Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The New Titans #116

Psimon Psays ... Die!

Marv Wolfman Plot
Marv Wolfman & Frank Pittarese Script
J.B. Jones Penciller
Keith Champagne & Rich Rankin Inkers
Chi Colorist
Albert DeGuzman Letterer
Keri Kowalski Asst. Editor
Steve Mannion Production
Pat Garrahy Editor

The cover, by Johnson and Panosian, is the second half of the image that started with Green Lantern #57. Impulse, Mirage and Arsenal are being held by Green Lantern's constructs, while Terra is in the clutches of Changeling, who for some reason has a green head and an aquamarine body. The idea of this two-issue cover was a good one, just the execution — especially the coloring — was off.

Our story begins with Mirage falling toward Earth in an escape pod. Remember, last time we saw her, she was attacked by Changeling in the Titans satellite. She managed to get away in the pod, but is unable to control it, and is seemingly going to die. Fortunately, Darkstar arrives in the nick of time to save her.

We then return to the Titans Earth-based headquarters at Liberty State Park, New Jersey, where Changeling has put all the Titans in gooey green egg-prisons. But then Changeling becomes confused and distracted, and decides to go looking for Cyborg, forgetting that his old friend is dead. This momentary distraction gives the Titans time to try to break free, but they quickly discover the eggs can counter their powers. Terra is unable to summon rocks to break her out, and the egg stretches to accommodate Damage's punches. And as Impulse says, the "green-cheese" is slowing him down, and fighting it is like "tryin' to swim through seven-ply gell-seal."

Changeling checks the Titans computer, but is unable to find any information on Cyborg. He then hears a loud "skrash," which is the sound of Impulse breaking out of his egg. Turns out, he just had to move slowly to get out. Impulse quickly frees the others, and Terra creates giant rock armor for herself, which Impulse says is awesome. Terra then punches Changeling, saying, "Hey, who do ya think I am — Urkle?" (I believe she was referring to Steve Urkel, the quintessential geek from the show Family Matters, which was quite popular in 1994.)

Impulse gets in another hit, calling Changeling "frog-boy." But that wasn't enough, and soon Changeling is back on his feet. But then he's knocked out by a green semi-truck created by Green Lantern. We then get a replay of the ending of Green Lantern #57, with the possessed Green Lantern attacking the Titans. The injured Changeling decides to retreat during the chaos, while Lantern starts launching missiles at the Titans. One of the missiles actually hits Impulse, and he kind of goes berserk on Green Lantern.

Impulse knocks out Green Lantern, but Arsenal chews him out for being reckless. Impulse, however, insists that he's fine, and even says the fight was a lot of fun — except for when he got knocked out. The Titans regroup and check to see if Lantern is really unconscious, but he's not. Impulse says, "This isn't a good thing ... is it?" It's not, and the Titans soon find themselves in green cages that are filling up with water.

Luckily, Darkstar and Mirage arrive to save the day. Mirage tries to free the Titans, while Darkstar battles Lantern. But Mirage is unable to open the cages, and the powerful Darkstar is no match for Green Lantern. Soon, Lantern finds himself in position to kill Darkstar, but Kyle Rayner finally resists Psimon's orders. But Psimon isn't bothered by this, and decides to attack the Titans himself.

This wasn't a bad issue, but it was rather repetitive. It played out almost the exact same way the fight with Changeling did, right down to the whole knock-out/fake-out thing. I've read a few interviews with Marv Wolfman saying he did not have a good time writing the Titans at this time, and his stories and dialogue was often changed at the last minute. And since Frank Pittarese was brought in to help with the script, I can only imagine that there were some behind-the-scenes problems. But this issue wasn't a complete waste. I was happy to see Impulse save the team again, and I really enjoyed the scene of Impulse beating the snot out of Green Lantern.

The letters column begins with another rather defensive note from Pat Garrahy, basically defending the new direction of the book and begging longtime Titans fans to give this new team a chance. He also announced that William Rosado will be the new penciller, which means that J.B. Jones only lasted three issues. The New Titans has been quite chaotic under the editorial reign of Garrahy, which is quite unfortunate, since it had an accomplished writer and a promising cast of characters.

Around this time, it wasn't uncommon for DC to send advance copies of comics to subscribers, and each of the letter writers this month got a sneak peek of New Titans #0. Here's what they all had to say about Impulse:

Jeff DeWitt, of Redlands, Calif., said Impulse was "another great character."

