Monday, June 30, 2014

Guy Gardner: Warrior #29

It's My Party and I'll Fight if I Want To

Beau Smith Head Waiter
Phil Jimenez Maitre d'
John Stokes & Dan Davis Bartenders
Gene D'Angelo Busboy
Albert DeGuzman Bouncer
Eddie Berganza Hat Check Girl
Warriors designed by Brad Gorby

The cover is made of card stock, and it opens up in the middle like doors to a restaurant. Inside is an awesome image penciled and inked by Phil Jimenez and colored by Tom McCraw.

And yes, our pal Impulse is here — he's squished over on the right edge. DC actually had a contest with this cover. The first person to correctly name every single character here would be eligible to be drawn in an issue of Guy Gardner: Warrior. There was also a variant cover by Jimenez, Dan Davis and Mark Chiarello, which was based off the famous Edward Hopper painting, "Nighthawks." And Curtis King was the cover editor for this issue.

I haven't read too many Guy Gardner stories, as he rarely interacts with the Flash family. But I do know he's traditionally a Green Lantern. But in 1995, Kyle Rayner was the only Green Lantern, meaning Guy had to find other means to be a superhero. In fact, Guy was one of the handful of heroes to have a significant change brought about by Zero Hour, gaining this strange, possibly alien war suit that bonded with his skin and can create any weapon he thinks about. At least that's how I understand it. If I'm completely off, and you know it, please let me know.

But a complete lack of Guy Gardner knowledge can't prevent you from enjoying this wonderful issue. It begins with Guy holding the grand opening for his bar, Warriors. Almost every single DC character ever conceived shows up, and it is a lot of fun. Every page is covered with tons of characters I know and love, and many characters I don't know yet. Impulse arrives with Arsenal, but the two of them mostly stay in the background the whole time.

But bad things happen when you get too many superheroes drinking in one place. Guy starts a fight with Captain Atom (I think for letting the super heroine Ice die) and Donna Troy fights with the Amazon Artemis for wearing Wonder Woman's outfit. And then Lobo shows up and all anarchy ensues. I think Impulse even punched somebody, but I can't tell who it's supposed to be. Like I said, there are a LOT of characters in this issue. Even some real-life actors show up — Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Ultimately, everybody leaves, Lobo tires himself out and then consumes all the alcohol in the building.

Yeah, there were a few other things that happened in this issue, but they aren't pertinent to Impulse, so I skipped over them. And even though Impulse did virtually nothing here, I absolutely loved this issue. There was so much fun stuff going on in every panel. And I the cover is really cool, too. Even if I have no interest in Guy Gardner, I am still very happy that I have this issue. And having it in print adds to the fun. A digital version — still not available — would not have the cool effect of opening the doors to the restaurant.

The letter column, Dotting the Eyes, naturally doesn't mention Impulse. But it is still pretty fun to read, as all the letters are answered from Guy Gardner's point of view. So let's get on to the ads, with one very special advertisement I'll save for last.

Nerf. Welcome to Max Force. This ad is designed to look like a comic book page with real photos used for the panels. My brothers and I had our fair share of Nerf guns back in the day. Fun stuff.

How to Draw Comics! Marvel and DC artists show you how! If you're willing to cut up your comic book, you can send in an order form, plus $19.95, for this book.

Comic Buyer's Guide 1994 Fan Awards. Another ad that asks you to rip a page out of your book to write down your favorite writer, artist, letterer, etc., and mail it off to Wisconsin. I don't know how many kids actually had a favorite letterer, but that was one of the categories nonetheless.

Need hard data fast? Psyba Rats. They'll steal anything, anytime, anywhere. Chuck Dixon, Michal Dutkiewicz, A.J. Kent, Bob McLeod. Three-issue miniseries. Boots up in February.

Death. Corruption. Bigotry. The music of the night. Batman Jazz. A three-part Legends of the Dark Knight miniseries by Gerard Jones & Mark Badger.

One legend's dream is another's nightmare. Legends of the World's Finest. Collecting the acclaimed three-issue miniseries. Written by Walter Simonson and fully painted by Daniel Brereton.

Why put off till tomorrow ... what you can buy today! A DC subscription order form. You could get 12 issues of Guy Gardner: Warrior for only $15.

Superman#100. The Death of Clark Kent. Smashing beyond! Jurgens, Breeding and Rubinstein.

Flash #100. The Quick and the Dead. Racing beyond! Waid, Larrocca, Pacheco and Marzan Jr.

Now you're on fire! NBA Jam Tournament Edition. Unfortunately, I didn't have this edition as a kid — just the normal, boring one that only had two players per team, and not "over 100 NBA superstars" like this version did. It still was the best game ever, but it could have been the bestest game ever.

And now, the best ad in the whole issue!

Sometimes you just gotta go with your Impulse. Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Wayne Faucher. Ongoing monthly, on the move starting in February. Bart Allen's only been around for half a year, and he already has his own book coming out! And I already love Ramos' art! This Bart looks more like a 14-year-old than any other version we've seen before — even by Mike Wieringo. And this ad is funny, too! Impulse is writing, "I won't run in the hall." while he is obviously running in the hall. It's also considerate of him to not write anything in the space his head was. :)

But this is great cause for excitement and celebration. And we have only five more issues to cover before we get to do Impulse #1! Next up is Deathstroke: The Hunted #45.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Damage #10

Fragments Part Three: Links

Tom Joyner – Story
Bill Marimon – Pencils
Don Hillsman and Dave Bednar – Inks
Bob Pinaha – Letters
Buzz Setzer – Colors
Jim Spivey – Muckraker

This month's cover was produced by Bill Marimon, Tom McWeeney and Jason Armstrong, with colors by Danny Vozzo and Rob Schwager. Curtis King and John Wren bought everyone Nickelodeon "Gak." I had some Gak as a kid, at it was a lot of fun. Anyway, we have so many people working on this cover because it's a combination of the past three Damage covers. We have a puzzle piece from issues #8, #9 and #10, plus a teaser for the Iron Munro backup.

I guess I could have justified including Damage #9 in my list, but we don't technically see Impulse in it. But as Impulse says at the beginning of this issue, he was there, just unseen. In last issue, Damage battled Doctor Polaris and made quite a mess of things. This issue begins with the Titans arriving on the scene after Damage has left. And Arsenal is chewing out Impulse for not calling them before things got out of hand.

But Impulse says he was just following Arsenal's instructions exactly — to keep an eye on him and stay hidden. Impulse also managed to secretly help Damage a couple of times. As we saw in issue #8,  the mother box flying toward Damage was actually Impulse rushing it to him, while he vibrated to make himself invisible. And in issue #9, Impulse surreptitiously cushioned Damage's fall with a mini whirlwind.

Arsenal never told Impulse to stop Damage or call for help, so he didn't. And the prison warden vouches for Impulse, saying he wasn't able to stop Doctor Polaris from escaping because he was taking an injured guard to the hospital. Impulse then tells Arsenal he thinks Damage has returned to his home in Atlanta. And that's the last we see of Impulse here.

