Sunday, August 31, 2014

Impulse #8

Smart Men, Foolish Choices

Mark Waid – Story
Humberto Ramos – Pencils
Wayne Faucher – Inks
Phil Felix – Letterer
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Alisande Morales – Assistant Ed.
Ruben Diaz – Associate Editor
Brian Augustyn – Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo

The cover by Ramos and Faucher shows Impulse battling the giant Blockbuster. This is a slight exaggeration, but Blockbuster is really big (about 8 feet tall) and Impulse is rather small (about 5 feet tall). I really like Impulse's expression here — or rather, lack thereof — but I'm not a fan of the way Ramos draws Blockbuster here. He looks a bit better inside. I guess Ramos was trying to make him look more demonic on the cover, but I don't enjoy it.

Blockbuster is not an original Impulse villain. He's been around for quite a while, usually battling Starman and Nightwing. And he usually is a huge, strong man with the intellect of a child. But that changed during DC's event for 1995 — Underworld Unleashed, written by Mark Waid. I have not yet read that miniseries, but I understand it took a whole bunch of villains to the Underworld, where the demon Neron grants them their deepest desires in exchange for their immortal souls.

Our story begins at the site of a football game. The Manchester Warriors are playing for the SECC Championship, but at the start of the game, a group of men called the Jerky Boys close and lock the gates, shooting anyone who protests. The Jerky Boys are working for Blockbuster, who has one of them on the roof of the stadium use a rocket launcher to shoot down the blimp hovering over the field.

Meanwhile, Bart is out training with Max, who has drawn up an intricate pattern for him to run. Naturally, Bart runs it before Max can finish explaining. This is an obstacle course, and Max will be throwing obstacles that Bart needs to either dodge or vibrate through. So they start over again, and Bart appears to handle it quite well.

But at the end, Bart falls into Max's snare trap, and is lifted upside down by his ankle. Max explains that Bart works harder to be a target than any speedster he knows, and if Bart keeps rushing into situations without looking ahead, he'll eventually get hit by a bus. Bart says he's heard this before, knowing this is the part where Max says he'll need Bart in the months to come, but won't explain why.

Suddenly, Bart notices smoke rising from the stadium, so Max lets him down, and he rushes over there. Impulse vibrates the locks and chains off the gates so the crowd can escape the fire. Blockbuster, however, wanted to lure Impulse inside the stadium, so he kills one of his men for failing to do so. One of his henchmen asks him if this was Neron's plan, but Blockbuster snaps at him for using that name. He then decides to take matters into his own hands, personally leading a group of men to tear up downtown Manchester to draw out Impulse.

There a couple of fun easter eggs in downtown Manchester. The first is a movie theater advertising Batman Forever, starring Chris O'Donnell and Nicole Kidman. So I guess Batman Forever is a movie that exists in the DC Universe based on real events. A little strange, but we make plenty of movies based on real stories all the time, so why wouldn't they? The second easter egg is a copy of the Manchester Journal, with the headline: Augustyn & Waid: "Who's the Next?" We've seen Augustyn's name in the paper before, so I suppose a couple of Alabama politicians share the names with this book's creators.

Back to the action, a car crashes into Blockbuster, but the unfazed giant only yells at the man for ruining his size 86 regular trench coat. He spots a woman making her way to a pay phone, and he has his men shoot her. Blockbuster is surprised when she lives, saying she caught a dozen bullets. Impulse then appears on his shoulder, saying, "Actually ... I caught them!"

Impulse starts beating up the Jerky Boys, even poking one of them in the eyes. Blockbuster explains that a "new acquaintance" of his has asked him to grind Impulse's bones to make his bread. He then throws a car at Impulse and stomps hard on the ground, creating a shockwave to collapse a building. Impulse easily dodges everything and pulls all the people out to safety, all while telling Blockbuster he's not afraid of him since he isn't that ugly.

Blockbuster then throws a bus at Impulse — just like Max said. Believing the teen to be dead, Blockbuster dusts off his hands and leaves for his sanctuary. But Impulse soon vibrates out of the bus and discretely follows the villain back to his lair, which turns out to be a normal-looking apartment built in gigantic proportions to match Blockbuster. Impulse says, "Wow. Incredible shrinking Impulse."

Blockbuster is shocked and furious to find Impulse not only alive but violating his sanctuary. Impulse says, "Well, duh. I'm no genius, but —" Blockbuster then interrupts him, saying he is, in fact, a genius, thanks to the deal he made with Neron. The demon said he could have anything he desired in exchange for his soul, and all Blockbuster wanted to be was smarter. Impulse says he made a stupid deal, and Blockbuster agrees. He was too stupid at the time to ask for what he really wanted — to be normal. Now, he's stuck with the intelligence to truly loathe his massive size and ugliness.

The two fight as they talk, with Impulse taking quite a pounding. Blockbuster boasts that he's beaten Batman himself, but ultimately, Impulse tricks Blockbuster into destroying his sanctuary — the one place where he could feel normal. Eventually, the whole place collapses, burying them both.

We next see a beat-up Bart returning home with his costume in rags falling off him. Max is meditating, tapping into the Speed Force again and has lightning sparking out of his eyes. Bart tells him that a building fell on him but he vibrated through it and sent the police to arrest Blockbuster. But then he turns on the news, which announces that authorities were unable to find the villain amidst all the rubble. Bart vows that the next guy who fights him without super speed is going to get mashed.

Bart then asks Max what he's looking for in the Speed Force, but Max only says he hopes he won't have to tell Bart for a long time. Suddenly, mid-conversation, there's a vwoosh sound, and Max disappears!

It is very nice to have Waid and Ramos back on the book, although this issue was slightly edgier than what we're used to in Impulse. And I think that's because this is an Underworld Unleashed tie-in. Blockbuster is the third super villain to appear in this title, and the first established villain to guest star. He's also the first villain to actually kill somebody in these pages. Dozens of people died in that stadium, and Impulse got more beat up than he's ever been since Kobra, but somehow, these things didn't completely weigh down this issue with grimness.

Blockbuster provides a nice size contrast with Impulse, and his frustration with Impulse's child-like tendencies reminding him of his former, loathed child-level intelligence. But I wish Waid would have explained more about why Blockbuster was so set on killing Impulse. Did Neron send Blockbuster to kill him because he knew Impulse would frustrate him more than any other hero? I can only guess this since I haven't read Underworld Unleashed.

Our first letter is from Shawn Lesser, of Aurora, Colo., who says Impulse is the first superhero comic book to make him laugh out loud. He loved watching Impulse learn how to drive, and votes for White Lightning as the most original new villain. Opposed to many other letter writers, Shawn strongly encourages DC to not have Impulse cross over with Robin or the Ray, saying crossovers need to be rare, special events.

B. Varkentine, of Sunnyvale, Calif., echoes many sentiments by saying Impulse has become a lot more likable since he's left the pages of The Flash. B. acknowledges that Impulse is a lighter-toned book, but notes the heavier stories lurking in the background, especially with Preston. B. praises Ramos for drawing Bart younger looking than the Flash artists and the creative use of the nonverbal thought balloons. B. then questions whether Bart should be fast enough to run to Paris and back, since Flash apparently said a few years ago that even he couldn't run to Europe in two minutes. Editor Brian Augustyn explains that Flash's powers have since increased, and Bart's speed is right behind Wally's.

Chris Karnes, of Naperville, Ill., complains about the speech bubble on the cover of Impulse #5. But he likes seeing Max with Helen and Bart with Carol, and hopes White Lightning returns soon.

Jeff DeMos, of New York, loved seeing Bart get scared by Max and calling football "feetball." But he points out that there aren't any regular thought balloons or "narrative rectangles" that allow the reader into the main character's head. Jeff points this out mainly because Mark Waid uses them so heavily in the Flash. Augustyn explains that this is somewhat intentional, showing that Bart thinks so quickly, he bypasses all words and thinks in complete, illustrated concepts. He also generally doesn't think, and Max doesn't let anyone know what he's thinking, hence the lack of traditional thought bubbles.

Doud Ohmer, of Covington, Ky., says he enjoys seeing Max be a little more supportive of Bart, and also wants more of Max with Helen and Bart with Carol. Doud asks for White Lightning to visit other DC heroes, and for more super villains to visit Impulse. Now for the ads:

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A legend from the past ... a future of destruction! Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and Demolition Man on Super NES, Genesis and SEGA CD.

Now it's time for a special announcement. Yesterday, I visited the Boise Library Comic Con. It's not much of a comic con, but it was fun to see a bunch of kids wearing Flash T-shirts and even a little 4-year-old boy dressed in a full Flash outfit. Anyway, the main purpose of this con is to raise money for the library, and they had a bunch of their old, beat-up graphic novels for sale. So for $1, I bought a water-damaged copy of Impulse: Reckless Youth.

I'm using this image from since my copy of this trade paperback is so beat up. Also, is a great site that has helped me fill out my Impulse collection. Anyway, this TPB, Impulse's first, is pretty fun. It came out in 1997, featuring an original cover by Humberto Ramos and Wayne Faucher. I believe Ramos had stopped drawing Impulse regularly for a while at this time, which might explain why Impulse is looking a little chunkier than he normally does. The larger hair simply matches the size it was in 1997, which was probably the biggest it ever got in Impulse's history. The back cover features a quote from Ken Tucker, of Entertainment Weekly, calling  Impulse "the best-drawn superhero book in the land."

