Sunday, December 7, 2014

Robin Plus Impulse #1

Dashing Through the Snow

Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid • Story
John Royle • Pencils
Rob Leigh • Inks
Jason Wright • Colors
John Costanza • Letters
Jordan B. Gorfinkel • Editor

Fans have been asking for this pretty much since the creation of Impulse. And now, our lovable speedster finally gets to team up with the most famous teenage superhero of all time — Robin. And even though Robin gets top billing here, this almost feels like an exclusive Impulse story since it involves his two creators: Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, who did the cover with John Dell. Wieringo was the regular penciller on Robin at the time, and it shows. Robin looks great on this cover, but Impulse ... not so much. Keep in mind that even though Wieringo designed the character, he only drew him in a couple of issues. Most likely, this was the first time Wieringo drew Impulse since the cover of Flash #100, and sadly, he did not incorporate some of the elements Humberto Ramos introduced to the character. But that's alright, since John Royle did the pencils inside, and, while not as polished as Wieringo or Ramos, he did manage to give Impulse the more updated look.

Our story begins in Gotham City, with Robin investigating a burglary. Although we don't see him, Batman is communicating with Robin the whole time, offering tips and helping out from the background. Apparently a former Soviet Bloc super spy named Piotr Vilk has stolen some obsolete computer equipment, which has quite befuddled our young detective. But before Robin can get too far with his investigation, his rope is cut by a mysterious woman in a gold mask.

Robin's next step has him tracking Vilk down to The Pines ski resort in Virginia. So Robin decides to visit the place as Tim Drake with a couple of friends and Alfred, telling them his dad had discount tickets to the resort. Tim and Alfred quickly set up a makeshift crime lab in their hotel room, and Tim is able to spot Vilk with his binoculars. But Vilk is with another large, intimidating man and a beautiful young woman, so Alfred advises Tim to bide his time. Tim then spots some more kids arriving at the resort, one in particular with really big feet.

And, of course, the kid with big feet is Bart Allen, who is visiting The Pines with his class, including Carol and Preston. And Max Mercury is there, acting as a chaperone and encouraging Bart to behave like a normal kid. Surprisingly, Bart absolutely hates the snow and his puffy winter clothes. But he gets the chance to run a bit when Preston notices his wallet is missing. Bart vibrates out of his coat and boots, runs the few hundred miles back to Manchester, Alabama, finds Preston's wallet in his house, and brings it back, claiming to have found it in the snow all before anyone had a chance to notice Bart's winter clothes were momentarily empty. Everyone except Max, that is, who lectures Bart about protecting his secret identity and punishes him by having him carry everyone's skis.

Later, Bart happens to share a chair lift with Tim Drake. Bart has a hard time hiding his disgust (and even a little terror) of the idea of skiing, and Tim admits he's hoping for some other kind of action. But while Tim skis down the slope, Bart finds himself frozen with fear for the first time in his life. And the once proud daredevil shamefully backs away in front of his classmates.

Back at the lodge, Bart busies himself with Downhill Doom 3 on his Game Lad and tries to sound cool in front of Preston and Carol by saying the slope simply wasn't challenging enough for him. But despite his video game, Bart is able to notice Piotr Vilk suspiciously leaving the lodge at night with a briefcase. Robin also noticed Vilk's movement, and decided to follow him on cross country skis. But Robin's ski gets caught on a tree branch, alerting Vilk to Robin's position. The Russian spy pulls out a gun and begins firing at the Boy Wonder, but suddenly, Impulse arrives, catches the bullets, and says, "Relax, Red-Breast — Impulse is on the case!" Impulse frees Robin, and pulls him to safety behind a snow bank. Robin then says, "Thanks for the save ... Bart."

Bart has a wonderfully comical reaction, and Robin assures him he'll keep his identity a secret. Impulse then asks Robin if he can join him on his case, and Robin says yes. Then Impulse asks for Robin's secret identity, but he says no.

So our two heroes track Vilk and his out-of-date computer equipment to a military camp. Alfred then contacts Robin via his radio, saying he's identified Vilk's associate as one George Deegan, leader of the super-violent militia group White Heat. Alfred advises Robin stay behind and wait for Batman, but Impulse doesn't know the meaning of wait. Bart rushes in and begins beating up all the bad guys, and although Robin knows better, he can't help but act a little impulsive himself.

As the boys fight, Vilk's "girlfriend" sneaks away to quickly change into her outfit with the gold mask we saw at the beginning of this story. She joins the fight, but chews out Robin and Impulse for forcing her to blow her cover after six months of work. She introduces herself as Mystral, and points out that the only important people, Vilk and Deegan, have gotten away during the chaos. So the three heroes begin tracking Vilk once again, but this time he uses a hand grenade to bury them under an avalanche.