Joey Marchese, of Clark, N.J., praised Marv Wolfman for capturing the essence of all the team members and "thankfully the energy that seems to follow Impulse." Joey said "this protégé of the Flash and direct descendant of Barry Allen is one of my favorite characters in the 'new' DCU."

Jeffrey Badger, of Des Moines, Iowa, however, had a different view on Impulse: "Overall, I can see potential for this character, but I feel right now he is just as Terra described him: a brat. It's to the point that I really dislike his character. I also read Flash and don't care for him in that book either. I understand his body has matured more than his mind, but currently he bugs me. I'd rather see him grow into someone I'd like to read about than have him dropped from the title."

Oh well. Not everybody can be an Impulse fan. Now on to the ads:

Earth 2. This time, WE are the aliens. Blastoff: Fall 1994. Sundays on NBC.

Judge Dredd Legends of the Law. The legends of tomorrow's greatest lawman ... today! With the premiere 4-part story arc by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Brent Anderson and Jimmy Palmiotti. New ongoing series beginning in October!

Sgt. Rock Special #2. The Battle of the Bulge! A tale too big for one story! All-new tales of blazing battle action by Chuck Dixon, Eduardo Barreto, Howard Chaykin, Russ Heath & Graham Nolan. A 64-page one-shot special coming in November!

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Shadowheart. The devil gave one man the right to rule the shadows. The Klingons call him Shadowheart. Worf calls him brother. Friedman, Erwin, Barnett. Four-issue miniseries starting in October.

DC Comics Online. If you have a computer and a modem, you can download hundreds of full-color pictures of your favorite characters, sneak preview what's coming to the stores, talk directly with artists, writers and editors, access the DC Comics archives and meet other DC Comics fans. To help you on your journey to the Internet, America Online is offering 10 free hours of access to more than 80,000 software files and programs.

Batman: Castle of the Bat. Enter the castle of the bat at peril to your immortal soul ... for herein lives the grotesque bat-man, who may be a savior, a demon — or something far worse ... An else worlds graphic novel by Jack C. Harris and Bo Hampton. On sale in November.

Start the New Year off right! With a DC Comics subscription. You could get 12 issues of The New Titans for $19.40, when a single issue normally cost $1.95.

The DC Universe page is a Daily Planet extra, with the headline: "Deathstroke's body missing! Slade Wilson's corpse disappears from city morgue." A full article follows by Keri Roberts, and as a newspaper editor myself, I am quite impressed by this.

Fleer Ultra football cards. Ultra collectible! Hot inserts. Enhanced quality. New design. Top players.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. Drink from me and live forever. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea and Christian Slater. This movie also stars a young Kirstin Dunst, long before she played Mary Jane Watson in the first three Spider-Man movies. Apparently she did a pretty good job here, as she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Next time: Flash #96. Kobra and his terrorist horde have overrun Keystone City. Only the Flash, returned from his odyssey during Zero Hour, can free Keystone ... if he can bring Impulse up to speed before Wally West's humanity erodes completely. Plus, the chilling secret of Flash's near future threatens to tear Wally and Linda apart.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Green Lantern #57


Ron Marz – Story
Darryl Banks – Pencils
Romeo Tanghal – Inks
Steve Mattsson – Color
Albert DeGuzman – Letters
Eddie Berganza – Drunk with power
Kevin Dooley – Him too

The cover, by Johnson and Panosian, is actually half of an image with New Titans #116. It's an OK gimmick that was done as recently as the New 52's Trinity War. I'm more forgiving of this gimmick when each individual cover can stand well on its own, and I think this one mostly accomplishes that. If you were just reading Green Lantern, you probably wouldn't know that was Changeling, but I think most Green Lantern readers would have known that anyway. The only odd thing about this cover is the coloring. I suppose they felt compelled to make a difference between Changeling and Green Lantern's constructs, but they ended up making Changeling more blue than green, and I don't like that.

Our story begins with Kyle Rayner visiting the grave of his recently deceased girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt. I don't know all the details, but I do know Kyle found her mangled corpse crammed in a refrigerator. Pretty rough stuff.

Kyle then moves in to his new apartment in New York, and the situation is very similar to Marvel's Doctor Strange (hey, why can't the Big Two pay tribute to each other every now and then?).  Kyle stays up till 4:30 in the morning designing toys, when he is suddenly visited by Psimon. Kyle tries to fight him, but fails spectacularly and is possessed by the super-powerful psychic.

Psimon takes Green Lantern to kill the Titans at their new headquarters in Liberty State Park, New Jersey. But they're still battling the demonic Changeling, so Lantern takes him out with a big truck. Impulse thinks this is really cool, but Arsenal is skeptical since he heard Green Lantern had died during Zero Hour.

