Sunday, October 15, 2017

Impulse #88

Running Out of Time

Todd Dezago Writer
Carlo Barberi Penciller
Terry Austin Inker
Janice Chiang Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separator
Joey Cavalieri Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

This issue's cover: Bart gets a good reception, thanks to Carlo Barberi and Wayne Faucher. I'm not the biggest fan of this cover. It's a pretty cheap joke presented in a rather vague and boring manner. It's just a crowd of people pointing at three gigantic TVs sitting in an empty void of nothingness. Surely there were more interesting ways to show what this issue is about. Maybe I'm just grumpy because this is the second-to-last issue of Impulse.

Our story begins in the 63rd century, where Carol Bucklen and Meloni Allen have been captured by an alien race called the Doocers and imprisoned on the eighth moon of Korpor and forced to compete in dangerous challenges on a reality TV show. Today's challenge involves them using hover boards to run away from green alien lions. But the hover boards are running out of juice, and Carol and Meloni have been chased to the edge of a cliff. Just when all hope seems lost, Impulse's scout arrives and takes Carol and Meloni up to higher ground. As the scout ties up the lions, he tries to tell Carol that history has been fixed and it's safe for her to come back to the year 2002. But as he's busy, Carol and Meloni mysteriously vanish.

The scout sadly returns home empty-handed and receives a lecture from the real Bart. But "Scouty" (as Bart calls him) explains that it took him a long time to track down Carol and Meloni, and that he needed to come back to recharge. Bart then realizes that Scouty was followed back home, as a spherical time machine suddenly appears, bearing a message that reads: "Come and visit the glamorous and relaxing 63rd century!! You deserve it!! We'll treat you like a king!!" Without much thought, Bart tells Scouty to get in. With even less thought, Scouty jumps into the time machine, eager to start the next adventure. Bart says he meant for Scouty to merge with him, then complains that he even drives himself crazy, as he climbs into the time machine and disappears with a "FWINK!"

Bart arrives in the 63rd century, and it immediately greeted by a large group of grey aliens. They place a collar around his neck that translates their Gungalac to English, and they lead Bart to a huge celebration feast. Bart politely follows them, but he's too surprised by this star treatment to realize anything sinister happening. Until one of the servant robots drops a tray of food and Bart tries to catch all the food with super speed, but finds he's lost his powers. The aliens explain that Bart's collar not only translates languages, but also has the ability to cut off his connection to the Speed Force when the aliens choose. And to make matters worse, Bart will be unable to vibrate out of the collar, even when his powers are turned on.

Bart is then thrown in his cell, which has a massive video screen as one of the walls. Carol and Meloni appear on the screen, telling Bart that he'll be given a chance to "save" them tomorrow. But Carol gets cut off right when she tries to say that they're being held as slaves. All of this was broadcast to a race of white, fluffy aliens called the Soomars, who are excited that their show has gained a new hero.

We then return to the present day at the Cantele Research Center in Denver, Colorado. Jay and Joan Garrick are meeting with Dr. Lateris, who informs Joan that in order to stop her cancer from spreading, they'll have to perform more surgeries to implant internal combatant devices. Jay is hoping they can find a non-invasive procedure to try, but Joan is tired of the treatments. She says she's had enough and wants to just go back to Keystone City now and spend her last days with her friends and family. Dr. Lateris shouts out, "No! You can't!" before catching himself and saying he strongly recommends that Joan stay in Denver a bit longer so they can run some more tests. Jay, however, starts to grow suspicious.

Back in the 63rd century, Impulse begins his first day on the Doocers' reality show. He is shown an image of Carol chained up and surrounded by bio-mech serpents over the Peril Pits of Xover. Bart's collar turns his powers on, and he circles the moon three times before finally finding Carol 13 seconds later. He easily avoids all the mechanical serpents, but as soon as he reaches Carol's platform, she disappears.

The next six days follow the same pattern. Bart is placed in a new, wacky environment (one is underwater, one is in the Wild West) and each time his mother or girlfriend disappears right before he's able to save them. During another video call with Carol and Meloni, they all lament how even though Bart keeps winning the challenges, the Doocers never deliver them their promised freedom. They realize they're doomed to keep repeating this process as long as the Doocers keep getting good ratings on their show. Bart laments the fact that he hasn't thought up an escape plan yet, but his mom assures him something will turn up.

Meanwhile, three producers are discussing the new Impulse show in the Doocer programming office. The ratings are through the roof, but there is some talk that viewers are beginning to feel the show isn't being fair to Impulse and his family. The president, however, dismisses these concerns and demands the show become bigger, better and more spectacular. Back in Carol and Meloni's cell, Meloni reveals that the reason Bart is never able to save them is because they're never in the same area as him. What Bart is seeing is only holograms of the "damsels in distress." Apparently, everything the Doocers do is with holograms, from the different environments, to the threatening monsters, which are robots covered in dense light projections. And somehow, someway, Meloni was able to steal a hologram projector.

The next day, before the Impulse show can begin, a Doocer comes running into the programming office, warning everyone that somehow they've lost control of all their robots and creatures, which are now stampeding toward them. They consider sending in their guard, but one of them points out that the guard has no experience with something like this, and they'd surely be killed by these rampaging robots. So they decide to send in someone who has consistently defeated these robots — Impulse.

So the Doocers broadcast this massive battle, billing it as the final challenge to free Carol and Meloni.  As Impulse battles various aliens and evil robot clowns, the Doocers begin to debate whether they'll actually be able to make good on their promise of freedom this time. One of them points out that the Soomars are growing restless and angry watching Impulse being jerked around from one stupid gimmick to another.

