Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Adventures of Superman #533

Scavenger Hunt!

Karl Kesel – Writer
Stuart Immonen – Penciller
Jose Marzan Jr. – Inker
Digital Chameleon – Color Sep
Albert DeGuzman – Letterer
Mike McAvennie – Impulse-ive
KC Carlson The Fastest Editor Alive!
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

We've heard of going for a new world record, but this month's cover is ridiculous! Stuart Immonen, Jose Marzan, Jr. and Color Works put this image together so fast, it's no wonder it takes our breath away! Yeah ... it takes my breath away, too, but for the wrong reasons. I really hope Immonen, Marzan and that coloring company were rushed, because this cover is just bad. Superman racing Impulse should be a glorious image, but instead of using Humberto Ramos' Impulse as a model, Immonen seemed to go back to some of those awful New Titans issues.

And another thing that plagues this cover and the issue as a whole is the coloring. I believe this is the beginning of the digital coloring era, and it got off to a rough start. I wish I could see a black-and-white version of this issue, because the colors were just awful. There is no sense of shading or depth — just horrible black blotches on top of everything. Well, I guess DC needed to learn through trial and error.

Our story begins with Superman stopping a bomb from exploding in Metropolis. But it turns out, the bomb was merely a clue, sending Superman on a scavenger hunt across the world, set up by the aptly named villain, Scavenger. Since these "clues" are all ticking time bombs, Superman decides to call the fastest man alive to help him out. But when he calls Wally's house, Max Mercury answers. I guess a few of the speedsters took Linda back home after Dead Heat. Anyway, since Wally is mysteriously missing, Max decides to send Impulse to help out Superman.

Impulse and Superman have met before — during Zero Hour and the rebuilding of Metropolis — but Superman wishes he could have Jay Garrick or Jesse Quick helping him out. But he's stuck with Impulse. Superman tells him Scavenger's clue directs him to a pyramid, church and skyscraper all together. Impulse throws out a bunch of possibilities, ranging from the back of a dollar bill to Tokyo, oh wait — not 'til 2099. Superman suggests they try Mexico, and Impulse heads down and back with a sombrero before Superman finishes speaking, earning Impulse the nickname Speedy Gonzales.

In Mexico, Impulse quickly becomes bored and asks for quesadillas before they stop the bomb. But Superman refuses, stops the bomb, and plays the next clue, which leads him to something he's both faster and more powerful than. So our two heroes head to the bullet train in Japan, where Impulse finds the bomb on the tracks and punts it to Superman.

Impulse and Superman continue to find more bombs off page, including one in the Vatican, where Impulse had to ask the pope whether he was Catholic — since he's heard so many people ask that question. The next clue leads them to the San Diego Convention Center, which is holding a scrap metal art show. Impulse quickly finds the bomb disguised as a sculpture, but Superman holds him back, wanting to test a theory. He believes all the bombs have been fakes, so he wants to see what happens when this one counts down to zero. Just to be safe, he has Impulse evacuate everyone out of the room.

Turns out, Superman was right, which means Scavenger only wanted to keep Superman away from Metropolis. Superman and Impulse return to Metropolis to find the villain battling a hero named Alpha Centurion. Impulse quickly dissipates Scavenger's paralysis gas by creating a small whirlwind. Superman smashes the villain's robotic hand, but then he quickly teleports away, leaving everyone wondering what exactly Scavenger was doing. Impulse then returns home, telling Superman he needs to cut himself some slack. He was right all along about the fake bombs, but kept doubting himself. Impulse leaves Superman with these words of wisdom: "Smart guy like you's gotta trust his — Impulses!"

So this was a pretty fun adventure. I wish I knew what was going on with Scavenger and this Alpha Centurion guy, but I guess I'd need to read more Superman comics to find out. But it was really fun seeing Impulse interact with Superman. Even if the digital coloring almost made this comic unbearable.

None of the letters in Kryptograms mention Impulse, so I'll head straight to the ads.

Black Sheep. There's one in every family. Starring Chris Farley and David Spade.

He am back! Superman: Bizarro's World!

Free five-minute phone card when you subscribe to 2 or more titles. You could get 12 issues of Adventures of Superman for $18 when a single issue cost $1.95.

Comic Buyer's Guide 1996 Fan Awards ballot.

Next time, Impulse and XS squeeze in one more adventure in Impulse #12.

The Flash #111

Dead Heat Final Lap: Godspeed

Mark Waid, Story
Oscar Jimenez, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar and Kevin Cunningham, Letterers
Tom McCraw, Colorist
Alisande Morales, Assistant Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

We have a pretty dynamic cover by Jimenez and Marzan, for once giving us a good, clean look at Savitar. Flash looks great, the lightning looks great, and the action is not only awesome, but actually shows what happens inside the issue. It's everything I'd expect for the finale of a crossover.

Our story picks up with Flash chasing after Savitar to save his girlfriend, Linda Park. Having already crossed the ocean from the Baltic Mountains, they now make their way through America, passing Boston and Brooklyn, with Savitar trying to slow Flash down by causing several explosions and disasters along the way. When they pass through Washington, D.C., Savitar wrecks the tombstone of Green Arrow, who recently died.

The rest of the speedsters soon arrive, having ran in a straighter line, but they are quickly and easily knocked out by Savitar. In Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, Impulse tries to take on Savitar one-on-one, but Flash pulls him out of the way, calling him a stupid, reckless kid.

As Flash and Savitar continue their race toward Manchester, Alabama, XS joins the run. She has trouble keeping up, but she manages to deliver a message from Iris Allen. According to Iris, Wally can't beat Savitar and has to give him what he wants.

Wally quickly figures out what Iris means, and he offers to take Savitar to see God. Wally races toward the Speed Force, with Savitar excitedly following behind. Once they reach the Speed Force, Savitar rejoices at finally being at one with the Force, and he vanishes in a flash of light. Wally feels the same effect happening to him, but refuses to let it happen, choosing instead to return to Linda once more.

Everyone regroups at Max and Bart's home in Manchester. Iris fusses over Bart's injured forehead, and everyone else has their wounds tended to and comforts Jesse for the loss of her father. Bart asks where Wally is, and, right on cue, a flash of lightning emerges in the room. But instead of Wally appearing, it turns out to be a different Flash from the future.

And thus ends the first Impulse-Flash crossover. Savitar was a pretty awesome villain, although I kinda wish he did more damage. Johnny Quick did die, but he wasn't killed directly by Savitar. But this more carnal desire of mine doesn't weaken the story. It was exciting and emotional, and boasted some great art. This issue in particular, has some excellent splash pages of Flash and Savitar entering the Speed Force.

Only one letter in Speed Reading mentions Impulse, and that is the one by Kent A. Phenis, of Indianapolis. Having been promised a speedster would die in Dead Heat, Kent (correctly) reasons through who that could and could not be. He says Wally and Bart can't die, and Bart can't live alone, meaning Max can't die. Kent says Jay is too beloved and Jesse is too new, leaving Johnny Quick as the only possible candidate for death. Now on to the ads:

Superman. The Never-Ending Battle rages on every week in: Superman, Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Superman: The Man of Steel and Superman: The Man of Tomorrow.