Arsenal tries to ask Lantern about this, but he is ignored and attacked. In fact, Lantern would have vaporized Arsenal if Impulse hadn't saved him (complaining all the while that everybody's moving at a snail's pace). However, even with his super speed, Impulse took a bit of a hit while saving his "fearless leader," and he jokes with Damage that he likes "the taste of burnt me." Terra calls in some mud to put out the green flames, and she yells, "Cripes! What're you trying to do, Lantern? Kill us?!" The possessed Lantern answers in the affirmative, to which Impulse asks to be excused.

This was a pretty fun story. I like the idea of New Titans having quick and easy crossovers with other related titles. Later this month, we'll see them in Damage, then later in Darkstars and Deathstroke. Unfortunately, DC never did any New Titans crossovers with the Flash while Impulse was on the team, which would have made a lot of sense since Wally was once a Titan. Oh well, I guess I should enjoy what we did get 20 years ago.

Somehow, I've never read anything by Ron Marz before this. I need to remedy this problem. Soon. I've never cared about Kyle Rayner before, but Marz changed that in this one issue. He spent a lot of time with Kyle Rayner, the normal man, going about his day-to-day life, and I loved it. But somehow there was still plenty of time for some fun action at the end. That is how you pace a comic book.

Unfortunately, the art really held this issue back. And I don't think Darryl Banks is entirely to blame for that. For whatever reason, Steve Mattsson failed to color about half of Green Lantern's constructs. I don't know if that was intentional — like maybe something was causing them to be transparent — but I always thought whatever a Green Lantern makes should be bright green. In this issue, I had to go back over a couple of panels to figure what was going on, and then it felt really weird to realize that 90 percent of the panel should have been colored green but simply wasn't.

As for Impulse, I thought he was well-represented here. He was drawn just the way you'd expect him to be from this era, and he acted just he did in the pages of New Titans. I did like how he saved Arsenal — again — continuing to show that he is one of the more powerful and necessary members of the team.

Next time, we'll continue this green battle in The New Titans #116.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Flash #95

Terminal Velocity Mach One: The Dead Yet Live

Mark Waid – Story
Salvador Larroca – Penciller
Jose Marzan, Jr. – Inker
Gaspar – Letterer
Gina Going – Colorist
Ruben Diaz – Associate Editor
Brian Augustyn – Editor

The cover is by Mike Wieringo and Jose Marzan Jr. I'm pretty sad that Wieringo is only doing covers at this point, but Salvador Larroca does bring some great stuff to the table. This cover, however, is a pretty fun action scene, but I am annoyed with the colorist — perhaps it was Gina Going? Anyway, whoever colored this cover forgot that Impulse has goggles (it looks like Wieringo drew space for them) and the colorist forgot that Impulse's eyes are yellow — not blue.

Our story begins with a prologue. Wally West, the Flash, is continuing his journey home to the year 1994. As he runs forward through time in his long, red underwear, he continues to see glimpses of important moments in his life — including meeting his girlfriend, Linda Park, and his cousin from the future, Bart Allen.

Flash feels something strange happening to him, but he's not sure what. He then sees a vision of his future, and he does not like what he sees one bit.

We then head to Wally's home, where Linda is talking with the original Flash, Jay Garrick, Bart, and his grandma, Iris Allen, who is wearing a Roadrunner shirt today (can't get enough Looney Tunes!). Linda is convinced that Wally is alive and will return home soon. In fact, she wants to host a welcome back party for him. Jay tries to kindly tell her that Wally really did die during Zero Hour. Bart, however, agrees that Wally is alive, and he appeals to his grandma and their knowledge from the 30th century. Bart thinks Wally still needs to stop Professor Zoom from pretending to be Barry Allen. But Iris reminds Bart that their knowledge of the past 1,000 years is not very detailed. Jay then tries to explain in detail how Wally died, but his story is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Wally himself, wearing a fresh Flash outfit.

Everybody is overjoyed to see Wally return, and as he hugs Iris, he asks if Bart hasn't destroyed the house yet. Iris responds by saying that Bart has, to her surprise, been having adventures of his own with the New Titans. Wally kisses Linda, and Bart and Jay quickly put up the party decorations. Linda senses something is wrong with Wally, but he brushes her off. He then tells Bart that he's going to take him tomorrow to attack Kobra, and Jay offers to help. Wally turns him down rather rudely, then awkwardly excuses himself to get some ice for the party. But everybody at the party noted Wally's odd behavior.