Suddenly, a Doocer reports that Meloni is missing and the real Carol is in the cage Impulse is racing toward, not a hologram. Fearing this to be an escape plan, the Doocers turn off Bart's collar. Carol's cage is guarded by the green lions from earlier, but Bart is still able to defeat them without his speed by using a carefully timed jump to cause the two lions to collide into each other. Rushing to protect their ratings, the Doocers send in their guard to arrest the powerless Impulse before he can get Carol out of the cage. As Bart is led away, he tells the Doocers he will no longer act as their "pet hero." And to the Soomars, Bart tells them to not let other people tell them what to watch, buy or like. "You're free to choose for yourselves! Tell them what you want — and make them listen!"

Bart turns to assure Carol that he'll find a way to save her, but she suddenly disappears. One of the guards then reveals herself to be Carol, and she blasts the other guard with an electric shock. And in the programming office, one of the Doocers reveals herself to be Meloni, who holds all the executives at bay with a large rifle. Carol leads Bart to a hidden time machine, and Meloni calls them up, saying she's neutralized their collars and she's going to stay behind to make sure the Doocers don't follow them. Bart starts to protest this, but Meloni says, "We always find a way, don't we Sunshine ... ? I'll be fine." And with that, Bart and Carol leave the 63rd century.

Back in 2002, Jay returns to Dr. Lateris' office. He angrily says that when he first learned Joan had cancer, he didn't take the time to thoroughly look at the doctor that came so highly recommended. But now he has, discovering that Dr. Lateris has seemingly appeared out of nowhere with a falsified resumé. As Jay demands to know why this fraud has been treating his wife, the doctor transforms into a being of purple energy with the same helmet Jay wears and an upside-down lightning bolt on his chest. Jay instantly recognizes his age-old nemesis, Rival.

This issue probably would have been better served split into two or three separate issues. We barely got to see the different trials the reality show put Impulse through, we didn't see how Meloni stole that hologram projector or how she and Carol escaped their cell and strategically put themselves in the right place at the right time, and the Jay Garrick story is feeling very rushed. I guess that's what happens when you only have one more issue to wrap everything up with. I also don't know if this was a deadlines thing or what, but this is the fifth consecutive issue with a different inker. Most of them did a decent job, but Terry Austin had a very different, inconsistent style. In some cases, it almost didn't even look like Carlo Barberi's pencils anymore.

Putting all those frustrations aside, I thought this issue made an interesting commentary on the entertainment industry. When characters are constantly put through one gimmick after another, fans start to get frustrated. And when the producers ignore fans' complaints and assume they know the fans' desires better than they do, then things start to fall apart. But on the other hand, fans have the responsibility to let the producers know what they want. They need to vote with both their voices and their wallets. And this is an evergreen lesson that constantly needs to be repeated.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Joey Cavalieri publicly announcing that Impulse will cease publication with the next issue.

Jeffrey says there aren't enough books out there that younger kids can read. Most comics are too violent or complicated for 5- to 10-year-olds, and Jeffrey has enjoyed being able to read Impulse with his nieces and nephews. He says DC is making a big mistake by cancelling Impulse and Superboy, since both books had the potential to develop lifelong fans starting at a young age.

Kryptonotes has been a fan since the first issue and is really sad to see Impulse get the axe. Kryptonotes did like seeing Bart in the Kid Flash uniform in World Without Young Justice, and offers the suggestion of starting a new Kid Flash series, carrying over Dezago and Barberi. Kryptonotes thinks it could be a good series if it focuses on Bart's new relationship with Jay, and manages to avoid "crossover hell."

Morgan the Raider thinks Bart living with the Garricks would make for some great stories, if we get the chance to see some.

Real Life Superman complains that his local comic shop had stopped ordering Impulse because of low sales.

Josiah Power notes how weird it is for a store to not order all the titles involved in the World Without Young Justice crossover.

Corndog7 liked the gag with Bedlam's hammer, and he laughed at Wally's old costume fitting Bart like a glove, noting that Wally must have also had big feet as a kid.

BartAllen12 hopes the news of Impulse's cancellation was just a dream. He says it's a shame that the series will end after Bart went through so much development.

Next issue: Impulse: The conclusion! (I hate to write that!)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Young Justice #47

Fighting Maad Part One: M.I.A.

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

Our cover by Nauck and Stucker is actually a rather odd one. And since Impulse doesn't appear in this story, the cover is all we're going to talk about today. First, the composition. The background is extremely vague — nonsensical even — showing a generic computer-generated house tilted at a bizarre angel. And sitting on top of this background, with no regard or relation to what's behind them, are the four biggest stars of Young Justice, frozen in rather bland poses. Don't get me wrong, Nauck has drawn them all wonderfully. They just look like something you'd see on a box of macaroni and cheese or fruit snacks. However, I do believe there was a method to this madness, but to explain that, I need to provide some background.

Since Impulse left Young Justice, there were two issues that I strongly considered reviewing, but decided not to, as Impulse technically wasn't in them. One of them focused on Secret, showing us that she really is Greta Hayes, younger sister of Billy Hayes, who killed her in his process of becoming Harm. During a flashback, Greta's dolls transformed into Young Justice dolls. In the end, I figured an Impulse doll isn't a compelling enough reason for a full review.

The other issue had an even weaker reason to be reviewed. It announced the arrival of the Ray to the team, showing him shredding the costumes of Impulse and Robin. I only mention this because of the significance of Ray joining Young Justice. At 19 years old (and incredibly powerful), he immediately began arguing that he should be the leader of the team. After World Without Young Justice, Robin rejoined the team. He explained that the main source of conflict before was his secret identity, but since Bedlam kind of exposed that, he's ready to come back with no hard feelings. However, Robin assumed he'd naturally resume his leadership role, not realizing his absence created a power struggle between Wonder Girl, Superboy and the Ray.