We then get into a complicated story with Damage being hunted by the evil green Gak-looking thing named Splatter. Apparently, he's mostly just a jealous beast, and he kills Damage's girlfriend before Damage kills him. Pretty heavy stuff, but it doesn't play a direct role in Impulse's main story. And even less related to Impulse is the Iron Munro backup.

The Phantom Imperative Part Three

By: Joyner • Armstrong • Pepoy • Pinaha • Setzer • and Spivey

All that happens in this short story is Iron Munro looking for the Phantom Lady in a mineshaft in Poland. Naturally, he doesn't find her. There's still two parts left of the story.

So this was actually a pretty monumental story for Damage, but not so much for Impulse. I am deeply saddened that Impulse made a guest appearance in Damage's book without actually interacting with Damage. But I did like the idea of Impulse secretly helping his friend the whole time. And of him following Arsenal's directions a little too literally.

The Damage Assessments letter page has no mention of Impulse, but there is the special continuity note, telling me this issue happens after New Titans #119, which still hasn't come out yet. Once again, I feel DC was being a little negligent by not putting this note at the beginning of the issue.

There are only two new ads in this issue:

The Spectre. Know his wrath! "Desecration" in issues #27–30. By the critically acclaimed team of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake.

Douglas Adams. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. At last, will the ultimate question be found? A three-issue miniseries starting in January.

Next time, we begin March 1995 as Impulse makes a guest appearance (along with everyone else in the DC Universe) in Guy Gardner: Warrior #29.

Flash #98

Terminal Velocity Mach Four: Hit and Run

Mark Waid Story
Salvador Larocca Pencils
Jose Marzan Inks
Tom McCraw Colors
Gaspar Letters
Alisande Morales • Assistant Editor
Ruben Diaz • Associate Editor
Brian Augustyn • Editor

The cover is by Mike Wieringo and Jose Marzan Jr. From left, we have a very disgruntled Bart Allen, Jay Garrick trying to make peace, Jesse Quick looking a bit unsure of herself, an encouraging Wally West, and a contemplative Max Mercury.  I love all the emotion Wieringo was able to put here, and the basic pose in front of a lightning storm is great, too. I just wish there wasn't such a thick white line around each character.

The story picks right up where Flash #97 left off, with Wally naming Jesse as his successor. Johnny Quick and Jay Garrick, who are both quite old, had to bow out from the adventure. The rest of the speedsters, meanwhile, are searching for Kobra's remaining secret power plants. And Bart is none too happy with Wally.

Bart tells Wally he sucks, and Wally dismisses his bitterness, saying he tried to train Bart, but he wouldn't open up and learn, and that is everybody's loss. Jesse, however, is a student of super speed, and more qualified to serve as Keystone City's protector after Wally is taken into the Speed Force. Like her father, Jesse needs to recite a speed formula — 3x2(9yz)4a — which Bart thinks sounds stupid. But Wally doesn't care. He knows the formula works — as we saw in Flash #91 — and his decision on Jesse is final. The four speedsters then separate, with Bart and Jesse heading to the north, while Wally and Max check out the west. But then Wally decides to go off on his own real quick.

We then see Kobra himself torturing one of his lackeys, who he blames for exposing his operation to the Flash. Now Kobra believes his hand is forced, and he needs to launch Project Morpheus before Flash finds the remaining stations.

Meanwhile, Pied Piper is continuing to work on the Kobra power receptor to trace it back to the super villain himself. Wally pays him a visit, and pulls Linda Park aside to warn her about Kobra, but she confronts him about the information he's been withholding from her. So he finally tells her that he believes he'll soon be sucked into the Speed Force, but he still holds back something. Linda begins to cry, they kiss each other, and Wally gives her his Flash ring. Wally then takes off, again warning Linda to not get involved. But as soon as he's gone, Linda asks Pied Piper and Iris Allen to help her help Wally.

We rejoin Bart and Jesse, and Jesse is surprised with how quiet Bart is being. He says he thought he had a reason to put on this stupid suit and put up with Wally. Bart then quickly assure Jesse that he does care about Wally, and he'll still stick by him, even if Wally won't stick with him. They then visit the rundown Keystone Garden, and Bart is perplexed by all the stuff inside. Turns out it's just trees and flowers, something Bart has never actually felt, having been raised in a virtual reality in the 30th century. And he tells Jesse he just might go back there once all this business with Kobra is over.

Bart and Jesse then come across a large greenhouse, and Bart vibrates his head inside to see it filled with tons of large solar panels. Jesse immediately wants to bust inside, but Bart shocks her by telling her to wait. In an extremely rare moment of thoughtfulness, Bart decides to come up with a plan, which involves vibrating the outside walls of the greenhouse to cause it to explode.

Wally then catches up with Max, and they discover a fake cornfield, which is concealing wires and cables leading to a bunch of wind turbines. So Max and Wally destroy the turbines with a couple of tornadoes, which attract Bart and Jesse. Amazed by the level of destruction, Bart exclaims, "Holy grife! You mean business!"

Realizing two of his power plants have been destroyed, Kobra hastily launches Project Morpheus Stage Alpha, which envelopes Keystone City in a large forcefield. The four speedsters, on the outside of the city, see the forcefield coming down and race to get inside before they're trapped out. But only Wally and Jesse are able to make it. Wally begins to freak out and start screaming again. Jesse tries to calm him down, but he tells her that he needed everybody to help him save Linda. Turns out, the most troubling aspect of his vision of the future was not his own death, but that of his girlfriend's.

Things are really starting to move now. Kobra is finally on the move and everything is heading toward a huge throw-down at the end. Wally is continuing to freak out at alarming rates, and Bart is actually beginning to grow up a bit. I loved his interactions with Jesse. They're the youngest speedsters out there, and are more likely to relate and open up to each other. And I think Jesse, being a girl, is a little more empathetic and able to help Bart explore his feelings about Wally.

Bart's concerned with being perceived as a failure, and he's so frustrated, he's even considering returning to the future, when not too long ago he staunchly refused that idea during Zero Hour. I don't think Bart was necessarily expecting to become the next Flash — he just had hoped for something good to result from his efforts. Mostly, I think he's frustrated with Wally's rudeness. Altogether, I loved seeing Bart explore these feelings and use his anger to focus him. He actually came up with a plan for once, and it worked. And how fun was it to learn that Bart has literally never stopped to smell the roses?

The Speed Reading letter column only has one page, and none of them mention Impulse. But we do have a very special letter from one Geoffrey Johns, of Clarkston, Mich. I am 90 percent convinced that this is THE Geoff Johns, who has written several high-profile Flash stories and is currently one of the most powerful and influential writers at DC Comics. The timing and location match, since Johns went to Michigan State University in the early '90s and didn't have his first official interaction with DC until 1997. This is a rare glimpse of a celebrated comic book creator when he was still merely a fanboy. Here is his letter in its entirety:

Dear Speedsters,

Whoa! Mark Waid has truly outdone himself. We are actually going to find out what the lightning did to Barry and Wally, how speed ties these characters together; in fact, everything that is still a mystery about the Flash's origins will be revealed. I thought I knew everything there is to know about Flash and company. After reading this one issue I suddenly feel like I'm in the dark. I can't wait to see how this storyline proceeds and finishes. I trust you, Brian, and Mark with my favorite character so I'm not worried about the outcome, I'm excited.