Wally spends the whole night out with the Justice League, just so he'd have an excuse to get out of the house. In the morning, he shocks Linda by refusing breakfast (he is a notoriously big eater). He then assures her once again that everything is all right, and heads off with Bart, calling himself Olivier (after Laurence Olivier, a celebrated actor from the 1940s).

Bart makes fun of Wally for running so slowly, which makes Wally quite defensive. Bart points out that Wally doesn't like him, but Wally says he really does. In fact, Wally now considers Bart to be his salvation, but he's unable to tell him that. Also, the two speedsters don't match up personality-wise since Bart reminds Wally too much of himself, another fact Wally is unable to admit to Bart. Instead, he changes the subject, saying Bart needs to get a code name if he wants to be a hero. Bart suggests Kid Flash, which makes Wally think for a moment, but then Bart says he was kidding. Bart tells Wally that he's already given him a name — repeatedly. And to illustrate his point, Bart randomly stops to kiss a beautiful woman on the street, then proclaims himself as Impulse. Wally finds this name terrifyingly accurate. He then asks Bart about his mask, and he says he made it to fit in with the other heroes during Zero Hour.

They then arrive at Kobra's base, and Impulse naturally wants to take it down brick by brick immediately. But Flash wants to carefully gather more information so he can take out Kobra early and decisively. Naturally, Impulse gets bored, so he starts attacking the Kobra soldiers, shouting, "Down with espionage! Up with carnage!" Flash reluctantly joins the battle and chews out Impulse. But Impulse thinks they'll be fine if they just move fast enough. When Flash doesn't match Impulse's speed, Impulse believes Flash has been losing his powers, which is why he's been acting so weird.

Flash ignores Impulse's worries, and leads him into the basement, where they discover a huge hydro-electric plant. Before he can wonder about its purpose, Impulse decides to destroy it by throwing some rebar into the turbine. Flash witnesses the single synapse theory in work again, as Impulse moves from thought to deed in one leap, never stopping along the way to ponder the consequences. Impulse is caught in the explosion, and to save him, Flash has to move faster than he wanted. Since he saw his future, he's been very careful to keep his speed in check, and now Impulse has ruined that.

Flash grabs Impulse and rushes him out of the base, yelling at him the whole time. He calls him stupid, saying destroying the plant won't run Kobra out of town, but will only make him mad. He says he could have fixed the future and saved Keystone City and Linda, but now Impulse has cost him that chance. Flash unceremoniously dumps Impulse in an open field, shouting, "Who pays the price for that failure, punk? You? No! Me! MEEEEEEE!!"

Flash runs home and tries to avoid Linda. But she pushes him, so he decides to tell her part of the truth. He says he had to hit a speed he'd never hit before in order to travel through time. And once he broke through every barrier, he learned that just like his uncle Barry, nobody can be that fast and still be human. Linda finally opens his bedroom door and sees that Wally's body is now comprised of pure energy.

This was a really fun story to start the epic Terminal Velocity arc, which will conclude with Flash #100. Waid's writing, as always, was great, and the art was very solid, as well. True, it would have been great to have had Wieringo pencil the whole issue, but Larroca gave us the best-looking Impulse we've seen yet. Larroca is a master at facial expressions, and it was great to see the look of shock and fear on Impulse's face quickly change to anger and annoyance after Flash ripped his head off for destroying the plant. And we got a great page of Linda running through a full gamut of emotions as Wally told her about his condition. Larroca may not be the best at action scenes, but his faces more than make up for that.

The Flash letter column is one of the best I've ever seen. It's called Speed Reading with an image of Flash quickly reading a mountain of letters. Two whole pages were dedicated to the fans' letters, with brief, yet enormously entertaining responses from Brian Augustyn. These letters were all written after Flash #92, so everybody has something to say about Bart.

Stuart Brynien, of Brooklyn, New York, wrote a very long letter, in which he was very concerned the emergence of Bart would hamper Wally's relationship with Linda. Stuart's also concerned about Wally gaining Bart as a sidekick, but he's hopeful he'll learn to like Bart. He does, however, really enjoy Bart's backstory, particularly because it showed the dangerous flip side of super speed.

P.J. Frack, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, like many other readers, referred to Bart as Kid Flash, which is understandable, since that's what it said on the cover of issue #92. P.J. has a list of questions about Bart, wondering if Bart's "coverall thing" will be his costume, if Bart will join a team of kid superheroes, if he's going to get a haircut, how Wally explained Bart to the immigration authorities, whether Bart will appear in Zero Hour, and why his eyes are yellow. This letter did remind me that we have yet to see Bart wear anything but his costume. I guess no one's had enough time to buy him some actual clothes, or maybe he just prefers wearing his futuristic "coverall thing."