In real life, Peter David set this all up with an actual vote for readers to choose the leader. In the comics, Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy and the Ray overwhelmed the few remaining members of Young Justice by begging for their votes. This included Cissie and Traya, but, sadly, not Impulse, who did not follow Robin's lead of rejoining the team after the fight with Bedlam. (You'd think somebody would have called Bart.) Since it took a while for the votes in real life to be counted, the first couple of issues after this "election" had the occasional panel where somebody would mention the "fearless leader," but we wouldn't see exactly who they were talking to. It's only natural that Nauck wouldn't have been able to change the panels in time to show who won the election. But I think he did have that ability with this cover.

According to Eddie Berganza, Wonder Girl won with 35% of the vote, just edging Robin's 32%. Superboy picked up 15%, the Ray earned a measly 8%, with the remaining 10% going to Impulse, even though he wasn't even on the team. Berganza attributed Impulse's and Superboy's votes to fan sympathy, since their individual titles were both facing cancellation. I think Berganza (and DC as a whole) overlooked Impulse's fanbase.

Anyway, I believe that David and Nauck knew that issue #47 would come out after the vote results came in, so he created these generic, interchangeable poses for the top candidates. Had Robin won, it would have been an easy Photoshop trick to put him in the middle, slightly larger than his teammates, and next to the words, "Follow the Leader!" Keep in mind, this is just my pure speculation — I don't have any inside information — but this does make the most sense to me. But what I find odd is Impulse's inclusion here instead of the Ray. Was that because Impulse technically earned more votes than Ray? That may be the case, but it feels a bit misleading, because Impulse is still a couple of issues away from actually coming back to Young Justice.

And thus ends perhaps my longest review of a cover. The story is interesting, as it finally brings back the bad guy we saw at the Australia Games way back when. The Baron, who had killed Anita's mom, is now wrapping up the job by going after Anita's dad, Agent Donald Fite. It is compelling stuff, but, alas, Impulse is not involved, so we'll leave it at that.

There aren't any letters to the editor for this issue, so we'll head straight to the ads:

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Enter the Tang and DC "Get Drawn into a Comic Book" sweepstakes.

A coupon for a free Twix Peanut Butter.

There's new blood in Blüdhaven! Nightwing.

Call ATT Collect to win a trip to the X Games.

The new, more powerful Gundams. Careful where you build them.

Toonami DC sweepstakes, with prizes including a Frank Miller-autographed DK2 collection.

Another contest, this one from MAD magazine, offering CDs, shirts, and toilet paper.

Speed is not your only weapon. Looney Tunes Space Race for PlayStation 2.

All my friends crush you! Neurotica.

New Power Stripe. Powered up protection.

got milk? with Zhang Ziyi.

Next time, Bart will try to save Carol in the ... sigh ... penultimate issue of Impulse!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Impulse #87

Crisis on Impulse's Earth Part Two

Magically brought to you by:
Todd Dezago Writer
Carlo Barberi Penciller
Greg Adams Inker
Janice Chiang Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separations
Joey Cavalieri Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

Our cover by Carlo Barberi and Wayne Faucher shows Impulse running past ... comic book panels(?) ... showing all the chaos he's caused with Bedlam's powers. It is pretty funny, but I'm incredibly distracted by that random green-and-yellow beachball right in front of Bart. Where did it come from? Why is it there? Is it covering up a mistake Barberi made? Or is it even a beach ball at all? Maybe it's an umbrella that Bart is opening while he stands ... next to the panel showing a hurricane. Either way, it just doesn't work for me.

Our story begins with the Phantom Stranger talking to Max Mercury, using his crystal ball to show Max (and the readers) exactly how Bart got his new powers and what he's done with them. This two-page recap shows some new details, such as Impulse's scout leaping above the comatose Matthew Stuart in his hospital bed to intercept the Bedlam energy, and the super-powered Impulse fighting Captain Cold.

After finishing his story, the Phantom Stranger once again pleads his case to the powers-that-be, the Quintessence — Zeus, Highfather, Shazam and Ganthet. Shazam once again turns him down, saying the Quintessence does its best to not interfere with mankind. Max steps forward, saying that Bart is simply not capable of wielding the most powerful magic in the universe.

We then check in with Bart, who's hanging out with Dox, Carol and Preston at his castle. Preston loves Bart's new costume with the lightning bolt, and Bart says he considered putting a lightning bolt on his forehead. Carol says that would have been copyright infringement, and Preston, calling her Hermione, tells her to shut up. Bart then gets serious, saying he needs to focus on fixing some of the problems he's inadvertently caused, such as the weather calamities, the water wars, the ruined petroleum industry and the dog rebellion.

Carol has been keeping track of everything on a notebook, and regretfully informs Bart of even more problems he's caused. A lot of farmers have been put out of work since Bart banned asparagus. By saving the whales, the food chain has been messed up. By fixing the hole in the ozone layer, a new ice age has been triggered. And before Carol can explain the side effects of a world without mosquitos, Bart angrily interrupts her. With his eyes glowing purple, he menacingly threatens to make Carol and her notebook disappear. Bart quickly calms down, says he was just kidding, and walks away, while Preston and Carol hold each other in fear.

A short while later, Bart is approached by his dad and his Aunt Dawn. They tell Bart they're thrilled to be living with him, but they're worried about the time stream. In their future, they died fighting the Dominators, and now they wonder if their removal from that battle has inadvertently doomed mankind to that hostile alien race. Bart's grandpa, Barry, also has a similar concern. He died in the past, fighting the Anti-Monitor. So he asks Bart if his magic fixed the problems that would have been caused by this change in history, or if they're just waiting for those problems to catch up with them. Bart hasn't considered any of these things, and he quickly becomes emotional. With glowing purple eyes, he shouts at his family to leave him alone. Max and the Phantom Stranger observe that when Bart becomes confused, the Bedlam magic "asserts" itself.

