Saturday, July 12, 2014

Impulse #1


The Single Synapse Theory

Mark Waid • Story
Humberto Ramos • Pencils
Wayne Faucher • Inks
Tom McCraw • Colors
Chris Eliopoulos • Letters
Alisande Morales • Ass't. Editor
Ruben Diaz • Assoc. Editor
Brian Augustyn • The Dad
Impulse created by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo

It's finally here! Impulse has his own series! And it all begins with a bright and colorful cover by Ramos and Faucher. I am so glad that the inside artist is the cover artist. And I'm even more glad that Ramos found a way to make Impulse actually look like a teenager. Up till now, all artists drew Impulse like a short body builder, either forgetting or being unable to draw what a normal teenager looks like. Teens, especially runners, are skinny. But as Ramos shows here, it is possible to give some muscles to a character and still keep that character looking young and lean. For an Impulse solo series to work, it was critical that he looked and acted like a teenager. And Ramos completely nailed it.

In an ideal world, this issue would have come out after Flash #101, which wraps up Terminal Velocity and explains what they decided to do with Bart. As it stands, though, this issue opens not in Keystone City, but Manchester, Alabama. Bart had heard the South was slow, but on his first day there, he was able to find something fun — a top secret test involving a hover tank and a vibroseek missile. The missile was locked on the tank's speed, but when Bart went zooming by, he pulled it off course.

After toying with it for a bit, Bart ditches the missile by vibrating through the tank, causing the missile to hit its target and explode. All the scientists running the test come rushing out to the scene of the explosion, completely flummoxed by what just happened and worried that they weren't going to make their Saturday deadline. Bart then runs up, takes a peek at a guy's watch, notes the time — 7:59 a.m. — and takes off, leaving all the men speechless.

Bart then shows up at Manchester Junior High School right as the 8 o'clock bell rings, and as the new kid, instantly becomes the focus of attention of the ninth grade. Some kids think he has weird hair, some think he has great hair, and others think he's simply a geek. Bart's completely oblivious to this, as he's trying to adjust to a traditional school setting in the 20th century. Unfortunately, it seems no one has taught him how it works, as he opens his first notebook sideways. The kid sitting in front of him turns it the right way for Bart and introduces himself as Preston. He asks Bart where he's from, and when Bart says Keystone City, Preston asks if he's ever met the Flash. Bart says, "Sure," but Preston doesn't believe him.

As the class drags on, Bart becomes increasingly bored, and we get a fun pictogram thought-bubble of Bart imagining himself behind prison bars. The teacher quickly notices Bart isn't paying attention so she asks him what she was talking about. Bart answers literally, repeating everything that had happened in the class, including how many kids raised their hands to answer the question and which hand they raised. The teacher lectures him for back talking, and then assigns the class to write their personal history. As is the case in every junior high class, every student immediately asks how long they have to write, to which the teacher sighs and says, "As long as it needs to be."

Poor Bart once again encounters a device he's had no experience with — a pencil. Some kids make fun of him for looking for an "on" switch, but he learns how to write by leaning over Preston's shoulder and watching him. So Bart starts writing his personal history, and is completely honest. He talks all about his grandpa, Barry Allen, and how he was born in the 30th century and raised in a virtual reality program. Those who have read Flash #92 already know all this, but one neat panel shows us our first glimpse of what that virtual reality world was like for Bart. It includes a computer menu that says, "Name: Bart Allen; Crono Age: 2; VR Age: 19; Physical Age: 8; Mental Age: 14." So Bart's age has pretty much been all over the place since the day he was born and will continue to be his entire existence.

Bart continues his personal history, telling all about how he was brought to the past and met the Flash, who saved his life and helped train him. Bart admits he could have been more grateful, but writes, "Wally played me like a ... a ... like whatever you guys play in this era ..." Bart says he thought he was going to be Flash Mark IV, but then Wally "went and didn't die. Which meant nobody knew what to do with me." Bart wanted to stay with his grandma, Iris, but it didn't work out. Instead, Wally used his connections in the government and the Justice League's computer expert, Oracle, to get some identification papers for Bart and send him down to Manchester with Max Mercury.