Kim Jensen, of Kokkedal, Denmark, was worried after reading issue #91 to see that Don Allen's son was a teenager, when, according to Legion continuity, he shouldn't be older than 3. But to Kim's relief, issue #92 explained that Bart was really 2 years old. Kim was also frightened by the words, "Wally West has to save Bart, it's his destiny."

B. Varkentine, of San Jose, California, was really concerned with the idea that DC would kill off Wally, replace him with Bart, and start the Flash over with a new issue #1. That was a valid concern, as Mark Waid later said he wanted to lead on readers to think that exact thing.

Now for the ads. First up is NBC's Saturday schedule. Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Name Your Adventure, California Dreams, and NBA Inside Stuff. All those shows were too old for me in 1994 (I was only 7), but I did eventually become a huge fan of Inside Stuff with host Ahmad Rashad. He had a lot of people he'd call his "main man," but my friend and I believed his real main man was Dikembe Mutombo.

Taz in Escape from Mars. This game was only available on SEGA Genesis, which I didn't have, but my cousins did. So I played this game once, and I thought it sucked. I know, it's strange to think that a game about the Tasmanian Devil would suck, but it did.

The Death and Return of Superman. The Super NES Game from Sunsoft.

A Rain-Blow bubble gum promotion. If you didn't mind cutting up your comic book, you could send in a form, along with two bubble gum wrappers and $6.99 to have your name, birthday and hometown appear in an exclusive personalized comic book adventure with Batman. The ad used an image of Batman and Robin from Batman: The Animated Series swinging over Gotham City. But somebody forgot to draw the ropes they were supposed to be holding on to.

Weird Science. The woman of their dreams is now a virtual reality. They've got a PC genie who can get them anything they want. Saturdays 10 p.m./9 Central USA Network.

Next time I'll enter December 1994. Our first stop will be the continuing New Titans story, which has spilled into the pages of Green Lantern #57.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The New Titans #115

The Final Change

Marv Wolfman Writer
J.B. Jones Penciller
Keith Champagne Inker
Costanza & DeGuzman Letterer
Chi Colorist
Keri Kowalski Asst. Editor
Pat Garrahy

The cover is by Jones, and it says "After Johnson and Panosian," which I guess means it was based on a cover they did, although I don't know which one. However, this cover does vaguely remind of the first Justice League cover with Starro. But instead of a world-conquering starfish, we get our sweet, lovable Changeling, changed into something that's not very sweet or lovable. Poor Impulse is the only captured, but everyone else seems to be quite distressed. As for the artwork ... well, it's about as good as I'd expect from J.B. Jones. Which means it sucks. Sorry, Mr. Jones, but I've seen a lot of better comic book artists out there, even from the archaic age of 1994.

Our story begins with Changeling fully possessed by Raven. She has ordered him to subdue each of the Titans so she can implant the seed of Trigon in them. And it appears Changeling has succeeded in his mission — except for Impulse. However, the demonic shape-shifter is too busy gloating to notice a red-and-white blur zoom past him.

We then get a series of flashbacks to see how Changeling defeated the Titans. First was Mirage, who was up in the satellite, worrying about her unborn child. Changeling attacked her, but she wounded him and managed to escape via a life pod. However, the pods in the satellite seem to have been very poorly designed — Mirage has no way to steer it or communicate with anybody else, and she fears she will die when the pod burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. Changeling knows this, and he laughed at Mirage's eminent demise as he teleported down to the Titans' Earth base.

The next victim of Changeling's was Arsenal, who got thrown in the swimming pool and trapped beneath the cover with very little air to breathe. Changeling then took out Damage by trapping him with some sticky green goo he spat out of his mouth.

We then cut away to outer space, where we get to catch back up with Jarras Minion. It's been three weeks since his home planet Talyn was destroyed, and he has gained full control of the Omegadrome. The advanced mechanical suit has enabled Jarras to break his genetically modified passivity and experience anger and rage for the first time. The Omegadrome has also enabled Jarras to track the destroyer of his world, the mysterious rainbow double-helix, which is leaving an energy trail right toward Earth.

Back on Earth, we find out that Terra was the last one Changeling attacked, who he stung upside down with his gross green goo. Returning to the present, Changeling begins wandering around the headquarters looking for Impulse. He then soon realizes that all the Titans were freed during the brief moment he turned away from them.

