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:

Searching for life in outer space ... We never imagined the consequences of finding it. Space: Above and Beyond. On Fox.

Mallrats. This is a 3-D Magic Eye image that I can't get to work. Perhaps the ink has faded too much over the past 20 years, or perhaps I'm just really bad at Magic Eyes.

Theis summer's hottest game. Dragon Dice.

For the hottest car kits, speed into ... your local hobby center for top value and selection in Monogram models. And if you buy a model car, you'd get a free reprint of a Batman comic from 1976.

He's wanted in 35 countries.. The police can't catch him. The military can't kill him. What makes you think you can? Mortal Kombat 3.

Year One. They were legends from the beginning. Doomsday Annual #1 by Jurgens, Stern, L. Simonson, Ordway, Batista, Janke, Kane, Breeding & Nyberg.

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.


  1. Hey, "the evil that men do lives after them." I'm Ben "B." Varkentine, writer of a letter summarized above. Thanks for the memories.

    1. I'm glad you found the blog! They don't make very many fun comics like Impulse anymore.