Bart then angrily creates a dozen purple scouts, simply telling them to "fix it all." Barry kindly asks Bart to calm down, saying they just want to help. But Bart's eyes are still glowing, and he insists his scouts are going to fix everything. The scouts then all return at the same time, and Bart sadly falls to his knees, realizing he's created too many problems with too many timelines to follow. As tears roll down his cheeks, Barry puts a hand on Bart's shoulder, suggesting they talk to some of the other magical heroes. Bart does not like the sound of that, though, insinuating that they just want to take his magic away. He puts Barry, Don and Dawn in purple bubbles, then angrily turns on Carol. He shouts at her for ruining everything by thinking about the consequences. But before he does anything to her, the Phantom Stranger and Max show up and teleport Bart away.

Instead of taking Bart back to Limbo, the Phantom Stranger brings him to the Speed Force, explaining that his magicks won't be able to harm anyone or any other reality from here. Bart protests that he wouldn't hurt anyone, but the Phantom Stranger points out that his irresponsible use of his powers has irrevocable consequences. Max tells Bart he knows he's just trying to fix things, but he's really just making things worse. He tells Bart that he shouldn't have these powers, since they're too much for anyone to handle. Bart sadly says that Max doesn't think he's good enough, then, with glowing eyes, he angrily accuses them of trying to steal his powers. He turns and attacks Phantom Stranger and Max with a blast of purple energy. Phantom Stranger is able to counter this attack, and he warns Bart to surrender the powers or have them forcibly taken, which could leave him injured ... or worse.

Max can't counter Bart's spell, but he is able to outrun it, reasoning with Bart all the while. Max warns Bart that if he continues using this magic, he'll become a villain, responsible for wars, disasters and death. Max tells Bart he knows him to be kind, considerate and caring, devoting his life to helping people and doing the right thing. He reminds Bart that he comes from a long line of heroes, and they're all so proud of him. Max tells Bart he's proud of him, too, at which Bart starts to come to his senses. Bart realizes this isn't him, and he begins to ask for help. But the Bedlam magic forms into a vicious version of Impulse, which yells at Bart to obliterate Max and the Phantom Stranger.

The Phantom Stranger pulls out a glass container, similar to the device the Bedlam magic was encased in when Matthew Stuart first acquired it. Phantom Stranger urges Bart to surrender his powers, explaining that if he does, then everything will go back to the way it was before and everyone will forget any of this ever happened. Bart doesn't like the idea of losing Max, Carol, his dad, his aunt and his grandpa again, and this internal struggle causes Bedlam to briefly take control again.

Max and the Phantom Stranger keep encouraging Bart to fight back, and as he does, a wave of purple energy freezes the two of them in time. Bart did this intentionally, saying he needed to do one last thing before giving up these powers forever. He creates a scout, which leaves the Speed Force, quickly returns, places something in the Phantom Stranger's pocket, then merges back with Bart. Bart writes a note on his hand, telling him to look in the Stranger's pocket, then he unfreezes time, surrendering his power to the Phantom Stranger. All the purple Bedlam magic flows into the glass container, and Max begins to fade away.

As the Phantom Stranger closes the talisman, he and Bart appear in an empty field. Bart, now in his regular red Impulse uniform, wonders who the Phantom Stranger is and how they got to this field. The Phantom Stranger declines to tell Bart what happened, but as he puts the talisman away, he discovers a notebook in his cloak. Bart sees the note on his hand and he realizes that the notebook is his, which he takes and quickly runs away with, leaving a confused Phantom Stranger behind.

Bart then flips through the notebook, recognizing Carol's handwriting. He's confused about the notes on talking dogs and flying cars, but then he finds a reference to the future and realizes that this must be where Carol is. Bart creates a scout, has it note the time and place in notebook, then sends it off to find his girlfriend.

I'm happy with the conclusion of this story. In what is sadly Max Mercury's final major interaction with Bart, he literally saved all reality. Hard to top that. I really liked the concept of a well-intentioned, yet misguided ultimate power threatening reality. It would have been fun to spend some more time in Impulse's world, perhaps even as a DC-wide crossover. In any case, it would have been nice to see more of the problems Bart caused, rather than simply be told about them.

I'm not sure whether the Quintessence granted the Phantom Stranger permission to interfere or if he just went off on his own. If the latter is true, then what was the point of including the Quintessence at all? I'm also not sure how the Phantom Stranger conveniently acquired a talisman that could contain the Bedlam magic. But I did like Bart's struggle at the end, and how he was not only able to overpower Bedlam, but also come up with a clever plan to allow himself to find Carol after reality had been reset. This issue also had some really nice art, beside one bizarre flashback page, where colorist Tom McCraw inexplicably failed to recognize Empress and just left her completely white.

Once again, we're missing the Impulsive Reactions. So let's check out the new ads:

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Next time, we begin September 2002, where Impulse will appear on the cover only of Young Justice #47.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

JSA #37

Stealing Thunder Part 5 of 5: Crossing Over

David Goyer & Geoff Johns Writers
Leonard Kirk Penciller
Keith Champagne Inker
John Kalisz Colors
Heroic Age Separations
Ken Lopez Letterer
Stephen Wacker Associate Editor
Peter Tomasi Editor

Our cover shows Sentinel, Jay Garrick, Captain Marvel and the Star-Spangled Kid mournfully looking on as Jakeem Thunder tries to save the dying Johnny Thunder. It is an interesting image, but not one that appeals to me emotionally. Perhaps it would mean more had I been reading JSA, but as it is, I'm not too worried about whether Johnny Thunder will live or die. I mean, he is probably in his late 80s by this point, at least.