The Untouchables have a secret weapon. Batman: Scar of the Bat. By Max Allan Collins and Eduardo Barreto.

What does it take to wield the most powerful weapon in the universe? Green Lantern. By Marz, Pelletier, and Tanghal.

Fatal fight! The Entire Universe vs. Legion of Super-Heroes. Peyer, McCraw, Moder & Boyd.

Next time, Superman will ask for Flash to help him on a case, but since Flash is mysteriously missing (again), Supes will have to settle with Impulse in The Adventures of Superman #533.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Impulse #11

Dead Heat Fifth Lap: Breaking the Barrier

Mark Waid – Story
Humberto Ramos – Pencils
Wayne Faucher – Inks
Chris Eliopoulos – Letters
Tom McCraw – Colors
Alisande Morales – Assistant Editor
Brian Augustyn – Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

This is a pretty amazing cover by Ramos and Faucher. It's the first time the Flash has shown up on the cover of Impulse, and our colorist — Tom McCraw, I'm assuming — went all out for the occasion. We have the red lightning of Impulse, the yellow lightning of Flash, the purple lightning of Savitar plus the pink lightning of his sword. Not to mention the white, natural lightning in the background and the orange molten lava on the ground. It truly is a spectacle to behold. My only slight complaint is that Savitar's face is obscured. But other than that, this is one of the best covers Impulse has ever had.

Our story begins with a very happy Impulse. He's got his powers back, Max is alright, and there are ninjas to fight. All is well in the world. The first page shows Impulse's face reflected in all the ninjas' swords, and Mark Waid treats us to some fun narration boxes, saying, "An army of ninjas versus a Mortal Kombat player who thinks Emperor Shaokahn is an orangutan. Bet on the boy."

While all the speedsters engage the ninjas, Savitar quietly slips away, leading Christina on a leash (she's being punished for letting Jesse destroy the battery turbine). Max realizes that Savitar is weakened while the ninjas harness his speed, so Max, Johnny and Jesse take off after Savitar. Wally and Jay find they have greater success against the ninjas if they lead them into close quarters and take them on a few at a time. But Bart doesn't stick to the plan.

Max, Johnny and Jesse chase Savitar to his library/chapel, and Johnny shocks Max by talking openly and freely about the Speed Force. Savitar continues to berate Christina by insinuating that Jesse is a worthier companion to him, and Max angers Savitar by burning his many books he's written himself.

Wally chews out Bart for not being on the same page as everyone else, saying they need to hit hard and fast. To demonstrate how to do this, Wally vibrates through a wall, causing it to explode, taking out a few ninjas. Bart says he'd also like to try that and vibrates through a couple of ninjas, who instantly begin to panic, believing they'll explode themselves. Bart sneaks behind them and whispers, "Boom," which causes them to scream out loud. Bart then tells them to chill and knocks them out.

Jay impresses Bart by weaponizing his helmet, and Wally again chastises Bart for not taking the fight seriously. Wally also asks why he didn't bring XS with him, and Bart explains that Max wanted her to stay behind with Linda and Iris.

We then check in on those three girls, and Linda is chewing out Iris for refusing to divulge any more information on the future. Linda argues that the present is constantly changing, and since Iris has the ability to help, she should. Linda eventually gets through to Iris, and she decides to act, telling Jenni she has something for her to do.

Back to the fight, our heroes have knocked out half the ninjas, but they find out the hard way that the fewer ninjas there are, the faster they become, not having to share the speed between as many people. Bart gets cut on the forehead, and Wally starts to form a plan to take out all the ninjas at once.

Savitar, furious that Max has destroyed his holy room, knocks out Max and Johnny. But he leaves Jesse unharmed, explaining that she will become his new priestess. But Christina can't bear the thought of being replaced, and she breaks her leash to charge after Jesse. Johnny wakes up in time to see this, and races after them faster than he's ever run — even abandoning his tried and true formula. There is a huge explosion, leaving Christina knocked out.

Max chases after Johnny, who's on his way to the Speed Force. Max tries to get John to stop and come back, but he refuses, saying he can feel the Speed Force calling him. Johnny says it's up to Flash to beat Savitar, and he asks Max to tell Jesse that he loves her and will always be a part of her, now more than ever. As Johnny Quick enters the Speed Force and becomes one with the light, Max weeps for his old friend.

Meanwhile, Wally, Jay and Bart have rounded up the remaining ninjas in a group, and synchronized their vibrations to cause the roof to collapse and knock out Savitar's minions. Christina is also caught in the collapsing roof, and she refuses to let Jesse save her. All the speedsters reunite, and Max tells them what happened to Johnny. Jesse breaks down in tears, and even Bart starts to cry, apologizing to Max for not taking this more seriously.

Savitar then rushes by in a big wind, vowing to steal everything from the Flash. Wally realizes he's talking about Linda, and rushes off after him. The other speedsters begin to follow, with Max worrying that Savitar will keep striking and striking until Wally kills him.

Woah. Another pretty heavy issue of Impulse. I guess that's what happens when you do a crossover with the Flash. But this whole issue wasn't doom and gloom — there were plenty of fun moments with Impulse, especially when he faked out the ninjas by vibrating through them. But I didn't expect Johnny Quick to die in the pages of Impulse — I figured Mark Waid would have wanted that to occur in The Flash. But I'm glad something major like that happened in Impulse — it helps validate this series' place in the DC Universe.

Sadly, there aren't any letters to the editor in this issue, so we'll go straight to the few new ads:

The year's biggest hit. This month on ... Pay-Per-View. Order Batman Forever on Pay-Per-View and save up to $40 on admission to Six Flags theme parks! I wouldn't go so far as to call Batman Forever the year's biggest hit ... but it was definitely the biggest superhero movie of the year, so it's got that going for it.

They're all that stands between Gotham City and chaos. Batman & Robin Adventures. By Ty Templeton and Rick Burchell.

Next time, follow Max and Impulse into the pages of Flash #111 for the heart-racing conclusion to Dead Heat.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Flash #110

Dead Heat Fourth Lap: Cut to the Quick

Mark Waid, Story
Oscar Jimenez, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar, Letters
Tom McCraw, Colorist
Alisande Morales, Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

Our cover by Jimenez and Marzan Jr. uniquely features Jesse Quick and not the Flash. But I think its nice to feature Jesse every now and then, especially when she has a worthy female adversary to fight. And no, this girl she's fighting wasn't just made up for this story — more on her background later — and no, she doesn't have six arms, that's just her super speed in action.

Our story begins with Wally and Jesse arriving at Savitar's citadel in the Balkan Mountains (which could be either Bulgaria or Serbia). The two heroes sneak inside and briefly discuss Wally's journey to the Speed Force during the fight with Kobra. Wally admits he doesn't remember anything from the time he spent there, and is also worried that if he ever does return, he won't be able to come back. They then find out how Savitar stole everyone's speed — with a large room converted into a battery, using ninjas as living cells to store the excess energy Savitar can't hold. And this battery is powered by a large transformer, which gets its energy from the girl we saw on the cover.

Wally explains that this girl is Christina Alexandrova, a former Soviet speedster who spent time with the evil Vandal Savage and even called herself Lady Flash for a time. She tried to go out with Wally, but he brushed her off. And now he feels guilty to see Christina has allied herself with Savitar.