The only thing that was lacking was the art. I really am going to miss 'Ringo. I understand that there will be a new art team after issue #100. Any idea who? And exactly where did 'Ringo go? Another DC title, I hope.

I recently heard Mark is working on another Flash project and a project with Alex Ross! I also heard that DC was finally going to push Flash since sales on the zero issue were higher than most. This is great! Let's get Flash back in the top ten DC titles — where it belongs.

Good luck. Anyway, I just thought I'd drop you a line and let you know how much I appreciate your hard work and effort; it really shows.

And Brian Augustyn's response:

Flash is definitely in the DC top ten, Geoff — with a bullet. Expect great things from the fastest comic alive.

Among the great things you can expect is the debut of new penciller Oscar Jimenez Garrido, a tremendously talented young artist from Spain. Oscar broke into comics working with Carlos Pacheco, so count on truly amazing super-speed visuals!

There is indeed another Flash project in the works from Mr. Waid. Even as we speak, he's busily planning the previously mentioned Prestige format special — which will feature the artwork of both Mr. Wieringo and Mr. Pacheco. Keep your eyes peeled for details as they become available. Speaking of Mr. Wieringo, he is indeed staying with DC — as the penciller of Robin. Watch for it.

Mark's project with the awesome Mr. Ross is absolutely top secret, but definitely under way.

Now for the ads.

Street Fighter. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia.

This is the price of failure. Caution: Red Zone Radioactive Desert of Death. Play at your own risk. For SEGA Genesis.

Lufia's got everyone talking ... but playing is believing! For Genesis and Super Nintendo.

The Dark Knight finally returns in Batman #515. By Doug Moench, Kelley Jones and John Beatty.

Black Lightning. Blasting the criminal landscape to ashes — one piece at a time. Tony Isabella, Eddy Newell, Ron McCain. Ongoing series beings in December.

The Dark Knight finally returns in Detective Comics #682. By Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Scott Hanna.

Rise of the Robots. For Super Nintendo.

Next time, we'll wrap up Feb. 1995 with Damage #10.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Green Lantern #59

Green Christmas

Ron Marz – Writer
Darryl Banks – Pencils
Romeo Tanghal – Inks
Steve Mattsson – Color
Albert DeGuzman – Letters
Eddie Berganza – Elf
Kevin Dooley – Santa

This issue has a cover date of February 1995, but as per comic book tradition, it actually came out two months before that, making it right in time for Christmas 1994. The cover by Banks and Tanghal shows Green Lantern battling Doctor Polaris, who is basically DC's less-significant version of Marvel's Magneto.

Our story opens on Christmas Eve with Green Lantern arriving at the Titans headquarters and being greeted most enthusiastically by Impulse.

Impulse taunts him and tells him he's in trouble for blowing off his training session with Arsenal. Green Lantern uses his power ring to lift Impulse off him and hold him in the air. Impulse calls him a big bully, and Lantern calls him a twerp.

Arsenal then arrives and puts an end to their fun. Arsenal chastises Lantern for being two hours late, and reminds him that if he wants to be a member of the team, then he has to start acting like it. And as part of his team duties, tonight Lantern is on monitor duty. He doesn't like the idea of wasting Christmas Eve in front of a computer screen, but Arsenal points out that Lantern's the newest member of the team, and the monitor duty shifts are assigned based on seniority. While this conversation is happening, Impulse is sneaking behind them, making faces at Green Lantern.

Bart then quickly changes into his civilian clothes — complete with a Santa hat — and introduces himself formally to Kyle along with Grant and Terra. Grant apologizes to Kyle for getting stuck with monitor duty, and Bart, still feeling a bit sore from earlier, says, "Better you than me." Terra calls out Bart for being rude, and the three teens take off to check out the Christmas decorations at Manhattan.

And that's all the Bart we have in this issue. The rest is pretty interesting, as Kyle struggles to overcome the loneliness of moving to a new city, as well as the depression of his girlfriend dying. As you could have guessed from the cover, he does fight Doctor Polaris, but he beats him pretty quickly. And the issue ends with Donna Troy visiting him and kissing him under the mistletoe.

So yeah, we didn't get much Impulse here, but I still really enjoyed this issue. Ron Marz is a great comic book writer, and I found myself relating to Kyle Rayner very well. I also have moved to a new city, and often find myself sitting at home being lonely. Like Kyle, I need to remind myself to get out and live my life. Luckily, I don't have a dead girlfriend to haunt me.

Sadly, this is the last we'll see Impulse in Green Lantern for a while. But happily, Impulse will be moving on to bigger and better things next time, with Flash #98.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Darkstars #28

The Captive Heart

Michael Jan Freidman ~ Writer/Creator
Mike Collins ~ Penciller
Ken Branch ~ Inker
Bob Pinaha ~ Letterer
Linda Medley ~ Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt Former Green Lantern
Paul Kupperberg Former Greengrocer

The cover is by Mike Deodato Jr. It is unique in that it shows four different images, but for the purposes of this blog, we really only care about two of them. First and foremost is two characters we know and love, Minion and Donna Troy, surprisingly fighting each other. Well, actually it's not that surprising when you get into the story, but it is rather disheartening. In the bottom left corner, kneeling in a city in ruins, is John Stewart, who I first encountered as the Green Lantern of the Justice League cartoon show in 2001. I have to remind myself that in 1994, Kyle Rayner was the only Green Lantern, meaning John Stewart had to find work as a Darkstar.

Our story begins with John Stewart on Talyn, the home world of Jarras Minion, which was destroyed by Psimon. Much to everyone's surprise, there are actually a handful of survivors scattered among the rubble, including Jarras' dad, Kellad. We then cut to Donna Troy, thinking about how great it is to be a member of the Titans again.

Sadly, that is our only image of Impulse in this issue — just a vague thought bubble. But some stuff involving Minion here is quite important to the New Titans series, so I'll focus on that, ignoring the subplots of the Crimelord's war with the alien Syndicate and lots of other people and things I don't know.

Minion, who had helped the Titans defeat Psimon with the intent to kill him, has resolved again to exact his revenge. He attacks the Darkstar prison ship with his Omegadrome, and Donna is sent to try to stop him. She first appeals to reason, telling Minion that if he kills Psimon, he'll only add one more soul to Psimon's victims — his own. Minion coldly responds with one word: "So?"

He begins to attack Donna, and it quickly becomes apparent that she is not able to defeat him alone. A distress call goes out to the other Darkstars, including John Stewart with Kellad, who recognizes the Omegadrome. The Darkstars are able to patch him through to the prison ship, and Kellad speaks with his son. He tells Jarras that not everyone on Talyn died, and those who survived desire peace, not revenge. Kellad is able to eventually talk Jarras out of killing Psimon, but the poor kid is still struggling with his newfound hatred, and he flies out toward the stars to sort out his feelings.

