an awesome issue! Inertia really is the perfect villain for Impulse. He fits the classic trope of an evil clone and continues the legacy of the Allen-Thawne feud. But with this issue, he suddenly became a sympathetic character, and I love it! Inertia had this incredible plan to conquer Bart Allen by completely taking over his life and systematically eliminating his friends and family. But after spending a few weeks of living in a warm and loving environment, Thaddeus has begun to doubt his life's mission of revenge and mayhem. This added level of complexity makes Inertia an even greater character than before and adds a greater degree of depth to this amazing story.

However, I did have a few nits. The return of Glory Shredder was welcome, but Dezago and Van Sciver didn't quite capture the same personality and design of the character originally introduced by William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau. I guess you could make the argument that Glory Shredder already was quite unstable and is constantly going through slight personality changes as well as cybernetic upgrades. I guess. I'm also slightly torn on Van Sciver's art in this issue. His pencils were incredibly impressive as always, but here he became very ambitious with his panel layouts. There were a bunch of beautiful two-page spreads, but some of them were quite confusing. This necessitated the use of lots of little annoying arrows and editor's notes to tell you what to read next. I'm all for experimentation and spiffy-looking layouts, but that shouldn't come at a cost of readability.

Impulsive Reactions begins with L.A. Williams welcoming new colorist Jason Scott Jones, who actually started as the new official colorist last issue, but L.A. forgot to update the credits. He says it was because he was trapped in a virtual reality prison, and it was his evil clone, N.Y.C. Williams who made the mistake.

Maurice, of Brooklyn, N.Y., says he's been an art teacher for 30 years, and he considers Mshindo a true diamond in the rough, hoping he'll get more opportunities to grow to his full potential.

Daniel Placio admits he isn't a regular reader of Impulse, but he did pick up Impulse #61 for the Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. guest appearance. He liked the "Up To Speed" box at the beginning of each issue for new/casual readers like him, and he was happy to see the Gentleman Ghost.

Datalore was happy to have another untold tale from Max's past — an adventure with the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Datalore also asks for a miniseries focusing on Max Mercury.

Electric Peter Tork liked how Bart got annoyed with all the girls asking about Robin, how he inadvertently destroyed the Kid Flash sign, and the Star-Spangled Kid's scene in the gentlemen's club. Tork enjoyed the writing so much, he mistakingly assumed it was Todd Dezago. However, he was able to tell the art was not quite as good as Ethan Van Sciver's.

Sea Change was happy that issue #61 made a point to show Max sweating to illustrate how bad and shocking his condition is.

Daniel Rosenberg, of Raleigh, N.C., simply says Impulse is one of the great reasons why comics are a great hobby.

Mark Katzoff liked that the "Sidekick Swap" taught both Max and Pat to appreciate what they have. He also hopes the Gentleman Ghost shows up again in Manchester, Alabama.

Peirigill wonders if Impulse would stop being fun if he learned to focus and plan. L.A. says he might still be fun, but for those looking for a more serious speedster can check out The Flash. (Once this series ends with Impulse #89, we'll see what a more serious Bart Allen looks like.) Now for the ads:

Save the points, get the stuff! Kool-Aid Kool Points.

There's only one super-powered thingamabob that runs Noggin.com: your head!

Gotta have sweet? Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum. I'll admit I was addicted to this gum in 2000. The only problem was they lost their flavor after about 30 seconds.

Introducing Twist-n-Fill. Raspberry goo in a tropical twist.

My Dog Skip. Starring Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane (before she became Martha Kent in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman), Luke Wilson and Kevin Bacon (before he was Sebastian Shaw in X-Men: First Class).

Only a movie hero this big can save this many! Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. This wasn't so much a movie but a glorified pilot for the short-lived Buzz Lightyear cartoon. Ironically, Buzz became much less interesting when he wasn't a toy.

Nautica Jeans Company.

Next time, we'll take a quick look at an alternate version of Bart in an Elsewords story called JLA: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes Book One.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Young Justice #24

When the Bow Breaks ...

Peter David Same Ol' Writer
Eric Battle Guest Penciller
Lary Stucker Ol' Inker
Jason Wright Ol' Colorist
Ken Lopez Ol' Letterer
Maureen McTigue Ol' Associate
Eddie Berganza Ol' Editor

This issue's award-winning cover is by Nauck, Stucker and WildStorm's colors. It makes sense to have Robin win the gold, Wonder Girl the silver and Superboy the bronze — they are the leaders of the team in that order. Impulse, who's every bit as important to the team as anyone else, falls under a category all on his own. But I'm not entirely sure exactly why he's holding an abnormally large goldfish. He doesn't even seem to know why he's holding it. Maybe I'm thinking too hard about this cover, and I should just enjoy the goofy joke.

Our story begins with star archer Tina Thomas walking around outside at night — completely alone for some reason — and reviewing her upcoming day of self-promotion. She's suddenly assaulted, and all we see is a pair of dice and a female figure running off into the night, leaving Tina with a broken arm.

Several time zones away, we see that the Brain and Monsieur Mallah are working with a shadowy figure named Baron Sin Gaaz. Apparently the Brain has agreed to tear apart the U.S. archery team in exchange for the Baron to grow a new body for him. But the Baron decides to demonstrate that he's the one calling the shots, and via video chat, he drinks several vials of what appear to be fetuses of the Brain and Mallah. This disgusts the two villains in Australia, and the Baron tells them they can both be easily replaced, and he'll only fulfill his end of the bargain if Zandia wins the Olympics.