This TPB collects Flash #92 – #94 and the first six issues of Impulse. All the covers are printed in the back, and there's a two-page explanation after Flash #94, telling the reader what happened in Zero Hour and Terminal Velocity, while also encouraging the reader to pick up those two TPBs.

My favorite part of this book was the introduction by Brian Augustyn. He starts with a story about how he and Mark Waid learned the best way to write Impulse. They were showing the script of Impulse #4 to fellow comic book writer Christopher Priest. When he got to the cliffhanger ending, he asked them how'd they pull Impulse out of that situation, but they both realized they hadn't thought that far ahead yet, which is exactly what the character Impulse would do. From then on, they realized the best Impulse stories happened when they just "drove the car off the cliff" and worried about the rest later.

Augustyn also reveals that DC ordered the Impulse series to be released with Flash #100 right as Flash #93 hit the stands. I'm surprised that it only took a couple of guest appearances to earn Impulse his own series, but I'm very glad it turned out that way. Augustyn also talks about the big chance they took with the tone and style of Impulse, making it more of a sitcom than a traditional superhero comic book. And he specifically points out the biggest risk they took with Impulse #6. At that point, they had already established themselves as a comedic title, but they were a little worried about proving they could still write the occasional "serious" story. The whole thing turned out beautifully, and Augustyn called it "one of the issues I'm proudest of in all the work Mark and I have done together."

Next time, we enter December 1995 by continuing Underworld Unleashed in Justice League Task Force #30.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Impulse #7

Arrested Developments

Martin Pasko Guest Writer
Nick Gnazzo Guest Penciller
Mark Stegbauer Inker
Tom McCraw Colorist
Kevin Cunningham Guest Letterer
Alisande Morales Assistant Editor
Brian Augustyn Very good host
Impulse created by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo

I guess everybody needed a break after the intense Impulse #6, so we get our first issue of Impulse without Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos. However, Ramos and Wayne Faucher still did the cover, which shows Impulse battling the new villain for this issue, Gridlock, who has captured Max Mercury and Bart's friend, Carol. This is only a slight exaggeration of the story inside, and it is unfortunately more colorful. On the inside pages, Gridlock's lightning is a boring black opposed to the vibrant blue and purple on the cover.

Our story begins with Bart being forced to rake leaves at normal speed, while Max installs a satellite dish on the roof. Bart whines and complains, saying this is all a sick game of Max's, since he enjoys watching the grass grow. Max tries to explain that he's making Bart do this to protect his secret identity, and Bart finally reveals the real reason he's mad — the cheerleader tryouts will be over soon. Max says he can't imagine seeing Bart in one of those short skirts, and Bart imagines grabbing Max's tongue and wrapping it around his neck until his eyeballs bulge out.

But just imagining Max's demise isn't enough for Bart, and he impulsively hurls his rake at Max's head. Luckily, Max is able to dodge, but he falls off the ladder. Bart does feel bad for what he did, but he also takes advantage of Max's disorientation to rake all the leaves at super speed.

At the cheerleader tryouts, a couple of girls talk about how Ms. Saxon only chooses cheerleaders who "flash some flesh" — something Carol isn't quite doing. Carol, however, is too distraught with Bart's no-show, even though only about 10 people showed up to watch the tryouts. Bart finally arrives, and Carol yells at him, saying, "Don't tell, let me guess — you're late because of something Max forced you to do, and he won't let you tell me what it is or why." Instead of saying he had to rake the leaves like a normal person, Bart says, "You really do get it. Cool." And this only makes Carol angrier.

We then cut to Technodyne Industries, a place we haven't seen since Impulse #2. The bad guy from the cover is flying around on his hovercraft making a mess of things. He freezes all the security guards with some black lightning he shoots from his gloves, but he's kind enough to explain they'll only be frozen for an hour. He starts to introduce himself as Girdl--, but then catches himself and says his name is Gridlock. He then causes a huge explosion and takes off.

We then return to Bart and Carol, who is still yelling at him for standing him up then showing up at the end to make fun of her. This obviously wasn't Bart's intention, and he doesn't understand what she's talking about. Luckily, he's saved by an imminent disaster. Apparently Technodyne Industries is a lot closer to the school than I realized, and also on top a mountain ... ? I don't know, the art and story-telling here is not very clear (I kept feeling like I skipped a page).

Anyway, all that matters is big chunks of machinery from the explosion are now raining down on the junior high kids walking home from school. Bart's hand is forced, and he becomes Impulse to contend with the falling debris. Impulse soon meets Gridlock, who announces he'll give the young hero a lesson in physics. Impulse doesn't consider the chubby villain to be an Albert Einstein, probably because of his annoying Southern dialect. However, it turns out Gridlock does know what he's talking about, and he knocks out Impulse by stealing all his kinetic energy. Impulse can't breathe for a moment, but Gridlock is nice again, and gives a little energy back to the wiped out hero. Gridlock then takes off, explaining he never wanted to kill anybody — just get revenge on Technodyne.

We then see Max is volunteering at a voting booth in the school along with Helen. But when he sees that Impulse stopped the avalanche and Gridlock got away, Max takes off, saying he needs to make sure Bart got home safely. Meanwhile, Carol is pressured to head up to Applegate Park with some older guys. Bart may be cute and smart, but "he's, like, ninth grade."

Back home, Bart is pulling some milk out of the fridge, when Max suddenly arrives and spooks Bart again — a favorite comedic trope of mine. Bart screams and drops the milk, but Max catches it, warms it up, and serves it to Bart in a Batman mug. Bart tells him all about his encounter with Gridlock, but Max insists he get some sleep to recover his energy. Max then returns to the voting booth while Bart watches the news reporting the disappearance of Technodyne CEO Leo Nordstrom.

Carol then loads up into the cool kids' ridiculously large monster truck with Nine Inch Nails blasting in the background. Carol thought they were just going on a picnic — she even has her own picnic basket — but she's shocked to see the other kids have packed sleeping bags. The big case of beer, however, does not faze her. But Carol still protests to the trip, so the two girls in the backseat force her in, because there's three guys and they need even numbers. Max walks right past this abduction but does nothing to prevent it. I guess the voting booth is too important.

Bart, meanwhile, is still watching the news, which is actually doing a good job of reporting Nordstrom's abduction, by naming Abner Girdler the main suspect. Girdler, a specialist in urban planning and new transportation technologies, was fired four days ago after his plan to install a monorail system in Manchester was shut down by county transportation commissioner Clifton Burdett. Girdler then stole the Konstruktor 3000, which may be the latest generation of the hover tank we saw in issues #1 and #2. Girdler also happened to invent his "immobilizin' gizmo" at Technodyne.

Anyway, when the monorail contract went south, Girdler vowed that gridlock would bring the whole city to a dead stop. At the time, he was talking about the traffic, but after he was fired, he decided to fulfill that promise literally. Gridlock's main plan seems to involve kidnapping and terrorizing Nordstrom, who fired him, and sabotaging Burdett's current election for mayor. So he flies around, freezing everything and everybody in sight, including the giant monster truck Carol is in.

Bart learns of this through the news, which is very on top of this developing story. So Bart visits Max at the voting booth, and under the pretense of making a coffee run, the two discuss the situation with Gridlock, figuring that he wanted to freeze everybody to prevent them from voting for Burdett. Max points out that Bart will need to fight Gridlock without using his speed. For some reason, Bart doesn't see any reason to fight Gridlock, until Max tells him about Carol being trapped in a monster truck with a couple of horny football players. That wakes up Bart and he rushes out to face Gridlock as Impulse.

Using his trusty rake from the beginning (seriously), Impulse destroys Gridlock's hovercraft, bringing him down to Earth. Impulse then runs circles around Gridlock, moving so fast that he creates after-images of himself that draw the fire of Gridlock's black immobilizing lightning. Then, according to the copious narration boxes, Impulse stays perfectly still for one minute so the lightning only has one moving object to lock onto — Gridlock himself. However, the art didn't match the text that well, showing Impulse clearly moving and deflecting the lightning blast with a piece of metal from the hovercraft. He also has a thought bubble of himself as an ... ice cube? So I have no idea what's going on. The important thing is that Impulse defeated Gridlock by turning his own technology against him.

Impulse then steals one of Gridlock's gloves to restart the monster truck Carol is in. Impulse vibrates Carol out of the truck, then causes it to drive off a cliff. He then freezes the truck in mid-air with the glove, then copies Max's move from the beginning, by creating a giant pile of leaves to cushion the truck's fall. Impulse then takes Carol home and immediately returns to the fight with Gridlock, knocking him out for good. Impulse frees Nordstrom, who's not at all as nice as he was at the end of issue #2, and demands that Impulse give him Gridlock's technology since he invented it while working at Technodyne.