Any issue with basically no Impulse is always a bit of a downer, but I still loved all the stuff with Jarras Minion. He's quickly become one of my favorite characters because of his emotional turmoil. In fact, that turmoil, that angst, runs so deep, he's unable to immediately reunite himself with his father. He's too ashamed of what he attempted to do, but also mad at himself for not being able to do it in the first place. The best thing for him right now is to get some alone time. But I hope I get to do a few more Minion stories before he fades away into comic book oblivion.

The letter column, Mugla Mail, naturally doesn't mention Impulse, so I'll move ahead to the few new ads.

Blood Pack. Like heroes with attitude?! These guys are nothing but!! The latest. The hottest. A 4-issue miniseries with attitude!!!! In your face in January!

"Tis now the very witching time of night when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world." –Shakespeare. Starman #5. Robinson, Harris, Von Grawbadger.

Batman Mitefall. Knightfall, Knightquest, Knightsend, now see what MITE have been. One-shot prestige format. Alan Grant, Kevin O'Neill.

Next time, we will see a bit more Impulse in Green Lantern #59.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The New Titans #118


Marv Wolfman Writer
William Rosado Penciller
Keith Champagne Inker
Chi Colorist
Albert DeGuzman & John Constanza Letterers
Keri Kowalski Asst. Editor
Pat Garrahy Editor

Our cover features the evil Raven attacking Thunder and Lightning — two rather fringe characters, but not altogether unknown. I think their simple and self-explanatory names help make them somewhat memorable. I first became acquainted to them in a 2003 episode of Teen Titans. But Impulse has very little to do with Thunder and Lightning and Raven, so I won't dwell on them for too long.

Continuing from New Titans #117, we pick up with the imprisonment of Psimon. Green Lantern goes aboard the Darkstar prison ship with a video camera so the rest of the Titans can see how securely Psimon is locked up. Green Lantern asks the Darkstars about their video games for Impulse, since he's already beaten everything Earth has to offer. To my surprise, the Darkstars actually do have video games and they download them to the Titans computers. Kyle Rayner then flies back to the Titans satellite with Donna Troy, while Jarras Minion lingers in the background, vowing to get his revenge on Psimon.

Impulse is very excited to see Green Lantern, and he asks all about the Darkstars ship and their video games. Lantern gives him the video camera, and he takes off to immediately watch it, saying it's going to be "mucho rad." Lantern then tells Arsenal he'll officially join the Titans. Everybody teleports back their base in New Jersey, and Impulse and Damage start geeking out about Star Trek. Impulse quotes "Make it so" and "Q! What have you done to my crew?" And he asks Damage if he remembers Data's evil twin. Tara then tells the boys to stop being losers and go explore New York with her.

We then cut to San Francisco, where Thunder and Lightning are battling some of Crimelord's men. The two heroes win easily, but they are attacked from behind and possessed by Raven. We then see Raven abduct another young metahuman who can turn into crystal. Meanwhile, the evil Changeling seduces and abducts a young woman in New York.

We then return to Bart, Tara and Grant — out of costume — exploring the big city. Bart wants to go see the Warriortech demonstration on Eight Street, since it's supposed to be awesome, but Tara and Grant are too busy being moody. Tara then calls Bart "Squirt," and he responds with, "It's Mister Squirt, Rocky." They pass by a couple of bullies, and Bart wants to stop them, but Tara says they can't butt into everything. Bart's not satisfied with that, so he quickly runs over there, knocks one of the bullies down, yells at him, then runs back to Tara and Grant before they realize he was gone.

The three teens then stupidly try to enter a bar, and the bouncer refuses to let them in, even after Grant promises they'll only drink root beer. The bouncer is slightly rude to them, saying they should come back when they're finished going through puberty. This greatly upsets our heroes, and Bart calls back, "I can't wait to grow up so I can be a jerk like you!" But Tara gets the last laugh by creating a small earthquake underneath the bouncer. Bart then sees a guy trying to con people with three-card monte. But Bart's eyes are too fast for his slight of hand, and he wins every time.

They then decide to blow Bart's winnings on the arcade, but Bart is so good that he racks up 536 free games and complains of boredom. Tara then complains loudly that a cute guy she thought was flirting with her was actually interested in someone else. She's quite rude to Grant, but then tries to apologize in a rather awkward way. And the issue ends with Darkstar telling Arsenal that she'll officially join the Titans as well.

I wish I could say I liked this issue more than I did. I always want to see my heroes get some downtime and have fun out of their costumes. But everything just seemed a bit off in this issue, particularly the dialogue. There were tons of random thought bubbles that just did not fit in the context of the action, like Kyle wishing his dead girlfriend was with him on the Darkstar prison ship. And later, Kyle was supposed to have said something that insulted Mirage, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what that was. I strongly suspect heavy editorial interference here.

I did like having Bart play Star Trek with Grant, and I've always thought those two make a great pair. I guess it is natural for them to hang out with Tara, as the three of them are the youngest members of the team, but I don't know why anyone would spend much time with that negative and rude girl. She'll walk by a helpless kid getting beat up, but will gladly attack a slightly rude man who's just doing his job. No, Tara, you were in the wrong for trying to enter the bar in the first place. What were you thinking? I also don't think Bart playing card games is the best use of his powers, but he was only conning the conman, so I guess it's forgivable. But this issue really demonstrates the need for adult supervision. We can't have these super-powered teens attacking everybody who offends them!

The letters page starts with another astonishingly negative note from Pat Garrahy. He basically chews out the readers for not liking what's going on with Changeling and Raven. He then asks them to keep reading, but also doubts that they'll even like the upcoming story. That is no way to treat your fans, especially when your book is struggling, and I believe it was in 1994. In any case, I do know for sure that the end of The New Titans is on the horizon.

Michael McCalister, of Valencia, Calif., praises the new, fresh team, and says Damage, Terra and Impulse all have the "teen spirit" that the original team did, and more.

Shane Parker, of Mahomet, Ill., calls Impulse one of DC's brightest rising stars and "an absolute pistol."

Jim Faerber, of Harvey's Lake, Penn., says Impulse is probably the most fun to write, and he hopes he'll continue to develop a friendship with Damage. He also loves how Impulse's hyperactive personality matches his powers, or is it the other way around?

Jeff DeWitt, of Redlands, Calif., also asks for more interactions with the angst-ridden Damage and the carefree Impulse.

After seeing so many people praise and call for more Impulse-Damage team-ups, I wonder why DC didn't do more with them. Oh well. Time to move on to the ads.

The year is 2045 ... the forces of evil have unleashed a mind-control drug called tek. And if these men can't stop it, the whole world will be hooked. Greg Evigan, William Shatner. TekWar: The Series. On USA Network.

Lobo Deadman. The Brave and the Bald. One of them is dead ... and one of them is not ... yet. One-shot on sale in January. Alan Grant, Martin Emond.

Here comes the bride ... Catwoman #18. Chuck Dixon, Jim Balent, Bob Smith.