We then check in on our heroes, beginning Day 2 as spectators. Of course, they're still enraged to see that Zandia is allowed to compete, and Bart asks Robin if they should tell the JLA about this. Robin says he's already contacted them, but for now, the Zandians haven't done anything criminal ... yet. Cassie identifies all the villains, calling them a "who's who of bad guys" — their coach is Deadline, Merlyn is the lead archer, the second archer is Tigress and the third is Turk, Merlyn's protégé. (I have to disagree with Cassie. That is not a "who's who of bad guys." These are C-list villains. Merlyn might be a B-lister, thanks to the Arrow TV show.)

Kon reports that Monsieur Mallah is coaching Black Thorn on their gymnastics team, and Overthrow is doing shot put, javelin and hammer. But Robin points out something even more troubling — Cissie and her mom are being escorted away from the archery field by security. Bonnie is shouting that she and Cissie had nothing to do with Tina Thomas, and Cissie says they should be investigating the team of villains. Robin asks Secret to trail them and make sure nobody sees her, so she pours out of the binoculars and a guy behind Robin chews him out for smoking in the stands.

Secret follows Bonnie and Cissie into the security room, where the guards explain that they believe Bonnie attempted to hire someone to assault Tina, but when Bonnie couldn't get anyone to do the job, she did it herself. Bonnie says this is ridiculous, but, sadly, Cissie believes it might be true. For some reason, this investigation has been handed over to Agent Donald Fite, even though he's on vacation. With Bonnie, Cissie and the archery coach in the room, Fite reveals the only evidence against Bonnie,  Ace Atchison's video of Bonnie speaking to Merlyn yesterday.

There's no sound on the video, and Bonnie claims she was threatening Merlyn to stay away from her daughter. Fite points out that Merlyn was seen by 30 people at a reception last night, but nobody knows where Bonnie was. She says she was keeping to herself in order to not make a nuisance of herself to Cissie. The archery coach explains to Cissie that until Bonnie's name is cleared, the games committee won't allow her to compete. Everybody leaves the room, but Fite remains behind and tells Secret she can come out of hiding. Secret's surprised that Fite knew she was there, but she's more mad that he's ruining Cissie's dreams. But Fite says he actually believes Bonnie is innocent, even though he has no concrete evidence to support that.

Bonnie and Cissie are hounded by the press once they step outside, so Bart whips up a mini-whirlwind to give them an escape route. Instead of joining Robin and Cassie to meet up with Cissie, Kon chooses to investigate a different lead by himself. Robin seems worried by this, and Kon assures him he's not Match again. But Robin says he's just concerned that Kon feels he has something to prove since he's still missing his powers. (Turns out I was wrong about Cadmus giving him his powers back. I guess they just gave him some equipment to allow him to fly.) Kon says he's still Superboy with or without powers, and he takes off.

So Robin and Cassie meet with Bonnie and Cissie in her dorm room. Cissie's roommate, Natalie, has been put in a different room out of concerns Cissie might be a negative influence on her younger teammate. Cissie is putting all the blame of this on her mother, who insists that she'd never abuse a teammate, no matter how much she didn't like her. Cissie coldly replies that her mom would only abuse her daughter, and Bonnie calls that a cheap shot. Cassie actually takes Bonnie's side, which makes Cissie cry and say all this bad luck is karma for that horrible night in the woods. Robin finally starts coming up with a plan, suggesting they find someone who can read lips to confirm that Bonnie wasn't trying to hire Merlyn on the video tape.

We then catch up with Superboy, who went to the Zandia athletes' house to interrogate the archery team. Naturally, the villains don't like this, and Merlyn fires an arrow at Superboy, which he blocks with a stupid gold Superman shield that pops up on his wrist. But Merlyn's second shot, a vibro-shock arrow, does hit Superboy, and causes enormous pain to the powerless teen.

Meanwhile, Cissie has enlisted Natalie's help in clearing her mom's name. The deaf archer is a natural at reading lips, and in front of Agent Fite and the games committee head, Mr. Tompkins, Natalie reports that Bonnie did, in fact, threaten Merlyn. Natalie reads that Bonnie said if Merlyn hurts anyone on the team, she'll rip off his ... Luckily, Bonnie covers Natalie's eyes before she finishes the sentence. Mr. Tompkins agrees to allow Cissie to compete in the Games tomorrow once Bonnie and Natalie pass polygraph tests.

We return to the action, where Superboy is getting his butt kicked by the three archers. Empress suddenly shows up and begins slicing arrows with her swords. Merlyn calls this "cute," and Impulse shouts out, "You think that's cute? Check us out! We're just plain adorable!" Impulse is joined by Robin, Secret and Wonder Girl. But all the villains from Zandia join in the fight to even the odds. Well, actually the odds turn in the villains' favor once Hazard rolls her dice and a nearby bolt of lightning knocks our heroes down.

But Young Justice is quickly back on their feet, and even in the midst of the battle, one of the villains has to compliment Robin on his gymnastic skills. Superboy finds himself in Monsieur Mallah's grasp, and he shouts, "Get your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!" Mallah says, "Oh, as if I'd never heard that one before ..." and he's promptly knocked down by Wonder Girl. Impulse, meanwhile, is tormenting Tigress. Once he catches all her arrows, she cries out, "I want another opponent!!!" So Empress knocks her out from behind, and Impulse asks if there's anything else they can do for her.