Impulse arrives and attacks Changeling, who retorts by calling Bart Kid Flash. This angers Impulse so much that he repeatedly calls Changeling a jerk wad. The rest of the team joins the fight, overwhelming Changeling. He then changes back to normal — which Impulse thinks is "mucho cool" — and says he doesn't know where he is. Everybody lets their guard down, and as soon as they do, Changeling transforms into the hideous monster we saw on the cover, and he captures the New Titans.

In the epilogue, we see Kyle Rayner, the last Green Lantern, return to New York City. But he is unaware he is being followed by the mysterious rainbow double-helix, which reveals itself to be long-time Titans villain Psimon.

Well that wasn't a bad issue of New Titans. Wolfman seemed to be experimenting a bit with his chronology, which made it rather confusing to read the first time through. I really tried to simplify it for the summary, but the odd issue of cutting away to a separate event in the middle of a flashback still cropped up. And, of course, the art was pretty awful. But I've come to expect it and can deal with it alright.

The letter from Pat Garrahy explains that half the art team had to change since they were overburdened with other projects. I don't know who's necessarily to blame for that — perhaps the editor who chose those people — but in any case it doesn't look too good to have such a big shift after only one issue from when you made a big deal about the new team. Garrahy also spends a good portion of his letter reiterating that Changeling is going to stay as a villain. I'm coming at this story from 20 years in the future, so I know this change didn't last forever, but I wonder how I would have reacted to this story line back then. I don't think I would have been really upset, but I would have doubted that Changeling would stay a bad guy for too long.

None of the letters to the editor mention Impulse, so I'll just head into the ads now. The first one is for a story arc in the Superman comics called Dead Again!

Next is a CinemaCast sculpture of Darth Vader. Inform the troops Lord Vader has arrived. Now, one of the most powerful and menacing figures in galactic history, Darth Vader, can be yours with this limited edition sculpture. Anakin Skywalker, once a proud Jedi Knight, was seduced by the dark side to become Lord Vader — the Emperor's dark-armored apprentice. You can experience the staggering power of the Empire, made manifest in its ultimate symbol of evil ... Darth Vader.

Batman Madness. A legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. On All Hallows Eve the Mad Hatter is having his tea party. The children of Gotham City will be attending. Something dark will be served. This influential comic was later collected in the Batman: Haunted Knight trade paperback, and it is essential reading for any Batman fan.

Lobo Preacher Wars. Repent or be fragged!

The Batman Adventures Annual #1. The Scarecrow. Scarface. Harley Quinn. They all went straight — once. Well ... almost.

We then have a holiday-themed subscription order form (which means they used the word "holiday" and drew a red bow on a mailbox). But for $19.40, you could get 12 issues of The New Titans when they normally cost $1.95 each. And of course, if you had a computer and a modem, then you could call a 1-800 number to order a free DC Comics online starter kit.

Up next is a pretty interesting DC Universe page that breaks down the process of coloring a comic. It took seven steps and usually two people — a colorist to choose the colors and a separator to enter the color codes into the computer.

Flash Terminal Velocity. The Ultimate Rush. Time is the enemy. They call him the Flash. He thought he could run forever ... now, each step is taking him closer to the finish line. Can he outrace his fate before his time runs out?

And the final ad is for Extra Bases baseball cards by Fleer. They feature Paul Molitor, who won the 1993 World Series MVP with the Toronto Blue Jays. These cards are 35% larger than the average cards, which would have driven collectors like me nuts. I need to have all my cards the same size so they can fit in the standard sleeves.

Next time we'll finish up Nov. '94 with Flash #95. The tragic events in Zero Hour have left Keystone city in turmoil. Flash is gone! Young Impulse stands alone against the forces of Kobra, whose coils begin to tighten around the city, now twice bereft of its super-speed champion.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The New Titans #0

The Changing Order

Marv Wolfman Writer
Stephen J.B. Jones Pencils
Collazo/Candelario/Champagne Inks
Dave Bednar Production
John Costanza Letters
Chris Matthys Colors
Keri Kowalski Asst. Edits
Pat Garrahy Edits
Launching a new history for the New Titans originally created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

This is an all new direction for the New Titans, and what better time to do it than issue #0? They've got a new team, a new logo on their cover, and a new art team. Unfortunately, the art is a bit of a mess in this issue. It's never a good sign when three inkers are required, and I'm not sure exactly what Dave Bednar's role was here, but I imagine it had something to do with the artwork.