We pick up where last issue left off, with Captain Marvel having stabbed the Ultra-Humanite with a lightning rod to release the Thunderbolt genie. This caused a big explosion, and at the bottom of a crater lies Johnny Thunder's dying body. Mr. Terrific asks the Flash to find the Ultra-Humanite's brain, and Wally, Jay, Jesse and Bart very quickly locate the villain's hideout.

But instead of sticking around to help, our favorite speedsters apparently just go home after this. Sand follows their directions to the Ultra-Humanite, who is just a brain in a jar, surrounded by equipment that seems to be creating white gorillas for him. Icicle shows up, intent on killing the villain. As Sand tries to stop him, the Crimson Avenger arrives and shoots the brain. But this "shocking" turn may be undone by what happens next.

Johnny Thunder dies in Jakeem's arms, just like on the cover, but Jakeem is able to preserve Johnny's soul by combining it with the Thunderbolt genie. So now Jakeem's genie, which lives in his pen and responds to the magic words, "So cool," looks and acts like Johnny. After a bit of rule-explaining, Jakeem makes a wish to undo all the wishes the Ultra-Humanite made. This wish works perfectly and brings everything back to normal.

And that's it. Once again, I really don't have a whole lot to say about this story, especially since Impulse once again only appeared in one panel. This story was a fairly interesting alternate reality scenario that virtually involved every DC character imaginable. Of course, the problem with using so many characters is that you get a lot of characters like Impulse, who barely make an appearance in one panel each issue. I also felt this story did a poor job of explaining why certain heroes remained free in the Ultra-Humanite-controlled world, while most of them were captured. And the whole scene of Ultra-Humanite's death was rendered completely pointless, as all of reality was rewritten soon after. It also strikes me odd at how this story came out at the same time of World Without Young Justice, which shared so many similarities.

Next time, we'll wrap ups Bart's reign with near-unlimited magic powers in Impulse #87.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Impulse #86

Crisis on Impulse's Earth

Todd Dezago Writer
Carlo Barberi Penciller
Rich Faber Inker
Janice Chiang Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separator
Joey Cavalieri Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo

Our cover by Carlo Barberi and Wayne Faucher shows the Flash, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman standing back in awe and amazement of Impulse, who really is the most powerful hero in the universe ... well, at least he is for this issue. It's a simple, yet bold cover. As humorous as it is intriguing.

Our story begins with Wonder Woman (in her invisible plane) meeting Batman and Robin in the middle of the desert to answer a distress call from the Martian Manhunter. These heroes look a bit more colorful than usual, and they soon find three member of the Justice League being attacked by equally colorful threats. Martian Manhunter is surrounded by five floating fire-spitting heads. Green Lantern is being pounded into the ground by an enormous yellow wooden baseball bat. And the Flash (who's new costume coincidentally looks like his current Rebirth outfit) is trapped inside a green gelatinous creature. And overseeing all this mayhem are three odd-shaped heads of red, blue and green.

Wonder Woman tries to pull Flash out of the goo monster with her magic golden lasso, but the goo slides down the lasso and envelops her, as well. Batman and Robin have a long conversation about how they should rescue Green Lantern, with Robin suggesting they finally use the Bat-termites he's been carrying in his utility belt. But Batman says it'll take too long for the termites to eat through the giant bat, so he instead throws a batarang at one of the fire-spouting creatures attacking the Martian Manhunter. The batarang redirected the creature's fire blast toward the giant bat, but as it burns, huge, flaming splinters brake off and just happen to land around Batman and Robin, trapping them in a cage of fire.

Superman shows up and begins battling the three-headed creature that has claimed responsibility for these attacks. However, the creature says it knows Superman is vulnerable to magic, and traps him in a magical pink bubble. Wonder Woman tells Flash they're doomed, but he reminds her the Justice League still has one more powerful member. As he wonders where their greatest and strongest teammate is, a purple streak suddenly zooms in. The fire around Batman and Robin is put out, the gelatinous creature holding Wonder Woman and Flash is liquified, the giant yellow bat is cut in half with a huge axe, and Superman's bubble is burst. Everybody realizes these rescues could only have been performed by Impulse, the greatest Justice Leaguer of all time!

Impulse apologizes for being late, saying he was saving a trainload of orphans from the forces of evil. Flash warns Impulse about the devilish floating heads, but Bart's confident he can handle it with his magical powers. He easily avoids the heads' attack, appearing above them in midair, where he zaps them with a blast of purple magic. This reveals the heads to actually be Mr. Mxyzptlk. Superman reminds Impulse that the only way to defeat this "mischievous menace" is to trick him into saying his name backwards. So Impulse decides to transform Mxyzptlk into a comic book, which includes three backwards panels of Mxy saying his name and disappearing. Bart then breaks the fourth wall, encouraging kids to hold those panels up to a mirror to make the fifth dimensional imp disappear.

With the day saved, Impulse returns to his home in Manchester, Alabama, which has been given quite a makeover. All the buildings have been replaced with futuristic castles, and an enormous billboard says, "Welcome to Manchester, Alabama — Home of Impulse, the greatest and most powerful hero in the universe!!" Bart's home is a massive castle, complete with a courtyard featuring a golden fountain of himself and tons of video games. Preston, Rolly, Mike and Wade are all there, and they all know Impulse is Bart. They ask him to play some video games with them, but he says he's got some important business to attend to.