Later, we see on the news that Gridlock's plan actually did work, as Burdett is defeated in a landslide. But since Bart interrupted Max's installation of the satellite dish, it's not properly aligned. So until Max fixes it, he needs Bart to hold it in place while he watches the news.

Ugh. This issue was a chore to work through. It was just all over the place, trying to do so much, but accomplishing so little. The art did not match the story very well, and Pasko seemed to change his mind halfway through about how much time should elapse across this issue. At the start, it seemed like it was supposed to take two days, with Carol's "friends" saying they'd leave the next day, and Max chastises Bart for being up past curfew, even though it was still light outside. Then suddenly, Carol is taking off in the monster truck, and Max is growling at Bart for taking such a short nap. So I guess it did all happen in one day, which makes the most sense.

The timing issues combined with the geography and dialogue issues make this story nearly unbearable. Gridlock had a really annoying Southern dialect going on, and all the teenagers sounded like a 40-year-old's idea of what teenagers sound like. They all said "like" a lot, which I guess could be accurate, but they also threw out some really strange slang that I seriously doubt was common in 1995. When they were all running away from the avalanche that came out of nowhere, one kid said, "I ain't crowd-swimmin' no freshmen!" And another said, "Eat chain! We're history!" I have never heard anyone ever say anything close to this.

Gridlock is Impulse's second super villain, and on paper, he's the perfect match for a speedster. But his origin, motivation, and age make him much more appropriate for the Flash than Impulse. White Lightning worked because she was young and directly involved Bart's classmates. This guy is a disgruntled former employee with a political agenda. No wonder Bart didn't want to fight him. And how weird was it that Gridlock accomplished exactly everything he wanted to? He didn't want to kill anybody — just make sure his enemy wasn't elected mayor. And it all worked out that way in the end, despite Impulse's manipulations. I guess this is an interesting change of pace, but really, I'd prefer to see my hero thwart the villain's plans.

It seems like Pasko did a little bit of research before writing this issue, but he apparently did not do enough. I'm not opposed to bringing back Technodyne and Nordstrom, but Pasko somehow missed the fact that Nordstrom's first name was Richard, not Leo, as it was here. And for some reason, Gnazzo seemed to have a lot of trepidation to actually draw Nordstrom. Every time we saw him, he was very small in the background or had his back turned toward us. I don't get it.

All in all, I think Pasko did a fairly decent job of capturing the feel of Impulse, but he did make it slightly more mature than it usually is. The lesbian jokes and the attempted rape scene really felt out of place, as did Bart's sudden infatuation with Carol. Coming off the heels of The New Titans #126, we now have two issues with guest writers making Bart a bit more girl crazy than he's ever been. I think they just didn't quite grasp the concept Mark Waid had for the character. Well, that's enough of me complaining about this crappy issue. Let's see what readers felt about Impulse #4.

Chris Khalaf, of Houston, says he loves the dorky and immature school kids, which he feels is an accurate representation of junior high life. He says he enjoys the continuity of the Flash legend carried on throughout this book, and he briefly philosophizes on how superheroes attract and even create super villains. He then requests a team-up with Robin and Superboy, and says he'd love to see Humberto Ramos draw Plastic Man.

Ken Goach, of Austin, Texas, says he picked up Impulse #4 after reading a lot of good things about it on the Internet. (So the Internet was influencing comic sales as early as 1995!) Ken says he had to go to four different shops to find the issue, since everyone was sold out of it. He says he liked the Barney gag, and also praises Ramos' art. Ken ironically says he has a hard time accepting a story about a villain recruiting henchmen via the Internet, and editor Brian Augustyn rightly calls him out on this. How could someone who used the Internet to buy the issue have a problem with a villain using it as well?

Chris Karnes, of Naperville, Ill., also says he had a hard time finding this issue, since it kept selling out everywhere. He says he enjoys White Lightning, and labels Ramos as the definitive Impulse artist.

Andy Oliver, of Upminster, England, calls issue #4 another gem free of the tiresome macho posturing and grim and grittiness. He also requests for Mark Waid to write a Max Mercury mini-series.

Doug Ohmer, of Covington, Ky., is happy Impulse has his own super villain, and he really enjoys Bart's thought balloons that show exactly what he's thinking without using any words. He says he wants to see more of Dr. Helen Claiborne and Carol Bucklen.

Mary Catelli, of Hagerstown, Md., says White Lightning fits in this series nicely, and she also wants to see more of Bart with Carol. Mary then suggests the Impulse letter column be titled "Speed Reading," not realizing that The Flash is already using that name. Now for the ads:

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Doom for Super NES. It shows a little red ant surrounded by tons of bigger black ants. An arrow points to the small ant, saying, "You." Another points to the other ants, saying, "Them. Capisce?" I absolutely loved Doom as a kid, although the game just worked better on the computer. We did get it for the Super Nintendo, and it was notable for having a bright red cartridge opposed to the standard grey. But the game was just clunky in that version. It's also funny to look back on how controversial that game was back then. Pretty tame by today's standards.

Gang tackle your nervous system. A two-page ad for TSC football cards. Although I think the cards themselves look pretty stupid, I am glad that this ad actually shows pictures of the actual cards, unlike some other football card ads we've seen.

Comix Zone for SEGA Genesis.

So that's it for October 1995. The next issue would normally be The New Titans, but Marv Wolfman was granted one final story arc with his own characters, so he simply ignored Impulse, Supergirl and Rose Wilson, while showing how Damage officially quit the team. Kind of a bummer, but all the same, Impulse is going to be fine with his own title.

Next issue: Underworld Unleashed unleashes the all-new, all-deadly Blockbuster on Manchester and our young speedster. It's by Underworld maven Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Wayne Faucher, Tom McCraw, Chris Eliopoulos, Ali Morales and Brian Augustyn, trapped in the underworld.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The New Titans #126

Going Home

Dale Hrebik Writer
Rik Mays Artist
Chris Matthys Colorist
Albert de Guzman Letterer
Keri Kowalski Asst. Editor
Pat Garrahy Editor
A very special thanks to Ruben Diaz
Created by Marv Wolfman & George Pérez

The Siege of Zi Charam is over, and the usual creative team has taken the month off, even though this is technically the first part of Meltdown, a countdown to the end of the series. Will Rosado did the cover, which finally features Arsenal for a change. He is the team leader, after all, so why not pull him out of the background once in a while?

The story begins with basically the exact same image on the cover of Arsenal falling off a bridge. Turns out it's just a training exercise with an old counter intelligence agent from the group Checkmate. Roy Harper then goes to a pool party with his friend, and we get a rare shot of Roy's daughter. There's some brief discussion about his duties as a father, but ultimately, it seems he places the Titans above his daughter.

At the Titans headquarters, Bart slows down to have a serious conversation with Roy. He says since he grew up so fast he probably doesn't know everything he should, and since Roy's sort of an adult, he might be able to help him. After a little prodding, Roy finds out Bart is talking about Rose. He says while everyone was off in space, it was basically just him and Rose manning the headquarters, but she never talked to him. Roy says Bart should just spend some time with her, pay attention, listen and not talk at her a million miles an hour. And then Rik Mays decides Bart needs to look like a girl.

After Bart leaves, it's revealed that Roy was actually Mirage the whole time. She transformed into him without even realizing it. Donna Troy and Kyle Rayner then join Mirage out on the lawn, then they're suddenly attacked by Impulse, Minion, Supergirl, Terra and Rose. Another goofy spar ensues, and Minion warns Donna that Bart said he'd "hit her so hard she wakes up in my century." Donna calls Bart a little imp, and he corrects her, saying his name is Impulse and that she'll never hit him even on her fastest day. Bart was right, and he tackles Donna, ruining her good jeans. She flips him off her and he bounces off Minion's hard Omegadrome.

Mirage again unwittingly transforms, this time into the super villain  Mongul. Supergirl easily takes her out, while Terra and Rose double-team Kyle. The real Roy soon arrives, asking whose idea this was, and everybody blames Bart and Tara. Bart calls Roy dad and apologizes for the mess, saying he just wanted to keep the troops sharp. He also says he wanted to play shirts and skins, but Tara wouldn't go for it.

Suddenly, Donna chews out Kyle for being too rough with Rose, and an editor's note tells us she was injured during a training session in Deathstroke #51. Rose yells at Donna for treating her like a little kid and storms off. Bart tries to talk to her about how awful Donna is, but Rose gives him a death glare, making Bart feel like a dunce.

We then cut to S.T.A.R. Labs in San Francisco, where the demon-possessed Changeling is being held in stasis. But then a careless lab technician tosses a thermos to his friend, and accidentally cracks the glass on Changeling's chamber, awakening him. Kind of a cheesy way to revive the villain, but whatever. Bart's not going to stick around for most of this Meltdown story, so we don't need to worry too much about it.

This was a rather odd filler issue. For starters, the art wasn't good at all, but that's usually been the standard with The New Titans lately. And Dale Hrebik certainly is no Marv Wolfman. I'm not sure why a fill-in writer would choose to do a character piece when he doesn't have a full grasp on the characters. He should have stuck to a simple monster-of-the-month story. I did like seeing Impulse turn to Arsenal as a trusted adult  — that feels right in line with his character. But I didn't like Bart's infatuation with Rose. I suppose the whole thing happened off-page, and it didn't feel natural at all. Especially when you read in Impulse's own series how he's completely oblivious to girls flirting with him.