Secret takes on potentially the most powerful villain of the group, Hazard, by going into her body through her mouth and nose. Secret learns that Hazard has psionic powers that she uses with her dice to affect the probabilities against her enemies. So Secret takes control of Hazard and throws the dice to create an improbable misfortune against the villains. This is manifested by the sudden arrival of the entire Justice League of America — Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern and Flash.

Nineteen seconds later, all the villains are defeated, the JLA has taken off and Empress has disappeared. (In the shadows, we see two mice that resemble Pinky and the Brain standing on the villain Brain.) Hazard tries to reach for her dice, but she's stopped by Tina Thomas, who identifies the villain as the woman who broke her arm. Later, Mr. Tompkins contacts the Baron, saying that he's convinced the committee that Hazard was acting alone and all the violence at the Zandians' house was in self-defense, so only Hazard will be disqualified from the Olympics. Mr. Tompkins asks if he's done enough to ensure his little girl can live again, and the Baron holds up a human fetus, saying, "We shall see ... which way the tide turns."

This was an odd issue. After last issue, I assumed we'd get a fun, light-hearted story showing the villains genuinely wanting to compete in the Olympics, but being unable to prevent themselves from cheating. Instead, we find out this whole scandal is to serve a new, mysterious and super creepy villain named the Baron. And that just feels disappointingly mundane. I know this is a paradoxical statement, but all comic books suffer from an abundance of convoluted villain plots, and I was hoping that Young Justice would provide us another reprieve from that. Oh well. There were still some fun moments throughout. But I am surprised that Peter David completely missed out on a joke that had the perfect setup. Remember when Bart thought he could read lips and was horrible at it? In this issue, they needed someone to read lips. Why didn't we get just one panel of Bart offering to do it, then being humorously shot down?

Apparently Todd Nauck took this issue off to get married, which is a reasonable excuse. However, the art we ended up with was a mess. I'm really tired of Eric Battle now. His work seems to have grown worse with each subsequent issue we've covered. The biggest problem here were the action scenes. I could never tell what was going on. Plus, all the characters had a couple of moments where they looked really ugly. I think Battle got a little stretched out having to do this issue immediately after Impulse #64.

The letters to the editor begins with Keith Dallas, of Vancouver, British Columbia, saying that Impulse should know that Robin is "Timmy Drake" because he met him way back in Robin Plus Impulse. Keith also asks what happened to the gift Impulse requested in Young Justice #2. Eddie Berganza explains that Bart didn't figure out Robin's secret identity because he doesn't have an attention span.

Grant and Andrew write that Lagoon Boy needs to be a Young Justice regular, as well as the rest of the New Young Justice team. They also believe Robin's identity should be easy to figure out based on the events in No Man's Land.

Russ Anderson says that Sins of Youth was a lot better than he expected. He loved the humor, the connection to the Superboy series, and the development of the various relationships on the team: Impulse and Arrowette, Robin and Secret, and Superboy and Wonder Girl. Russ also hopes to see more Old Justice in the future. Berganza says that Sins of Youth was originally meant to only link Young Justice to Robin, Impulse and Superboy, but after David developed the storyline with Karl Kesel, it grew into the DC-wide event it was. Ironically, I think Sins of Youth didn't connect to Robin and Impulse nearly as well as it did to Superboy.

The new ads for this issue is by far the most annoying advertisement I've seen in a comic book. Right in the middle of the book is eight pages of slick paper, rudely interrupting the fight between Superboy and Merlyn. Four of these pages are the DC Comics Young Heroes Fall Fashion 2000 by Heather Elizaldi, Paul Pope and Lee Loughridge. It tries to be like a comic book ... I guess ... but it mostly just tells you what's in style, such as this gem: "Pants are slimming down and are also trimmed with leather, furry fabrics and metallic hardware."

Great as press-on nails. Rice Krispies Treats.

L2 Jeans.

Are you getting enough? Six Flags.


Krypton is dead — but its greatest city lives on! The Bottle City of Kandor.

Up next is Mercury Falling Part Four in Impulse #65.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1

Darkness Visible

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Pencilled by Norm Breyfogle
Inked by John Lowe, Ray Kryssing, Steve Bird, John Nyberg and Keith Aiken
Lettered by Sean Konot
Colored by Glenn Whitmore
Separated by Jamison
Asst Editor Frank Berrios
Editor Matt Idelson

Our cover shows Green Lantern flying in front of the main villain of this event, Oblivion. It's not a particularly striking image. Oblivion is too obscure to appear imposing, and Green Lantern is too wonky to appear heroic. The good news, though, is that the story inside the cover is quite interesting. The bad news is that Impulse has nothing to do with said story.

So anyway, our story begin with the incredibly large, seemingly invincible Oblivion attacking the planet Rann. He tells that planet's hero Adam Strange to warn Earth that he's coming for them next. So the injured Adam Strange contacts the JLA, who go off into space to investigate with Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Plastic Man, Flash and Green Lantern. Kyle Rayner is shocked to see that Oblivion is exactly like a comic book super villain he created when he was 7 years old.

The JLA quickly learn they're no match against Oblivion, so Superman sends Green Lantern back to Earth to gather reinforcements. On the way, Lantern runs into the Spectre, who offers no help, but delivers a cryptic warning of Kyle going to be betrayed by someone close to him. After Kyle leaves, we see that Spectre is actually the deceased Hal Jordan. When Green Lantern arrives at the JLA Watchtower, he asks Oracle to round up the Titans, the JSA and even Young Justice. But Oracle says everyone is busy fighting back a massive crime wave, since word apparently got out that the JLA has left the planet.