Bart heads inside, where he finds Helen having a cup of coffee and a conversation with Dox the dog, who is now wearing clothes and enjoying his new ability of speech. Bart tells them how he saved the Justice League and asks what they have for a snack. Carol suddenly gives Bart a big hug, calling him silly because he now has the ability to whip up any snack he wants. They briefly talk about Bart's new powers, providing a quick recap of World Without Young Justice, for whoever didn't read it. Bart says he's happy to have the ability to fix all the things that were wrong in his life and make everybody happy. And what makes Bart most happy is to finally be surrounded by his friends and family he's so often separated from. Living in Bart's castle are his parents, Don and Meloni Allen; his grandparents, Barry and Iris Allen (who is still caring for the Weather Wizard's infant son); his cousin, Jenni Ognats and her mom, Dawn; Jay and Joan Garrick; and Max Mercury.

But from a dark and mysterious place, the Phantom Stranger watches Bart prepare snacks for his family on a crystal ball. The Phantom Stranger recognizes the presence of Barry Allen and his children is a huge mistake, and he beseeches an unseen council to intervene and realign the balance of power. He argues that Bart is too young to understand the nature of this evil, ancient power and its ability to corrupt, but the council refuses to act impulsively, saying they will wait to see what the fates hold in store for this scenario.

Later, Bart is hanging out with Carol, rejoicing in his ability to make the world a better place. She congratulates him for saving the rainforests, the whales and the comic book industry, as well as creating flying cars that run on water, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. But, Carol is sad to report that Bart's changes have caused a few problems. When Bart made the cars run on water, all the millions of people working in the petroleum industry suddenly lost their jobs. And the flying cars now produce a lot steam, which is throwing off the weather patterns around the world. And when Bart made Dox smart enough to talk, he granted this ability to all dogs, many of which are now rebelling against humans, demanding equal rights. When Bart joined the Justice League, he thought they were too serious, so he made them happier and more fun, neglecting to change the villains, who are now smarter and more diabolical by comparison. Not to mention the wars being waged because the flying cars have created a water shortage in some countries.

Carol tells Bart that there are always repercussions to whatever he does, so Bart starts to wave his arm in the air, saying he'll make sure everyone has enough water and he'll fix the weather. Carol grabs his arm, fearing this will cause more problems. Suddenly, an angry, purple image of Impulse appears and knocks Carol to the ground. Bart profusely apologizes, although his eyes are still glowing purple. Carol is OK, but she suggests that Bart refrain from using his magic for a little while.

Max watched that whole encounter from behind a tree and he realizes that this is all wrong. Bart has not only altered historical events, but he's also changed the laws of nature and physics. So Max heads to his room and prepares to attempt to exit this reality. He connects to the Speed Force through meditation, then runs in a circle, adjusting his vibrational frequency until finally, he crashes through the walls of this reality and ends up in a dark place of nothingness. Max is soon greeted by the Phantom Stranger, who welcomes him to Limbo. The Phantom Stranger tells Max he is right to be concerned, saying reality is on the brink of catastrophe. Max says if anyone can help him stop Bart, it's the Phantom Stranger.

This was a pretty interesting thought experiment. What would Impulse do if he had unlimited powers? And I think this issue perfectly answered that question. Impulse would spend his time going on fun, wacky adventures with a light, happy version of the Justice League, battling goofy villains like Mr. Mxyzptlk. Then he'd bring back his entire family, which we've never had all together in one place before. And, naturally, Bart would genuinely try to fix all the world's problems, but would fail to think through all the consequences of each of his actions.

I really like Impulse's new purple uniform. And, as sad as it is, I did like seeing that flash of evil Bedlam energy emerging from Bart. There has to be consequences for such enormous power. I also think it was fitting that Max would be the first to try to take action against Bart. His connection to the Speed Force is so strong, he has the ability to recognize the damage Bart is causing and actually do something about it. The Phantom Stranger is one of DC's most powerful and vague heroes, and his involvement here also feels fitting. Unlike the previous Bedlam attacks, there is no real effort by any heroes to stop Impulse. Partly because most of what Impulse is doing is good, and partly because Impulse has turned most of the heroes into happy-go-lucky idiots. I wish we could have seen the rest of Young Justice in this issue, but we did at least see how Impulse turned Robin from a brilliant detective into a Burt Ward-esque moron. So yeah, I think this situation definitely requires some "divine" intervention.

Sadly, this issue does not have a letters column, so we'll just head straight to the new ads:

PlayStation 2 has a new porpoise. Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future.

Got bobblehead fever? Major League Baseball bobbleheads in marked boxes of Post cereals.

Score one of 100 soccer balls a day from Frosted Flakes.

Free Magic SuperSonic Ear from Kool-Aid.

Rice Krispies, Cocoa Rice Krispies and Rice Krispies Treats. (The last one was an amazing achievement in the world of cereal.)

Watch out — here comes Spider-Man Pop-Tarts.

We added a little attitude. And a lot of creamy taste. Oreo O's. (Another outstanding achievement in cereal.)


Next time, we'll begin comics with an August 2002 publication date, first by wrapping up our other genie-themed story in JSA #37.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

JSA #36

Stealing Thunder Part 4 of 5: Time-Bound

David Goyer & Geoff Johns Writers
Leonard Kirk Penciller
Keith Champagne Inker
John Kalisz Colorist
Heroic Age Separations
Ken Lopez Letterer
Stephen Wacker Associate Editor
Peter Tomasi Editor

The cover by Rags Morales shows Doctor Fate holding Hakwgirl's mask. With a little bit of blood on it. It is rather odd, but no odder than the cover boasting of being Wizard Magazine's best comic of 2001.

We resume our story in the alternate timeline created by the Ultra-Humanite, who has possessed Johnny Thunder's body and used the Thunderbolt genie to conquer Earth. Our ragtag team of heroes have fried the mind-control devices placed on most of Earth's most powerful heroes and villains, but said frying has momentarily knocked them unconscious. So now our little team is left to fight the Ultra-Humanite and his army of white gorillas on their own.