The letters this month are from The New Titans #123, the Jarras Minion special issue. One writer, however, does mention Impulse.

Jack Grimes II, of Oxford, N.J., says Impulse is a great character whose personality actually matches his powers. Jack says Impulse can be annoying at times, but he is cool, and an enjoyable member of the team. Now for the ads:

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Next time, we return to the main series with Impulse #7.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Impulse #6

Secret Identity

Mark Waid Writer
Humberto Ramos Pencils
Wayne Faucher Inks
Chris Eliopoulos Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Alisande Morales Assistant Editor
Brian Augustyn Editor
Special thanks to Joyce Porter, E.T. Richardson Middle School
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

The cover by Ramos and Faucher shows Impulse, his friend Preston, and a ... monster?! This is a pretty exciting and intense cover, but as we'll soon find out, the real monster might not be who we expect. Joyce Porter, who was thanked in the credits, is a child abuse advocate. So we're entering a very special issue of Impulse, but I promise you, it's not cheesy at all!

Our story begins in the office of Assistant Principal Randall Sheridan, who is speaking with Preston Lindsay. Mr. Sheridan notes that Preston has come to school quite often looking a little scuffed up, but Preston simply says he fell. Mr. Sheridan tells him his teachers are concerned, and they can help with any problems he has at home, but only if someone can verify the situation. Preston insists there's no situation and leaves.

Up next is Bart Allen, whose pencil is on fire because he's finishing his homework. Mr. Sheridan overlooks this bit of absurdity to ask him to hang a little closer to Preston. At first, Bart thinks Mr. Sheridan is just trying to get him to make more friends, but he explains that Preston is going through some tough times and he wants Bart to keep an eye out for anything weird.

So Bart goes out to the swamp with Preston to try to catch some swamp lights and monsters on film. Preston has big plans to film a movie and go to Hollywood and be loved by the whole world. He asks Bart what his dreams are, but all Bart can think about is smashing a pie into Max's face. Suddenly a pair of bright lights spook the kids, and Preston decides to protect Bart by pushing him off their rowboat.

When Bart emerges from the water, Preston is gone, so Bart turns into Impulse to find him. He runs into a bunch of snakes, and politely asks them, "Do you mind? I'm trying to think." He then runs into Preston's dad, who's looking for him with a flashlight and is very angry. Bart soon finds Preston, and takes off his Impulse outfit to join him. When Preston's dad finds them, he yells at Preston for disobeying his mom's instruction to get home before dark, and he tells his son he'll get it when they get home. Bart and Preston load up in the back of his truck, and once they get home, Preston's mom tells him that she warned him about making his father angry and now he has to take his punishment.

The next day, Bart is training with Max, by having him throw a bunch of weapons Bart must vibrate through. But Bart's distracted by Preston's problems, and he asks Max why a kid should be so afraid of a grownup. Max says it sounds like life if unfair for Preston — if, indeed, what Bart thought he saw was what was really happening. Max warns him he could destroy a family with a false accusation, and all he really saw was a boy being threatened with punishment for breaking his curfew. Bart complains that Max is giving him too much to think about, so he tells him to make sure Mr. Lindsay is guilty before accusing him of anything — even if that means keeping an eye on Preston day and night. Bart worries about seeing something as Impulse, which would expose his secret identity. All Max can say is they have to hope it doesn't come to that.

The next day, Bart pays attention to Preston getting dressed in gym class, and he is quite worried by what he sees. At lunch, Bart realizes Preston's missing, and Carol tells him he's cutting the rest of the day. Apparently he said something about doing anything to complete his movie after what he went through last night. So Bart quickly runs off to find him.

We see Preston running through the swamp with his camcorder, being chased by the monster on the cover. Impulse arrives just in the nick of time to push the monster away from Preston, and he tells him to go home. But Preston says he can't go back to what's waiting for him. The monster then retaliates, so Impulse takes advantage of the many snakes in the swamp and throws a bunch on the monster. He then grabs a large branch to continue to battle the beast, when he's interrupted by a man asking him to leave his son alone.

The man explains that his son, Hector, suffers from a severe case of acromegaly, which causes him to grow uncontrollably. The doctors don't expect him to live more than a year, and they just want to keep living quietly in the swamp. Impulse tells him he should warn people, since everybody thinks Hector is a monster. But the man kind of likes that idea, since it keeps people away and allows him to provide his son with the love he — and all other sons — deserve.

Impulse then decides to pay Preston's dad, Tom. He catches him right before he enters his house and tells him to leave Preston alone. Tom brushes him off, but Impulse is adamant, saying he's protecting Preston from a monster. Again Tom tries to laugh him off and enters his house with Impulse trying to hold him back. When he opens the door, he finds his wife beating Preston, yelling at him for threatening their family happiness. Tom is just as shocked as Impulse, who quickly runs away. Tom stops the beating and embraces Preston.

The next day, Bart decides to tell Mr. Sheridan what he saw, even though doing so would expose his secret identity. But when he enters his office, he sees Preston is already in there with a police officer and a social worker. Bart waits outside for him, who later tells him he'll be staying in school and can still live with his dad, although he'll be receiving some counseling. Preston says his dad always just left the punishment to his mom, and never realized how bad it got. His mom, meanwhile, has been placed under observation in a social services house, and Preston is allowed to see her on weekends. Bart asks him if that's what he wants, and Preston says his mom is still his mom and he just wants her to get some help. Bart then returns Preston's camera, which he thought was lost forever in the swamp. Preston's dad comes to pick him up, and Preston decides to let Bart keep the camera. Bart records Preston walking away arm-in-arm with his dad, and says, "Cool."


What a powerful issue. My recap can't do this issue justice. The silent page of Impulse and Tom walking in on the beating is stunning. Tears are steaming down Preston's face, and Humberto Ramos did a fabulous job with everybody's expressions. Watching a parent beat her child was more terrifying than almost any other comic book super villain. And I never felt Mark Waid got too heavy-handed with this story. I think he did a marvelous job of showing how real and common child abuse can be, while also teaching that things aren't always as they appear. This is the power of comics — taking a fun, goofy kid like Impulse and using him to deliver an important message.

Well, that's all I can say about this amazing issue. Let's see what the letter writers have to say about Impulse #3.

Andrew Joseph, of Islington, Ontario, said he's been reading comics for 24 years, and this is the first time he's had a desire to communicate with the creators. He loved how Impulse took care of the bullies, and he also loved the artwork, saying it's similar to Japanese manga.

Mike Aragona, of Montreal, said he laughed so much at the issue that he lost track of time and was late for work. He said Waid's writing is top-notch and Ramos and Faucher create simple, yet highly effective visuals. Mike said Bart's view of the world is so uncomplicated that it makes the reactions of this around him seem so much more off-the-wall.

Jeremy Grossman, of Indianapolis, said he likes Bart Allen's cocky, yet quiet attitude. He also said he likes seeing a superhero live through a day of public schooling, which was more entertaining with Impulse than Robin, who plays the part of "cool wuss" and the girl-crazy Superboy. Jeremy also asks for the return of the black boy only known as "Lardo," feeling someone with emotion will help bring out the dialogue in the book.

Charles Skaggs, of Columbus, Ohio, said Waid created a wonderful self-contained story, which he calls a true rarity in comics today. He also points out the character named XS in the Legion of Super-heroes, who is Bart's cousin, and he asks if we'll ever have a family reunion. Editor Brian Augustyn confirms such a reunion, saying XS will show up in issue #9. Now on to the ads:

There are some days you'll never forget. Bon Jovi (These Days). The new album featuring the hit single "This Ain't a Love Song" in stores now!

The chase is on. Capture DC villains and uncover a new secret message. DC Villains trading cards.

So big. So fast. So close to home. Wherever you are — there's a Six Flags near you. I have been to the Six Flags in Los Angeles twice, and I really enjoyed it both times. They have some amazing roller coasters, although it's not a complete, well-rounded theme park like Disneyland.

Can you match the meal with the fit of the jeans? The food: Sloppy Joe, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a hotdog. The jeans: Classic 505, Relaxed 550, Loose 560. Levi's.

Playoff football cards. Pigskin included. This ad shows a picture of a pig, which is pretty funny, I guess, but this is the same football card company that repeatedly runs ads without pictures of football players or even football cards.

Next time, we begin October 1995 with The New Titans #126.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Flash #105

Through a Glass, Darkly

Mark Waid and Michael Jan Friedman – Writers
Ron Lim – Penciller
Mark Stegbauer – Inker
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Kevin Cunningham – Letterer
Alisande Morales – Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn – Does it with mirrors

So Impulse leaves The Flash for a little bit and look what happens — the art falls to pieces! No offense to Lim and Stegbauer, but this is not the quality I've come to expect on this title. But from what I understand, this was just a fill-in issue, which didn't even warrant the full attention of Waid. And that is a shame, since the premise of this issue is so great.

