Sunday, April 20, 2014

Zero Hour #0

Story and Layout Art • Dan Jurgens
Ink Art • Jerry Ordway
Letters • Gaspar
Colors • Gregory Wright
Asst. Editor • Mike McAvennie
Editor • KC Carlson

This is one of my favorite covers of all time. It's not one of those blank variants you see nowadays to get artists to sketch on at cons. This is an intentionally blank cover to go with the story of Parallax destroying the universe and leaving nothing but empty whiteness behind. And the cover looks even better in print — the letters are all a shiny silver. Unfortunately the digital edition just made them a basic black.

I also have to compliment Jurgens, Ordway, Gaspar and Wright. They, and they alone, put out five issues in five weeks. And these were full-length, 24-page issues. And not one of them needed extra guest pencillers, inkers or colorists. This would be unheard of today. I guess that today's comics are a bit more technical, but how much so? If these guys could produce something so great so quickly, why can't more people do the same nowadays?

So last issue ended with the complete and utter destruction of all things. But luckily, a millisecond before Parallax destroyed space and time, Waverider was able to save a handful of heroes and pull them out to Vanishing Point. Three of those heroes will join Impulse in New Titans: Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Darkstar Donna Troy and a 16-year-old boy named Damage, who has the ability to produce and expend enormous amounts of energy, or in other words, explode.

Waverider takes all the heroes to Parallax, who tries to explain to them that what he's doing is good. He's creating a new universe free of misery, with multiple worlds so everyone can live and get everything they want. But none of our heroes like the idea of Parallax setting himself up as a god, so they fight him. The all-powerful Spectre appears, and helps defeat Parallax. All the heroes then blast their energy through Waverider and into Damage, who then erupts with an explosion so large it re-creates the Big Bang.

They let time unfold naturally, and everything happens just like they remember it — except for a few subtle and specific differences. Everybody who was killed by a fissure — including Impulse and Batman — are back, but anybody killed by other means is still dead. As for Impulse, everything is back to normal. He's still in 1994 with his grandma, although his cousin, the Flash, is still missing. In the meantime, Impulse is going to offer his services to the New Titans.

The back cover of this issue is a pretty cool fold-out timeline covering every major aspect of the DC Universe. This is a good way to officially show what has changed and what has stayed the same after this crisis. Unfortunately, Impulse is not included on the timeline, but there is very little information on the future here.

So that's it for 1994's big event, Zero Hour. It was really fun to see everybody together, and all the characters were drawn very well. There were a few slow moments of everybody standing around scratching their heads, and a couple of "fights" thrown in there for the sake of some action. I did like the general plot of this story, but I think the character Extant was superfluous. He only served to delay the reveal of Parallax, which I didn't think was necessary. And although the disaster in this story was as huge and epic as it could possibly be, I think it was kind of watered down by the lack of major ramifications that followed.

Next time, we move into October 1994, which was DC's first Zero Month. Every series went back down to #0 to tell their new origin story, or retell their existing origin story for any new readers brought in with the Zero Hour hype. Impulse doesn't appear inside Flash #0, but he is on the cover, and I do think it's important to find out what happened to the Flash, so I'll give it a brief review.

Zero Hour #1

Dan Jurgens Story and Art
Jerry Ordway Finished Art
Gaspar Letters
Gregory Wright Colors
Mike McAvennie Asst. Editor
KC Carlson Editor

There's no Impulse on this cover, but that's alright. I was really surprised to see him on the last two, and asking for a third would have been pushing it. Here, we have the all-consuming entropy destroying the last remaining heroes. On the surface, this might seem like a random group, but each of these heroes was specifically chosen for their power set or emotional impact on the story.

And speaking of the story, this issue begins with the villain Extant just as confused as the reader is. He had engineered the destruction of all existence, and was seemingly thwarted by Metron. But then the rifts reappeared, more powerful than ever. Just as Extant is wondering about this, he is attacked by the real villain of this story.

Note the green energy. Anyway, the entropy consumes the 30th century, and since Bart was born in the year 2993, he ceases to exist. He begins to glow, and then tragically fade away as he calls out, "Help meeeee—" But no one can help him. Even the great Batman can only stand by and cry out "Impulse!" This is notable, as it is the first time someone besides Bart has actually referred to him as Impulse. Prior to this, everyone had just called him Bart or Kid. Unfortunately, sometime later, there would be some confusion to this, and some people would believe that it was Batman who came up with the Impulse name.

So poor little Bart was killed off just a couple of months after he was created. But he was hardly the only casualty here. The rifts grow more numerous and appear to be accelerating. It's not long before basically everybody dies, including Batman and Jay Garrick. A few random things happen, most notably the second Atom, Ray Palmer, regressing in age to an 18-year-old. But finally everything gets sorted out when the true villain appears before Waverider and the random group of surviving heroes. And this villain is Parallax, aka Hal Jordan, formerly one of the Green Lanterns.

Back when Superman was coming back to life, one of the evil impostors destroyed Hal's hometown of Coast City. Hal kind of went mad with grief, and long story short, he became the all-powerful Parallax. And he has decided to use this power to destroy the universe and build a new one from scratch. And this issue ends with him doing just that. He announces that it's Zero Hour, and the page goes completely white.

Well, that looks like the end of everything. But wait, there's one more issue — a zero issue for Zero Hour! I guess we better check it out just in case. Maybe somebody will be able to save all of existence ...

Like all the Zero Hour issues, this one has a September 1994 cover date, but this one actually has a couple of new ads. The first is called Virtual Bart, but it has nothing to do with Bart Allen being raised in a virtual reality world. Instead, it's a Simpsons game about Bart Simpson being trapped in a virtual reality world.

Next are Bic Wavelengths pens. These are cheap, colorful pens with fun designs and colors that change with body heat. I used my fair share of these pens in school, and they always seemed to fall apart rather quickly and the color-changing aspect always wore off quickly or never really worked at all. They still were pretty cool, though.

The world's finest heroes together at last! The Batman Adventures guest-starring Superman.

Hawkman. An alien by birth. An Earthman by choice. A champion by destiny.

So that is it for the penultimate issue of Zero Hour, which was another fun ride. Yes, it was a little weird here and there with the oddly specific changes to certain characters (like Atom), but it still was a great issue. And you really can't do anything bigger than destroying all of space and time. That is as epic as it gets.

Next time: Zero Hour #0

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Zero Hour #2

Story and Pencil Art by Dan Jurgen
Ink Art by Jerry Ordway
Gaspar Letterer
Gregory Wright Colorist
Mike McAvennie Asst. Editor
KC Carlson Editor

There are a TON of characters on this cover, but the only one I care about is Impulse, who once again enjoys prominent placement. The other cool thing with this cover is the growing white space in the middle, which will get bigger and bigger the next two issues.