Even though Wally and Jesse believe they are hidden, Savitar can sense Wally's energy, and orders Christina to kill him. Wally quickly throws Christina off his trail and confronts Savitar directly, who displays a superior mastery over the Speed Force, by instantly healing his wounds and generating a protective force field by absorbing the motion of objects thrown at him and redirecting them back at Wally.

Meanwhile, Christina finds Jesse trying to shut down the giant battery, and the two girls battle just like on the cover. The fight is as emotional as it is physical, with Jesse insisting that Savitar is using Christina, and Christina threatening to kill Jesse's friends and father. Threatening family is too much for Jesse, and she manages to destroy the turbine, which restores the super speed to all the speedsters, just as we saw in Impulse #10.

Savitar quickly realizes what's happened, and leaves the Flash to knock out Jesse and take Christina away to be punished. Wally revives Jesse just in time to hear Savitar announce he has unleashed 50 of his best ninjas. Just when all hope seems lost, Max Mercury, Jay Garrick, Johnny Quick and Impulse arrive to save the day.

Not a whole lot of Impulse here, but his arrival at the end with everybody was pretty cool. And seeing Savitar's power was great. But mostly, this issue was about Jesse Quick, who rarely gets a chance to shine. Finally, she had a worthy opponent — girls have to fight girls, that's just the way it is — and credit to Mark Waid for digging through old Flash history to find an existing female villain with super speed and bring her back in a unique, yet sensible way.

Only one Speed Reading letter mentions Impulse, and that is Chris Khalef, of Houston, simply saying he's a fan of Impulse and excited for Dead Heat. So let's move on to the ads now.

Now with 50% more beef, pork and puppies. Earthworm Jim 2. I absolutely loved this game on Super Nintendo. It was unique, funny and cool. But astonishingly short. You literally could beat the whole game in a couple of hours.

Treasure awaits on Cutthroat Island! (If you survive.) For Super NES, Genesis, Game Gear and Game Boy.

Aquaman. A past as mysterious and tumultuous as the sea itself is revealed at last. Peter David, Kirk Jarvinen and Brad Vancata.

It's airtight. It's ecologically balanced. It's party time. Bio-Dome starring Pauly Shore, Stephen Baldwin and William Atherton.

Conformity Bytes! Revolution X for all video game systems, featuring the music of Aerosmith.

Next time: Impulse #11 for Dead Heat chapter 5. Savitar raises the stakes and a speedster runs his last race.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The New Titans #130

Where Nightmares End!

Marv Wolfman Writer
William Rosado Penciller
Will Blyberg Inker
Chris Matthys Colorist
Albert DeGuzman Letterer
Dan Thorsland Editor
The New Titans created by Wolfman & Pérez

For this, the final issue of The New Titans, acclaimed Titans artist George Pérez was brought in to draw the cover "for ol' time's sake." Unfortunately, there is no Impulse here. However, just about everybody else, and they look great — even the new-fangled Cyborg, in a completely robotic body of black and red. Changeling's uniform is completely different than the one he wears inside this issue. Minor detail, though. A neat feature on this cover is the bright light behind Starfire, taking the shape of Raven.

This issue is "celebrating the end of sixteen glorious years" for Marv Wolfman. Also note that contentious editor Pat Garrahy is finally gone. Due to these factors, I believe Wolfman was finally able to give the characters he created the conclusion he felt they deserved. However, this means that characters such as Impulse, Damage, Minion and even Arsenal were more or less shoved to the background.

Our story begins with the new Cyborg flying through space with Darkstar, Green Lantern, Minion and the entire Tamaranean army led by Starfire's sister and husband. They're on a mission to take down Raven and her alien allies, and save the captured Starfire and Changeling. Raven begins preparations to revive the children of Trigon by removing the demon seeds from Changeling, which conveniently removes the madness from his brain.

Raven then explains to Starfire that long ago, the Titans thought she had died, but only her flesh perished. Somehow, a Trigon seed found and entered Raven, bringing her back to life. Raven then attacked Starfire on her wedding day and attempted to plant a seed of Trigon in her. But Raven mistakingly placed the good part of her soul in Starfire, and now Raven wants to reclaim her whole soul. But before she can do so, the Titans attack freeing Changeling and Starfire. For the first time in my New Titans run, Changeling doesn't turn into a monster, but an actual animal — an elephant — cracking jokes all the while.

Starfire takes on Raven one-on-one, explaining that since she has a bit of Raven's soul in her, she knows everything. Apparently, back when Trigon's body was destroyed, he sent his genetic pattern into his seeds, murdering Raven's brothers and sisters. The good Raven knew Trigon hadn't been defeated, so she launched an elaborate plan, tricking her evil self into gathering the Titans once again and giving them the ability to destroy Trigon once and for all. The soul of Trigon is then summoned from the evil Raven, and everybody blasts it with all they've got, apparently destroying the ultimate evil forever and finally freeing Raven.

Everyone then meets on New Tamaran, and Raven, now a glowing gold entity, decides to stay with Starfire and help rebuild their society. Raven also reveals that Starfire is pregnant, but Starfire won't let her say the gender of the baby. Changeling decides to explore outer space with Cyborg, and Wolfman got his wish to break up the Darkstar-Green Lantern romance by having Donna also stay behind on New Tamaran. (Of course, this breakup was written very kindly, and could be interpreted as a temporary goodbye, but I seriously doubt we'll ever see Kyle and Donna in a relationship again.) Starfire then gives a rather sappy speech about the rising generation of Titans.

We get a quick glimpse of Bart Allen (before Dead Heat) with a small, blue figure of Max Mercury behind him. We also see Damage wandering around in the desert, and Terra visiting Mirage in the S.T.A.R. Labs hospital. I guess Mirage really did have her baby after all ... ? I don't know, I'm definitely missing something here, but I don't care enough to pick up those other New Titans issues. The story then ends with the one main character Wolfman really wanted to bring back but wasn't allowed to — Nightwing, who stands on a random rooftop in New York. Thinking of his old friends in the Titans, Nightwing says, "Take care, guys. You're the best!"

We also have a final thank you note from Marv Wolfman, as follows:

With sixteen years of gratitude to:
Romeo Tanghal, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Eduardo Barreto, Tom Grummett, Bill Jaaska, William Rosado and all the great artists who have given life to my words!
Also to Nick Cardy & Bob Haney — without whom there wouldn't be a Titans, Teen or otherwise.
Stan Lee & Jack Kirby our X'hal
And especially to George Pérez, unquestionably still the best of the best!
And to all a good night
Marv Wolfman
October 25, 1995

This was a rather emotional ending to Marv Wolfman's legendary Titans run, even if it didn't make a lick of sense. It might have been better had I been reading all 16 years of Wolfman's Titans stories, but from this issue, it seems like there were too many convenient happenstances to get all the characters in the final place Wolfman wanted. And it wasn't made entirely clear why the team had to fall apart as a whole. I mean, Arsenal, Minion, Terra, Green Lantern, Rose and Impulse could still be a pretty good team. Perhaps DC was originally intending to keep those characters together in a different title, but it never happened.