So here's some comic book history for those who may not know. This is the second issue to be called The Flash #105. The first one came out in 1959, and was notable for being the first appearance of Mirror Master. Of course that was a different Flash (Barry Allen) and a different Mirror Master (Sam Scudder). This story involves Wally West and Evan McCulloch, but history tends to repeat itself, especially in comics.

Our story begins with Flash falling helplessly through the Mirror World. I'm not exactly sure how he got here other than the Mirror Master simply pulling him in. As it stands, Flash can't find his way out and needs Mirror Master's help. And Evan is willing to help Wally, but only if the speedster is willing to help the Rogue first.

Evan launches into a tragic backstory of how he once had a girlfriend named Emelia. He loved her so much, he even considered giving up a life of crime for her. But suddenly, tragedy struck, and Emelia died. But recently, Evan spotted a reflection of woman who looks just like Emelia — the double that everyone has. Evan was able to make a holographic image of this woman, but has since lost that reflection. He knows she isn't his girlfriend, but he wants to visit her to say the goodbyes he would have said to Emelia. But to do so, he needs the Flash to check each mirror until he finds her.

Wally is overcome by this love story, and he starts looking for this woman. He can't find her, but he does find his girlfriend, Linda Park. So he has Mirror Master help send a message to Linda to have Oracle track down this mystery woman. Evan then suggests they contact the original Flash — the one in the shiny helmet — to bring the woman to a neutral location to meet her. But Wally insists that Jay Garrick is retired, and says he'll have Impulse retrieve the woman instead.

So we return to the real world, where Impulse is waiting on Linda and Oracle, who are both taking way too long for him.

Luckily, Bart doesn't have to wait too much longer, as Oracle identifies the woman as Mary Anders, of Costa Grande, Calif. So Bart picks up Linda and runs her to the address, explaining that Linda isn't too heavy for him as long as he maintains his momentum. When they arrive, they find an isolated house with all the windows covered up. Mary barely peeks out the door, demanding Linda remove her earrings, watch and purse, leaving nothing shiny. Bart's goggles got pretty dirty on the journey from Kansas to California, so he took them off.

Linda and Bart explain the situation of the Flash and Mirror Master, which causes Mary to go into hysterics. She admits that her real name is Emelia and she really was Evan's girlfriend. But when she learned her boyfriend was a criminal, she turned him in to the police and testified against him in court. The police then placed her in witness protection, and she has lived in isolation ever since, removing all reflective surfaces from her house.

Bart notes that Emelia is a prisoner and then, without thinking (surprise, surprise) he cleans the gunk off his goggles, making them bright and shiny again. Mirror Master immediately appears in the goggles and switches places with Impulse.

Bart is reunited with Wally, who immediately begins chewing him out for falling into such an obvious trap and endangering Linda. But Bart points out that Wally fell for Mirror Master's trick first. And then, because we need some action, the two speedsters are attacked by giant mirror monsters. Apparently, whenever a mirror breaks in Mirror World, the shards reform themselves into a monster because ... I don't know. It's all very strange.

Anyway, Wally notes that each time they smash a monster, another is created, and if they keep going at their current pace, all the mirrors will be converted into monsters. Wally then realizes that's exactly what he needs — to eliminate all the mirrors to leave the one non-mirror portal to escape. So Wally quickly smashes everything in sight, and escapes with Bart before the mirror shards reform into an unstoppable army.

Meanwhile, an enraged Evan knocks out Linda and begins beating Emelia. But before he gets too violent, he notes the look of terror in Emelia's face, and realizes he never wanted to scare her or treat her badly. In this moment of hesitation, Flash and Impulse arrive on the scene and knock out Mirror Master. The cops soon arrive and take him away, while Bart asks to return to Mirror World because it was so cool. Linda also tells Wally that she asked Bart to take her to California, so he can stop blaming the teen.

So that wasn't a bad little story. This was Impulse's first encounter with one of Flash's classic Rogues, and this story did a good job of showing just how terrifyingly powerful Mirror Master can be. If he has a grudge against you, you need to avoid all mirrors, glass, chrome, aluminum — anything that could possibly be reflective. Mirror Master is the ultimate stalker, but as with all Rogues, he's not 100 percent evil.

I think Impulse was handled very well in this issue, although I doubt we'll ever hear him complain about his goggles getting dirty on a cross-country trip. It is realistic — he would get a lot of bugs and dirt splattered on his face — but I think most comic book writers don't want to spend valuable time delving into minutia like that. I would have liked this issue a lot more had all the Mirror World stuff made more sense. What is the purpose of the monsters? And if all the mirrors break in the Mirror World, wouldn't they break in the real world, too? And how come there's only one way out, which happens to not be a mirror? I'd say I expect more from Mark Waid, but he wasn't the solo writer on this issue, so Michael Jan Friedman gets some of the blame as well. And Ron Lim gets all the blame for the awful artwork. This was almost as bad as some of those Darkstars and New Titans issues I can't stand.

Well, I only own the digital copy of this issue, so you won't get any letters or ads this time. Next time, we'll return to the main series, with Impulse #6.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Darkstars #34

Stranger in a Strange Land

Michael Jan Friedman ~ Writer
Mike Collins ~ Penciller
Ken Branch ~ Inker
Bob Pinaha ~ Letterer
Stu Chaifetz ~ Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt ~ Stranger than truth
Paul Kupperberg ~ Stranger than Jason
Darkstars created by Michael Jan Friedman and Larry Stroman

Our lackluster cover by Collins and Branch gives us Supergirl, Darkstar, Green Lantern, Minion, and (very small in the background) Terra, Mirage, Arsenal and Damage. And that is everybody in the New Titans except for Impulse, who missed out on the whole Siege of Zi Charam because he forgot his Game Boy.

And since Impulse does not partake in the space adventures, I won't really talk about them. Just know that it's full of Collins' disappointing art, and Friedman takes an inordinate amount of time to tell a completely non-related side story involving a Darkstar named Colos. The Titans have lots of fun on their space adventure, and only toward the end of the issue does anyone bring up Impulse. Once again it's Green Lantern, saying, "Too bad Impulse is missing all the fun." Damage then gloats at the prospect of telling Bart about the great mission he missed out on. Oh, Damage! What did Bart ever do to you? I'll tell you what he did — he saved your angsty butt several times without expecting anything in return. So be nice!

Anyway, on Page 20, we return to the Titans headquarters in New Jersey, where Annie Bonelli and her two boys are attacked by her ex-husband. I suppose Donna arranged for Annie to stay with the Titans to protect her from this deranged lunatic, who has pulled a gun on his own children to make a point. I am quite disappointed by the Titans security. You'd think they would have beefed things up after the possessed Changeling nearly killed them all. But I suppose security isn't necessary when you've got Impulse around ... oh wait, he's busy playing a video game.

But don't worry about those little boys. In a later issue, Rose Wilson will pop out of nowhere to save the day. Impulse isn't in that issue, so I figured I'd tell you now.

And thus ends perhaps the worst Impulse appearance I've covered so far. This issue itself is mildly interesting, but the handling of Impulse is inexcusable. He's only seen in one panel, actively removing himself from a threatening situation. I can't imagine that video game being so loud as to drown out Annie's cry for help. He could have heard her and disarmed the guy before he realized what was happening. I know they wanted to set up Rose to be a hero, but I wish they would have not done so at Impulse's expense. Just say he went home to Alabama.

There's only one very long letter in Mugla Mail, and it doesn't mention Impulse. So here are the new ads:

The devil and the devourer. Darkseid vs. Galactus: The Hunger. Written and drawn by John Byrne.

Star Trek: The Next Generation. Friedman, Purcell, Pallot. Once, the entire Federation was brought to its knees by a single threat — the Borg. The Borg return.

Sins of the child. Starman. Robinson, Harris, Von Grawbadger.

Mega City's most wanted. Judge Dredd action figures.

Next time, we get more Michael Jan Friedman in ... The Flash #105.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Impulse #5

Lightning Strikes

Mark Waid – Story
Humberto Ramos Pencils
Wayne Faucher Inks
Chris Eliopoulos Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Alisande Morales Assisstant Editor
Ruben Diaz Associate Editor
Brian Augustyn – Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

This cover is a direct continuation of how Impulse #4 ended, with the exception of Bart wearing his Impulse outfit. But since this is the cover, I'll accept that. I'll also accept the speech bubble on the cover — a practice I usually frown upon. But in this case, Impulse calmly saying, "Cool," is absolutely perfect for the situation.

Our story begins with Bart driving Matt's dad's car off a cliff. He was trying to chase after White Lightning, but figured out the hard way that he doesn't know how to drive. Matt has a panic attack and passes out. And although Bart did catch a glimpse of Max earlier, Max's sudden appearance on the top of the car does startle him.

I just love the facial expressions on that page. Anyway, Bart tells Max this is his fault because he scared him by running alongside him on the road. Max tells Bart to not argue and asks him to help save Matt and the car. The two speedsters hang on the sides of the car and Max tells Bart to pump his legs at super speed to create an air cushion under the car. Bart starts early, which causes the car to spin wildly for a moment, but they soon right it and land safely. Bart offers to drive Matt home, but Max takes that responsibility and sends Bart home, reminding him it is a school night.

