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:

Free Looney Tunes figurines from Honeycomb!

Batman Forever: The Video Game for Super NES, Genesis, Game Boy and Game Gear.

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.

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