And from Oracle's computer screens, we see she is monitoring Impulse, Captain Marvel, the Titans, Beast Boy, Robin and Jay Garrick. Sadly, we don't see exactly who these heroes are fighting. And even sadder still, that is all the Impulse in this issue. Anyway, Oracle does manage to send Power Girl to help Green Lantern, who forms a team with Adam Strange, Firestorm, Atom and a handful of other Green Lanterns from the past, future and alternate worlds, who unexpectedly answered Kyle's plea for help.

Like I said, this is a really interesting story. A ton of characters are in play, involved in a really neat mystery surrounding a huge villain. Ironically, even though Impulse has nothing to do with the main story, the epilogue of Circle of Fire will play out in two issues of Impulse. Go figure.

As to be expected, there aren't any letters to the editor. So let's check out the new ads:

Crime created him. Justice drives him. We immortalized him. 200 figures. 1 Batman. From Hasbro.

Where do gods go when they die? JLA: Heaven's Ladder. A spectacular, oversized graphic novel by Mark Waid, Bryan Hitch, and Paul Neary.

To all who would do evil, they are judge, jury and executioner. And the world doesn't even know they exist. JLA: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes. An Elseworlds tale by Howard Chaikin, David Tischman, Mike McKone, and Jimmy Palmiotti. We will be covering this as it includes an alternate version of Bart Allen.

His greatest battle takes place within himself ... Batman: Ego.

From a lifeless body of clay ... a mighty Amazon warrior! Wonder Woman statue.

New Tropical Tremor increases lunchtime trading power by 300%. Tang.

Next time, we'll return to the Olympics in Young Justice #24.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Impulse #64

Virtual Heroes – Mercury Falling Part 3

Todd Dezago – Writer
Eric Battle – Guest Penciller
John Stokes & Prentis Rollins – Inkers
Janice Chiang – Letterer
Rick Taylor – Colors
Jamison – Separations
L.A. Williams – Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo

Ethan Van Sciver, Wayne Faucher, and Patrick Martin racked up the high score on this issue's cover! And I am so happy that we get an homage to Nintendo 64 with Impulse #64. He's the most video game-crazy superhero of all time, so it's only fitting that he'd get to play off one of the of the biggest video game systems of the time, and it's annoying propensity to include the number 64 in about a third of its titles. The cover itself is very fun, showing Impulse and a weird green guy hanging from a rope while firing a big laser gun, about to be eaten by a rather weird-looking dinosaur. The background lists the scores for each explosion, and is rendered in a fun pixel effect. But I'm glad the whole thing wasn't pixelated, since that could have turned out poorly. Now, let's find out what this has to do with Mercury Falling.

Our story begins with Bart waking up to a strange world full of mythical creatures, unusual colors and the weird green guy from the cover.

Bart recognizes the green guy as his old friend, Dox. Bart gives Dox a big hug, saying he's missed him, but Dox says they were together yesterday, so Bart must have been having a wild dream and is just slow to wake up this morning. Dox reminds Bart that they're on a mission to save the prince, even though Bart feels he's no hero. As he breakfasts off some blue fruit from a tree, we notice that his clothes are different in almost every panel.

Bart and Dox are suddenly attacked by some Skybots sent by the Dark Wizard. They both manage to avoid the laser blasts, but Dox is surprised that Bart still doesn't seem to remember any of this. So he kindly reminds him that the Dark Wizard is protecting his castle with a Time-Spasm, which has brought out monsters from the past, present and future. Bart says he remembers Dox and having had adventures with him in the past, but he still feels like he's been away for a while. Bart comes across a mirror that has a very sinister-looking reflection in it. Bart tries to ask Dox about this, but they're suddenly attacked by a big blue Tyrannosaurus rex.

Our young hero runs away as fast as he can, or so he says, since it doesn't seem like he's running any faster than anyone else would. Eventually Bart and Dox are chased off a cliff by the T-rex, who stops and wonders aloud what he was supposed to tell that kid. Bart falls into a river, but emerges unharmed. He asks Dox why he didn't fly them off the cliff, and Dox explains that he can only hover a little bit over solid objects. Bart and Dox then arrive at a village full of tons of odd people — blue elves, a snowman, Frankenstein's monster and Dracula, one of the green veggie kids from Sir Real's virtual reality, and even Roland is there. Everybody praises Bart as a hero, much to his astonishment.

One old blue elf announces himself as the Teller, and he tells Bart the history of their kingdom of Nosirp. They were ruled by a good king, but he eventually fell ill and was on death's doorstep (in the Teller's story, death is represented by the Black Flash). The prince was reluctantly put in command, but the Dark Wizard seized on this moment of weakness to kidnap the prince and demand the king surrender his kingdom to him. The Teller says that all this was foretold in the legends long ago. But the legends also spoke of a hero with great hair and big feet.

This convinces Bart that he really is a hero, and he enthusiastically launches into the quest to save the prince, journeying through various levels of great peril. Bart began the day in pajamas, robes and loincloths, then transitioned to more ordinary clothes and sports jerseys. But now his clothes resemble the outfits of Indiana Jones and Adam Strange. At one point, Bart is grabbed by a giant robot, and he cries out, "Dox! I'm got!" So Dox frees him by tricking some spaceships into destroying the robot's head. Bart tells Dox that he loves having adventures with him and he never wants to leave. But the friends' sweet moment is interrupted by the return of the blue T-rex. Bart and Dox quickly escape to a nearby cave before the dinosaur can deliver his message. Too big to fit inside, the T-rex moans that he's going to be in so much trouble.