But let's get back to that new team, as shown in Tom Raney's cover. Starting in the bottom left is Mirage turning into the current Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner. Mirage's real name is Miri (rather unimaginative) and power, naturally, is to create mirages. Kyle Rayner will eventually join the team, but just not in this issue. I'm not sure how he survived Zero Hour, but I'm not too concerned about it. Moving up clockwise, the green guy above Mirage is Changeling, who has been looking a bit more demonic since his run-in with Raven. Next to him is the leader, Arsenal, who is wearing a much better outfit than what we last saw him in. Next to Arsenal is Terra, which sounds exactly like her real name, Tara. She can control rocks, and has a bit of a crush on Changeling. The really creepy-looking guy on the right side is Damage, who was a major player in Zero Hour with his ability to expend enormous amounts of energy. He normally doesn't look that scary — that's just a result of Raney's poor art. And last, but not least, is our lovable Impulse. That's not the best-looking Impulse we've seen so far, but it's not the worst we'll ever see.

This issue takes place two weeks after Zero Hour, which is a bit unfortunate for me, because I really wanted to see exactly how this team got put together — particularly how Impulse joined. We know he  got a phone message intended for the Flash, but the big crisis happened before we saw him meet up with Arsenal and the gang. And now this issue picks up after this team has been together for a while and had a few practices. We will eventually see how everybody joined in an annual issue, but it'll take a while to get there. So in the meantime, we open this story with Nightwing, the former Titan leader, defending this New Titan team to Sargent Steel.

Earlier that morning, at one of New York's warehouse piers, we see a husband-wife super villain team named Coven and Slagg. They're working for Crimelord and are currently threatening some criminals who work for the Triad. Changeling has arrived on the scene to save the day, but instead of turning into an animal as usual, he changes into a grotesque, monstrous form. He also surprises himself with his own murderous urges. He almost kills the husband, Slagg, but he's ultimately knocked out by Coven.

Meanwhile, in the shopping mall beneath the World Trade Center (yes, this story happened long before 9/11), Damage and Arsenal are battling some more Crimelord goons, who are wearing giant, mechanized suits.  The battle is not going well, and soon Damage is buried under a pile of rubble before Arsenal's backup can arrive. And to make matters worse, Arsenal notices that the goons have sabotaged the subway tracks just as a train approaches.

We check back in with Changeling, who is saved by Terra and Mirage. However, Coven and Slagg escape in the chaos. Changeling quickly revives, and the three Titans rush off to answer Arsenal's distress call.

The train Arsenal was worried about gets closer and closer, and is about to derail, when it says, "Beep beep!" Turns out it was just Impulse holding a lantern and making a Roadrunner joke. (We love the Loony Tunes here!) Impulse explains he saved the train by pulling out its brake lines (which doesn't make any sense to me, but whatever). He then proceeds to beat the snot out of the Crimelord goons because their lasers are too slow to hit him — unlike magbeams, which haven't been invented yet.

Impulse asks Arsenal if there are any more robots to fight, and he directs him upstairs to where Damage is. Luckily, Damage has pulled himself out of the rubble. Unluckily, he has let his anger get the best of him and is about to explode. So, just like they practiced, Impulse uses a gravlift to carry Damage out to the ocean to safely release his excess energy. Impulse runs back to the shore to watch the mushroom-cloud explosion — which is "too cool" — and runs back out to catch Damage before he falls in the water. He brings him back to Arsenal just as the rest of the team arrives.

Now that their mission is complete, the Titans now need to check in with Sargent Steel in New Jersey. As Impulse runs there, he realizes he enjoys his time with the Titans more than his time with Wally West or the virtual reality he grew up in. Bart doesn't care too much for Changeling — who has been a bit of a butt in this issue — but he likes everybody else, especially Damage. Impulse thinks that this team is going to be "real whip." I'm not sure if that was supposed to be 30th century slang or 1994 slang. Either way, it sounds rather weird.

Impulse gets to Steel first and has to wait for the rest of the team to catch up. Once they get there, Steel takes them to their new Earth-based headquarters — a former train station at Liberty State Park. It's fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and teleporters to their satellite base. But Impulse is primarily concerned with the base's selection of computer games.

Later that evening, at New York City Hall, Senator Perry is holding a press conference. Apparently he and Senator Williams authored an anti-terrorist bill, but then Williams was assassinated by Deathstroke. I'm not sure how an anti-terrorist bill would make terrorism more illegal than it already should be, but Perry assures reporters the president has just signed the bill and the end of terrorism is at hand. As soon as he says this, he is killed by Coven and Slagg, who announce that their demands will be met, without elaborating on what those demands actually are. All this may seem rather out of place, and that's because most of it has to deal exclusively with Deathstroke. But Marv Wolfman was also writing Deathstroke at this time, and we'll get a Titans-Deathstroke crossover soon enough.