Waverider brings the Justice Society of America back to the present time, and when all is said and done, the original Atom, Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite are all dead. The original Flash, Jay Garrick, says he's seen too many of friends die, including Barry Allen and Wally West, and he decides to retire. Jay exchanges a meaningful look with Impulse, but it's unlikely that he knows who he is. Rather, I believe he can feel Bart's connection to the Speed Force.

The remaining heroes then finally come up with a plan to stop the entropy destroying space and time at the past and future. Waverider takes a team to the past, while Metron takes a team to the future. To stop them, Extant sends the brainwashed Team Titans. I really don't know who any of them are, and it really doesn't matter, except for the two Team Titans who are able to resist the compulsion to attack — Mirage and Terra. We don't see a whole of Impulse here, but he does fight alongside Superboy and a few of his future Titans teammates.

Ultimately, the Team Titans are pretty easily defeated, and Metron is able to destroy the rift by sacrificing his Mobius chair. Extant is shocked to see the entropy destroyed, but a mysterious, unseen villain reopens the rift.

So yeah, there's not much to say here, since Impulse really didn't do anything to stand out. But I'm OK with that — this story has to focus on everybody, which means quite a few people have to spend some time in the background. All in all, this issue was still pretty fun, with great artwork. It does, however, address the inherent problem with big crossovers like this. In order to find a big enough threat to bring together all the heroes, Dan Jurgens ended up with something intangible and virtually impossible to destroy. Well, there are ways to destroy it, but they're rather boring and technical. What we all want to see is all these heroes actually fight somebody, hence the Team Titans. It wasn't the smoothest bit of the story, as it, like so many decisions in this story, reeks of editorial mandates. Jurgens tried to make every death and character alteration seem natural, but in hindsight, everything was oddly and annoyingly specific. Perhaps that's one reason why so many people forget about Zero Hour. There weren't really any massive changes, just a few subtle, yet specific tweaks.

Next time: Zero Hour #1

Friday, April 18, 2014

Zero Hour #3

Dan Jurgens • Story and Art
Jerry Ordway • Finished Art
Gaspar • Letterer
Gregory Wright • Colorist
Mike McAvennie • Asst. Editor
KC Carlson • Editor

Nine years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC realized that their continuity had once again grown unwieldily and was in need of a tune up — especially in the case of Hawkman, who quite possibly has the most convoluted history of any major DC character. So in the summer of 1994, DC went to a couple of their biggest names — Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway, who helped kill Superman — and engineered another full-scale crossover crisis. The main Zero Hour mini-series came out weekly, as far as I can tell, which would be a very impressive achievement (especially since it is currently taking DC nine months to release seven issues of Forever Evil).

 The Zero Hour issues are numbered in reverse, starting with #4 and ending with #0. Sadly, Bart wasn't in #4, so I had to skip to #3, where he surprisingly made an appearance on the cover. Here he is, right alongside iconic characters like Superman, Hawkman, the original Flash, Hourman, Green Lantern, and the new Green Lantern. The big scary guy is the mysterious Extant, and the glowing yellow ball of energy is the entropy that is destroying all existence. But back to Bart, real quick. Remember that he has only existed as a character for a couple of months and hasn't begun calling himself Impulse yet, or even wearing a mask — not that you can really call that a mask, but whatever, it's essential to keep his hair free, even if it would realistically reveal his secret identity. Anyway, I am happy that DC immediately embraced Impulse and made him a part of this big event.

Now, this Zero Hour story is pretty darn big — it includes practically every single DC character from the time. And it can quickly get confusing and out of hand, so I'm going to focus mainly on Bart's story and the really big essential stuff. The essential stuff from issue #4 was the apparent death of the Flash. When Wally and Abra Kadabra found themselves in the 64th century, the time-traveling Waverider explained to them that time and space were being destroyed from the end and the beginning — working its way toward the middle. They see the all-consuming entropy headed their way, and Wally tries to collapse it on itself with his super speed. Instead, he disappears, leaving only his costume behind. So Waverider came back to 1994 to gather all the heroes in the world to find a way to stop this crisis.

Issue #3 begins with all the heroes on their way to this big gathering in New York. Superman is with Metron, a New God with a flying, time-traveling Mobius chair. As they fly over Keystone City, they notice something unusual happening.

Bart is being chased by some dinosaurs that have appeared because of the merging timelines. Superman offers to help, calling Bart "kid," to which Bart replies, "Call me Kid Flash — and get your big 'S' handed to you! The name's Impulse!" He then shows Superman he doesn't need any help by luring the dinosaurs toward a wall, which he vibrates through, while the dinos crash into it and are knocked out. Superman asks Impulse to join the other heroes, and Metron notes that he's from the 30th century and could be another time anomaly. Impulse says he's just looking for cousin, the Flash, and figures he has to be where all the other heroes are.

A couple of notes here: It seems like Mark Waid could have used one or two more issues to develop Bart more before this appearance. Bart already has quite a bit of disdain for the Kid Flash name, but I don't think he's had enough time to build up that animosity toward Wally and his past. But then again, Bart operates at super speed, so he can develop feelings like this a lot more quickly than normal. The name Impulse is peculiar as well, since we've really only heard Iris call Bart impulsive. Wally has thought Bart was impulsive, but he never actually called him Impulse. So essentially, Bart named himself. The ease with which he vibrated through the wall is also slightly out of place. It has been established Bart can vibrate through solid objects, but he doesn't have full control of it yet. Maybe he just was able to focus better in order to show off to Superman. I don't mind Bart talking smack to Superman, though. That seems to fit his personality at this point.

I'm guessing that after Bart and Wally infiltrated the Kobra base, Bart ran home, heard the message from Arsenal and the Titans, and he decided to become a full-fledged superhero. He probably made his own "mask" and gave himself his own codename. He undoubtedly knew Wally was Kid Flash, so he somehow came up with the name Impulse to distance himself from Wally, who had just recently threw Bart through the wall of the Kobra base, making Bart pretty mad at him. And Bart could have done all this in about 30 seconds. He tried to meet up with Arsenal and the Titans, but just missed them, then began looking for Wally when he ran across Superman and Metron.

Back to the story, Bart joins the big gathering of all the heroes, and nobody really knows what to do. Of particular concern to everybody is the time anomalies and alternate versions of some heroes — most notably a non-paralyzed Batgirl. Bart is really worried that they're going to try to send him back to the 30th century, but nobody knows how to do that even if they wanted to. I'm surprised that Bart is so keen to stay in 1994 — he hasn't been here that long and has spent a lot of time complaining about not having 30th century technology. I guess he wants to stay with his grandma and knows how important it is to train with Wally, even if he annoys him.