Bart and Dox finds themselves in Crystal Quarry, surrounded by angry-looking reflections of Bart. Suddenly, all the reflections come to life, and Bart and Dox are attacked by an endless horde of glass "Barts" all wearing one of Bart's previous outfits from this adventure. Bart is so preoccupied with this army, he doesn't notice the giant reflection of Inertia looming over him. Finally, Bart manages to take out all the glass clones by grabbing the Adam Strange one's laser gun and blasting its laser off all the crystals in the cave, shattering everything in sight.

Sometime later, Bart and Dox finally make it to the castle and down into its dungeon. But Bart is shocked to see the prison is nothing more than a bed in the middle of the room, with the prince fast asleep on it under a headboard of the Flash logo. Bart rushes over to the bed, and is even more surprised to see the prince looks just like him. He asks where the Dark Wizard is, and the prince says there is wizard. So Bart asks who's holding the prince here, but the prince answers with, "I think the question, Bart ... is who's holding you here?" Bart claims that no one's holding him here, since this is where he lives. The blue T-rex has finally caught up to Bart, and he asks Bart if he's sure this is where he's supposed to be.

The prince asks Bart how long he's been here, and Bart says he's been here his whole life. He and Dox grew up together because Bart was placed in here because he was aging so fast. Bart then starts to say he later went to live with someone else, but he can't quite complete the thought. The prince begins to fade away, telling Bart once again that he has to think about who's holding him here. Once the prince is gone, Bart asks Dox if he knows anything, but he only remembers having adventures with Bart. Dox does, however, ask Bart if he remembers anything else.

Bart struggles with this for a moment, insisting that he has always been here with Dox, and they came here to save the prince because the king is sick. Suddenly, Bart realizes that the king is Max Mercury being attended to by Dr. Morlo but with the Black Flash looming over him. Bart begins shouting that he has to get out of here to save Max and lightning begins to surround him. Dox reminds Bart of the reflection in the Crystal Quarry, and Bart finally puts it all together, shouting out Inertia's name as he puts on his Impulse uniform.

Once Bart becomes Impulse, the whole world begins shaking in what Dox describes as a reality quake. He says now that the dreamer, Bart, realizes he's in a virtual reality program, everything has begun to break down and the program has created a black hole to suck down everything that's not real. Impulse realizes this means Dox, as well, and he grabs onto his buddy's hand, promising to not let go. Dox tells him to let go since he's just make-believe, but Bart refuses. The poor kid begins crying and screaming that he won't choose between his best friend and the real world. Dox pleads with Bart to go save Max, but Bart decides to save both. Using his super speed, Bart rescues Dox from the black hole and leads him into the bright light of reality.

Bart wakes up on a bed with a blanket on his lap. He turns to tell Dox that he knew he could save him, but Dox isn't there. Bart realizes that Dox was right all along, and he sheds a final tear for his friend.

But Bart doesn't allow himself to be consumed by grief. He hops off the bed and explores his surroundings, running into Craydl, which confirmed his suspicion that he was in Inertia's lab the whole time. Craydl is shocked to see Impulse awake, saying that Inertia had claimed Bart would never want to leave the VR world. Bart instantly breaks down Craydl into a pile of goo, saying he doesn't have time to dance with him. Impulse immediately begins his journey home, saying Inertia has made a big mistake, and if he's done anything to hurt Max ...

It's Inertia! Of course, you probably already knew that since you've either read this story before, or you put the clues together while we were going along. I was a bit slow to this the first time I read Mercury Falling because I hadn't previously read Inertia's first appearance. So I had no idea who the character was or anything, and it was a huge surprise to me! Anyway, this issue was quite a bit of fun. Finally, after 64 issues, we got to see what life was like for Bart in the virtual reality world. I'm really surprised that Mark Waid never thought to show us this world. Regardless, I am very happy with what we got here. Just pure wackiness, giving us the opportunity to see Bart in tons of different costumes fighting dinosaurs, robots and more. The character of Dox is an extremely odd character. He's practically impossible to describe, and he really came out of nowhere. Since we never had any description of Bart's VR life, we never had a mention of Dox before. But I quickly grew to love his friendship with Bart, and I was surprised at how emotional I got at the end, where Dox essentially died in Bart's arms, despite his best efforts to save him.

Sadly, I do have to complain about the art in this issue. Ethan Van Sciver took four issues off, returned for two, and then had to take another break. I really wish he could have been as fast and consistent as Todd Nauck. Eric Battle's art isn't awful by any means, but it is a bit messy and inconsistent. But, if Van Sciver absolutely had to skip an issue of Mercury Falling, this was the right choice.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Bart Allen saying that he works at a comic shop and notices many people tend to skip the issues without Todd Dezago, and he urges the creators to have fewer fill-ins.

Michael Bregman, of Gan-Yavne, Israel, said he didn't have many expectations for Impulse #60 since it was done by fill-in creators. But Michael quickly fell in love with Dwayne McDuffie's funny and clever script, and Eric Battle's "classic Impulse artwork." Michael liked Pocket Pal and how Impulse beat him, and he's a big fan of Bart's puppy.

Terrance Griep Jr. initially thought Battle would be misplaced on Impulse, but he loved his work on the title. Terrance also says McDuffie always brings a verisimilitude to his characters that is often lost these days. But the real work, Terrance says, was done by the "mean genius" who brought these creators together.