Meanwhile, Doctor Fate and Wildcat must defeat Hawkman and Hawkgirl (hence the cover) to rescue  Sentinel, who was being used to power the Ultra-Humanite's palace. Once freed, Alan Scott unleashes a powerful attack against the Ultra-Humanite and his gorillas. The rest of the heroes then begin to wake up and join the fight. Impulse, Jesse Quick, Jay Garrick and the Flash run together to form a whirlwind that pulls Ultra-Humanite off balance and leaves him open for attacks from some heavy-hitters, such as Black Adam, Superman, Power Girl and Steel.

Ultimately, it is Captain Marvel who delivers the final blow, stabbing Ultra-Humanite in the chest with a lightning rod to ground the Thunderbolt. There's a big explosion, and when the smoke clears, we see the frail body of Johnny Thunder at the bottom of a huge crater.

I don't have much to say about this issue. Just a big, straightforward fight with tons and tons of characters. As we saw in the fights against Bedlam, one way to win was to essentially find a loophole in the supreme power's scheme. This story went the other way, choosing to simply overwhelm the supreme power with every hero imaginable. And that works, too. Impulse was only a tiny blob in this issue, but at least he got to participate.

Next time, we'll see how Bart handles having so much power himself in Impulse #86.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Young Justice #45

World Without Young Justice Part 5: Bang Bang Bedlam's Purple Hammer

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

This month's cover is by the incomparable Humberto Ramos with Wayne Faucher and Ian Hannin colors. Well, I'd normally call Ramos incomparable, but these covers have not done the job for me. Great ideas. Poor execution. This cover parallels part one of this crossover, once again showing Bedlam playing the puppet master from the shadows, but this time we get the alternate versions of our heroes. Stephanie Brown instead of Tim Drake, a darker Empress, Doomsboy instead of Superboy, Billy as the Secret, a Wonder Girl powered by Dionysus instead of Zeus, and Bart dressed as Kid Flash instead of Impulse. Technically, he's unchanged by Bedlam's scheming — he's just wearing a different costume. The one hero missing from Young Justice #44 is Slobo, and there's a conspicuous empty space where he was. Perhaps original plans for this story included an altered Slobo, which could have been interesting. In hindsight, that spot on both these covers should have been given to Arrowette.

Our story picks up with Arrowette, Wonder Girl, Anita and Billy eating the Chinese food they agreed to at the end of Part 1. But Wonder Girl ruins the meal by suddenly tipping over the table and shouting, "IMPULSE!!!" Billy thinks she's just making a stupid joke, but Cissie and Anita both find the name Impulse very familiar. Cassie realizes that the "weird little guy" they saw a few hours ago is Impulse and they should help him. So Wonder Girl promptly marches out the restaurant without paying the bill, followed closely by Arrowette and Empress. Billy, however, thinks the whole thing is idiotic and goes his own way.

We then cut back to Bedlam's castle, where Matthew Stuart has finally noticed that Impulse has escaped his prison cube. The scout left in there does his best to convince Matt that he's the real Impulse, but Matt tests this by pounding the scout with his magic hammer, which fails to produce another scout. After grumbling for a bit (mostly recapping everything for readers that might have missed a few things), Matt decides to check in on his greatest enemies. Tim, "Conal" and Bart have just begun sneaking through Bedlam's castle, and Matt decides to wait for the girls to show up before he makes his move. In the meantime, he heads out to recruit some help.

Matt finds Billy brooding on a rooftop, and he tells Billy his friends are going to try to take his life away from him. Matt shoves his fingers into Billy's head and shows him the way the world was before he began changing everything — where Cassie, Cissie and Anita were much more heroic and Greta was Secret ... and Billy was Harm. Billy is horrified by the image of his alternate, evil self, crying out that he knew he was on that path, but he managed to turn away from it. Matt explains that if Billy's friends aren't stopped, reality will shift back to the world where Billy is a villain, and the heroes are still heroes, just slightly different. He offers Billy the chance to help him preserve this reality, and after thinking for a moment, Billy agrees.

Meanwhile, Cassie, Cissie and Anita have returned to the spot they saw Impulse's scout, the burning remains of Jason Todd's circus. Realizing they don't have a plan beyond this, the girls begin arguing among themselves. A new Impulse scout casually asks them how long they'll be arguing, and playfully asks Anita if she lost her clothes somewhere. Now that he has the girls' attention, the scout explains that the first scout they saw was sent just a second after Bart escaped from Bedlam, which was why it was so panicked and confused. This explanation only further confuses the girls, but Cissie does remember that Impulse's real name is Bart. The scout tells her that in the real world, her name is still Cissie and she's retired from being Arrowette — news she isn't too pleased to hear. The scout then tells the girls they need to hurry, and he leads the way to Bedlam's castle, with Cassie flying behind him, carrying Empress and Arrowette. Anita wishes they had a flying motorcycle or something to take them there.

Matt shows Billy his monitors displaying all his reality-altering tactics, including causing the Boston Red Sox to lose the World Series in 1986. Matt then grins in delight as his second recruit arrives. At the same time, Impulse's scout leads his additional helpers to meet the real Bart, Tim and Conal, who all shout out, "YOU!!!!" Cassie vaguely recognizes them as Kon and Robin. Tim insists on calling himself Tim, but he also vaguely recognizes Cassie. Conal, however, immediately starts flirting with Anita, who wishes she had a loa doll to torture him with.

