Friday, October 24, 2014

The Ray #25

Time and Tempest Book 1: The Pendulum

Christopher Priest – Script
Jason Armstrong – Penciller
Drew Geraci – Inker
Kevin Cunningham – Letterer
James Sinclair – Colorist
Alisande Morales – Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn – Editor

The cover by Armstrong and Geraci shows the Ray battling the Flash. But that's not Wally West — that's our lovable Bart Allen all grown up in the far future of 2016. And Ray is all grown up, too. He's a very powerful manipulator of light we've seen briefly in Justice League Task Force. He was also one of DC's most popular teenage heroes of 1996, and several letter writers requested an Impulse-Ray team-up. And here it is ... as adults.

Our story begins in the country of Bhranka with Flash and Triumph, another old member of Justice League Task Force who's main superpower is his enormous wealth. The two heroes are in the war-torn area to try to prevent Ray from interfering in the political affairs.

The fight with Ray gets off to a bad start. Triumph tries to blast him with his power suit, but Ray reflects the energy blast right into a helicopter. Flash catches all the falling soldiers, and he gets a bloody nose from squinting so hard due to Ray's brightness. Triumph then places Ray in an electromagnetic field, but he quickly bursts free and lashes out with a stream of deadly light beams. Even though Ray is faster than Flash, he can react at super speed like Flash can. And Flash takes advantage of this by using a mirror to reflect all these light beams right back at Ray. This provides a big enough jolt to get Ray to stop fighting and start talking.

But Triumph gets in one cheap shot before the discussion can begin. So Ray sucks up all the light in the area, making it pitch black until Flash tells him to stop. When Ray brings back the light, he bathes Triumph in blue light, which freezes him on the spot. Flash defrosts Triumph and then they finally begin to talk. Ray admits he was mainly involved in the war to protect his investment in the silicon chips produced in the country. And Triumph reveals he was only involved because he wanted Ray's computer chip factory to be destroyed so he could corner the market with his own company. Bart is disgusted by how self-serving the heroes are acting, and he leaves them to dig out casualties and help restore some order to the war-torn nation.

Later that night, Bart joins Ray and his girlfriend, Gaelon, in their apartment to watch the Philadelphia 76ers play the Detroit Pistons. Ray, however, is too busy making business deals on the phone to socialize, so Bart talks to Gaelon about how big a jerk Ray is. Bart wonders why he keeps hanging out with him and Triumph, speculating it's only because the three of them are rich superheroes. Gaelon points out that Ray wants to hang out with Bart because Bart reminds him of something he lost years ago, and if it weren't for Bart's influence, Ray would be an even bigger creep today.

After the game ends, the news shows a couple of people — a teenage boy and a young woman — sitting on the ledge of a skyscraper, apparently ready to commit suicide. The boy happens to look a lot like Ray, which causes Gaelon to tense up and quickly excuse herself from the party. We then see a quick flashback of a younger Gaelon meeting the teenage Ray, who asked a favor from her. Gaelon then throws on her police uniform to make good on her promise to the time-traveling Ray. As soon as Gaelon leaves, Bart chews Ray out for treating Gaelon so poorly. Ray calls Bart a wimp and Bart punches him. Bart then admits he's in love with Gaelon, and he throws on his Flash outfit to find Gaelon and tell her himself.

Gaelon then meets up with the Ray and Black Canary from 20 years in the past. Gaelon protects them from the police and news cameras, claiming to take them to a hospital, but actually taking them to Mount Rushmore. She gives the teenaged Ray the message a slightly older version of Ray left her long ago, which contains directions to help the younger Ray get back to 1995.

The old, jerky Ray of 2016, meanwhile, is using his powers to intimidate a corrupt businessman into merging his business with Ray's. Gaelon then meets up with him and chews him out for falling so far from the great hero he was back in 1995. She said she always hoped the funny, sweet teenager was still inside Ray, but now she realizes he's gone. So she finally breaks up with Ray and tearfully runs right into Bart's arms. Bart tries to comfort her, but he moves too quickly, and kisses her. Gaelon wasn't ready for that, and walks away from Bart, leaving him feeling like an idiot.

Bart takes out his frustrations on Ray, knocking him out while he was distracted on the phone. The emotionally distraught Bart leaves the door open, not realizing he's created the perfect opportunity for Ray's business rivals to exact their revenge. Gaelon, meanwhile, meets up with Triumph to discuss the possibility of time travel. She believes she can go back to when Ray was a teenager and prevent him from becoming the big jerk he is now. Triumph is uncertain about this, so he calls over Bart, who is steadfastly against the idea. But their conversation is interrupted by an alarm going off at Ray's apartment.

While conscious, Ray is one of the most powerful men on the planet, able to convert his body into light and phase through objects. But since Bart knocked him unconscious, Ray was just an ordinary man, and was killed by an ordinary bullet. Gaelon weeps at the death of Ray, and demands even more fiercely for Triumph and Bart to help her travel back in time. Bart hesitates, but after Gaelon calls him a coward, he finally relents. So Triumph puts together a space pod for Gaelon, which Bart runs around the world a bunch of times at the speed of light, finally launching it into space. Theoretically, it should do a few laps around the sun before returning to Earth in 1995. As Bart watches Gaelon fly away to an uncertain fate, he weeps at having lost his best friend.

So this was a rather odd, yet interesting look at a potential future for Bart Allen. I suppose it was always a given that Bart would eventually grow up to become the Flash, but I find it interesting that it was The Ray that gave us the first look at this possibility. And even though this is The Ray, this particular issue felt more like Bart's issue. He's the narrator of the story and get more screen time than Ray. In his internal monologue, Bart often asked himself what Max would say about the state of things, which I liked. I also found it interesting that the adult Bart would have a reputation for being timid, indecisive and even cowardly — basically the opposite of his teenaged, impulsive self. And the good thing here is, we will get one more final glimpse of this version of Bart in The Ray #27.

There are only two letters to the editor in this issue, and neither of them mention Impulse. There is a note from Alisande Morales explaining that Brian Augustyn is quitting as an editor, and she will leave The Ray with him. However, she will continue on as an assistant editor at DC, just on different titles. Now on to the new ads.

Legends of the Dead Earth. Earth is dead. But on a thousand worlds, in a thousand ways, Earth's greatest heroes live on. Impulse Annual #1 by Steve Vance, Mike Parobeck, and John Nyberg. I will cover this issue next time.

The 21st century is here. Matrix by DC Comics.

From the first laugh to final insanity. Batman: Dark Legends.

Watch This Space again has nothing relevant to Impulse, but it did mention an effort by DC to help raise awareness about leftover land mines in Bosnia.

Among a million shadow realms lies the one true world. Its throne is his to claim ... if he can reach it alive. Nine princes in Amber.

Next time, we'll continue our trend of alternate futures with Impulse Annual #1. Bart Allen won't be there, but we'll see a new kid try to live up to the name of Impulse.

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