Martin Gray says issue #60 was a wonderful way to celebrate five years, providing everything he wanted in an Impulse tale: clever use of super-speed, a fun villain, subplots and supporting characters all in a self-contained piece. Martin would like to see Pocket Pal again, perhaps accompanied by Chunk. He also liked McDuffie and Battle so much, he suggests they become the next regular creative team.

Sof' Boy said he was suffering from a massive headache, so he tried to relieve the pain by reading Impulse #60, which his friend have given him. Sof' Boy was laughing out loud from the second page on, and he hopes to see more of McDuffie and Battle.

Brett Wood, from Somewhere in Ohio, said he was supercharged to see Battle's artwork, which gave the issue the feel of a fast video game like Sonic the Hedgehog. He also loved how Impulse kept messing up Pocket Pal's name on purpose, showing that he really is a hyper, sometimes annoying young kid.

Kristian Greene, of Falls Church, Va., loved the humor and watching Bart emulate the actions of his greatest idol. Kristian felt that McDuffie and Battle twisted an entertaining story into a wonderful lesson.

La Tonya Raines, of Apex, N.C., loved the cover, the interactions between Ayana and Bart, and Pocket Pal, saying it was great to have a cool new black character.

Dragonfire loved the logos at the Talladega Super Speedway — Zesti-Cola, Soder Cola and LexCorp — sadly, no Wayne Industries.

Michael Hutchison, of Roseville, Minn., called issue #60 a humor-paced story with an interesting (if far-fetched) villain. He says he might like McDuffie more than Dezago. But Michael does complain about how this issue handled Max and Helen, saying they needed to have been more supportive of Bart.

Sonicblum, of Queens, N.Y., simply says Impulse #60 "had it going' on" and was a hilarious issue by the guest writer.

Angie de Blieck Jr., of North Haledon, N.J., noted that McDuffie made great use of Impulse's supporting characters — something other fill-in writers might try to gloss over. Angie says the big surprise was Battle's artwork, which is normally hard to look at in Aquaman, but was more natural and easy to follow here.

Kimberly Anne praised McDuffie for nailing Bart's personality, and says she's off to buy more Impulse and Wint-O-Greens.

Hasan Johnson correctly named L.A.'s quotes from BDP's By Any Means Necessary album and the movie Greased Lightning. Now for the new ads (if DC would have been on top of it, they would have made all the ads for the Nintendo 64):

Bomber Man 64: The Second Attack! Also for Game Boy Color.

Meet a parrot who won't settle for another lousy cracker. The Real Macaw.

Batman Beyond fruit snacks with a free CD Rom offer.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards with a crossword puzzle.

Bio Ploids for PCs. 10 PCs a day for 100 days. ePloids.com.

The face of terror. Kirby 64 (again).

Next time, we'll begin comics with an October 2000 publishing date, starting with a very brief Impulse cameo in Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Young Justice #23

Down Under Where

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Penciller
Lary Stucker Inker
Ken Lopez Letters
Jason Wright Colors
Digital Chameleon Separations
Maureen McTigue First Alternate
Eddie Berganza Captain

This month's study of Arrowette and the mysterious Empress is by Mr. Nauck and the Mr. Terry Austin with the colors of WildStorm FX. I've got to admit, this is the first Young Justice cover in a long time that just doesn't do anything for me. Arrowette and Empress look decent enough, and this cover perpetuates the theory that Arrowette secretly is Empress, which certainly was a fun theory to throw around. But everybody in the middle looks really bored and out of it. And what are they supposed to be in, the Olympic rings? It just doesn't work for me. But hey, after 23-plus issues, it's understandable to have one or two that just doesn't click.

Our story begins with Wonder Girl screaming bloody murder. Turns out, she's just excited about Cissie's big news. But nobody else knows this, and they all come rushing in from various points in the Catskills resort to see what the emergency is. Superboy flies in, demonstrating that his powers have been restored by Cadmus (rather quickly, I'd say), and he also has a new outfit, going with a black T-shirt, blue jeans and red gloves.

Anyway, Cassie tells everybody there's no emergency, and she turns the floor over to Cissie, who says, "Well ... I'm on this team ... it's —" But Superboy interrupts her and begins cheering Cissie's return to their team. Impulse immediately throws up a banner that says "Welcome back Arrowette!" and he gives everybody party hats, noisemakers and confetti, explaining that he'd been keeping this stuff around for when Cissie finally came to her senses. But Cissie says she's not coming back to this team. After a brief moment of shock, Bart crushes his party hat, shakes his fist at the heavens and curses the Teen Titans. Cassie says it's not the Titans, so Superboy asks whether it's the JLA, JSA, the Outsiders or the Ravers (which he really hopes it's not). Those are all wrong, so Bart makes one last guess for the Creature Commandos, but Cissie finally tells them that she's on the U.S. archery team for the Summer Games in Australia.

Everybody congratulates Cissie on this accomplishment, and Cassie gives credit to Cissie's mom, Bonnie, and says she might have to rethink hating her now. Bart excitedly asks when they're going, but Robin says they're not going. Secret says they should because she didn't even know the U.S. archery team fought crime. Cissie tries to correct her, but Cassie interrupts, reminding Robin of how he told Cissie not to be a stranger. Superboy says the rest of them are going with or without Robin, but he should come because no one else can drive the Super-Cycle. So Robin finally gives in.