Waverider tries to explain everything he knows, but then he senses a disturbance at Vanishing Point — the place outside space and time. He goes there to find Extant attacking and killing the old Justice Society of America. Waverider is able to save most of them, but a few of them have died and the rest of them are now considerably older.

A lot of people tend to overlook Zero Hour in historical terms of DC comics, and I don't blame them. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis were all much bigger events. But Zero Hour is still a very interesting story with a certain '90s charm to it. I am very happy with Jurgens' and Ordway's work here. These guys were the best in the business at the time, and it shows. The art is top-notch on each page, and every single character looked great — and Jurgens had to draw nearly every conceivable DC character here. Coming off the awful-looking New Titans #114, it is nice to see how good a comic could look in the '90s.

All the Zero Hour issues are available through Comixology, and I believe all the tie-in issues are, as well. I happen to have the physical copies of Zero Hour, so I get to do the ads.

First up is an ad for X-Am jeans, featuring pro basketball player Muggsy Bogues. At 5-foot-3, Bogues was the shortest player in NBA history, and he enjoyed a fairly productive 14-year career. At the time of this ad, he was at the height of his career (pun intended), averaging 10.8 points and 10.1 assists per game for the Charlotte Hornets. Unfortunately, X-Am did not work out a deal with the NBA, so they couldn't show Bogues in his Charlotte jersey. To work around this, the ad awkwardly included a picture of a live hornet.

Blankman starring Damon Wayans. Coming to save your butt!

Mortal Kombat II. Nothing, nothing can prepare you.

American Entertainment. This is one of those messy ads with too much information for me to process. It's a list of tons of comics, trades, and cards you can order, and if you spend at least $20, you get a free poster.

Flash Annual 7. Elseworlds: A universe of infinite impossibilities ... where familiar faces are no longer familiar.

Superman Time and Time Again trade paperback.

Stri-dex. Our new acne pads are bigger than before ... to clean away dirt and oil better than before.

Playoff football cards. Collector tackled by lifelike football photos. Ironically, this ad does not include a single lifelike football photo. It just shows a picture of the packaging and several paragraphs of text explaining why these are good cards.

Next time: Zero Hour #3

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Titans #114

24 Hours

Marv Wolfman – Words
Rik Mays – Pictures
Karl Story, Jason Martin, Keith Champagne – Inks
Gina Going – Colors
John Costanza – Letters
Keri Kowalski – Asst. Edits
Pat Garrahy – Edits

This issue isn't available digitally yet, so you have to suffer through pictures from my phone. But even crisp, digital images wouldn't help this art look any better. The cover is by Tom Raney, and nobody is drawn particularly well. Although I do enjoy the concept of everybody walking away against a white background.

Before I get into the story, some explanation is in order. Bart Allen, who's only existed for three months, is about to join one of DC's premier teams. And luckily for us, it is being written by the godfather of the Titans, Marv Wolfman. Wolfman spent 16 years writing Titans comics, rotating the cast around, growing characters up, having them get married, have kids, die, change names and costumes and turn evil and good again. He also created Cyborg, Starfire and Raven, three stars of the current Teen Titans Go! So Bart is in good hands here.

This issue deals with the transition of the Titans. Most of the old members are leaving, and most of the new members haven't joined yet. Out of all the characters on the cover, there are only two of them we need to worry about. The most recognizable one should be the green guy wearing short shorts and shoes that surely were very cool in 1994. He's Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy. But at this point in the story, he's grown up a bit and changed his name to Changeling. The main guy in the middle is Roy Harper, who began his career as Green Arrow's sidekick, Speedy. He's Arsenal now, leader of the Titans, and even has a daughter he never sees. And don't worry, he won't stay in that terrible costume forever.

Our story details the first 24 hours after the Titans have split up. I'm only going to focus on the characters who will have a major impact on the stories Bart's involved with. First is Changeling, who is immediately captured by Raven and her cronies. That's right, Raven the former Teen Titan, is now evil. She explains that within her reside the souls of the hundred slain children of her demon father, Trigon. To help her demon siblings be reborn, she is implanting them within metahumans like Changeling.

On Talyn, the sixth planet in the Proxima Centauri system, a mysterious force is destroying and killing everything in sight. The natives of Talyn were genetically modified a thousand years ago to have no aggression, so none of them can defend themselves. The Darkstars, an intergalactic peace-keeping corps, tries to protect the world, but they are unable to stop the threat. Jarras Minion, a teenage boy with blue skin and pointy ears, runs to home to tell his mom his siblings have been killed. She puts him in the Omegadrome, a device she built with her husband to help them counter their lack of aggression and defend their planet. The Omegadrome was built for Jarras' father, but since he was away looking for his kids, Jarras' mother put him in the high-tech suit to save him. The Omegadrome does protect Jarras, but he doesn't know how to use it and can only watch helplessly as his entire planet is destroyed.

Arsenal begins his day with a morning jog with President Bill Clinton. Presidents in comics are always interesting to me. Sometimes they're just a generic-looking nameless commander-in-chief, and sometimes they just happen to look a lot like the current president. But in this case, Bill Clinton is undoubtedly the president, and he even mentions his wife, Hillary. Anyway, Clinton assures Arsenal that the Titans will receive government funding and still retain complete independence. So Arsenal spends most of the day signing papers with Titans liaison Sargent Steel, a rather pesky bureaucrat with a metal hand. Arsenal then realizes he should probably put together a team, so he starts calling everyone he knows, including former Teen Titan Wally West. But he gets stuck with the answering machine, since Wally is kind of in the 64th century right now. However, someone else does receive the message.

That red hand is supposed to make us think it's the Flash listening to the message, but as a later issue will reveal, this is actually Bart. However, Bart does not wear gloves that cover his fingers, so this is a bit of a mistake on the creators' part. It is a bit understandable since Bart is such a new character, but I also feel this mistake was intentionally made to create a bit of misdirection.

Anyway, Arsenal spends all day at the Statue of Liberty, trying to persuade heroes to join the new Titans team. The only person who agrees is Changeling, who assures Roy that he's completely fine after his run-in with Raven and not feeling evil at all. A mysterious character named Phantasm then shows up and whisks the heroes away to an adventure in Damage #6. But Bart's not there, so we'll have to wait to see these guys again in Zero Hour.

So that was a very, very quiet debut for Bart in his first appearance outside the Flash series. And although this was a rather slow transition issue, Marv Wolfman did plant some important seeds for future stories in New Titans. Wolfman is in this for the long game, and he's the master of spreading stories over several years. All the stuff with Raven started a long time ago and will keep going until the end of this series. Unfortunately, Wolfman's story suffers with some of the worst art I've seen in a comic book. Rik Mays' work in this issue was simply abysmal. Everybody looked so ugly and horrendous. Not a single page looked halfway decent. Perhaps Mays was rushed on this one, since he needed three inkers, or perhaps he just stopped caring, since he would be replaced on the next issue. Colorist Gina Going also made the same mistakes she made on Flash #94 with Wally's hair. Except this time it was Roy's hair that randomly changed colors on the same page. It's a real shame that such an interesting story had to be presented so poorly.

