Friday, December 12, 2014

Year in Review: 1996

I was 9 years old in 1996, and just like everyone else that year, I absolutely loved Independence Day, which nearly doubled the worldwide gross of the second-highest film, Twister, which also was pretty good. I didn't see Mission: Impossible until I was 19, and I thought it was kinda stupid. But I really enjoyed Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the most underrated Disney animated classic, in my opinion), the live-action 101 Dalmatians, Eddie Murphy's classic, The Nutty Professor, and, of course, the immortal Space Jam. The Academy Award went to The English Patient, which I still haven't seen. The biggest superhero movie of the year was The Phantom, which scared me a bit back then.

Sadly, 1996 was a relatively quiet year for Impulse. After appearing in 40 comics in 1995, Impulse only showed up in 28 comics in 1996. He made a quick cameo in the final issue of The New Titans and didn't join another superhero team all year. And Impulse stopped showing up in The Flash after the Dead Heat storyline wrapped up. Altogether, 1996 gave us 12 issues of Impulse (including the Annual, which featured a future, alternate version of Impulse), four issues of The Flash, three issues of the Final Night miniseries, two issues of The Ray (as an alternate future version of Bart Allen as the Flash) and one appearance in The New Titans, The Adventures of Superman, Sovereign Seven, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Green Lantern and Robin Plus Impulse. I'm also counting JLX #1, which featured the amalgam character Mercury — a combination of Impulse and Marvel's Quicksilver. So, not only did we get fewer appearances of Impulse, but quite a few of them weren't the 14-year-old Bart Allen we know and love. However, what we did get in 1996 was very good, so let's take a look at the best of what the year had to offer.

Best Comic: Impulse #10

For the second year in a row, the sadder, more sentimental issue of Impulse wins out. It's kind of funny, since the Impulse series is known for its light-hearted humor, but these more introspective issues really stand out. Impulse #10 shows us what happens to Bart when he loses his super speed. But more importantly, it shows us what happens when someone Bart cares about is critically injured. Although he constantly butts heads with Max, Bart really does love him, and that love was expressed in a beautiful, touching way in this issue. Impulse #11 was also a significant issue, as it featured the death of Johnny Quick, but Impulse #10 carried a larger emotional impact. And it gave us more insight into Bart Allen than any other issue.

Best Writer: Mark Waid

It should come as no surprise that Waid wins this award for the third consecutive time. He engineered a brilliant Flash-Impulse crossover with Dead Heat, and continued to write brilliant stories for Impulse, expertly straddling the line between humorous and emotional stories. The Impulse issues in 1996 ranged from wacky dream sequences and inter-dimensional adventures with Zatanna to everyday teenage struggles with peer pressure. And let's not forget the emotional backstory of Max Mercury, which Waid began setting up right from the start of this series. Altogether another awesome year for one of the best comic book writers of all time.

Best Artist: Humberto Ramos

Ramos claims his second straight Best Artist Award, even though he began to take on more outside projects in 1996, requiring more guest artists to work on Impulse. But Ramos continued to draw all of the covers, and the issues he did do stand out heads-and-shoulders above anything else. His facial expressions and overall goofiness were unparalleled, and his action scenes were great, as well. And his covers were some of the boldest, most colorful masterpieces I've seen.

Best Supporting Character: XS

Max Mercury won this award for 1995, and he easily could have been a repeat winner, especially with his near-fatal injury and the revelation of his backstory. I also could have thrown in Carol Bucklen, as we got to learn more about her personal life, and she gave Bart his first kiss. But I'm going to give the 1996 award to Bart's cousin, Jenni Ognats. They didn't get to spend too much time together, but it was very sweet. Bart was initially frustrated with Jenni, but gradually grew to love her. She was the only teenager on the planet who could keep up with Bart's speed, and only the second blood relative he's come in contact with (after his grandma Iris Allen). And when Bart left a message for Jenni in a saxophone, it was one of the most touching moments of the series. So XS just barely edges out Max Mercury for this year.

Best Villain: Savitar

The winner of 1995 was Kobra, who wasn't seen or heard from at all in 1996. But Savitar easily claims this award, outranking the likes of Lord Manny I and Saul Zaranec. White Lightning did return, but she actually teamed up with the Trickster for a good cause. The only other possible villain that approaches Savitar's level of villainy is the Sun-Eater, but I consider that to be more of a force of nature than a calculating, evil individual. Besides, Impulse didn't directly battle the Sun-Eater. But Impulse did directly battle Savitar, who kidnapped Max, nearly killed, stole all the speedsters' powers, and caused the death of Johnny Quick. I thought he was a fascinating villain, and one more than powerful enough to unite the entire Flash family.

So that's it for 1996. We'll now head into 1997, which will be a slightly larger year for Impulse. He still won't join a superhero team, but he'll continue to make plenty of guest appearances and take part in DC's big event of the year — Genesis. The Impulse title will also undergo its first major creative team transition, which will be a bittersweet experience.

Next time, we'll take a quick peek at DC Universe Holiday Bash #1. Even though it has a cover date of January 1997, it likely came out in time for Christmas 1996.

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