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.

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