It's also sad that Comixology hasn't added this issue to its catalogue yet, but having the physical print copy allows me to review the letters and ads. Of course, all the letters in this issue are talking about New Titans #111, which did not have Bart, so I'll only talk about the column written by new editor Pat Garrahy. He seems to take a preemptive defensive stance against complaining fans, assuring them that he misses the good ole days as much as they do, but the new stuff is going to be really great. It's kind of sad for an editor to practically beg the readers to give this series a chance, but it is understandable. Garrahy also announces that Arsenal's new team will include Mirage, Changeling, Damage, Impulse, Green Lantern, Donna Troy Darkstar and Terra. The new creative team will be writer Marv Wolfman, penciller Stephan J.B. Jones, inkers Hector Collazo and Harry Candelario and colorist Gina Going. Garrahy also pays tribute to Murray Boltinoff, a DC editor from 1943 to 1988, who died March 6, 1994 at age 83.

This is an inside cover house ad, which often were black-and-white in the '90s to save money. It's promoting the upcoming Zero Month, and to my surprise, it features Impulse quite prominently right in front next to Batman. I guess he quickly gained favor at DC and among the fans to be used in ads like this.

Next we have Star Trek trading cards, which features the USS Enterprise in the background of the Mona Lisa and the tagline: With a stroke of the brush, a generation gap is crossed.

An ongoing monthly by Milestone called Xombi. He took one step beyond and he can't step back.

Green Arrow #81–90: Cross Roads by Jim Aparo, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, Kevin Dooley and Gerry Fernandez. Out of Seattle and in your face!

The trade paperback Star Trek: Tests of Courage. A new ship. A new captain. A new danger.

A DC subscription form. DC delivers action and excitement every month! If you wanted to rip this page out of your comic, you could fill out a form on Batman's cape and order 12 issues of New Titans for $19.40, which isn't a bad deal, since a single issue cost $1.95 at the time.

A DC Universe page that advertises San Diego Comic-Con and makes some goofy predictions for Zero Hour. The best one, and most accurate, is naming Mike Carlin the main villain.

Flash by Waid, Wieringo and Marzan. Everything else is just roadkill!

Natural Born Killers. A bold new film that takes a look at a country seduced by fame, obsessed by crime and consumed by the media. Starring Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr. (before he became Iron Man) and Tommy Lee Jones (before he became Two-Face).

Next time we'll begin Zero Hour. It was a five-issue mini-series in the summer of 1994. Much to the frustration of many databases, the issues cleverly were numbered in reverse, starting with #4 and ending with #0. Bart does not appear in #4, so we'll skip to #3 and catch up when we get there.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Flash #94

Reckless Youth Chapter Three: Just Do It!

Mark Waid Story
Carlos Pacheco Guest Pencils
Wayne Faucher and Jose Marzan Jr. Inks
Kevin Cunningham Letterer
Gina Going Colorist
Ruben Diaz Assistant Editor
Brian Augustyn Editor

Once again Carlos Pacheco is filling in for Mike Wieringo, who did draw this cover with Jose Marzan Jr. Sadly, there's no Bart on it, but it is a pretty striking image of Flash caught in a death trap right before he got caught up in the Zero Hour event.

Last issue ended with Kobra's lieutenant teleporting away from Wally's house and Bart chasing after him at full speed. But instead of crashing into the wall, Bart just disappeared. Wally then realizes that Bart inadvertently vibrated through the wall, so he runs outside to catch the frightened kid who has no idea how or what just happened.

Once Wally helps Bart calm down, he returns the conversation to Kobra. Argus, who has awaken, explains that Kobra is a military tactician bent on global domination with limitless resources and tens of thousands of followers. Argus then takes off to find out more about Kobra, and Bart finally succumbs to his exhaustion and falls asleep.

Wally then pours Iris a cup of tea, and they briefly discuss their families and how much she knows about the future. Wally then asks her if she knows who came to visit him when he was a kid to give him some words of encouragement when he most needed it. But Iris doesn't know what he's talking about. Bart then wakes up from his nap and starts eating everything in sight and complaining that he's bored because there aren't any holovisions, omnicoms or matter converters. Iris and Linda both point out that Bart is acting just like Wally did at that age, except Wally can't vibrate through walls. Bart's very excited to learn that he can do something the Flash can't do, and I'm rather perplexed that the Flash lacks this ability. I thought the ability to vibrate through objects was essential for somebody who can run around the world in a couple of seconds. When he ran to Spain a couple of issues ago, did he have to meticulously dodge every building and tree along the way?

Iris reminds Wally that Bart is so impulsive because the only life he has ever known has been in a virtual reality, and he still sees everything as a game. We get another shot of Bart growing up in that simulator, and it made me think that Bart's suit must be able to grow with Bart. We've never seen him wear anything else, and it makes sense that 30th century technology would be able to make something to adapt to the rapidly aging Bart. Anyway, Iris begs Wally to teach Bart how to recognize danger and soon. She admits she doesn't know everything about the future because of a mysterious, destructive force messing up the time stream — the same force that separated Iris and Bart on their journey back to 1994. As she tells this to Wally, nobody notices Max Mercury eavesdropping from outside.

Argus then calls Linda and tells her he's connected Kobra to an old textile factory. Wally takes off to check it out, telling Bart to stay home. He soon discovers the factory is actually just a hologram covering up a huge hydroelectric plant/secret base crawling with Kobra soldiers. Wally wanted to just silently observe, but his plans are ruined when Bart suddenly shows up and starts beating up the ninjas. Wally's forced to help Bart fight the bad guys, and they begin looking for the lieutenant. Instead, they find themselves in death trap set by Abra Kadabra, who is an old Flash rogue with a magician motif. But Kadabra is actually from the 64th century, and passes off his advanced technology as magic.

Abra Kadabra has gotten his hands on an industrial laser beam, which he is reflecting off a bunch of mirrors lining the walls, floor and ceiling of the room (just like on the cover). To save Bart, Wally lifts the 14-year-old boy over his head and throws him through the wall — luckily Bart instinctively vibrated through it. Kadabra then explains that he's not working with Kobra — he just stumbled across their base after he was nearly killed during his last fight with the Flash, and he decided to hide and wait for him to return. But before Kadabra can exact his revenge, he and the Flash suddenly find themselves in the 64th century, face to face with Waverider. Waverider is a rather ambiguous gold guy with flaming hair and rainbows. But most importantly, he's a powerful time traveler, which makes him DC's go-to guy for continuity-altering events like Zero Hour.