I always liked the idea of Impulse being a member of the Titans, but he never really seemed to fit in well with this Wolfman team. Wolfman had taken his characters on incredible journeys over his 16-year span, having them grow up, get married, have kids, die and come back to life. And there simply wasn't any room for younger, fresh characters like Impulse and Damage. Impulse really needs to be on a team of younger heroes, where everyone's on the same status. And that will happen, just not for a while.

There aren't any letters to the editor, but there are a whole bunch of ads we haven't seen in The Flash or Impulse.

One shattered child is one too many. Batman: The Ultimate Evil. A two-issue encounter with the destroyers of children. By Neal Barrett, Jr., Denys Cowan, and Prentiss Rollins.

The Ultimate Doom. It's Doom in its original entirety along with the all new demented episode four, "Thy Flesh Consumed." It's called Ultimate Doom. It's the kind of killing that makes life worth living.

Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits and No Doubt Tragic Kingdom Just a Girl from Sam Goody and Musicland.

What good is a Sony Playstation if it isn't Loaded. When I find F.U.B. my balloon will be red, he will go splatt! and I'll carve him up into bite-sized chunks so I can feed him to my fuzzy bear Peroy.

Elric: Song of the Black Sword by Michael Moorcock.

The flying is so realistic, it'll actually create a sonic boom. (In your shorts.) A two-page ad for Warhawk on Playstation.

It bleeds acid. It can read your mind. It is a born killer. It is the least of your worries. Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure.

The Immortal Eyes Chronicles. A trilogy of novels. A series of sourcebooks. The future of Changeling: The Dreaming.

Whose will be done? Kingdom Come. This is one of the best DC Elseworlds stories ever. Written by Mark Waid and painted by Alex Ross, this story presents a distant future of the DC Universe, corrupted by the more violent tendencies that became so popular in comics in the '90s. I debated reviewing this series, since the Flash of this story is kind of an amalgamation of all the other Flashes. I could have talked myself into including Bart in that list, but the story doesn't specifically say it's him, nor does it present anything that could be uniquely Bart. In the fact, the Flash in Kingdom Come is more of the concept of the Flash personified, and less of an actual human character. So I won't review Kingdom Come, but you should definitely read it anyway.

Skybox International presents The Battle of the Century. DC versus Marvel trading cards.

There is no cure. Contagion. An 11-part story in the various Batman titles.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In this case, rip out their spine and internal organs. Mortal Kombat 3.

Next time, we continue Dead Heat with The Flash #110.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Impulse #10

Dead Heat Second Lap: Disaffected Youth

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

Even though this is the third part of Dead Heat, this issue was mistakingly titled "Second Lap." Not a big deal, though. This cover by Ramos and Faucher is quite effective. On one hand, it's kind of funny with Impulse getting stuck in hot tar. But on the other hand, this is a very sad and stark cover with the strong red background and the look of defeat on Bart's face. Brace yourself: We've got a fairly serious issue of Impulse coming up.

Our story begins with Bart sadly — and slowly — walking to school. This is contrasted by his memories of putting on his Impulse costume to run on top of telephone wires and catch bullets with ease. But today, he's only wearing a New York Yankees jersey and feels like he's walking through wet laundry. This is the first time in Bart's short life he's ever not had super speed, and for the first time in his school career, Bart is late for class.

Preston tosses a video game to Bart he borrowed, but Bart can't react quickly enough, dropping the game and his books. The once hyperactive kid then spends the rest of class numbly and distractedly sitting there, not even bothering to finish writing his name on the quiz. Mrs. Dalrymple is initially upset by this behavior, but Assistant Principal Randal Sheridan arrives to tell her Bart's uncle is in the hospital.

We then visit Max in the hospital, along with Jay Garrick, Linda Park, Jenni Ognats, and Iris Allen, who recently joined the group. Jenni, whose English has improved considerably the past couple of days, says she didn't grow up with super speed, so she's not experiencing as big a shock as Bart is. Iris explains that was exactly why she wanted Bart to go to school today — so he could get a jump on adjusting to a normal life, just in case he never gets his speed back.

Jay and Linda discuss how odd it was that Max was never able to sense Savitar despite all his precautions. Johnny Quick then enters the room, still in his costume and still unable to get his speed formula to work. Jay catches him up on everything and Johnny finally admits that Max may have been right all along about the Speed Force. And then Max wakes up.

Bart's tough day at school continues, with him getting his butt kicked in dodgeball for the first time and having his coach chew him out for "actin' like somebody done cut off" his legs. At lunch, Carol spills her food right in front of Bart, and she yells at him for not trying to help. Preston whispers to her about Max, and she becomes concerned for Bart.

When Bart tries to sit down, some kids pull his chair out from under him and have a great laugh. Carol chews them out, telling them Bart's uncle is in the hospital, but the bullies laugh it off, saying Bart doesn't care about anything at all. This strikes a nerve in Bart, and all the frustration that's been building up the past few days finally comes to the surface. Bart punches the bully, is pulled away by Preston and Carol, then shoves them off and runs away.

With tears streaming down his face, Bart calls out for Max and begins the long journey to the hospital. He quickly runs out of breath, and has a hard time dodging a couple of kids on bikes and cuts up his knee. But Bart continues his sad journey.

Back at the hospital, Max explains that he's stored away some speed to help him metabolize his injuries. But then a couple of Savitar's ninjas show up to finish off the wounded. Max grabs Johnny's hand and transfers his remaining speed to him. Johnny begins to take out the ninjas, and Linda locks the door to try to keep the ninjas from spilling out into the I.C.U. Suddenly, Jay, Jenni and Bart begin to crackle with energy.

Jay and Jenni join the fight, and Bart picks up the pace. But the ninjas are formidable, and both Jenni and Jay are injured. And in the chaos, one of the ninjas places his sword on Max's neck. Suddenly, Bart comes crashing through the window and saves the day. And as is his custom, Savitar disintegrates his failed henchmen.

Max thanks Johnny for saving him, but Johnny says the credit belongs to Bart. Max looks at him and says, "Ah." Bart exclaims: "'Ah'? 'Ah'? I barreled in just in time to save your long, thin neck ... and all I get is 'Ah'?" Max looks at him for a moment, then says with a grin, "Ah." And Bart responds with the biggest smile he's had in a long time.

Jay then calls attention to the group, saying that if their speed has returned, that means Wally and Jesse must have done something right against Savitar. So they all prepare to take off and join the fight, but Max asks Jenni to stay behind with Iris and Linda, who are charged with coming up with a cover story for the nurses. And so Bart, Johnny, Jay and Max take off for Savitar's castle.

What a sweet, touching issue. My heart went out for poor Bart, who's had his entire world turned upside down. And although Bart and Max often butt heads, they do care about each other deep down, and it was so sweet to see that. This series proves time and time again that it's not just a goofy comedy. And it's issue like this that make this title so special for me.

Chris Mentzer, of Mesa, Ariz., says the cover of Impulse #5 perfectly sums up the series as a whole with the word, "Cool." He says he loves Bart's though balloons, and hopes to see White Lightning return, as well as a guest appearance of the Teen Titans.

Chris Karnes, of Naperville, Ill., said he liked the guest work on Impulse #7 by Pasko, Gnazzo and Stegbauer. He says Gridlock is an interesting villains, but is more interested in Bart's relationship with Carol, wondering whether Carol will ever learn that Bart is Impulse.