The next day, Matt tells everyone at school how he and Bart were driving 110 miles per hour and went flying off a cliff. Nobody believes him, especially since the car didn't get a scratch on it. Matt admits he passed out during the fall, and he asks Bart to corroborate his story. Bart honestly tells everyone he created an air pocket under the car, but everyone assumes he was joking. Bart then eats lunch with Carol, who is still mad at him for running off with White Lightning's gang. Again, Bart tells the truth, saying he was trying to infiltrate the gang. Carol chastises him for lying and tells him to just be himself. Bart says he'd love to, but Max keeps telling him to be somebody else. This only makes Carol angrier, and she leaves.

After school, Bart finds Max in a deep meditative state with eyes glowing and crackling with energy — very similar to what happened to Wally when he got too close to the Speed Force, but in a more controlled environment. Bart sneaks around Max, who then scares the teen again by suddenly speaking to him. Max explains he was probing the Speed Field for ... something ... but nothing that concerns Bart ... yet. Bart's then surprised to see his "uncle" the coach potato reads newspapers from around the world, and he's even more surprised that Max hasn't yelled at him about last night yet. Max admits Bart didn't have a bad plan, and it's a shame he didn't infiltrate White Lightning's gang. But Bart says he did at least see the guys she picked for her job, knowing at least one of them plays "feetball" for the school. So Bart decides to find him after practice and tail him while Max goes on his date with Helen Claiborne.

So Bart follows the football player around, wearing the worst possible disguises on top of his Impulse outfit. But he somehow manages to go unseen all the way to White Lightning's hideout — an isolated cabin in the woods. White Lightning, however, does see the top of Bart's head and recognizes his hair. So Bart quickly, and wisely, ditches the Impulse outfit and poses as an ordinary kid still eager to join the gang. White Lightning is impressed by his gumption and decides to let him tag along, figuring she could use him as a hostage if all else fails.

So White Lightning loads Bart on the motorcycle behind her — even making sure to give him a helmet — and they take off for her big heist. On the way, they briefly talk about Lightning's motivations, and she asks Bart if he has some father figures he'd like to see get smeared. Wally and Max come to mind, but Bart doesn't say anything. They soon arrive at the Minhota Reservation Casino, which happens to be where Max and Helen are.

White Lightning crashes through the window and asks Bart to help her rob the charity. But Bart is mysteriously gone. Suddenly, Impulse arrives on the scene and starts taking out the henchboys. Helen recognizes Impulse from the paper and asks, "Whoever in the world would've expected him to come to the rescue?" Max says, "Certainly not me ..." Impulse then pulls Max aside, proudly showing off how well he's been keeping his secret identity. Max sarcastically calls him a master of disguise, then tells Impulse to take out White Lightning.

A security officer then gets a clean shot at White Lightning's head, but Impulse pulls her out of the way, saving the villain. She ends up on her back at the feet of another guard, who calls her princess. This kind of throws White Lightning for a loop, and she calls the guard daddy. But she quickly recovers, becoming even more violent than before, and shoots the chandelier. Lightning then takes off on her motorcycle, and Impulse asks Max what he should do. Max motions to the crashing chandelier, so Bart protects everyone in the casino, letting Lightning escape.

Impulse then races out to the highway, but he can only find a big semi-truck, not realizing White Lightning is on it with her mother. Lightning tells her mom she thought she saw her dad, but realizes he couldn't be here. The mother-daughter team proceed to carry out their plan of punishing him.

Max goes home that night to find and angry Bart sitting in the dark and scowling. Max tells him his face will freeze that way, and Bart believes him. He then practically asks Max to lecture him for letting White Lightning get away, but Max tells him he did a pretty good job. He had a bit of a plan and no one got hurt. He just needs to accept that sometimes the bad guys get away. But Bart's still skeptical, saying, "You're being nice to me just to keep me off-balance, aren't you?" Max says, "Pretty much. 'Night."

So that concludes Impulse's first adventure with his first super villain. And I guess we can call this a draw. True, Impulse did prevent White Lightning from stealing any money, but she got away, with the promise to return. And since I know the future, I can promise that she will return. I really like the concept of White Lightning, and I want to know more about her backstory. And overall, I really enjoyed this issue. Max making Bart scream is deliciously wonderful. And there's even a certain degree of humor to a skulking Bart sitting in the dark. You just can't take him seriously! Well, with that said, let's get on with the letters.

Phil Rhein, of Manitowoc, Wis., talks about his dissatisfaction of mainstream comics, but grew to like Impulse because of the good art, Mark Waid's writing, and the promise that the title would explore themes of growing up, fitting in and life at school. He then asks a very awkward question about Bart having sex, but Brian Augustyn assures him that Bart is still far too young for anything like that.

Stuart Brynien, of Brooklyn, N.Y., says he didn't like Impulse at first, not wanting Flash to have a sidekick. But then he grew to love the character, and followed him over to his own title. Stuart compares Bart to Tim Drake, saying they both face the same challenges as teenage boys, but Bart is at a considerable disadvantage, having grown up in a virtual reality in the 30th century. He says Bart is great because he is different, and he also praises the Bart-Max relationship.

T. Paul Lehman, of Fort Collins, Colo., reminds us that spoilers were just as common 20 years ago as they are today. He says the announcement of the Impulse title told him that Bart would not die or become the next Flash in Terminal Velocity. But he says he likes Bart's costume, attitude, ability to vibrate through objects, and the fact that he has a secret identity. He then gives a list of very specific requests for how Wally is to make a cameo in the book, as well as Jesse Quick and Superboy, and for Bart to get a pet dog.

Charles Skaggs, of Columbus, Ohio, praises the lightheartedness of the book in the midst of all the other angst-ridden comics. He says he enjoys the innocent brashness of Bart, and likes Max so much he wants him to get his own mini-series. Charles then requests that Bart learn a bit about his grandfather, Barry Allen, and he asks for some clarification on his age. And luckily, Augustyn does provide that clarification, saying Bart is 14 and in the ninth grade. In Alabama (and other states, like my home Utah), grads 7 through 9 are in junior high. So that means a mistake was made in Impulse #2, when Max told Bart he was 15.

Scott Vogt, of Green Bay, Wis., says there is no way he should like Impulse this much, but Waid has accomplished the impossible. Like many of the other letter-writers, Scott was worried Bart would ruin Flash, but the character gradually grew on him. He goes on to praise everything about the book, even calling out inker Wayne Faucher. Like Scott, there is no logical reason for my love of Impulse, but I've embraced it and am here for good. Now on to the ads.

Gotham City's most wanted ... captured on video! The Adventures of Batman & Robin. If you bought two videos, you'd get a free Batman action figure with some stupid extra stuff strapped onto his back.

To face his future, he must destroy the shadows of his past. Nightwing. Four issues of intrigue and action beginning in July. By Dennis O'Neil, Greg Land and Michael Sellers.

Green Arrow #100. Where angels fear to tread. Aiming beyond! Coming in July. Dion, Aparo & Fernandez and Damaggio & Campanella.

The winner and still champion. Wonder Woman. Written & drawn by John Byrne.

A two-page ad for The Adventures of Batman & Robin on Game Gear and Genesis.

For the first time ever! The Justice League Task Force faces their greatest enemy ... themselves. For Genesis and Super Nintendo. This doesn't look anything like the Justice League Task Force Impulse recently visited, but rather the classic Justice League everyone thinks about, including Superman, Batman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Arrow.

Next time, we enter the month of September 1995 to find out what Impulse was doing while everybody was out in space in The Darkstars #34.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The New Titans #124

Prometheus Gathering

Marv Wolfman & Michael Jan Friedman Story
William Rosado Pencils
Keith Champagne & Jason Martin Inks
Joshua Myers Colors
Albert DeGuzman Letters
Keri Kowalski Asst. Edits
Pat Garrahy Edits
Created by Marv Wolfman & George Pérez

So William Rosado returns after a two-issue hiatus, and once again, Michael Jan Friedman had to help Marv Wolfman with the writing — something that always makes me uncomfortable. Something that also makes me uncomfortable is a complete lack of Impulse on the cover. Everybody else gets to be sucked into the black hole leading to the Siege of the Zi Charam, except for my favorite little speedster.

Our story begins with Sargent Steel and a random scientist visiting the Titans in their satellite to tell them about a mysterious and disturbing gravity well that has been discovered near Jupiter. Arsenal and Terra are curious as to why the Titans are being asked to investigate this instead of the Justice League, and Damage yells at Impulse to pay attention, since he's too busy blasting aliens on his Game Boy.

Steel lays down the law with the Titans, saying the government has been paying the Titans' bills for several months, and now they want something in return. Arsenal reminds him of the stipulation in their contract that allows the Titans to choose their own missions, but everybody else seems real excited at the prospect of visiting Jupiter. Jarras suspects Psimon could be the cause of the well, Damage thinks it could be Dr. Polaris, and Impulse celebrates reaching level 63,387.