So that was another masterful issue by Mark Waid. Bart, who still isn't officially called Impulse, is acting plenty impulsive, and I quite enjoy it. Things with Kobra continue to heat up, and we got to see a classic Flash rogue. Sadly, the art in this issue was the weakest it's been so far. It wasn't bad, but a little on the sloppy side. Pacheco's pencils needed two inkers, and Gina Going made quite a few coloring mistakes. Wally's hair went from yellow to orange several times on the same page, and Bart once looked like he was wearing a sleeveless shirt. But those minor quibbles don't detract from the excitement of Bart coming into his own as a full-fledged character and the lead-in to Zero Hour. I am very impressed with how seamlessly Waid was able to set up and transition into this major crossover. He started dropping hints about it in issue #91, and he made Flash's trip to the 64th century feel very natural.

Next time, before we can start Zero Hour, Bart has to make a cameo appearance in New Titans #114.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Flash #93

Reckless Youth Chapter 2 Quick Study

Mark Waid, Story
Carlos Pacheco, Guest Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr. & Ken Branch, Inks
Gaspar, Letterer
Gina Going, Colorist
Ruben Diaz, Assistant Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

We're only two issues in, and we already have a guest penciller. Luckily, Carlos Pacheco is a very solid artist, and if I didn't know better, I probably could have been convinced that Mike Wieringo actually drew this issue. Wieringo did, at least, do the cover with Jose Marzan Jr., and it is a pretty fun cover. The representation of Bart punching Wally a bunch of times is a little odd — it looks like electrons in an atom. But I actually kind of like it. Also of note is the phrase "Brash Impulse!" This is the first time Bart has been referred to as Impulse, although he will not officially take that name in this issue.

Before I get into the story, I want to explain how Bart Allen is related to Wally West. At the start of this issue, Wally refers to Bart as a "blood relation," but that is not technically accurate. Iris Allen is Wally's aunt, but she was adopted by Ira and Nadine West. So Bart and Wally are only related by law. And as far as I can tell, they are first cousins once removed. Here's a little simplified family tree:

    Ira West
Iris  —  Rudy
   |             |
Don     Wally

Iris' adoptive brother is Rudy, who is the father of Wally. Iris' son, Don, is first cousins by law with Wally, which makes Don's son, Bart, Wally's first cousin once removed. Hope that makes sense. You can find the full Allen-West family tree here. Just a warning, though, that family tree includes everybody, so don't let it intimidate you. Now on to our story.

We pick right up where we left off last issue, where Wally has found Bart, but is now being attacked by the 2-year-old in the body of a 12-year-old. After taking a few hundred punches to the face, Flash finally strikes back, knocking Bart flat on his butt. And then Bart says his first words in the DC Universe: "What ... what'd you do that for?" Bart, however, doesn't wait for Wally's answer, and immediately takes off again.

Elsewhere, Linda Park is finishing her shift at the news station. As soon as she opens her car door, she finds its been filled with cobras. And to make matters worse, a ninja wearing a green cobra outfit has sprung out of the shadows to attack her. Luckily, Linda is saved by a guy wearing a purple suit named Argus. I'm unfamiliar with Argus, so I took a quick peek at my DC Encyclopedia. Apparently his real name is Nick Kovak, and he has the ability to disappear in shadows and see beyond the normal spectrum, hence the name Argus from the Greek mythological guardian with 100 eyes. Argus is an ally of the Flash, but they aren't necessarily friends.

Argus tells Linda the serpent cult just wants her story notes, and Linda realizes all her notes are back at Wally's house, where Iris Allen is alone. Linda hops onto the back of Argus' motorcycle and uses her cellphone to call the Pied Piper and tell him to meet them at Wally's house with his nastiest hardware. Now the Pied Piper is someone I know. His real name is Hartley Rathaway, and he once used his abilities to manipulate sound waves for criminal purposes. But he became good friends with Wally, and has since become a good guy. I also have to say I'm rather impressed to see Linda using a cellphone in 1994. I didn't think they were widely used back then, but I guess a successful TV reporter like Linda would have the latest technology.

We cut back to Wally and Bart, who are continuing their chase around the world as they pass through Paris, Bart ages from 12 to 14. And let me give props to Carlos Pacheco for managing to draw Paris without including the Eiffel Tower. He chose instead to draw the Notre Dame cathedral, which is a nice change of pace. But Wally doesn't spend any time in Paris to enjoy the sights — he needs to save Bart before he dies of old age. As they pass through Philadelphia, Bart hits the runner's wall, and starts to seize up. Wally remembers what it was like to adapt to super speed in a developing teenage body, and he knows that Bart has to fight through this exhaustion. If he doesn't, the sudden shock of power to his body could kill him.

Linda and Argus then arrive at Wally's house, and are immediately attacked by another ninja. Argus is knocked out, but Pied Piper arrives and blasts the ninja away with a hypersonic gun. They take Argus inside and are joined by Iris, who is now wearing a Wile E. Coyote shirt. Hey, DC and Warner Bros. are part of the same company, so why not? Piper then starts to create a force field to protect the house, but none of them notice another ninja has teleported inside.

Wally keeps chasing Bart and urging him to keep running. When he sees the teen start to falter, Wally tries to give him a bit of a push, but then immediately panics that he may have done the wrong thing.

Back at Wally's house, the ninja begins his attack. He quickly knocks out Hartley, and begins chasing the two women around. A second ninja soon teleports inside, and Linda and Iris find themselves surrounded. But right before the killing blow can be delivered, a blur rushes in and takes out the two ninjas. The blur, of course, is Bart, who immediately hugs his grandmother and tells her he's alright. Wally joins the party a little late and explains that Bart's power has more or less stabilized. He says that the only way to take control of super speed is to let it out full-throttle — not to keep it contained like Bart was his whole life. Wally says that when Bart finally maxed out, the very air around hi caught fire. But like a phoenix from the ashes, he stepped out safe, sound, and changed for the better.

Wally then turns his attention to the ninjas, who suddenly teleport away. Another one reappears in their place, announcing himself as Kobra's lieutenant. He says they've confiscated Linda's research, and if any of them meddle again, he'll kill them all. As he teleports away, Bart charges after him, and Wally notes that the kid's brain works purely on impulse. But soon, both the ninja and Bart are gone.

Now that was another amazing issue by Mark Waid. It was fun, exciting and intriguing. All the stuff with Bart was great, and the Kobra stuff is really starting to heat up. The timing with Linda's story does still feel a bit off. So Wally went off to find Bart, then Linda went to work, did her story on the air, then finished her shift and came home, all before Wally had finished saving Bart. How long did it take Wally and Bart to do their thing? I figured the two of them would have been moving at super speed, and they could have accomplished all that in a matter of minutes. But for Linda to have time to do all her stuff, they would have had to been running around for several hours at least.