Who gets to kill Major Force? Capital Punishment! A three-part story of vengeance. Guy Gardner Warrior #27-28, Green Lantern #60.

If you loved The New Titans then you'll love The Man Called A-X. Marv Wolfman & Shawn McManus.

Hard-hitting action and adventure every month! A DC subscription form. You could get 12 issues of The New Titans for $19.40 when they normally cost $1.95 each.

Dark Destiny and Elric: Tales of the White Wolf. These are two anthology books with a bunch of different writers, but the only one I recognize is Neil Gaiman.

Ready for your bedtime story? Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight. Starring Billy Zane, who would soon be the star of The Phantom.

Next time: The Darkstars #28. Darkstar is caught in the crossfire of an escalating war between the alien syndicate and the mysterious Crimelord. Meanwhile, in an alternate reality, Ferrin Colos makes some disquieting allies in his struggle against an evil doppelganger.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Flash #97

Terminal Velocity Mach Three: The Other Side of Light

Mark Waid, Story
Salvador Larocca, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar, Letterer
Tom McCraw, Colorist
Ruben Diaz, Assoc. Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

The cover is by Mike Wieringo and Jose Marzan Jr. From left, we have Wally West, Bart Allen, Jay Garrick, Johnny Quick, and Max Mercury up in the sky. It is a powerful image to have all the main speedsters running side-by-side, but it looks like Max Mercury has died or something. Actually, his origin story is told in this issue. I wish Wieringo could have come up with a better way to demonstrate that.

Our story begins with a black-and-white flashback to 1838, with a cowboy holding a dying Indian in his arms and crying out in grief while a lightning storm rages behind him. The narrator explains that this was the night he became Ahwehota — he who runs beyond the wind. We then find out the narrator is Max Mercury, who is out training Bart along with everybody else we saw on the cover, plus Jesse Quick, Johnny's daughter.

Max continues his story, saying the cowboy was a young fort messenger who was friends with the local Blackfoot clan. He came across the scene of a massacre one day, and held the dying shaman in his arms. The shaman told the messenger that the fort commander had laid out an ambush for the rest of the Indians in the area, and the messenger needed to warn them quickly. Using his last bit of magic, the shaman painted a lightning bolt on the young man's chest and whispered a prayer to the god of the storm and the wind.

As the young man ran, he learned he had gained super speed, which he used to prevent the ambush by  disarming both sides. He then vowed to protect all people, and in the years that followed, he quelled massacres and uprisings as the the legend of Ahwehota spread.

Wally says he's never heard of him, but Jesse has, knowing him as Windrunner through her research of past speedsters. Johnny, however, doesn't believe in the magical elements of the story, while Wally is more concerned with how the story applies to him. So while Bart continues to practice vibrating through objects, Max resumes his story.

One evening, at the absolute peak of his powers, Windrunner felt  the night lightning calling him. He sensed a beckoning and chased it. He ran faster than the speed of light and was drawn into the Speed Force. But he was afraid, and ejected from the Speed Force. Still traveling at light speed, he was thrown into the time stream, and ended up about 50 years in the future, always regretting the one moment of hesitation that cost him heaven.

We then cut to Iris West helping Linda Park with her investigation of Kobra. They're not sure exactly what he's up to, but they're matching his activities with reports of Keystone City being on a fault line and a good source for hydro and geothermal power. Linda is even more concerned with whatever horrible truth Wally is hiding from her. And from the shadows, Kobra continues to spy on the Flash's girlfriend.

Max Mercury concludes his story by saying Windrunner tried repeatedly to return to the Speed Force, but could only manage to travel further through time. And in each era, he was known by a different name, Blue-Streak, Quicksilver, and (as Wally realizes) Max Mercury. Max says the lightning called him once before, and now it's calling Wally. But Wally has a hard time believing some guiding force gave him his powers. Jay, however, admits that he has felt a summoning, but was too embarrassed to admit it to anybody. He wanted to talk to Barry about it, but never got around to it.

Johnny again dismisses the existence of the Speed Force, but Max insists they are all connected to it. This starts to make Wally feel uncomfortable, and luckily, he gets just the diversion he needed in the form of a villain named Chillblaine robbing a bank. Wally explains that it's quite common for aspiring criminals to get a hold of Captain Cold's technology. So he begins unthawing citizens while the other speedsters take out Chillblaine's henchmen.

Impulse uses the enemy's weapon against them, knocking out a goon with a big snowball. Wally decides that this is the perfect training opportunity for Bart, so he actually helps Chillblaine knock Impulse down with a blast of his cold gun. Impulse says that hurt, and Wally mockingly asks him to hold back the tears. Impulse quickly recovers, saying the only one who's going to be crying is Chillblaine. He charges at the villain, who retaliates by firing several razor-sharp icicles at Impulse. Bart vibrates through the onslaught, which earns him a round of applause from his fellow speedsters. But instead of being pleased, Bart immediately turns on Wally, saying he could have been killed if he hadn't vibrated. Wally says, "Now you're getting it. Yes. Though we would have caught them." Bart answers, "You would not have ... !"

A thoroughly confused Chillblaine then tries to escape inconspicuously, but Jesse destroys his car before he can put his key in the door. Impulse then gets in the final punch, and Max is eager to resume their conversation about the Speed Force. But instead, Wally suggests they check in with the Pied Piper to see if he's learned anything from the power pack he took off one of the Kobra goons.

Turns out the pack is actually a receiver, and Piper suspects Kobra has a nearby power plant beaming energy to his men. He says he should be able to track it down in a day, but Wally wants to find it now, deciding to look for ultraviolet light by trying something called the red shift. The faster he rushes away from light, the longer its wavelength appears, and the more its color shifts to his eyes, enabling him to see ultraviolet light. He races faster than Max and Impulse, and begins to transform into energy again, but it does work. He sees Kobra's energy field covers the entire city.

The other speedsters catch up to Wally, and he begins to freak out again, calling Linda's name. Max and Johnny calm him down, and he says he touched the Speed Force again, learning that once you cross over into it, you can't come back. And now Wally realizes that he'll inevitably end up there, which is why he's been training Bart. But Wally says Bart isn't ready to replace him. Instead, he confers the mantle of the Flash to Jesse Quick.

As is the standard, that was another great issue by Mark Waid. Terminal Velocity is shaping to be a fantastic story — not just for the Flash, but all the speedsters in the DC Universe. This issue focused mostly on Max Mercury, which is great, since he will be an important character in Impulse's solo adventures. And even though we only got a little bit of Impulse here, I really enjoyed it. I loved having all the heroes nonchalantly use the wannabe villain as a training exercise and pausing mid-battle to give Bart a round of applause.

Sadly, none of the letters in Speed Reading talk about Impulse, since they were all written right after Flash #0, which didn't have Impulse in it. So we'll move on to the ads.

Instantly win one of a million free The Pagemaster T-shirts, check it out ... game pieces are hidden inside Nabisco Oreo and ChipsAhoy! packages.