Speaking of Max, he is most displeased with Bart's paper and rips it up as soon as he reads it. This devastates Bart, who claims he worked on it for two weeks. But Max reminds him he only spent an hour on it, and it only felt like two weeks. Bart says he was just trying to do the assignment, but Max says he needs to make keep his identity secret, which means he needs to stick to the story of being a normal 14-year-old living with his uncle, Max Crandall.

As they get settled in their new house, and Bart does all the unpacking at super speed, Max explains that he chose Alabama because its peaceful, relaxed and has wide open spaces — a perfect place to teach Bart about power and patience. Max also tells Bart he's not with Wally because he has his own problems to work out. Bart complains that he is so bored without any holovision, VR or omnicoms.

Max settles in to read the Manchester Herald, which contains a story about an experimental hover tank to be demonstrated this Saturday. Bart tells Max about his adventure he had before school, and he realizes that he was on the opposite side of town of the company, Technodyne, which will hold the demonstration. Believing that someone else was testing warheads against the tank, Bart decides to throw on his Impulse outfit and do some investigating.

We then cut to the same scientists from the morning test, and after analyzing their surveillance footage, they discover it was Impulse who disrupted their missile. None of them know who Impulse is or what he was doing, but they decide to prepare for his arrival. And not too long after, Impulse enters the factory, exploring every nook and cranny. He easily defeats a couple of guards, then decides to enter a room with a big "Do Not Enter" sign on it. But that door leads to a trap, and Impulse finds himself in a dark room, surrounded by a bunch of armed men.

Ah, what a nice, fun issue to start the series. Yes, a lot of time was spent setting things up and explaining to any newcomers exactly who Impulse is. But as someone who has read all the comics with Impulse before this, I never felt bored. I was happy to see the little details Ramos added to Bart's back story, and it was great seeing him re-create important moments with the slimmed down Bart with big hands, feet and hair. Impulse always had long hair, but now the hands and especially the feet are an essential element to Impulse's character. And it's very fitting, since most 14-year-old boys have big hands and feet.

Ramos also introduced another very important element of Impulse — the pictogram thought bubbles. It's almost like Bart is thinking too fast to actually form words. In any rate, the thought bubbles will become something of a trademark of Bart's, used to great effect in the funniest of moments. And similar to Sal Larrocca, but in a more cartoony way, Ramos is able to convey a multitude of emotions on Bart's face. I particularly enjoyed the scenes of Bart trying to appease Max. And it's even better when Bart is moving so fast it looks like there are five or six of him in the room.

All in all, this was an amazing start to an amazing series. Ramos has instantly proven himself as the perfect artist for this story, and we all know and trust Waid to deliver fun, exciting and humorous writing. And wonderfully, every main issue of Impulse is available digitally (a couple of annuals and special issues are still missing). I highly recommend that you take advantage of this to follow this run with me. We'll have plenty of laughs, action, emotion, crossovers and guest appearances along the way.

Since this is the first issue, there aren't any letters to the editor. Instead, Brian Augustyn wrote his own letter, explaining how this series came to be. He says Mark Waid originally came up with the idea of using Barry Allen's unnamed grandson several years before Bart was introduced. But Waid wanted the grandson to be an adult in order to serve as an evil "second Barry." He eventually made some adjustments and wrote The Return of Barry Allen. As soon as he  finished that, Waid began working on Terminal Velocity, which had the perfect opening to actually bring in Barry's grandson.

Augustyn also explains that Waid chose the fictional city of Manchester, Alabama, since he himself was born in Hueytown, Alabama. In reality, there is a small township in Alabama named Manchester, but DC didn't learn this for a few years. To help get the setting right, one of Waid's old friends, Nick Patterson, took a bunch of pictures of Birmingham, Alabama, and sent them to Humberto Ramos, who is from Mexico City and not particularly familiar with the area.

There aren't any new ads in this issue that I haven't already covered, so I'll wrap things up here. Next time, we'll begin May 1995, starting with Impulse making a guest appearance in Primal Force #7.

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