It made a lot of sense that Wally, who once was a teenaged speedster, would know how to help Bart. I  wasn't sure what I was expecting, but I do admit to being a little disappointed with how Wally actually saved Bart. But that most likely is the art's fault. Wally gave a beautiful description of the air catching fire and Bart rising from it like a phoenix, but all we saw was an ambiguous green lightning scene. Carlos Pacheco did a great job filling in for Mike Wieringo, but he did a poor job of showing things that Mark Waid had to tell us. Like having Bart age from 12 to 14. I couldn't notice any difference with how Bart was drawn before and after that moment. And realistically, there is a big difference between a 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy. But these problems didn't make this issue any less enjoyable. I just think it could have been a bit better.

Next time, we'll head to September 1994 to conclude Reckless Youth in Flash #94. But also in that month, Bart appeared in five other issues — New Titans #114 and four of the Zero Hour issues.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Flash #92

Reckless Youth Chapter One: Speed Kills

Mark Waid, Story
Mike Wieringo, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar, Letterer
Gina Going, Colorist
Ruben Diaz, Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

So there it is. Our first full look at Bart Allen. He hasn't officially been named Impulse yet, and in fact, the cover seems to imply that he will be the new Kid Flash. But not quite yet. I have to say I really enjoy this cover by Mike Wieringo. The explosion creates some great colors and puts the frantic Flash in the shadows. All this helps accentuate the new featured character, Bart Allen. And I really like Wieringo's design. I think the costume is very sleek and neat. I don't understand the purpose for the fingerless gloves, but I do think they look pretty cool. Plus, it helps make Bart more unique. I don't know why I think his yellow eyes are cool, but I do, and I actually get pretty upset whenever his eyes aren't yellow. And of course, perhaps the most important part of Bart Allen is his hair. Giving him a lot of hair that's all over the place really helps illustrate his movement. In fact, it makes me wonder why the previous Flashes kept their hair covered. True, it does help protect a secret identity better, but it looks so much better on a comic book page to see a guy's hair blowing wildly in the wind. Anyway, Wieringo's basic design will remain largely unchanged for next decade or so. The biggest difference we'll see in the short term will be the slimming down of Bart. He looks quite bulky here, but then again, this is 1994, when everybody had muscles on top of their muscles. Well, enough with the cover and on to the story!

We begin two weeks ago with Wally West's girlfriend, Linda Park, who is (surprise, surprise) a reporter. Seriously, there is an awful lot of superheroes who date reporters. Superman has Lois Lane, Barry Allen's wife, Iris, was a reporter, and I believe even Batman has dated his fair share of reporters. Are superheroes naturally attracted to reporters or are reporters naturally attracted to superheroes? Or do comic book creators make the girlfriends reporters to keep them involved in the action somehow without actually being heroes themselves?

Anyway, Linda is working on a story about strange cults around the city mysteriously disappearing. She interviews a landlord whose tenants preached some new age philosophy, but were harmless for a few months. Then one day, the landlord came across them performing a dark ceremony for some serpent god. The next day, the tenants left without a trace. The landlord then opens a cabinet to get some records for Linda, but a whole bunch of cobras suddenly pop out and attack the man. I'm not sure if he died, but it sure seemed like it. Linda, however, escaped unscathed.

So two weeks pass, and presumably Linda hasn't told her superhero boyfriend about watching a man be devoured by snakes. Instead, she's working on her story on a park bench, while Wally tries to impress her by playing basketball really fast.

I was at first startled by Wally putting on such an obvious display of his powers in public, but then I remembered that Wally had made his secret identity public at this time. I'm still confused, though, why Wally thought playing basketball really fast was supposed to impress his girlfriend. Luckily, Wally quickly catches on this isn't working, so he begins talking to Linda about her story. She tells him there must be a connection with all the disappearing religious groups, and then she drops her papers because she insists on sitting on top of the back of the bench instead of sitting on it properly like a normal human being.

Wally quickly scoops up the papers and notices one of them is a death threat to Linda. She brushes it off by saying threats like this come with the territory of being a reporter, and if it means anything, it means she's close to unearthing something big. Wally, however, insists that he likes protecting her and wants to be involved in her life. As they prepare to run home, a white blur zips by them. Linda didn't notice anything, and it was moving too fast for Wally to see what it was.

So Wally takes Linda home, where they find his Aunt Iris waiting for him. Iris feels like she needs to explain how she isn't dead, but Linda cuts her off, saying she's already read Iris' book, "The Life Story of the Flash." So Linda and Wally already know, and most comic book readers should have known in 1994, that Iris technically did die in the 20th century, but her soul was transported to a new body in the 30th century. Yeah, it's weird, unfortunate continuity stuff we have to deal with, but Mark Waid makes the best of it and/or pushes it to the side when it doesn't matter. And people wonder why we needed the New 52!

Anyway, Iris is quite distraught. She tells Wally that she has come back in time for her grandson, who'll die unless Wally can save him. So they all sit down on the couch and Iris tells them her convoluted origin story — apparently there were a few details that even Wally didn't know. Like the fact that Iris was actually born in the 30th century, sent to the 20th century to grow up, then brought back to the 30th century after she died. She says she spent only a month in the future with Barry before he died, but he did leave her with his children — twins, a boy and a girl. And what happens when you've lived a crazy life like Iris and find yourself suddenly single with twin infants? You give them terrible names. Iris named the boy Don and the girl Dawn. Sure, that looks neat on paper, but can you imagine actually saying those names? "Hey, Don!" "Yes?" "No, not you, the other Don!"

Terrible names aside, Don and Dawn each inherited a fraction of Barry's power, and they became superheroes in their time, battling the evil alien Dominators. The twins grew up, got married, and had kids. Don's son, Bart, was born with full super speed, and the Dominators tried to experiment on him. Fortunately, he was rescued; unfortunately, he was rescued by the corrupt Earthgov, which kept him in tight isolation and discussed cloning him, but not curing him. Apparently, Bart can't shut down his hyper metabolism, which has rapidly aged him since birth. At age 1, he looked 2. At 2, he looks 12, and Iris fears he'll die of old age within the week. And since Don Allen had been killed, Iris became responsible for Bart, and she decided to enter the time stream so Wally could help Bart. However, Iris and Bart became separated on their journey through time.

Wally then realizes the blur he saw was Bart. So he gets on his computers in his war room and contact the Justice League and the Titans, but they haven't seen him. He then gets his first clue — a sudden tornado in Spain. Iris wants Wally to take her with him because she's Bart's only connection to the real world. In order to prevent the rapidly aging toddler from going insane, he was constantly plugged in to a virtual reality that educated and entertained him at super speed. Wally, however, tells Iris to stay behind since she probably wouldn't survive being ran around as fast as he needs to go to catch Bart. Once Wally takes off, Linda asks Iris why she chose to return to Wally in 1994, and not go back earlier to her husband. Iris basically says it would be too hard on her emotionally, and she reveals that special times are ahead for her nephew — it's his destiny to save Bart.