WWF Raw is war. For Super NES, Game Boy, Genesis and Game Gear.

Nothing will prepare you for the Megaverse of Rifts! Palladium's Megaverse of role-playing games uses one basic set of rules, which means you can combine characters, villains, monsters, weapons and entire world settings from one game with another (or combine several, like Rifts). These role-playing games are 8 1/2 by 11 paperback books, sewn and glued so pages won't fall out, and are easy to carry and use.

Wanted: New Sheriff. (Our last one died laughing.) Poor fella had his funny bone tickled once too often. He shall be missed. Tinstar. Only for Super Nintendo.

Metropolis is alive in '95. Showcase 95. A 12-issue miniseries.

NBA Jam. Now on Sega CD and Game Boy! "It sizzles." Electronic Games. "... This is one you gotta have!" Game Pro. "The best hoops game ever created ... " Electronic Gaming Monthly. "The hottest video basketball game around." Game Informer. Every single one of those words is true and more. I absolutely love NBA Jam, which I played on my Super Nintendo. I could probably dedicate a whole blog to how amazing that game is, but I'll keep things focused on Bart Allen here.

Next time we move into February 1995 with The New Titans #118.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The New Titans #117

Psimon Didn't Psay You'd Win!

Marv Wolfman Writer
William Rosado Penciller
Keith Champagne Inker
Albert DeGuzman Letterer
Chi Colorist
Keri Kowalski Asst. Editor
Pat Garrahy Editor

In addition to the regular credits, there's also some "graffiti" on the wall on the first page that says "Production Dave Bednar, Todd Jaeger." I'm guessing these two guys had to come in at the last minute to help get some pages out. The cover is by our old friend Stephen J.B. Jones after Johnson and Panosian again. I never much cared for Jones' interior art, but this cover isn't half bad. The concept, more symbolic than literal, is a pretty neat one, and Psimon's face looks great. Impulse is way too buff, though, even by 1994 standards. And the TM next to Psimon's name is quite distracting.

Our story picks up where the last issue of New Titans left off, with Psimon knocking out all our heroes. Mirage, however, is mysteriously resistant to Psimon's attacks. He attempts to examine her, but is unable. Psimon then concludes that she's not a threat, so he begins to torment each of the Titans in turn, beginning with the one he's familiar with, Donna Troy. Psimon gives Darkstar visions of the original Teen Titans and her son dying. He then moves on to Impulse, playing on his fear of aging rapidly.

Up next is Damage, who is tormented by not knowing who or what he is. Then Psimon haunts Green Lantern with a vision of his dead girlfriend. Mirage then feels a power growing inside her and realizes that Psimon unwittingly gave her some of his power when he tried to examine her. Mirage then turns into a clone of Psimon, attacks him psychically and frees the Titans.

But even though Mirage can mimic Psimon's abilities, she's still not as strong as him, so she needs help distracting him in order to break through his psychic defenses. Jarras Minion then arrives in the Omegadrome, seeking vengeance for his lost planet. Everybody launches an all-out attack on Psimon, and Impulse plays his part by running circles around him, delivering a bunch of punches and insults such as Pane-Brain, Glo-Dome and Maroon. Bart has a lot of fun doing this, as it reminds him of blasting Z-Vectors on the V-R Holos.

Psimon is soon defeated, and Green Lantern locks him in a cage. Jarras immediately jumps out of the Omegadrome, begging for the opportunity to kill Psimon. But he finds he is unable. He desperately wants to avenge his family and planet, but is unable to summon the necessary hate to kill the villain. Amid this emotional grief, Damage and Impulse quietly laugh at how Jarras sounds like Alvin the Chipmunk and looks like a Smurf. To their defense, they can't understand Minion, and don't fully realize what's going on. I, however, am impressed that Impulse has caught up on the '90s cartoons to understand the Chipmunks and Smurfs references.

I must admit I'm a bit disappointed by this issue. Psimon, the destroyer of worlds, was teased for quite a while before this issue. He possessed Green Lantern, one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe, and he ultimately accomplished ... nothing. Well, I guess he did convince Damage to go on a soul-searching journey in his own book, and he did act as a catalyst for some great emotional turmoil for Minion. But I didn't want to see Psimon taken down so conveniently.

The Impulse stuff in this issue was pretty good. Playing on his fear of growing too old was a logical move, but I wonder what would have happened had Psimon taken it the other direction. He said, "You look like a teenager, but you're really only an infant, aren't you?" What if he convinced Impulse that he couldn't keep up with or relate to his teammates since he has so little life experience? I'm not saying Psimon should have turned him into a toddler instead, what we got was fine, but it makes me wonder.

William Rosado provided adequate artwork for his first time on New Titans, but I don't like how he showed Impulse running. He gave him Starfire hair that trails endlessly behind him. But Impulse punching Psimon a bunch of times looked OK.

We only have one page of letters today, because, as Keri Kowalski said, they needed to cut the letter column in half in order to give us more story — which was 25 pages instead of ... 23? 24? Anyway, the letter page is quite cramped because it had to have a preview of next issue's cover, a lengthy description of that issue, equally lengthy descriptions for five other titles that are associated with New Titans, and an odd note by Pat Garrahy talking about how his grandma drove him to the comic store to buy the Judas Contract issues. So that only left room for two short letters, and only one of them mentions Impulse.

Charles Skaggs, of Columbus, Ohio, said he enjoys the interaction between Damage and Impulse, and hopes more intergroup relationships are established. As I said in my 1994 retrospective, I felt like  the Damage-Impulse friendship had a lot of potential. I guess we'll just have to enjoy it while it lasts. Now for the new ads.

Lightning strikes ... again! The Power of Shazam! By Jerry Ordway. Trade paperback coming in December.

Announcing an historic and prehistoric offering of a movie masterpiece. Now, you can own a limited edition sculpture cast from the actual Jurassic Park movie prototype. ... Velociraptor is ready to be proudly displayed in your home.

Sexy ... seductive ... deadly ... Modesty Blaise. Peter O'Donnell, Dick Giordano. One-shot in December.

It was the dawn of the third age of mankind ... and the last best hope for peace is the last of the Babylon stations. Babylon 5. A new ongoing series based upon the Warner Bros. science-fiction TV series.

Younger, bolder, tougher, brasher, smaller. Zero Hour gave him a second chance at life ... Dr. Shrivel won't! The Atom Special. Tom Peyer, Luke McDonnel, Doug Selogy, Mark Propst, Ande Parks, John Dell.

Up next is Flash #97: Part 3 of the 6-part "Terminal Velocity." With the help of original Flash Jay Garrick and super speedsters Johnny Quick and Max Mercury, Wally West tries to prepare Impulse for the mantle of Keystone City's protector. But a surprise develops in the chain of succession. Plus, Max Mercury reveals the incredible secret of who he really is and how he came to be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Year in Review: 1994

The world was a simpler place in 1994. At least it was simpler for me — I was 7 years old and rushed home from school every day to watch Batman: The Animated Series. I also was a big fan of the X-Men cartoon, as well as The Tick and Spider-Man shows that debuted that year. Unfortunately, there weren't any major superhero movies for me to enjoy in 1994. There was The Mask, if you want to count that, but I don't really. It was fun, though. There was also The Crow, The Shadow and Blankman, but I haven't seen those. The biggest movie for me in 1994 was The Lion King, which I still think is one of the best Disney movies of all time.