We then cut to the house of Donald Fite, where the A.P.E.S. agent is preparing to take a vacation with his teenage daughter, Anita. While they head off to Australia to watch the Olympics, Ishido Maad will housesit for his partner and record their favorite shows, Masterpiece Theatre and Xena. Once Donald and Anita are gone, Ishido says he needs to get a life.

We catch up to Cissie and Bonnie on the airplane headed to Australia, with Bonnie complaining about the Olympic committee making them ride coach instead of first class. Cissie says she won't let anything bother her, but then she's promptly smacked in the face by the chair in front of her. She tells the girl in front of her to stop hitting her, but she keeps doing it. Cissie angrily asks if the girl is deaf, and it turns out, she actually is. Cissie feels awful, and the girl, Natalie, is prompted by her father to apologize. Bonnie uses sign language to tell Natalie it's all right, and Cissie is shocked to see her mom knows sign language.

As they continue to talk, they quickly find out that Natalie is also on the archery team, ranked third right behind Cissie. (It's kind of odd that the archery team didn't meet up before getting on the plane, but whatever.) Natalie suddenly starts shouting and excitedly pointing out the window. A passenger yells at her for being too loud, and Bonnie chews him out for picking on a deaf girl. We then see what got Natalie so excited — Young Justice on the Super-Cycle flying right beside the airplane. Natalie's dad asks how the heroes are able to breathe at 30,000 feet in that open-air vehicle, and Cissie explains that a static bubble creates an air pocket around it. But then she realizes she put her foot in her mouth and hastily adds, "Uh ... so I've heard ..."

The passengers on the plane only saw Impulse, Secret, Superboy and Wonder Girl, as Robin had Secret create a "cloud cover" over himself. Once they're satisfied that Cissie saw them, they take off out of sight, and Secret comes off Robin. She asks if they can stay for the entire Olympics, but Robin says the hotel rooms are too expensive and all booked up anyway. Impulse says they could camp out again, and Robin agrees they can do that for one night only. He explains that some of them have secret identities that can't afford to disappear for too long without explanation. Robin makes sure everybody has their civilian clothes, and Bart starts to put his on right then and there, but Robin tells him he can wait until they land. Secret asks what she'll do, and Robin simply tells her he has it covered. As they approach the Olympic stadium, Bart says they should make that their new headquarters. Superboy sarcastically calls that a great plan, and Bart unsarcastically thanks him for the comment.

Back on the plane, our young archers notice a bit of a commotion up in first class. Turns out, it's the No. 1 archer in America, Tina Thomas, a former movie star who has a following of reporters and photographers. Cissie and Natalie sneak up to take a peek at their teammate, and Cissie is disgusted by Tina's immodest clothing. Tina spots the girls and makes a grand gesture of including them in her interview, but she still makes it all about herself. Bonnie steps in and lectures Tina on being a glory-hound. She says Cissie and Natalie are using their skills to represent America and the serve the greater good. Cissie's proud of her mom, until she obsesses over making sure the press has her name right and smugly adds that once they win the gold medal, they're going to whichever major Florida theme park wants them.

We then head to the Australia Games Council Headquarters, where the committee is objecting the inclusion of a country, saying it would turn the games into a debacle. The dark, shadowy representatives of the country say no protest was raised when they applied and the committee only began to object when their delegates arrived last night. The committee continues to protest, saying they didn't realize this country would be sending such delegates, but the dark figures, the Brain and Monsieur Mallah, basically say it's too late now, and they and their people are going to compete in the Olympics.

Cissie and Natalie get set up in their dorms at the Olympic Village, and Natalie, who can read lips, asks Cissie how she's able to excel at archery while being able to hear. Cissie says she just concentrates and focus. Natalie explains that since she can't hear anything, it's just her and the target, and the rest of the world can go hang. Cissie smiles and says she has often wanted the rest of the world to go hang.

We then meet up with a familiar face, Ace Atchinson, who is enjoying a new high after his incredible coverage of the Sins of Youth event. And it doesn't take Ace long to score his first scoop of the Olympics. Down by the archery park, Ace spots Bonnie yelling at someone who appears to be a super-villain. Ace's hunches are right, although he doesn't know the name of said villain is Merlyn. (Ace has never been too good with names in the superhero/villain community.)

Finally, the Opening Ceremony begins, and the heroes of Young Justice somehow managed to score some great seats in the stadium. Bart asks Robin why he's dyed his hair brown and is wearing sunglasses, and Robin says even though he's more relaxed with his secret identity among his friends, out in the public, he never knows who he's going to run into. Kon mocks Robin for being paranoid, but right on cue, Donald Fite arrives and instantly recognizes Superboy, and he quickly identifies Impulse by the hair. Superboy asks Fite to leave them alone for once, but the agent assures them he's on vacation here with his daughter. He introduces Anita to Young Justice, the bane of his existence, Wonder Girl, Superboy, Impulse, and, he presumes, Robin, the suburban legend. Our heroes all say hi, Bart compliments Anita on her braids, and Robin corrects Fite, saying he's an urban legend.

Somebody bumps into Anita and she drops her duffle bag on Cassie's lap. Cassie notes an odd tube rattling in the bag, and Anita hastily pulls the bag away from her, claiming the tube is her medication. Surprised by this behavior, Cassie recommends Anita take some of her medication now. Fite then asks Robin where their smoky friend is, and Robin says he has no idea who Fite is referring to, while he holds the binoculars Secret is hiding in. Cassie then thinks Anita looks familiar, but Anita staunchly says they've never met before.