So everybody starts to load up Darkstar's puddle jumper, and we get to finally see some fringe characters who have been floating around in the background for the past couple of issues. These include Rose Wilson, daughter of Deathstroke, and Annie Bonelli, Darkstar's friend, along with her two boys, Thomas and Benjamin. The boys are thrilled to meet Jarras, calling him a Vulcan, an elf, and asking if he rides a wolf. Impulse, meanwhile, is excitedly running around, chanting over and over again, "I'm going to Jupiter. I'm going to Jupiter."

Everybody gets into the ship, and there's a pretty funny, awkward moment between Jarras and Arsenal. Jarras, a small, blue elf with a squeaky voice comes hovering up to Arsenal in the Omegadrome in its condensed egg form, politely apologizing for being late. It's a wonderfully absurd moment. Impulse, meanwhile, realizes he left his Space Legion Vid on the satellite and can't leave it behind since he's way past level 100,000. So he decides to hurry and grab it, but nobody realizes he left and they take off without him.

The rest of the Titans then go off to have their own adventure without Impulse. And none of them realize he's not there until they get sucked into the black hole and reappear somewhere very far away. I wonder if the omission of Impulse is the work of Marv Wolfman, who didn't seem to appreciate having new characters forced upon him. But whatever the cause, I think Impulse will be fine. Impulse's own series is taking off and he doesn't depend on the New Titans for a monthly adventure. And since Impulse's friendship with Damage has been fractured, the only character I'll miss from this team will be Jarras Minion.

The letters to the editor finally return without explanation, and unfortunately, they all are about the Forever Evil event, which did not include Impulse.

Paul Sampson, of Sydney River, Nova Scotia, said he enjoyed Forever Evil so much, he didn't even notice the absence of Damage and Impulse. Well, I did; but then again, this is an Impulse blog, not a New Titans blog. Well, let's get on to the ads now.

Gotham City's greatest hero. Mega-City One's toughest lawman. The ultimate showdown's about to begin. Batman-Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle. Alan Grant, John Wagner, Carl Critchlow, Dermot Power.

Super Karts. To make it more realistic, we'd have to kick dust in your face! On CD-Rom for IBM PC & Compatibles.

New MTV cards from Fleer. Fresh, tasty and anything but wholesome.

Gotta rock. Radiohead The Bends. Our Lady Peace Naveed. Musicland and Sam Goody. I don't know anything about Our Lady Peace, but I do like Radiohead. The big hit on The Bends is Fake Plastic Trees, which is a pretty great song.

Live from the House of Blues on TBS.

Year One. They were legends from the beginning. Flash Annual #8 by Waid, Peyer, Brewer & Stegbauer. Deathstroke Annual #4 by Wolfman, O. Cariello & McCain.

Two decades ago scientists sent a message to space ... this ... is the reply. Species. Be intrigued. Be seduced. Be warned. Starring Ben Kingsley, before he played the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, and Alfred Molina, before he became Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2.

Next time, we get back to basics with Impulse #5.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Justice League Task Force #26


Priest • Writer
Jim Cheung • Guest Penciller
Chip Wallace • Inker
Adrienne Roy • Colorist
Kevin Cunningham • Letterer
Alisande Morales • Ass't Ed.
Ruben Diaz • Editor
Cover by Sal Velluto & Chip Wallace, colored by Jean Segarra
Special thanks to Mark Waid for rescuing Priest once again.

The writer, Priest, was originally James Owsley, but from what I heard, he changed his name to Priest after his wife divorced him because of a joke that he would become a priest if she ever left him. I'm not sure exactly why Priest gave special thanks to Mark Waid in this issue — perhaps he was just thanking Waid for letting him use his character, or Waid could have helped with the actual writing of this issue. As for the cover, I am very happy to see Impulse take front and center, although we will see that's not necessarily accurate for the story inside. I also wish Jim Cheung could have drawn this cover, since he drew Impulse very well on the inside pages.

The title of the story, "Klakk," is an onomatopoeia of a shotgun being cocked, which is how the story begins. We're in a bar in Boston, and a couple of thugs, apparently named Jethro and Anvil, are holding up the place. However, these guys don't realize that the Justice League Task Force just happens to be sitting in a table in the corner. Also with the team is Damage and Impulse, sitting on the table, wearing a Task Force uniform that's a bit too big for him.

Ray, an older, moodier teen with various light-related powers, decides to confront the robbers. The Martian Manhunter, in disguise as a normal human, also attempts to ease tensions, and Impulse laughs at the stupidity of the robber. Damage, meanwhile, wants Impulse to give him his suit back.

We then get a series of flashbacks to explain how everybody ended up in this bar, but the only one I care about involves Impulse and Damage. Twenty minutes ago, Martian Manhunter paid a visit to the Titans headquarters in New Jersey. J'onn arrives right as Bart has decided to play a prank on Grant by stealing all the toilet paper in the building while he's in the bathroom. Bart is thrilled to meet Martian Manhunter for the first time, but J'onn says he has a package for Grant. Bart takes the package, saying he'll make sure Grant gets it, then he realizes that J'onn is offering Grant a spot on the Justice League Task Force. Bart immediately starts begging J'onn to choose him instead, boasting of his speed and superior haircut to Grant's. But J'onn says this is not an audition, and that he is pressed for time.

As J'onn leaves, Bart realizes he kind of put his foot in his mouth, but decides to keep playing pranks on Grant. Before he gets out of the bathroom, Bart puts on his Task Force uniform and activates the teleporter to the Task Force headquarters. Bart lies to Grant, saying he was "drafted by the pros," and teleports away. But Grant soon finds the note left by J'onn, saying he wants to help Grant with his trouble with Vandal Savage. So Grant takes off chasing Bart.

J'onn takes off to find a team member named Triumph, who doesn't seem to be anything more than a whiney rich kid who wants to prove himself by beating up thugs in a bar. Impulse soon arrives at the Task Force headquarters, and excitedly checks out all their equipment, marveling at their "wicked ancient technology" of touch screens. (Touch screens really were state-of-the-art in 1995. I remember seeing my first touch screen around this time and being blown away by it.) Damage follows close behind Impulse, and apologizes to the Task Force for the "squirt." But Impulse doesn't want to leave yet, and decides to go find the Martian Manhunter to let him decide whether Impulse or Damage should join the team.

J'onn finds Triumph in the bar where we began our story, and Triumph whines and complains about being treated like a kid. It's not too long before everybody else shows up and ruins what I suspect was supposed to be a touching moment. Damage immediately turns down J'onn's offer, saying he and Impulse are committed to the Titans. But even Damage doesn't want to join the Task Force, he still seems to want their suit, or at least not let Impulse wear it. Ray then takes the opportunity to announce his decision to quit the team, and then the little armed robbery we saw at the beginning happens.

Ray is too busy pouting to notice a third gunman behind him, who actually pulls the trigger. But the gun goes "klaakk," and Impulse snickers, saying, "Can't shoot a gun — without bullets!" He then reveals that he stole all the bullets from the three robbers, and asks J'onn if he can join the team now. But J'onn says no.

Well that wasn't a half-bad guest appearance. In fact, it was pretty good. I really suspect Waid may have helped Priest write the Impulse scenes, because he got that character spot-on. His attitude and power set were perfect, and his relationship with Damage seems to be improving. Although they still don't feel like as good of friends as they once were. Priest's writing was fairly decent, but I really couldn't stand all the references to past issues. It seemed like every other page had an asterisk referring to something or explaining that this happened before that but after this. And whenever there was more than one editor's note on a page, they'd just use more asterisks to distinguish the notes. But one page in particular stacked up five asterisks together, which looks more like a censored swear word in a speech bubble than an editor's note.

At the end of the story, I was actually relieved that Impulse was denied a spot on the team. None of these characters seem like a good match for him, and the only reason I would be interested in returning to Justice League League Task Force would be to see more of Jim Cheung's art. But since he was a guest penciller, I have no desire to see Martian Manhunter hang out with a bunch of nobodies.

I only have the digital copy of this issue, so there'll be no letters or ads this time.

Next time, Impulse will return to his current team in The New Titans #124.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Impulse #4

Bad Influence

Mark Waid – Story
Humberto Ramos – Pencils
Wayne Faucher and Brad Vancata – Inkers
Chris Eliopoulos – Letterer
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Ali Morales – Assistant Editor
Brian Augustyn – Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

The cover by Ramos and Faucher is historically significant because it shows the first super villain created specifically for Impulse. Yes, there was a corrupt businessman in the first two issues of Impulse, but he was quite generic and, as far as I know, doesn't ever come back. But White Lightning is the perfect villain for a teenage boy superhero. I mean, how is he supposed to fight a beautiful teenage girl? Well, let's find out.

Our story begins with Bart attempting to acclimate to life in Alabama by watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle. (Perhaps he was inspired after meeting those Andy Griffith look-alikes in The New Titans Annual #11.)

Max tells Bart to avoid stereotypes, and he changes the channel to public television, which is airing a telethon hosted by Scooter the Funosaur (basically an orange Barney). As our heroes watch the live event, a girl named White Lightning stages an armed robbery with a handful of boys at her side. Impulse quickly arrives at the TV studio and begins to take out the henchboys, but he gets a bit excited with the prospect of being on TV himself, and grabs a camera, calling it an "Impulse cam."