Impulse was created in 1994 and appeared in 17 comics — seven Flash, four New Titans, four Zero Hour, one Green Lantern and one Damage. He was introduced in Flash in anticipation of the Terminal Velocity story line, was involved in the big Zero Hour crossover, and became a member of the new New Titans team. It was a pretty eventful year for a brand new character. How about we hand out some awards?

Best Issue: Flash #92

This was the issue that introduced Bart Allen to the world. He was only a shadow in Flash #91, but #92 gave us his full origin story, which I think is an excellent origin story. I love the time travel elements, the Flash family legacy aspects, and the unique side effect to super speed. Mark Waid's excellent writing and Mike Wieringo's great art make this an all-around great issue.

Best Writer: Mark Waid

There's a good chance I'll name him the best writer for several years on this blog. Besides creating Impulse, Waid perfectly integrated his stories into the Zero Hour event and laid the groundwork for the big Flash story to culminate in issue #100. He also introduced the concept of the Speed Force, something that's become indispensable to the Flash. I like the realistic personalities he gave people and his ability to create realistic problems for the fastest man alive. He's a complete comic book writer — able to use humor, emotion and action equally well.

Best Artist: Mike Wieringo

Wieringo only drew a couple of issues with Impulse in it, but he did every Flash cover and, more importantly, created the design of the character. Bart's long hair is great for flowing in the wind, and his yellow eyes are just a neat, futurist touch. And his costume is just great — white trim with a big, fat red lightning bolt going all the way down. It's so good that nobody ever changed it the whole time Bart was Impulse. It's a shame 'Ringo didn't draw more issues with Impulse, but what he did was stellar — especially in 1994, when so many other comic book artists were just not that good.

Best Supporting Character: Damage

Grant Emerson emerged as Bart's best friend on the New Titans. They're the closest in age, and are probably the two most powerful members of the team. They're both angsty teenagers, constantly butting heads with their respective authority figures — Flash for Impulse, Arsenal for Damage. These two had so much in common, I'm really sad that their relationship didn't last much longer after 1994.

Best Villain: Psimon

Parallax was by far the biggest threat in 1994, but Impulse didn't even meet him, let alone fight him. Kobra was the big bad in the Flash, but our lovable speedsters have only been fighting Kobra's goons at this point. So that brings us to New Titans. Changeling did pose quite a threat, but he was mostly taken down by his own instability. Psimon, in my opinion, presented the biggest challenge for Impulse this year. He possessed Green Lantern and used him to actually hit Impulse. This led to my favorite action scene: Impulse unleashing on poor Kyle Rayner. And that was just the beginning of the fight with Psimon.

I think that's it for 1994. We'll have a lot more to talk about for 1995, which will be Impulse's first full year in comics. He'll make more guest appearances in other comics, be part of an expanding New Titans universe, contribute to some exciting Flash stories, and most importantly, he'll get his own series. But first, we'll continue our fight with Psimon in The New Titans #117.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Damage #8

Fragments Part One: Boom Baby

Tom Joyner – Story
Bill Mariman – Pencils
Dan Hillsman & Ande Parks – Inks
Bob Pinaha – Letters
Buzz Setzer – Colors
Jim Spivey – Pickin' up the pieces

The cover is by Bill Mariman and Tom McWeeney, with colors by Steve Mattsson. Cover design and edits by Curtis King and John Wren, with kibitzing by Spivey. I've never seen such a detailed list of cover credits. But this is a rather neat concept — each part of this Fragments story gets a puzzle piece, and each subsequent cover adds a piece. This month's puzzle piece shows Damage and Wyldheart — two rather obscure characters. In fact, I wouldn't know anything about Damage if it weren't for New Titans. And in the corner is an even more obscure character named Iron Munro, who got a very small backup story in this issue.

At the end of this issue, there's a note saying this story happens after New Titans #119, which was still a couple of months away when this came out. It would have been really nice to have had an editor's note at the beginning of this issue, or, even better, it would have been great to have had this whole story delayed a couple of months. But the Damage series didn't last too long, and they were probably in a rush to get out the story they wanted.

So apparently after New Titans #119, Psimon has been defeated, and Arsenal and Damage have gotten into a huge fight. Finally, young Grant Emerson has had enough and decides to leave.

Impulse is the most worried to see Grant leave, and he runs circles around him, saying the Titans need him. But Grant is quite upset, and he actually tries to hit Bart, who says, "I thought you were my friend!" This calms Grant down a bit, and he admits that he's only mad at Arsenal, and he's not really leaving the team — just taking a break. And the first thing Grant wants to do is track down his real parents.

And so Damage launches off on his own adventure that doesn't involve Impulse, so here are the highlights. Grant has several leads to check out, starting with the Wahrman family — a bunch of evil mad scientists and their adopted daughter, Wyldheart, who is good. These are all people I don't know or care about, but technology from New Genesis is involved, and Steppenwolf, Darkseid's top hunter, gets involved. During the fight, Damage comes dangerously close to exploding, but the all-powerful Mother Box mysteriously zooms into Damage's hands to siphon off his extra energy. Ultimately, Damage and Wyldheart beat the bad guys, and Wyldheart offers to take Damage with her to New Genesis to try to figure out his past. But Damage declines, choosing instead to continue down his list of names, which includes his "uncle," Doctor Polaris — a notable villain with the power of magnetism.

Backup story:

The Phantom Imperative Part One

Story: Tom Joyner
Pencils: Jason Armstrong
Inks: Andrew Pepoy
Letters: Bob Pinaha
Colors: Buzz Setzer
Edits: Jim Spivey

I don't know who Iron Munro is — I guess he played a big role in earlier Damage issues — but in this  four-page story, he is attacked in his dreams by a villain named Kodrescu. Apparently he also kidnapped Munro's girlfriend, the Phantom Lady, but I'm pretty sure there were several Phantom Ladies out there, and I don't have the interest to look it up. There's no Impulse here, so I don't care.

This was an odd, interesting issue. Tom Joyner seems to be working with some big ideas, but doesn't have the room to let them grow. And it can't help that Bill Mariman's art is rather substandard. But the biggest problem with this book is the character Damage himself. He's a very moody and emotional teenager, which is good and realistic in stretches, but we don't see enough of Grant's good side to make him a likable character. There's also a fine balance with managing ongoing mysteries like this. We need to have a big enough mystery to keep us invested for the long haul, but we also need to have some clues and answers along the way to prevent us from getting discouraged. There weren't any clues or answers in this issue, just a dead-end, one-shot adventure that ultimately had no bearing on Grant's mysterious past. I think these are some of the reasons why this book and character ultimately failed.