The United States athletes then march into the stadium, and Bart says he couldn't be happier if it was him out there, and Cassie says she feels the same way. Fite asks the kids if they know someone on the team, but they all turn around and shout, "No!!!" Anita asks her dad if they can leave, but he says they still have a few more countries to go through followed by the lighting of the torch. The final country is then announced, the Republic of Zandia, which shocks Fite and Robin. None of the others have ever heard of Zandia, and Robin explains that Nightwing gave him the Titans file on it, and Zandia is a country populated entirely with criminals. (Note: Robin, Impulse and Superboy did visit Zandia in The Titans #12, but that Superboy was likely Match in disguise, which explains why Superboy doesn't know what Zandia is. And Impulse doesn't know what Zandia is because he's Impulse.)

Kon asks Robin if he's sure about Zandians being criminals, and Bart points out the delegates when they come into view. Sure enough, they're a bunch of minor super villains wearing orange and purple jumpsuits, led by Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. Mallah asks, "So tell me, Brain ... what are we going to do today?" Brain responds: "Same thing we do every day, Mallah ... try to take over the world!" Robin tells Kon he's pretty sure he's right, and Bart imagines the Joker with 17 Olympic medals around his neck. (Note: The Joker is not actually with the Zandians, although that would have been cool!)

Young Justice is still technically on vacation in their temporary headquarters in New York's Catskill Mountains (I wonder if New Young Justice is still together), but we're definitely back in the groove of things. Peter David and Todd Nauck are back on full-time duties, and the series is moving on to the next big story — finding out what the heck's going on with Arrowette and Empress. I love the exotic setting of this story that also ties in directly to real-world events. Of course, it's very frustrating that DC was never allowed to use the word "Olympics," but we all know what they mean by the "Summer Games." It also makes perfect sense for Arrowette to participate — she doesn't have any superpowers and is no longer a superhero, so there's no cheating going on here. And it is only natural that a country of super villains would force their way into the Games to try to cause trouble.

Impulse was great as usual this issue. Preparing all those party supplies for Arrowette was a genuinely sweet gesture. And Bart's hatred of the Teen Titans is somewhat justified. He was basically kicked off the New Titans when they went up into space and disbanded before returning to Earth. He later attempted to try out for the next group of Teen Titans, but was forbidden by Max. So I can understand Bart holding the smallest sense of a grudge against them — if Bart is capable of holding grudges.

The letters to the editor begin with Brian Sawtelle, of Bangor, Maine, saying Young Justice is the best comic series he's read in 13 years because of its humor and the self-discovery the heroes are going through. Brian ponders on the relationship between Robin and Secret and Spoiler and Arrowette, then he asks what the status of the Young Justice cave is, since it looked pretty bad in some issues, but suddenly seemed fine in others. Most importantly, Brian asks what Bart wanted from Sheik Ali Ben Styn "waaaaaay back" in Young Justice #2. Eddie Berganza says work is still being done on the cave, which is why the team hasn't returned there yet (even though it looked fine enough for New Young Justice), and he promises we'll see Impulse's gift in just a couple of issues.

Arief Leuvenardi, of Brisbane, Australia, loved the pun of Young Justice blowing George Washington's nose on Mount Rushmore.

Mary is very sad by the decision to replace Arrowette with Empress, calling Empress brash and mean, while praising Arrowette for her ability to take down enemies without superpowers or a special suit. Now for the new ads:

See a new side of Marvin. The all-new interactive "Marvin the Martian" in 3-D on enteraindom.com.

Hey, kids! Comics! shows off a fun Bizarro watch, talks about Creature Commandos and the upcoming Green Lantern event, Circle of Fire, in which Impulse will make a brief cameo.

Deftones White Pony featuring: Change (in the House of Flies).

Who dealt this madness? Superman Arkham.

Up next is Mercury Falling Part 3 in Impulse #64.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Flash #164

Lightning in a Bottle

Geoff Johns Writer
Angel Unzueta Penciller
Doug Hazlewood Inker
Gaspar Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Joey Cavalieri Editor

We have a new creative team on The Flash, but are keeping to same practice of having a different artist do the covers. Luckily, the subpar Steve Lightle was traded in for the far superior Brian Bolland. This cover is a direct scene from the story, showing that not only is Flash being arrested, but he has also somehow been forgotten by the world.

Our story begins with a haunting image of Flash falling down into darkness, surrounded by skulls, lurking evil policemen, and some playing cards representing the Flash family. Jay Garrick is the Ace, Barry allen the King, Jesse Quick the Queen, Wally West the Jack and, naturally, Impulse is the Joker.

And that's all the Impulse we get in this issue. And to make matters even worse, that's the last we'll see of Impulse in The Flash for about two years. Geoff Johns seemed more focused on building up the world around Wally than writing stories involving the entire Flash family. And that's fine, it just means I'm going to miss including regular issues of The Flash in this blog.

Anyway, this issue does give us an idea of why Flash is unable to help Max Mercury in the pages of Impulse, but no questions are answered here. Wally wakes up imprisoned in a strange world where nobody know who he is, Heat Wave is a cop, Captain Cold appears to be a hero, Aquaman and many of the classic Rogues are dead, and not only is Barry Allen alive, but he hasn't even become the Flash yet. It's all very wild and confusing, and we'll never find out what's really going on here, since this story does not include Impulse.

But next time we will cover a story that involves Impulse in Young Justice #23.