Chris Walker, of Pine Bluff, Ark., wrote a very long, rambling letter, where I guess he congratulated Martin Pasko, but mostly has fun pretending he's caught in a bunch of rotating time anomalies.

Chris Khalaf, of Houston, again asks for Plastic Man and Woozy to make a guest appearance. He says Pasko did a good job filling in for Waid, perfectly capturing Bart's relationship with Max, but he does express some confusion as to how Impulse actually defeated Gridlock.

Jack W. (Chris) Curl, Jr., of Houston, begins his letter directly to Impulse, saying he's sorry Impulse missed out on the adventure in space with the Titans. He then addresses the editor, requesting a miniseries with Impulse, Robin, Superboy, Damage, Ray and Green Lantern.

And to keep up the trend, the editor signs his name as Brian "Chris" Augustyn, all Chris all the time ... Now for few new ads.

Do you have what it takes to be a superhero? D.W. Bradley's CyberMage: Darklight Awakening. A computer game that includes a free comic book.

Fighting American and Boys' Ranch. Collections of old, pre-Marvel comics by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Next time, we'll take a quick break from Dead Heat to close out Marv Wolfman's 16-year run with The New Titans #130.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Flash #109

Dead Heat! Second Lap: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Mark Waid, Story
Oscar Jimenez, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar, Letterer
Tom McCraw, Colorist
Alisande Morales, Asst. Editor
Ruben Diaz, Assoc. Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

Our cover by Jimenez and Marzan does a good job of showing that Jay, Jesse and Bart have all lost their speed, while Wally's remains. However, they utilized a rather annoying computer effect to blur everything behind the Flash, and I can't stand it.

Our story begins with Wally arriving at Bart's house just in time to save him and Jenni from Savitar's super-speed ninjas. While Wally fights, Jay protects Bart's secret identity by forcing everybody inside and closing the door. Wally quickly defeats the ninjas, knocking out the last one with the refrigerator door. Savitar then disposes of his failed goons once again by causing them to rapidly age and disintegrate.

Bart tells everybody that Max has been missing for several days, and since they were counting on Max to explain who Savitar is, Bart pulls out all his personal papers to look for clues. Wally quickly sifts through everything and the only thing suspicious he finds is a journal written in Korean. Linda's parents are Korean, so she begins to translate it, while Jenni introduces herself to Wally and explains how they're related. Linda then finds Max's entry on Savitar and reads it to the group.

Savitar (real name unknown) was a military pilot from a third-world nation. He tested an experimental plane and pushed it beyond its limits and broke all speed records of the time. But then his plane was struck by lightning and exploded. But Savitar awoke unharmed thousands of miles away. He was soon surrounded by enemy soldiers, and upon discovering he had super speed, viciously attacked and killed his enemies.

The man made speed his new religion, traveling the world and studying everything he could. He took the name Savitar after the Hindu god of motion, and made it his lifelong pursuit to enter the Speed Force. All this happened when Jay was retired and before Barry came on the scene, meaning Johnny Quick and Max Mercury were the only active speedsters. Savitar once approached Johnny, seeking more enlightenment, but was disgusted to learn Johnny harnessed his power from a scientific formula. Max quickly arrived to help Johnny, but even the two of them couldn't defeat Savitar. So Max goaded Savitar into chasing him toward the Speed Force. But before they could enter it, Max shoved Savitar into the time stream, popping out himself a few years in the future. Max knew Savitar would eventually return, perhaps decades later, and that Savitar's acolytes remained, likely growing in strength and numbers. So Max spent his time probing the Speed Force through meditation and gathering as many allies as he could.

Everyone begins to discuss whether Max took Bart under his wing specifically for Savitar and why Max never mentioned any of this earlier. Linda speculates that Max was worried about Wally and/or Bart rushing off headfirst without much of plan. Right on cue, Max bursts through the front door. But he's wounded and covered in blood, revealing that Savitar carved a map to his castle into Max's chest. Max says he stored away some speed, which is keeping him alive, and he tells Wally he needs to fight Savitar before he kills him. He tells Wally that Savitar can't steal his speed, since he's so closely tied to the Speed Force.

Wally prepares to take off, giving Linda his customary kiss before a big fight, but then everybody protests about Wally taking on Savitar alone. Jenni reveals she has a flight ring — which surprises Bart — and Wally asks if Jesse can borrow the ring since he's more familiar with her. Jenni agrees, and Jesse arms herself with one of the ninja's swords. So Wally and Jesse head out — first to take Max to the hospital, and then to take on Savitar.

Things are really heating up nicely now, and Savitar is a pretty unique and formidable villain. One of the best ways to challenge a speedster is with another speedster, and a religious fanatic is a refreshing way to deal with it. It's also great to see all the hints and teases Max has been dropping for so long finally coming to light. Not a whole lot of Impulse here, but I was glad that Wally didn't chew him out for not reporting Max's disappearance. Bart will need to be taught that lesson, but now is not the time.

All the letters in Speed Reading deal with The Flash #106, which didn't include Impulse, so we'll just skip straight to the ads.

No pain, no game! Wrestle Mania: The Arcade Game on Super NES, Genesis, Playstation and PC CD-Rom.

You've got the power to get up to $6.00 off SEGA Pocket Arcade games with Honeybucks in Honeycomb cereal.

Open Ice: 2 on 2 Challenge. Only in arcades.

Vectorman for SEGA Genesis. This is a page-and-a-third ad, with the extra space detailing the rules for a contest to win $25,000.

More power than ever ... Power Chrome. DC Legends '95 trading cards.

Next time, check out Impulse #10 for chapter 3 of Dead Heat as a speed less Bart has to deal with the near fatal attack on Max Mercury and the fact that for all intents and purposes he may be a normal boy forever. Meanwhile, the speed ninjas attack Max's hospital room.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Year in Review: 1995

As an 8-year-old boy in 1995, I was very active in all the great forms of entertainment the year had to offer. It was the year of Toy Story and Pocahontas. Robin Williams continued his run as the funniest man alive (in my mind) with the exciting Jumanji. And although I didn't see Braveheart (won the Oscar for Best Picture) or Die Hard with a Vengeance (highest grossing film), I did see Apollo 13, which felt like one of the more important movies of year. But for me, by far the most important movie of 1995 was Batman Forever, which easily outclassed all other superhero movies at the time, including Judge Dredd (which I still haven't seen) and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (which I absolutely loved). But neither Batman Forever nor Power Rangers hold up very well 19 years later.

Nineteen ninety-five was Impulse's first full year in comics. And it's a historically significant year, as Impulse's own, self-titled series debuted. Impulse appeared in a total of 40 comics: nine New Titans, eight Impulse, six Flash, four Darkstars, three Damage, three Deathstroke, two Justice League Task Force, and one-shot cameos in Green Lantern, Guy Gardner: Warrior, Adventures of Superman, Primal Force and Blood Pak. It was a pretty busy year for Impulse, who helped Flash close out Terminal Velocity, participated in the Crimelord-Syndicate War, was briefly involved with Underworld Unleashed, and kicked off Dead Heat.