But I did like the little bit of Impulse we had here. It was very natural for him to be the most concerned about Grant leaving — he is probably Bart's best friend on the team. And Joyner perfectly captured Impulse's almost child-like response to Grant trying to hit him. I just wish Mariman had drawn him better ...

None of the letters mention Impulse, so I'll go right ahead to the few ads we haven't seen yet.

Bon Jovi Cross Road. 11 of Bon Jovi's greatest hits plus 3 new tracks including the remake "Prayer '94" and the new hit single "Always." I actually have this album on my iTunes — not as a Mercury Cassette, Compact Disc or DCC as this ad says. I don't quite care for "Prayer '94" or "Always," but I do like "Wanted Dead or Alive," "You Give Love a Bad Name," "Blaze of Glory" and "Runaway."

Sylvester and Tweety in Cagey Capers for Sega Genesis.

The Big Book of Urban Legends. I know it sounds unbelievable, but it's true ... I think.

The DC Universe page shows what an inker does. They give us the original pencils of a Batman panel, then three different inkers' take on the same panel. It was kind of neat to see how much an inker can change or add to a penciled image.

Vertigo Trading Cards. The Sandman Trading Cards were just the beginning.

Well, that's it for comics with the cover date of December 1994. For next time, I think it'll be nice to do a little retrospective on the year 1994 as a whole to see what else was going on in the outside world and rank the best Impulse stories of the year.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Flash #96

Terminal Velocity Mach Two: All the Wrong Moves

Mark Waid, Story
Salvador Larroca, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar, Letters
Gina Going, Colors
Ruben Diaz, Assoc. Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

The cover is by Mike Wieringo and Jose Marzan Jr., and one really neat thing about it is it shows an actual scene from the issue — an almost unheard of practice these days. And I think the really cool thing with this cover is at first glance, it appears that Flash is glowing because he's being blasted by the Kobra goon. But once you read the story, you find out that's not quite the case. And of course, I have to call out Impulse, ready to save the day. He looks pretty good, although the blur lines behind him are a bit boring. I'd like to have a little bit of lightning mixed in with it, but that's a minor detail.

Our story picks right up with the end of Flash #95, with Linda Park discovering her boyfriend, Wally West, in pure energy state. Ever since he broke the light speed barrier to travel through time, Wally has become less and less human whenever he moves to fast. And saving Impulse from the exploding Kobra plant pushed him over the edge. However, Linda is able to help him calm down and return to normal. But Wally still isn't ready to tell her about his vision of the future, and he leaves to find Max Mercury.

Wally can't find Max, but he does come across Bart, who's running atop a telephone line backwards. Wally tries to approach him, but immediately gets punched in the face.

Wally did kind of deserve that for calling Bart stupid at the end of last issue. So he's willing to overlook the punch and tries to have a normal conversation with Bart, but it doesn't go well at all. Bart says he likes spending time with the Titans because they don't ride him, and unlike Wally, Bart actually likes Arsenal. Wally tells Bart that he thinks Kobra's forces have relocated, and they need to go find them. But Bart thinks he scared them all away by destroying their plant. Neither of them notice a Kobra spy calling in the location of the two speedsters.

Wally tries to tell Bart they need to formulate a plan to find Kobra, but he has a hard time working through Bart's sarcasm and desire to use his super speed to simply look everywhere at once. Suddenly, a group of Kobra agents teleport right next to them.

Flash and Impulse fight the goons, and Wally tries to show Bart some tricks and teach him strategy, but Bart just ignores him. In his frustration, Wally expends more energy than he intended, and he begins to glow again. This makes Wally freak out a bit, and he pauses in the middle of the battle, unaware that a Kobra agent is about to blow his head off — just like on the cover.

Luckily, Bart does save him, but Wally doesn't realize it at first, and immediately starts chewing him out — asking Bart if he thinks everything is a pro-wrestling match. Bart doesn't get the reference, but he does show Wally that he diverted a blast that destroyed a big rock instead of Wally's head. The Kobra agents then teleport away, but Wally is able to grab one of their packs. Wally then tries to explain himself to Bart, but it's too late. Bart says all Wally ever does is yell, and he takes off.

We then see Kobra kill his lieutenant for ordering the attack on the Flash and allowing him to steal one of their energy receptors.

Wally returns home to find Max Mercury waiting for him. Wally's so relieved to see the "Zen Master of Speed," he immediately begins to spill his guts, even admitting that he's been lying to Linda, not realizing that she was just in the other room. Naturally, she becomes quite upset with Wally and leaves. Max disapproves of the lying, but Wally insists he's only doing it to protect her. So Max changes the subject to Bart. He helps Wally realize that he's been trying to change Bart's nature, when he should accept him for who he is. But in the meantime, since Bart won't listen to Wally, Max suggests they find someone who will. So they round up Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick and Johnny Quick to have a training session with Bart.

I really liked this issue since it was all about Bart. I loved seeing him run backwards on the telephone line — it was just so ... impulsive. But the best moments were between Wally and Bart. They reminded me of arguing with my little brother when he was 16. Like Wally, I'd try talking to him, but always seemed to end up making things worse. Teenagers can be tough to deal with, especially when they remind you too much of yourself, as was the case with me and my brother, and Wally and Bart. All their bickering came across as very realistic, and neither one of them looked too bad or good. Both are to blame, yet neither wants to be the bad guy. They just naturally clash.

Salvador Larroca's facial expressions were amazing once again, but some of his body proportions got a bit wonky during fight scenes. And Gina Going's colors once again let me down a little bit. On several pages, Wally's hair randomly switched between yellow and orange, and Impulse' goggles disappeared a couple of times.

The letters in Speed Reading are from Flash #94 and heading into Zero Hour. Most of the readers were quite concerned with the possibility of Flash dying, and a couple of them did mention Impulse.

Gary Halpin, of Ireland, said he likes Bart Allen and thinks Impulse is shaping up to be a really cool character, but he doesn't think he's ready to don his grandfather's costume.

Joey Marchese, of Clark, N.J., hopes Impulse will develop in a new and unique way, as he thus far is a fascinating character. Joey also points out how odd it is for Wally to reject having a sidekick when he was one himself.

Now for the ads. We've seen most of them before, but there are a few new ones.

Star Trek Generations. Boldly Go. I'm not a huge Star Trek fan, but I have seen all the movies at least once. I think Generations was a bit gimmicky.

Clearasil. Everything's out of whack, completely off kilter. Evil blackhead armies erupt without warning, take me as hostage, then laugh even harder and multiply. Well die, you zombie zit invaders, die, because I have a secret weapon which is mightier than you which cleans way down deep with more killer stuff than the number one pad to blast you into the next galaxy and which is fact is this wicked little pad from Clearasil.

Superman: The Man of Steel platinum series trading cards — premium and collectors editions. One set alone couldn't handle the power.

Troy Aikman NFL Football. Troy's missing a few pages from his playbook. They're in here — Troy Aikman NFL Football for Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Jaguar and PC.

Double Dragon. Power. Justice. Darkness. Light. Two halves of an ancient puzzle are the only hope.

Next time I'll finish December 1994 with Damage #8.