Once in Spain, Wally pretty easily follows the trail of Bart's destruction. He even comes across Bart's footprints on the water — that's how fast he's moving. Bart then stops for a quick breather, and when Wally approaches him, Bart suddenly begins attacking Wally.

Linda then goes to work and delivers her report on the enigmatic serpent cults on the air. Her editor warns her that she might be chasing a dangerous story, and hidden in the shadows, a man dressed like a cobra is watching Linda's every move.

So there we have it. The first full appearance of Bart Allen. Officially, technically, Flash #91 was Bart's first appearance — despite what some people may say — but this issue is the first one to truly feature Bart and lay out his origin story. I don't know why I love his origin so much, and I guess I don't have to justify it. It's really cool. Being in the future, aging too fast, being raised in a virtual reality. It's all neat. And it definitely was the highlight of the issue, even though Bart really didn't do anything other than run around the world and randomly — or should I say impulsively — attack the Flash. And yes, that is the first of many impulse jokes you'll see on this blog. Get used to it now.

This wasn't a perfect issue by any means, though. I'm not a fan of Iris' overly complicated backstory, but that's hardly Mark Waid's fault. I would have liked him to add a line about Don Allen's death, though. But really the biggest weakness with this issue is how separate and disjointed Linda's subplot feels from everything else. Knowing what's coming ahead, I realize this serpent cult will play a big role pretty soon, but Linda's reporting seemed to simultaneously occur too slowly and too quickly. It was rather odd to jump ahead two weeks after the harrowing scene of a man being killed by cobras. It also felt rushed for Linda to go deliver her report right after Iris arrived and Wally went in search of her grandson. The polite thing would have been to stay home with your guest and wait for the speedsters to return. I mean, how long would it take for Wally to run to Spain and back?

But these are minor quibbles in a very fun and exciting issue. And it only gets better from here, starting in Flash #93!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Flash #91

Out of Time

Mark Waid / Story
Mike Wieringo / Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr. / Inks
Gaspar / Letterer
Gina Going / Colorist
Ruben Diaz / Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn / Editor

Our story begins on the Keystone-Central Bridge, where a large flatbed truck has cut off an armored car hauling a half-million in microchips. One of the guys from the truck blasts open the armored car with a rocket launcher. The thieves then grab the Wayne Tech chips and load them in a jet-propelled sled that the flatbed was carrying. A Keystone Police Department helicopter arrives at the scene, and so does Wally West, the Flash.

As the rocket sled takes off, all the citizens on the bridge abandon their cars and start running away. Flash stops for a second to save a woman with her child. But this quick diversion pulled him away from the thieves, who are now on a collision course with the police helicopter. To try to buy some more time, Flash decides to use Johnny Quick's speed formula — 3x2(9yz)4a.

For those who may not know, Johnny Quick was an old speedster during World War II alongside the original Flash, Jay Garrick. But instead of being naturally quick like other speedsters, Johnny had to say his formula to make him go faster. Johnny is now semi-retired, and the Flash sought him out and asked him to teach him the speed formula, since he feels he just isn't fast enough. Johnny was hesitant, not knowing what that added boost of speed would do to someone as naturally fast as the Flash, but he eventually agreed, warning Flash to only use it in emergencies. Well, seeing this rocket sled about to crash into a helicopter over a bridge full of people seems like a big enough emergency to the Flash.

Flash says the formula, and he does move faster, but he was too late. The sled is now too high for him to reach. As Flash stands on the top of the bridge, he then realizes that it appears time has frozen. The copter and sled are suspended motionless in air and all the people are stuck in place on the bridge. By saying the formula, Flash has caused himself to move so fast, it looks like nothing is moving at all. And he can't slow down. And to make matters worse, even with time frozen, Flash still can't save those three men in the helicopter.

Worried and depressed, Flash walks off the bridge and wanders around the frozen city, trying to get the burn to wear off. But it won't. Normally, when Wally expends a lot of energy, he starves and has to eat enormous amounts of food. But not now. He feels no hunger or fatigue. And as the terror of being stuck in this state forever sets in, he's suddenly approached by Max Mercury.

Max Mercury is another older speedster like Johnny Quick, but he's a lot more mysterious. His origin will be revealed a few issues later, but at this point, he's only known as the Zen Master of Speed. He randomly pops up at crucial moments for speedsters, offering sage, if vague, advice.

Wally is happy to be able to talk to somebody else, but he doesn't particularly appreciate Max's teaching style. Wally asks if his condition is permanent, and Max says that's for him to decide. To prove his point, he takes Wally on a tour of the city, showing him a fatal car crash that Wally was unable to prevent. Max then takes Wally to an apartment fire, where firefighters are already rescuing the people inside. Wally asks Max if he's trying to teach him that he can't be everywhere — that life and death go on without his help — but Max won't hold himself to that.

Wally then remembers being visited by a mysterious stranger when he was a kid. The stranger appeared to Wally at a particularly rough time in his life and gave him the encouragement to keep going and pursue his dreams. Max, however, says he was not that visitor. Returning the conversation back to Wally's predicament, Wally realizes that it wasn't the formula that's put him in this state, but his own anxiety. Those men in the helicopter have one second to live, and as long as Wally holds on, that second belongs to him.

Max asks him if he can act on that possibility, but Wally asks how long he can avoid making the call. Max says he can avoid it indefinitely, since Johnny's formula has formed a temporary power-link — his first taste of an energy-force that's going to change his life ... and soon. Hearing talk of the "Speed Force" angers Wally, and he says that his uncle, Barry Allen, never mentioned anything about it. But Max thinks Barry learned about it when he died.

Max then grows fatigued after keeping up with the Flash for so long, and before he slows down, he warns him that big things are waiting for him just around the corner and he can't spend the rest of his life frozen with fear. With that, Max becomes another frozen person in Keystone City, and Flash gets an idea. He finds some steel cable and uses it climb up to the helicopter. He then wraps the cable around the copter and connects it to the rocket sled. After jumping back down to the bridge, Flash whispers, "Go."

Time starts moving again, and Flash's plan works perfectly. The rocket sled was able to pull the helicopter away from crashing into the bridge, but unable to break free of the copter. Its jets soon died out, and the damaged helicopter still had enough life in it to take the tethered sled and its thieves to the police department. And Wally begins to realize that Max may be right about the whole Speed Force thing.