Best Issue: Impulse #6

I'll admit, I kind of surprised myself with this selection. The Flash #100 was amazing, and I almost went with Impulse #1, which established the new look of the character and the tone of the new series. But the issue didn't provide any new information for those who had already read Flash #92, and the actual story — about a rival businessman trying to destroy a hover tank — was quite boring. I initially read Impulse #1 years ago when I discovered it was free on Comixology. And the issue didn't leave that big of an impression on me. It wasn't until much later, when I read a handful of issues in the 30s, that I fell in love with Impulse. One in particular stood out to me, as it followed up on the events in Impulse #6. It was a major turning point for me when I realized this goofy, fun book also had the ability to address real-world challenges. Impulse #6 blew me away, and it just might be the best issue in the whole series.

Best Writer: Mark Waid

Waid is the hands-down favorite to win this award for the second year in a row. Not only did he continue to write amazing stuff on The Flash, but he gave Impulse a wonderful start in his own series.  He demonstrated great versatility by handling the more traditional, serious nature of The Flash, while maintaining a lighter sitcom-like tone for Impulse. And it's really the little things that help Waid stand out from other good comic book writers like Marv Wolfman. For example, the dialogue of a non-native English speaker. XS was a delightful charm with her struggles to learn English, and the Russian speedsters in The Flash actually sounded like Russians. Far too many people write foreigners with absolutely perfect English except for the most basic of words, like yes and no, which they always say in their native language. But Waid understands that foreign speakers confuse subject-verb agreements, mix up colloquial phrases, and sometimes just use the wrong word.

Best Artist: Humberto Ramos

Last year's winner, Mike Wieringo, sadly had a very limited involvement in his co-creation in 1995. He drew a handful of Flash covers, and that was it. It would have been great if he was a guest penciller on Impulse or The Flash. But even if he did do that, I probably would have still given this award to Humberto Ramos, a relatively unknown artist out of Mexico City, who tweaked Wieringo's design just a tad to make Impulse look more like a gangly 14-year-old. Ramos said he was thinking of rabbits when he gave Bart his famously big feet, and he admitted to being inspired, in part, by Japanese manga. Ramos' cartoony style proved to be a perfect fit for Impulse and his series, establishing a wonderful foundation for years to come.

Best Supporting Character: Max Mercury

Last year's winner was Damage, who quickly became Impulse's best friend on the New Titans. But that friendship deteriorated as quickly as it formed. Damage's angst began pushing everyone away, and although Impulse showed up in Damage's title a couple of times to help him out, Damage never seemed to acknowledge or appreciate the effort. So this award goes to Bart's new guardian, Max Mercury. At first, it seemed like a rather odd and random pairing, but Mark Waid's genius quickly shone through. Max's stoic nature makes him the perfect counter to Impulse for comedic and practical reasons. Max really is the most qualified to teach Bart to slow down. And although he rarely fights crime in his tights, he is playing a major role in Dead Heat.

Best Villain: Kobra

There were actually a handful to choose from this time. Impulse's first original villain, White Lightning, appeared in two issues, but ultimately didn't cause that much damage. Impulse's second original villain, Gridlock, was rather pathetic. Blockbuster made a guest appearance and caused the most damage in an Impulse issue, but he only showed up for that one-shot. Psimon, who won this award last year, did attack Impulse psychologically — showing him what he'd look like if Wally hadn't put a stop to his rapid aging. But Psimon was very quickly defeated that issue in an unsatisfying manner. So Kobra gets the award, since he was a constant, and powerful threat in The Flash. Kobra destroyed Keystone City, and beat the snot out of Impulse. And in a way, this brought the best out of him. I really enjoyed the hyper-focused and angry Impulse, desperately trying to prove he wasn't a failure. It really was Impulse's most heroic moment of 1995, outside of trying to save Preston from child abuse. But I don't consider Preston's mom to be a villain — just somebody who needs some help.

Well, what do you think? Did I do 1995 justice? Are these the right winners? Do I need to add more categories or background information? Let me know in the comments section or tweet me @BartAllenImpuls.

The year 1996 will sadly have less Impulse appearances than 1995. New Titans will come to an end, and Impulse will do very little with The Flash once Dead Heat ends. But the main Impulse series will continue on strong, and Impulse will take part in the Final Night event, as well as make plenty of guest appearances in a variety of titles.

Next time, part 2 of Dead Heat in The Flash #109.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Flash #108

Dead Heat First Lap: Flatfooted

Mark Waid • Story
Oscar Jimenez • Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr. • Inks
Gaspar • Letterer
Tom McCraw • Colorist
Alisande Morales • Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn • Editor

We've got a pretty cool cover by Jimenez and Marzan. These are the same type of ninjas that terrorized Impulse and XS at the end of Impulse #9. It's nice to have the Flash back in a high-stakes adventure. And this cover portrays the intensity of a story called Dead Heat.

Our story begins one year ago, at the dark and scary castle we saw Max Mercury being held captive at. A group of creepy guys in blue robes perform a dark ritual and summon down a bolt of lightning, which kills one of them. Suddenly a large naked man with long hair appears and begins laughing maniacally.

Today, we see that Impulse and XS weren't the only speedsters who lost their powers. Jay Garrick drops a vase he thought he could catch — not a huge deal, but worrisome. Jesse Quick has a worse time, though. While out on a date, their car is hijacked. She speaks her speed formula — 3x2(9yz)4a — and chases after the thieves, but loses her speed mid-pursuit and is shot in the arm. But the most tragic example involves a couple of Russian speedsters I've never heard of before. Apparently they're running a high-end delivery service, and one of them decided to run a package up the side of a skyscraper. Halfway up, he lost his speed and fell to his death.

We then cut to Wally West enjoying a nice lunch with Linda Park at an outdoor cafe. They're having a good time until they bring up the topic of marriage. After a few awkward moments of silence, Wally is happy to suddenly be attacked by ninjas. But it turns out these ninjas also have super speed. After fighting for a bit, one of the ninjas gets away. Wally manages to knock one out, and is suddenly joined by Jay and Jesse.

Jay and Jesse tell Wally they lost their speed, and they believe that Wally has become so mainlined with the Speed Force that he has inadvertently stolen all the available energy. And to demonstrate how serious their predicament is, Jay shows Wally a remarkably up-to-date newspaper reporting the death of the Russian speedster.

We then cut to a quiet diner, where Iris West is meeting with Johnny Quick. Iris urges him to believe in the Speed Force, as someone's life is currently on the line. She hesitates to reveal any more information, saying only that all the speedsters are on the cusp of another major turning point. Johnny says he'll keep an eye out, but refuses to put the Speed Force above his formula. But as he tries to run away, he finds his formula has failed him for the first time.

Meanwhile, Wally's captive ninja has come to, opening up the possibility for interrogation. Wally takes the ninja to the top of a building and holds him over the edge by his ankle. The ninja reveals his master is Savitar, the lord of speed, who has "stripped the unworthy of their swiftness ... transferring it instead into Thunderbolts Agents." The ninja begins to gloat, saying Savitar will soon eliminate the "true students of speed." But suddenly, the ninja rapidly ages and his bones turns to dust in Wally's hands. Wally tells all this to the others, and that Bart Allen and Max Mercury are in danger, as well. Linda tries to call Max, but gets no response.