Our story then returns to the beginning, with Nightwing assuring Sargent Steel that this new team of Titans will be just fine without him, and he won't even secretly help them from the shadows. He's led the past three teams, and now wants to take a well-deserved vacation. Isn't it funny how so many people feel like they need to justify the word vacation with "well-deserved" in front of it?

Anyway, the last page of the issue takes place out in space, with the Green Lantern catching the attention of the mysterious force that just destroyed the planet Talyn. It looks like a glowing, rainbow double-helix. But it'll soon catch up to poor Kyle Rayner and we'll learn exactly what it is.

So that was Impulse's first adventure with the New Titans, and I quite enjoyed it. Impulse deserves to get out and do something besides being constantly yelled at by the Flash. He fits in with this team personality-wise, and he's already established himself as one of the most powerful members of the team. But that power needs to be focused and organized, and Arsenal seems to have the personality to successfully order Impulse around — unlike Wally. Wolfman didn't have much info on Impulse to work with here — super speed, from the future, likes video games — but I think he captured his personality and power set quite well. He had him goofing off, cracking jokes, always being the first to arrive somewhere, and also being a competent hero. I am quite pleased with how Impulse was handled, although I would have liked a line about where he was when Arsenal called for backup and exactly how Impulse saved that train.

In typical Wolfman fashion, this story seemed simple on the surface, but actually set up a couple of different story lines. We have Changeling dealing with his demonic possession at the hands of Raven, the emerging menace of Crimelord, which also spills into the Deathstroke title, and the mysterious threat in space targeting Green Lantern. And Wolfman manages to balance these stories quite well, which really makes him an entertaining read. Most unfortunately, his interesting story is hampered by the poor quality of art. This stuff may have been average in 1994, but it does not hold up today. A lot of faces looked really weird, some pages depressingly had no backgrounds, and the artists kept forgetting that Impulse has goggles. What a shame.

I don't have any ads or letters this time because I own this issue digitally — it's the only issue of this era of New Titans that's available through Comixology since they have all the #0 issues from the Zero Hour event. So even though the art sucks, I do recommend spending the $1.99 to see Impulse in his first team adventure.

Next time, we'll head into comics with a November 1994 publication date. Impulse appeared in two issues that month — Flash #95 and New Titans #115. I like to save the better issue for the end, so I'll review The New Titans #115 first.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Flash #0

Flashing Back

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

Coming off the heels of Zero Hour, all the DC books in October 1994 went back to #0 to tell the new origin stories, or, as in this case, to creatively retell the origin story while also dealing with the aftermath of Zero Hour. Impulse is not in this issue, despite being on the cover, but I think this story is essential to cover in order to understand what happened to the Flash after he disappeared in Zero Hour #4. Impulse is looking a bit grumpy here, but he's always grumpy around Wally. And I'm glad we can actually see his face, unlike poor Linda and Max Mercury at the top. On the left side above Impulse is an image of Wally being doused in chemicals and struck by lightning, which gave him super speed. On the right is Wally's uncle and Bart's grandpa, Barry Allen, and the bottom right is Wally when he was Kid Flash.

Our story begins during the Zero Hour crisis, with Flash trying to destroy the entropy with his super speed. To the nearby Waverider, it appeared that Flash died, but he really just went hurtling through the time stream, somehow leaving his costume behind. I suppose his body converted into energy, and for some reason his costume was incapable of adapting with him. But don't worry, Wally isn't running around naked — he is still wearing red, full-body underwear.

Flash begins to revisit key moments in his in reverse. He watches himself defeat some criminals and notices that Max Mercury was observing him in secret. Wally then sees himself mourning the death of Barry Allen and working with the Teen Titans as Kid Flash. Wally also watches a younger version of himself meet Barry for the first time and gain super speed the exact same way Barry did. Wally always thought it was an incredible coincidence, but now he suspects it wasn't.

Wally then goes even further back in time and finds himself as a depressed young boy. He remembers this to be the day a mysterious stranger gave him a message of hope, but he soon realizes that he was that stranger. So Wally has a nice talk with his younger self and begins his journey back home.

So yeah, a nice quick review for a nice quick Flash story. Nothing too Earth-shattering, but still a neat look-back on Wally's life with the always welcome art of Mike Wieringo. No Impulse, of course, which is sad, but next time we'll see his first adventure with the Titans in New Titans #0.