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.

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