We then cut to a scene of Max before Impulse #9. Max is chained up and hanging upside down in the dark scary castle, being beaten by the large man we saw appear supernaturally in the beginning of this issue. The man, who can only be Savitar, accuses Max of spreading the speed and allowing others to join their little circle. Savitar says he wants to kill Max, but can't, since Max was the one who showed him "the face of God." So Savitar orders his ninjas to kill Max. And as we saw in Impulse #8, Max was able to free himself from the chains and defeat the ninjas.

Wally decides to use his new power of lending speed to others to take Linda, Jay and Jesse to Manchester to check on Bart and Max. Wally hopes Max can explain who Savitar is, and, more importantly, that Bart's secret identity has kept him safe. But it hasn't, as we end with the same image Impulse #9, with Impulse and XS surrounded by Savitar's ninjas.

The letters in Speed Reading are about The Flash #105, so we're lucky to have a few mentions of Impulse.

Chris Karnes, of Naperville, Ill., says the Impulse appearance was a nice surprise, and helped mirror the original Flash #105, which had Barry and Wally team up to fight the first Mirror Master. Chris also wants to see more interaction between Bart and Linda, believing that Bart's unnecessary use of powers would irritate her.

Chip Chandler, of Pampa, Texas, requests that Bart be used to usher in the Legion of Super-Heroes, which literally just happened with the introduction of XS.

Charles Skaggs, of Columbus, Ohio, says Impulse was a welcome sight, and he hopes Bart and Wally find a way to work out their differences.

Doud Ohmer, of Covington, Ky., says Bart needs to continue to show up in The Flash every once in a while. He also wants Wally to get along better with Bart, believing the two of them could be an unstoppable force.

Jason Perkins says he enjoyed the scenes of Impulse and Linda, and enjoys Mark Waid so much, he has decided to mow extra lawns to add Impulse to his pull list.

There are only two new ads here, and that's only if you count a different Mallrats ad. It's designed to look like a comic book cover, saying, "Supehero anatomy! Topless fortune telling! Bunny bashing! An more!"

Mad TV. It looks like a hypnotist, saying, "You will watch Mad TV!" over and over again.

Before we can continue to The Flash #109 for part two of Dead Heat, I'm going to wrap up the year of 1995 — Impulse's first full year in comics — with my Year in Review. I'll hand out awards for the best issue, writer, artist, supporting character and villain. It'll be a fun way to look back on how far this character has come.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Impulse #9

Running in the Family

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

Our cover by Ramos and Faucher shows a scowling Impulse running away from three random motorcyclists and, more importantly, XS! Who's XS, you may ask? Why, she's a member of the 30th century's Legion of Super-Heroes, and she's Bart's first cousin. Her real name is Jenni Ognats, and she's the granddaughter of Barry Allen and daughter of Dawn Allen. Here's a quick family tree:

                          Barry Allen – Iris West
                                        —     —
                                     |                 |
 Jevan Ognats – Dawn Allen  Don Allen – Meloni Thawne
                        |                                         |
               Jenni Ognats                       Bart Allen

So that's a lot easier than explaining how Bart and Wally West are related. Here's the complete Allen family tree. Like Bart, Jenni inherited the family's super speed. But unlike Bart, Jenni grew up normally and stayed in the 30th century, eventually joining the Legion of Super-Heroes and acquiring a Legion flight ring. But now, the Legion is trapped in the 20th century, and Jenni has become separated from her team.

Our story begins with Bart, though, who has spent the past three days home alone after Max Mercury's mysterious disappearance. Like any teenage boy, Bart has taken advantage of this time to eat junk food and play video games to his heart's content. And since Bart has super speed, he is playing four games simultaneously on three TVs and a GameBoy. But after 72 hours of such activity eventually gets boring, so Bart decided to finally go looking for Max. Instead, he finds a gang of purse-snatching motorcyclists — the guys on the cover except their bikes are red, yellow and green instead of all purple. Bart quickly takes out the first two, but then gets distracted by a purple blur zipping past him.

Impulse keeps his focus on the motorcyclist, and crashes into the purple blur, which is, of course, XS. The biker gets away, and Impulse slowly gets to his feet while XS gibbers at him in a different language. Impulse yells at her to "talk English," but she can't. Eventually, Impulse recognizes Interlac, the universal language of the future. He did speak it in his two years in the 30th century, but hasn't heard it since he arrived in 1994.

Now that the two can understand each other, XS asks Impulse if he's Bart Allen. Bart quotes the Simpson's with "I'm Bart Allen. Who the hell are you?" XS introduces herself as Jenni Ognats and picks up her cousin in a big hug. But Bart's in a bad mood. He says his grandma told him he had a cousin, but she never said she'd try to kill him. Jenni apologizes for the konk on the head, saying she was just trying to help.

Jenni explains that she got separated from the Legion of Super-Heroes on their trip through time, so she began looking for family. She went to the Flash Museum in Keystone City, knowing how to find it since it's in the same place in the future, only bigger. Jenni was drawn to the newest exhibit in the museum, which features Impulse. It's still rather small, but already includes a little Impulse statue, several photographs of him fighting Kobra and White Lightning, and a collection of newspaper articles. Jenni recognized Impulse's futuristic jumpsuit, which is made after the same cut Earthgov used to make the Legionnaire costumes. Using the Manchester Herald, Jenni tracked Bart down in Alabama to ask him to help her return to the future. But Bart had no idea how to help her, saying maybe Max could help, but he has no clue where he is.

We then see Max in a dark, scary tower, chained up and hanging upside down. A couple of ninjas move in to slice off his head, but Max vibrates his feet to free himself. And in a surprising display of violence for this title, Max uses the chains to strangle — and perhaps kill — his would-be executioners. The injured speedster then slowly makes his way toward the window to attempt an escape.

On a lighter note, Bart decides to take Jenni home, and since she's taller than him, he takes her to Max's closet to find some clothes that might fight. In an attempt to be "hep" and "groovy," Jenni throws on a very odd hodgepodge outfit. Bart then decides it's time to teach her English, figuring it should be easy since he was able to learn it quickly from his grandma. The English lesson lasts about 20 seconds, consisting of little more than Bart holding up a baseball and shouting the word "ball." They both soon realize this isn't working and head off to the library.

Jenni begins to read every children's book she can find, and Bart's friends Preston and Carol just happened to be there, too. Jenni excitedly introduces herself to them by saying, "Greetings! It is my honor to being Bart's cousin!" After an awkward moment of silence, Jenni follows that up with: "Ssssso. Have you ... seen Spot run ... ?" Bart quickly pulls her away for sounding like a door, and Preston says, "Wow. And I thought Bart was weird ..."

But before Bart and Jenni can leave the library, they run into Helen Claiborne, who asks Bart how Max is doing. Jenni interjects, frankly telling Helen that Max is likely off battling super villains. She then introduces herself as a Legionnaire of the United Planets and uses her powers to fight for justice much like Impulse. Bart almost has a heart attack, and angrily rips Jenni out of the library.

Bart then goes on a rant, in which he says the word stupid a lot, and chews out Jenni for almost revealing his secret identity. Jenni tries to apologize, but Bart's too upset to calm down. He yells at her for bonking him on the head, not learning English right, and in general, messing everything up. Right on cue, the last remaining purse-snatching motorcyclist returns, and Bart decides to take out his anger on him.