Bart gets everyone's attention and tells them that even though his scouts are getting weaker, he managed to make one more and send it off to find Red Tornado so they'll be close to full strength. Nobody else remembers Red Tornado, so Bart moves on, providing a brief history of Bedlam and his current role in this crisis. Matt suddenly shows up and sends in Doomsboy to attack. Arrowette fires three sleeping gas arrows into his mouth, but Conal warns that Doomsboy won't be stopped for more than a few seconds by the gas. So everybody runs away, quickly meeting Secret in the next hallway. Billy apologetically attacks his friends, but Bart manages to find a nearby empty room he says they can hide out in until Red Tornado arrives.

When our heroes enter the room, however, they find Matt, Doomsboy and Billy waiting for them. Matt reminds them that this is his castle and he does have magical powers. He then works himself up into a rage, yelling about how awful it was to be trapped in a coma and how he'll never be helpless again. Matt grows into a giant and nearly smashes Conal, but Anita teleports him away in time. Tim boldly says they'll find a way to turn Matt's scheme against him. Cassie picks up on this, saying Impulse could send a scout back to prevent Bedlam's energy from returning to Matt so he stays in that coma and none of this happens. Matt initially says that plan wouldn't work, but then struggles to explain why. He turns to Billy and Doomsboy for support, but neither of them can find a flaw in this plan.

At Tim's prompting, Bart creates a scout, but Matt quickly ensnares it in purple bands. So Bart starts making tons of scouts, but Matt is able to catch all of them, while everybody else starts fighting Billy and Doomsboy. A scout then merges with Bart, who gleefully announces he's found the Red Tornado and she'll be here any second. Right on cue, the Red Tornado crashes through the ceiling — but it's not the android we all know and love. Instead, we're treated to the original Red Tornado from the Golden Age of comics — Ma Hunkel, a chubby, middle-aged woman, dressed in a cheap, home-made costume, topped off with a pot on her head. But as silly as Ma is, she gets the job done. She lands on Matt's shoulder and begins pulling his hair.

The arrival of Red Tornado provides Bart the distraction he needs, but as Tim notices, Bart isn't feeling too good right now. But Bart sends out another scout, thinking to himself that he might be a goner, much like the other Flashes in events like this. Matt slaps Red Tornado off him half a second too late, and the scout manages to begin its journey back in time to undo the damage Bedlam caused.

We suddenly cut to the Young Justice headquarters at the Catskills resort, where Secret is enjoying a late game of tennis with new member Ray. Secret is overjoyed to see Robin has appeared on the tennis court, accompanied by Superboy, Wonder Girl, Empress and Cissie, all restored to their happy, normal versions of themselves. As they slowly realize they're not in Bedlam's castle anymore, Ray asks if they always talk like they're in the middle of something that needs a ton of footnotes. Secret asks who Bedlam is and where Impulse is.

Impulse then arrives, gladly telling everyone that his scout managed to stop Bedlam's energy. Matt's still in his coma, which Bart says is sad, but it's better than the alternative. Bart's also pleased to report that he didn't die from making too many scouts. Robin tentatively asks Bart if his scout actually intercepted Bedlam's energy and then merged back with him. Bart confirms this, not quite realizing that he is glowing purple and also a giant. As Superboy says, "We've got a probbbblem ... "

And thus concludes the one and only crossover between Young Justice, Robin, Superboy and Impulse. And it actually was pretty fun. I love alternate realities and I especially love stories centered around Impulse. It was Bedlam's (understandable) hatred of Impulse that launched this whole thing, and it was the exploitation of Impulse's new power that made it possible. It was neat to see the destructive potential of Bart's scouts, as well as explore the limitations of this power. However, I feel Todd Nauck could have played up Bart's physical exhaustion a bit more in this issue.

My biggest complaint with this story was simply that I wanted more. I'm not saying we necessarily needed more issues, but we probably could have used the given pages a bit more economically. There was a bit of repetition in the Impulse issue, and the Robin issue devoted half its pages to a completely separate story. And I'm not saying we needed much more information, just a few more specifics would have been nice. Instead of merely saying that Young Justice changed, give us a quick panel of an Impulse scout taking a specific item that triggered the change.

Humberto Ramos' covers were a bit of a disappointment. And the Robin issue was the weakest both in terms of story and art. But Todd Nauck and Carlo Barberi both excelled on the artwork in their issues. And I was surprised by how much I liked Bart in a Kid Flash uniform.

Ultimately, though, this story did well for a five-part crossover with four different creative teams. I enjoyed the repetition of the issues ending with somebody shouting, "YOU?!" It was fun to see Jason Todd and the original Red Tornado. And it was truly fitting that the threat that created Young Justice was what brought them back together years later.

Brian Yardley, of Murray, Utah (my home state!), thanks DC for finding a home for the Ray, who had essentially been in limbo after his solo title was canceled in 1996. Brian also asks for Robin and Impulse to return to Young Justice, but if they can't, he suggests Damage, Bubble Boy, Razorsharp, Jamm or Chimera. Eddie Berganza admits the main reason Ray joined YJ was because Nauck wanted to draw him.

Tim Lapetino is also very excited to have the Ray back and he wonders how he'll interact with Robin, should he return to Young Justice.

Joe Kucharski III, of Collingswood, N.J., admits he wasn't interested in Young Justice until Our Worlds at War (see, event comics can bring in new readers!). Joe praises Peter David's humor and Nauck's art, and also thanks them for putting Ray on the team.

Brent Caley, of Irmo, S.C., says Ray is his favorite character, and he hopes he stays on the team even after Robin and Impulse return. Brent also asks for the Star-Spangled Kid to join Young Justice, saying she's too young for the JSA. Now for the new ads:

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It's time to duel! Yu-Gi-Oh! for PlayStation and Game Boy Color.

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Got chocolate milk? With biker Matt Hoffman.

Next time, before we witness Bart with the power of Bedlam, we'll take a very quick look at our other alternate reality created by another genie with nearly limitless power in JSA #36.