White Lightning tells her boys to run away, and Impulse catches them by rolling Scooter the Funosaur like a log to knock them down. Some of the boys are worried about being grounded, but when they realize they're on TV, they all become excited at the idea of being famous. Impulse thinks they're a bit weird, and one of the cops tries to handcuff Impulse. He says, "Don't you guys have TV news down here, or is it all farm reports? You might have heard of me, y'know: I'm here to help!" He then vibrates out of the cuffs and tries to find Lightning, but she carefully hid herself and managed to escape.

The next day at school, Preston is selling videotapes of the big school-wide brawl that happened last issue. Bart, who's being treated like a movie star, notices Preston has a black eye and asks him if he got it during the fight. Preston hesitates, then says yes, although careful readers will remember that Preston wasn't involved in the fight at all, as he was on the sidelines taping the thing the whole time.

But the talk of school soon shifts to White Lightning, as a nerdy kid with a laptop notices that the super villain is recruiting a new gang over the Internet. Bart doesn't understand why everybody is so excited about a crook. Carol tries to explain the appeal and glory of taking part in her thefts and not getting caught, and she adds that she really admires boys who don't fall for that stuff. As usual, Bart doesn't realize he's being flirted with. Matt Mason, one of the many kids who wanted to beat up Bart yesterday, declares Bart king of the daredevils and a perfect candidate to join White Lightning. His friends agree, adding that Bart is quick and really good-looking — at least, according to their girlfriends. Bart realizes meeting White Lightning will give him a chance to catch her, so he agrees to go with Matt, much to Carol's disappointment.

Bart goes home after school to find Helen Claiborne visiting Max. Turns out, she lives just across the street and still wants to take Max to the Indian reservation. Bart immediately thinks they'll be a great couple, and he interjects himself into their conversation, telling Helen that Max would be thrilled to go out with her. After she leaves, Max glares at Bart, only saying that the situation with Helen is unusual. Nevertheless, Max decides to go on the date anyway, and Bart decides to keep a secret himself by not telling Max about his plans to infiltrate White Lightning's gang.

That night, Bart arrives at the big White Lightning meeting, not realizing that Max was secretly following him. White Lightning picks out all the biggest and toughest boys from the crowd, deeming Bart too small for her crew. She then takes off on her motorcycle, leaving all the leftover junior high kids behind. Bart then suddenly jumps in Matt's dad's fancy car and chases after White Lightning. Matt quickly gets in the car with Bart, and yells at him, but Bart says he thought Matt wanted to follow her, too. Matt then asks Bart if he at least has a license, to which Bart asks, "A license for what?"

Bart drives way too fast and erratically, and doesn't understand that he needs to shift the gears of the car, likely destroying the vehicle. Matt begins to panic and fear for his life, especially when Bart starts heading for a cliff. Bart catches a glimpse of Max out the corner of his eye, and he assures Matt that they'll be OK as the car heads off the ledge.

How about that for a cliffhanger? Literally! This was another fun issue, full of plenty of great moments of Bart at school, plus a fun chess match brewing between Bart and Max. And I am really happy Impulse has a real, original villain to fight. White Lightning doesn't have super speed or strength — just an irresistible appeal to stupid teenage boys. Luckily, Bart is still too young to be interested in girls, so he might have a chance against her — as long as his own stupidity and impulsiveness doesn't get in the way.

Luckily, this is the first Impulse issue with a letters column, so here we go!

Chris Karnes, of Naperville, Ill., says he enjoys the uniqueness of Impulse, and really likes Max Mercury's role in the book. He asks for Iris Allen and Jesse Quick to make guest appearances, and he hopes the book will continue to take advantage of being placed in the South. He also asks for some teen villains and an Impulse crossover with Robin or Superboy.

Shawn Lesser, of Aurora, Colo., praises Impulse as the cure for all the dark and gritty comic book heroes, including many of the teen heroes such as Robin and Damage. Shawn says this title brought back the fun to comics he first experienced when he started reading 25 years ago. He says Bart is much more likable in his own title than he was on Flash, and he enjoys Ramos' cartoony style and ability to make Bart an awkward-looking teenager with big feet. His only request is to keep Bart innocently suffering from the single synapse syndrome.

Rich Hohenrath, of Franklin Square, N.Y., admits he had uncertainties about giving Bart a series of his own, but he instantly fell in love with it after the first issue. He says Waid makes you feel comfortable with his characters, but he also continues to come up with fresh ideas. Rich also praises Ramos' art, especially his ability to draw boyish, realistic expressions. He also says he's excited to learn more about Max and eagerly looks forward to seeing Bart develop and play a role in the Flash mythos.

Jeremy Grossman, of Indianapolis, demands more Impulse stories. He wants more scenes of Bart in school, and would like to see a few girls thrown his way. He also compliments DC for being up to date on current teenage lingo.

Bryan Miller, of Murray, Ky., says Impulse embodies all the great things he's come to look forward to in Waid's writing. He feels Impulse wonderfully carries on the legacy of the growing Flash family, and he says the art is the glue that holds the exciting story together. He also says that Max is the coolest.

Jeff DeMos, of New York, says all young superhero comics are similar in that they deal with a rite of passage and a gradual evolution into responsibility — except for Impulse. Jeff says Bart is victimized by his virtual-reality upbringing, which serves as torture for him, but humor for the reader. He also finds the contrast between Bart and Max to be interesting and promising.

Monica L. Tittle, of Pelham, Ala., thanks DC for putting the series somewhere other than the eastern seaboard, but she does point out that several of the buildings drawn in the background of Manchester actually belong in Birmingham. Monica also admits she didn't like Impulse in Flash, but decided to try this book out just because of Waid. And now she likes it, especially because of Max.

I completely agree with the praise from each letter writer. This Impulse series has been wonderful, which has been huge for me, since The New Titans has become rather lackluster as of late, and Bart hasn't made an appearance in The Flash since issue #100. Anyway, let's get on to the ads.

Judge Dredd the video game for Super Nintendo, Genesis, Game Boy and Game Gear.

The movie event of the year in a spooktacular card set from fleer! Caspar trading cards.

Wimps & wannabe's need not apply. Dungeon & Dragons with an interactive audio CD.

OK. You've had a year to get ready. The Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II. This is a two-page ad for a company that is now virtually nonexistent.

Batman Forever trading cards.

Well, that does it for all the Impulse appearances in comics with a July 1995 publication date. Next time, we enter the month of August with a surprise cameo in Justice League Task Force #26.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The New Titans #123


Marv Wolfman Plot
Michael Jan Friedman Dialogue
J.B. Jones Pencils
Rich Rankin Inks
John Costanza Letterer
Chris Matthys & Ed Lazellari Colors
Keri Kowalski, Assistant Editor
Pat Garrahy, Editor
The New Titans created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez

As we can see by the cover, this is a Minion story. It's a good enough image, and I am excited to learn more about Jarras Minion, but I am worried about the instability of the creative team on this title. It's usually a bad sign when one person does the plot and someone else does the dialogue. Although Friedman, the writer of Darkstars, is a good choice for a space story. And Jones is the penciller again for the first time since issue #117. But that means Finn Harris only did one issue, and before him was William Rosado. I hate having three pencillers for three issues.

After the Crimelord-Syndicate War, the Titans decide to visit their satellite base for some reason. Also, for some reason, Jarras feels compelled to share his personal feelings with the team. And Damage, ever the idiot, is surprised that he can understand Jarras, so Supergirl reminds him that Darkstar gave him a universal translator like forever ago.

Jarras is feeling particularly lonely, and although Darkstar reminds him that his father is still alive, Jarras feels he has little in common with him. He tells the Titans that after he attacked the Darkstar prison ship in an attempt to kill Psimon, he decided to return to the ruins of his home world, Talyn. There, he found a group of aliens taking precious Talyn relics. Believing them to be thieves, Minion attacks them, only to learn that they were actually trying to preserve Talyn's memory.

We also get some nice background of Jarras' life, his family and how his entire race was genetically modified to lack all aggression. It's all very interesting stuff, but Impulse only stands around and listens to Jarras' story with everybody else. At the end, Jarras says he has finally realized that revenge is not the answer, and Arsenal tells him he can stay on the team as a full-time member — as if he already wasn't.

Altogether, this wasn't a bad issue, although I am sad we've had a run of issues with very limited Impulse action. I'm really missing a big Titans adventure that gives everybody something to do.

Once again, for some reason, there are no letters to the editor. So here are the new ads:

Dredd. June 30.

Icon #27. You can't go home again! By Milestone.

Gotham City made him the men he is today. Now he'd like t o express his gratitude. Batman: Two-Face. Crime and Punishment. By J.M. DeMatteis and Scott McDaniel.

Year One. They were legends from the beginning. Superman Annual #7 by Stern, Gossett & Pascoe.

Batman Forever. Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Chris O'Donnell. This movie was a big part of my childhood, but I have mixed feelings on it now. I actually wrote a review on it sometime ago here.

Next time, we get plenty more Impulse action in Impulse #4.