Impulse follows the biker up the mountain, and tries to swing in on a vine to take out the thief. The biker jumps off his motorcycle, and XS catches him. Impulse, meanwhile, didn't realize he was so close to the edge of the cliff, and begins to fall. Suddenly, he is caught in midair by XS. Bart thinks this is so cool, he instantly forgives Jenni for everything and asks how she can fly. Jenni says she might tell him later if he's nice to her.

The two kids then race home, and Bart tries to show off by vibrating through the wall. But he ends up crashing into it, instead. Jenni realizes both of them have lost their super speed, and she suggests they contact the Flash. But before they get the chance, they suddenly find themselves surrounded by the same type of ninjas that were threatening Max.

This was another great issue of Impulse. First, a note about the art. Humberto Ramos has really come into his own here, giving us some of the best facial expressions we've ever seen on Bart. It really helps that he was so angry for so much of this issue — an emotion he really displays — but I also loved the panic he had when Jenni nearly revealed his identity. And Bart's "English lesson" is one of my all-time favorite panels. But what really made the art stand out in this issue was the detailed backgrounds. Ramos started throwing in all sorts of fun tidbits, such as a Looney Tunes store, Cookie Monster in the library's kids section, and tons of sports clothing — the Alabama Crimson Tide, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic and New York Yankees. All these little extras make the issue more immersive and really enhance the reading experience.

I also applaud Mark Waid's efforts of keeping this book fun and light-hearted, while also putting in enough of the darker, more serious stuff to lead in to the Dead Heat crossover. The placement of this issue within that story is a little awkward, as technically the first part of Dead Heat (The Flash #108) came out a couple of weeks before Impulse #9. But the events of that issue take place at the same time as this, and they both share the same image on the final page. So it felt weird to me to have Flash #108 before Impulse #9, hence my little cheat in the order here.

Cindy Warner, of Westminster, Md., calls Impulse #6 a "totally believable, timely story with a twist," and one of the best stories she's read this year.

Mary Cateli, of Hagerstown, Md., calls the issue an "excellent story on jumping to conclusions," and hopes to see more of Preston, his dad and Carol.

Mark J. Kiewlak, of Nanticoke, Penn., said it was by far the most serious issue yet, but Mark Waid managed to make it entertaining and enlightening. He said he loved the pure goodness of Bart's decision to sacrifice his secret identity to save his friend. Mark also asks whether this story was loosely based on a real-world incident where a mother drowned her two little boys, but editor Brian Augustyn says that tragedy occurred after the issue was written.

Jeff DeMos, of New York, said the topic of child abuse "elevates Impulse beyond the realm of super-speed-kid-and-his-adventures." He applauds the book for tackling such a controversial issue, and imagining the potential good it could create, said he hopes Impulse doesn't shy away from such problem areas in the future.

Andrew Joseph, of Islington, Ontario, said he forgot that "violence need not wear a man's face." He also asks what the contribution was of Joyce Porter of E.T. Richardson Middle School. Augustyn explains that she was an administrator of the Philadelphia-area school, and she acted as a technical adviser to the story, explaining what a school and its people would do in a situation like Preston's.

Amy Koyama, of Los Angeles, enjoyed the touching issue #6, and also asks for more White Lightning. She also (rather stupidly) expresses confusion about Impulse appearing older in Justice League Task Force. Augustyn simply explains it as artistic license.

Alice Lewis writes, "DON'T YOU DARE CHANGE A THING!" She says she loves Impulse, calls him cute, but most of all, doesn't want the creative team to change. She also points out the Japanese manga-feel of the book, and Augustyn confirms that Humberto Ramos is a manga fan.

Our first ad is for Dungeons & Dragons, a game I did try to play with my friends a couple of time — even bought my own bag of dice. But it grew quite boring before too long.

The #1 comic book is now a hot new video game! A match made in hell. Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Video Game. On Super NES.

Believe in miracles! Mister Miracle. Dooley, Crespo, and Morias. The hottest super-hero team-ups — every month! Showcase 96.

A two-page ad for Street Fighter II. It shows a very large and ugly orange woman saying, "If you're going to fight, do it outside." Even your mom knows Street Fighter II is on Game Boy.

Pinky and The Brain Christmas Special. Peace on Earth, good will to mice. Pinky and the Brain are dressed as elves, with Pinky singing "Jingle narf," and Brain saying, "Not even world conquest, Pinky, is worth that humiliation."

You asked for it! And here it is! Order 12 issues ... get the Annual free! You could get 12 issues of Impulse for $16, when each individual issue normally cost $1.75.

Battle your brains out! Batman Forever Tiger electronic game. Most kids probably don't know what these things are, but they were cheap little handheld video games that could only play one game. It had a set background and could only light up a limited set of predetermined black figures to try to convey motion and movement. They were pretty fun, but quickly becoming obsolete by 1995.

Next time, we properly begin Dead Heat in The Flash #108.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Justice League Task Force #30


Priest • Writer
Ramon Bernado • Penciller
C Wallace & M Stegbauer • Inks
Adrienne Ray • Colorist
Kevin Cunningham • Letterer
Alisande Morales • Ass't Ed.
Ruben Diaz • Editor
Cover by Chris Batista & Chip Wallace, colored and separated by Matt Hollingsworth

The cover shows Martian Manhunter battling three rather random villains — Shrapnel, Sledge and Brimstone. He doesn't fight them simultaneously, but they are directly related to the Underworld Unleashed story. Actually, this issue is ironically more closely related to Underworld Unleashed than Impulse #8 was, even though Mark Waid was the author of the event.

The story begins with what I assume is supposed to be a joke. Martian Manhunter needs to assemble the Justice League Task Force, so he asks this blue pterodactyl man named Yazz to contact them. I have no idea who or what this Yazz is, but he seems to be something of a goofball. Anyway, Yazz accidentally contacts everybody who's ever had anything to do with the Justice League Task Force, leading to a room full of random heroes, including Nightwing, Wonder Woman, Damage and Impulse.

Martian Manhunter apologizes to everybody for the confusion, and they all leave, with Damage literally dragging Impulse away. To my surprise, Damage was wearing the Task Force suit they gave him when they offered him a spot on the team in Justice League Task Force #26. Even though Damage turned them down, they still apparently let him keep the suit, and he felt he should wear it when they called him a second time.

Anyway, that's all the Impulse we get here, so I won't dwell too much on this issue. Martian Manhunter tells the team one of their members has been captured, but an alert goes off before they can begin their rescue mission. Since J'onn says they're pressed for time, he decides to take down Shrapnel by himself. But as soon as he does, he gets another alert, and another. Meanwhile, the demon Neron visits the leaderless team and offers to grant each of them their deepest desire in exchange for their souls.

This wasn't a terrible issue, although the art was completely terrible. Everything and everybody just looked so flat, ugly and unrealistic. Even the coloring felt lazily slapped together, adding up to making this issue almost completely unbearable to read. But the actual story was fairly interesting, especially since we got to actually see this evil Neron in action.

I only have the digital copy of this issue, so no ads or letters this time. Next time, we'll prepare for the first official Impulse-Flash crossover with Impulse #9.