We then head back to the lodge, where we find out Max was out looking for Bart and Tim, but had to give up because of an incoming blizzard. And the storm has gotten so bad, even the professional rescuers decided to abandon the search. The panic unites Bart's and Tim's friends, and brings Max and Alfred together for the first time. Alfred tries to assure that Bart might be safe if he's with Tim, and Max agrees that Bart is unusually lucky, but he decides to go out looking for the boys again.

Back to the action, we see that Mystral apparently has super strength and is using it to keep our heroes from being buried by the snow. And Impulse is keeping them warm with his ... vibrational heat? At least that's what Robin said. Anyway, when Mystral tells the teens she's not strong enough to get them out of their makeshift cave, Impulse says he can save them and only didn't because no one asked. So Impulse creates a mini-vortex to tunnel the heroes to safety.

Mystral then locates Vilk via her telepathic powers, and explains that he was looking for an abandoned military base loaded with nuclear missiles in Mount Crockett. When our heroes arrive there, Robin realizes Vilk needed the old computer equipment to crack the base's outdated lock. And Mystral points out Vilk waited for a blizzard to keep the army away while he took the nukes.

So our heroes fight their way into the base, and the action gets a little silly. Impulse ties a rope between two trees to knock some guys off a snowmobile, then Mystral crashes the snowmobile into a truck carrying explosives. Then Robin pushes Impulse down a hill, so he can take out a bunch of guards while sliding on his butt. Impulse really likes it, calling it Downhill Doom IV.

This is where the plot gets a little mixed up. Vilk's associate, Deegan wanted to take all the weapons from the base to "save America from itself." But Vilk wanted to launch a nuclear strike on Russia to reunite the Soviet Union against America. Even though it seems like both their goals could be met here — they each want to unite their home countries under the threat of war — Deegan feels like Vilk used him. They easily could have just talked this out, but Vilk rashly decides to kill Deegan right before our heroes reach the control room.

Mystral takes off after Vilk, while Robin and Impulse try to prevent Vilk's nuke strike. Even though Vilk says he targeted all the missiles to land in Russia, the computer's map shows all the targets in America. Miscommunication between the writers and the artists, I guess. Anyway, Robin wasn't able to see Vilk enter in the specific digits of the code from across the room, but he is certain the password is five numbers followed by three letters and another two numbers. So Impulse begins entering every possible combination that matches that format. Robin points out he only has three and a half minutes, but Impulse says he beat Zelda in less time.

As the clock ticks down, Impulse jokes about confusing the computer with questions about love, but this only makes Robin freak out more. He says, "C'mon, Bart, everyone always says it's our generation that'll save the world — let's actually do it!!" Bart answers this melodramatic statement with an appropriate, "Um ... sure. Whatever." Sure enough, Bart saves the world with plenty of time to spare.

Impulse and Robin reunite with Mystral and take out all the remaining White Heat goons. Mystral then takes off, leaving behind her gold mask and her fake face she wore underneath it. Robin and Impulse then begin the long walk back to the lodge through the blizzard, while Impulse teases Robin for having a crush on Mystral.

This was a very fun, delightful comic book. The fans were right to clamor for a Robin-Impulse team-up — they work perfectly together! However, this issue did have a few flaws with it. The plot was overly complicated and weighed down with unnecessary details and characters, such as Deegan and even Mystral. As far as I know, Mystral never appeared again in any comic, which makes all her mystery and too-convenient powers all the more frustrating. This story would have been a lot better if it was just Robin and Impulse against Piotr Vilk. I think Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid just had too many ideas on the table and couldn't decide what to cut. And because there was so much nonsense going on with Mystral, the entire subplot of Max searching for the boys was dropped. Perhaps Augustyn was a better editor than a writer. But all in all, I really enjoyed this issue. The art was solid, the dialogue was funny, and this was the first of many wonderful Impulse-Robin adventures.

There aren't any letters to the editor (naturally), so we'll take a look at the ads:

Space Jam. Get ready to jam. Starring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Also Wayne Knight, before he'd play Micro in Punisher: War Zone, and Danny DeVito, after he played the Penguin in Batman Returns. I was 9 years old in 1996, so I believe that Space Jam is the greatest movie of all time. I even own the soundtrack!

See Johnny run. See Johnny fly. Be Johnny. Johnny Quest CD-ROM game.

Jordan jams! Bugs slams! Space Jam: The Video Game on PlayStation. I sadly didn't have this game as kid, but I did get to play it a couple of times and I thought it was really cool.

He's big on action! A two-page ad for the 12-inch action figure Action Man.

Why allowance was invented. A two-page ad for Major League Baseball cards.

Play dirty! Three Dirty Dwarves on SEGA Saturn.

JLA. The world's greatest heroes together again! Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, John Dell.

Dannon Sprinkl'ins Magic Crystals yogurt. If you wanted to destroy your comic book, you could fold this page in half to see the yogurt spell the word "new."

Next time, we'll cover Impulse #20, the final Impulse appearance with a 1996 cover date.

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