We then cut to June 12, 2995, where Iris Allen and her parents, Eric and Fran Russell, are debating how to help a mysterious young man. Iris wants to take him back in time, but Eric tells her that chronal fluctuations are at an all-time high — unlike when he sent Iris back as a baby. (Yeah, that's right. In a bit of Silver Age goofiness, Iris was actually born in the 30th century, then sent back in time to a less oppressive time, where she was adopted by the Wests, grew up, married Barry Allen, then returned to the future. If that confuses you too much, don't worry about it.)

Anyway, Iris says the situation is so dire, and since the corrupt Earthgov won't help them, they have to take drastic measures. Their hand is forced when the Science Police arrive to arrest Iris. So to evade them, Iris and the mysterious boy jump into the time machine, headed for May 12, 1994.

Although we don't find out in this issue, I will spoil it a bit to say that the mysterious youth in question is none other than Bart Allen, whom this blog is dedicated to. We don't see his face, but we do get a brief glimpse of his red-and-white outfit.

So that's our first official appearance of Bart. It's a very quiet, subdued appearance, but fairly exciting all the same. This issue has a publication date of June 1994, so that means it likely hit the stands in April that year. I'm writing this in April 2014, so it's more or less the 20th anniversary of Bart Allen. Happy birthday, Bart!

For the sake of this blog, I think it's nice to be able to ease into the story of Bart Allen. There were some very important characters and ideas established in this issue, notably Max Mercury and the concept of the Speed Force. Coming at this issue 20 years later, it feels odd to see Flash talking about the Speed Force in vague, theoretical terms. That concept has become such a key element to all the Flashes over the past two decades — it's as inseparable from the Flash as his red costume. But this is where it all began, thanks to Mark Waid. As we go through the next few Flash issues, we'll see that he did an excellent job of setting things up and following through in the future.

Waid also deserves credit for finding a unique way to challenge the Flash. As the fastest man alive, and one of the most powerful DC heroes, it can be tough work to come up with a legitimate threat for him. Waid explored the psychological aspect of Wally West to great effect, and having time freeze relative to him is a cool — and frightening — prospect. In 2003, the Justice League cartoon used this idea in the episode "Only a Dream." In it, Doctor Destiny trapped the heroes in their nightmares, and Flash's nightmare was this very idea.

And of course I can't neglect Mike Wieringo's art. It is very neat, clean, consistent and dynamic. I must admit that he draws the Flash a bit bulkier than I would like, but considering how muscled-out all comic book characters were in this era, I'd say the Flash is downright slim by comparison. But Wieringo's style is very good, and I understand he was quite popular in his day. When he leaves this series, which will be unfortunately too soon, I will sorely miss him.

This comic is available to download through Comixology, and I only have the digital version. When I own the print version, I'll go over the highlights from the letter columns and ads because I think it's fun to be reminded of what life was like when these stories came out.

Next time, we'll cover Flash #92 from July 1994.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


No one likes Impulse? Well, I do! And I hope you do, too! Or at least I hope you learn to love him as you join me on this overly ambitious project to write a little about every comic book Bart Allen has appeared in. What's that? You don't know who Bart Allen is? Well, just keep reading this blog and you'll find out! But here's some background information for now:

Bart Allen was created about 20 years ago by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo. I think it's fairly safe to say Mark Waid is one of the 10 best comic book writers right now. He had a legendary eight-year run on The Flash, where he introduced characters and concepts that are still in use today. He later went over to Marvel, where he has continued to write amazing comics and has even won a couple of Eisner awards (the highest honor for comic book creators). We'll be getting to know Mark Waid fairly well through this blog, which is great because he truly is one of the best writers I've come across.

Mike Wieringo, however, will not have as large a presence on this blog.  Wieringo was Waid's penciller for about a year of his Flash run, but he started winding down by the time Impulse was introduced. He drew a couple of issues with Bart, then just did the covers, then stopped all together. He later reunited with Waid at Marvel to work on Fantastic Four. Sadly, Wieringo suddenly died of a heart attack in 2007 at age 44.

Anyway, in April 1994, every good DC fan knew that there were three Flashes in the DC Universe. The first Flash was Jay Garrick, who was active during World War II. He served as inspiration for the second Flash, Barry Allen. Barry got married to Iris West, and her nephew, Wally West, became Barry's sidekick, Kid Flash. Later, Barry and Iris ran away to start a family in the future, but then Barry died while trying to save the universe. In the meantime, Wally grew up and decided to become the third Flash, wearing the same costume as his former mentor. Clear as mud? Don't worry, as we go through these comics everything will make more sense. Plus, if you get really confused, I'm sure you could always try your chances on Wikipedia. But the important thing to take away from this is that Wally West was the current and active Flash in 1994.

But I must make a full confession now. In 1994, I wasn't one of those good DC fans who knew about all the Flashes. I knew all about Batman and everybody on Batman: The Animated Series, but that was about it. Hey, cut me some slack, I was only 7! I really didn't start reading comics until I was in my 20s. But I was introduced to Bart Allen while I was still in high school.

After I got my Eagle Scout (I know, I'm a nerd), I was given a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. I wanted a graphic novel, but I had no idea where to start and nothing really looked good. But a DC Encyclopedia caught my eye. And what really sold me on it was the entry on Beast Boy. At that time, I thought Beast Boy had been invented for the Teen Titans cartoon. I realized I had a lot to learn about this exciting new world.

I devoured that encyclopedia (and still reference it on occasion), and one character that really made a big impression on me was Bart Allen, who by that time had already become Kid Flash. Just something about his look, origin story and power set just really captured my imagination. But I didn't act on that interest for years. In fact, I kind of forgot about him until Bart Allen (as Impulse) appeared on Young Justice: Invasion. By that time, I was beginning to read comics and was searching desperately for something to devote myself to. Luckily, I found a great comic book shop that occasionally likes to package a bunch of comics together at a nice discount. I came across one of these bundles that included six issues of Impulse for five bucks. The covers made me laugh, so I decided to buy them on a whim. And I instantly became hooked.

These particular issues came out in 1997, and they were written and advertised toward 10-year-old boys in 1997. I was a 10-year-old boy in 1997, and these old issues spoke to that 10-year-old still inside me. I remembered all the ads, games, clothes and slang of that time. It was amazing. And I simply couldn't get enough. The more I read about Bart, the more I liked him and connected to him. In a rarity for comics, Bart actually grew up. He went from Impulse to Kid Flash to even the Flash for a bit. And in an odd sense, I kind of grew up with him.

Well anyway, after collecting a whole bunch of issues, I decided the time was right for me to start this blog. It is after all, approximately the 20th anniversary of Bart Allen's first appearance. I hope you join me on this journey through the '90s and 2000s. If you've already read these stories, then I hope you'll take a trip down nostalgia lane and remember how great they were. If you're encountering these stories for the first time, like me, then I hope you'll gain an appreciation for the history of the medium and learn that not all comics were awful in the '90s.

So with that said, let's get on to covering stories about the fastest boy alive!