Friday, February 6, 2015

Impulse Plus Gross-Out #1

Speed Freak

Len Kaminski • Words
Anthony Williams • Pencils
Andy Lanning • Inks
Pat Prentice • Letters
Noelle Giddings • Colors
Kali & Tørslünd • Flight Attendants
With thanks to Martin Griffith!

The first batch of the "Plus" issues did a good job of pairing characters that naturally fit together but for whatever reason hadn't officially met before. My favorite, naturally, was Robin Plus Impulse, although Wonder Woman Plus Jesse Quick was also very good. Well, in 1997, DC decided to take the "Plus" series in a new direction, using it as an opportunity to pair the more obscure characters from Scare Tactics with the more mainstream heroes. How well did this experiment work? Let's find out.

I really have mixed feelings on this cover, painted by Dan Brereton. On one hand, it is kind of fun to see Impulse painted, and the overall style of this cover is a fun change of pace. But on the other hand, I feel like this image is really lacking. It just seems like it ought to be better than it is. One reason probably has to do with Impulse running in mid-air. He's not jumping or anything — just hovering about a foot or so above ground, which is definitely something Impulse cannot do.

Our story begins with a helicopter transporting the large monster covered in purple scabs. Apparently these government-type soldiers picked up Gross-Out in Philadelphia and are taking him to New Mexico, which has them crossing over Alabama. Suddenly, Gross-Out wakes up in a rage, breaks his chains, and falls out of the helicopter, crashing into a swamp near Bart Allen's house. The loud crash wakes up Bart in the middle of the night, so he decides to go investigate as Impulse.

But the crash also woke up Max Mercury, who actually beats Bart to the scene, and discovers a trail of very large footprints. Bart gets very excited, thinking they belong to Bigfootz. He then starts babbling, saying Bigfootzes are extinct in the 30th century, but not in the 20th, which is still full of Nessies, Poltergeese and Yoo-foes. Bart wants to keep looking for the large creature, but Max reminds him it's a school night and takes him to bed. Meanwhile, a severed head rolls out of a box and starts speaking nonsense as it rolls down a hill. We cut back to Gross-Out, who is attacked by an alligator. He kills the alligator, but then immediately begins to weep and apologize.

Several days later, Bart and Max are out and about, and notice a lot of excitement built up around "Bogman" from articles in the National Tattler to T-shirts, balloons and Bog burgers. Max then oddly launches into a tirade about how the Indians respected the Sasquatch and gave him his privacy, but then the white man came in and turned a sacred mystery into a cheap sideshow. A bunch of helicopters and airplanes soon zoom overhead, and Max decries them as hunters, telling Bart it's no accident that creatures like the Sasquatch are extinct in the future.

So Bart gets all worked up, and puts on his Impulse uniform to stop the stupid 20th century jerks from wiping out all the really cool stuff. Impulse luckily find Gross-Out before the soldiers do, and although he is initially scared of the large monster, they both quickly realize they're friendly. Gross-Out introduces himself as Phil, and Impulse asks why he isn't hairier. But soon they're surrounded by the soldiers, who don't know who Impulse is, but decide to capture him as well. Impulse has no problem taking out most of the soldiers, but one of them wisely aims his weapon ahead of Impulse. Seeing his new friend is about to be hit, Gross-Out throws himself in front of Impulse.

Both Impulse and Gross-Out are caught in an electric blast, which leaves Impulse completely drained of energy. But Gross-Out feels fine, so he scoops up Impulse and begins running away to safety, discovering he now has super speed. Impulse tells Gross-Out to take him back to Max to figure out what happened. Unfortunately, Max has no solutions, so the lethargic Bart crashes in front of the TV while Max takes Gross-Out outside for star-gazing. Bart watches an MTV-like channel play the Tad Wellington hit, "Do the Fetus," and he begins to cry when he sees Gross-Out use his speed outside.

Gross-Out is able to offer no explanation for what happened, only saying he got turned into a monster after encountering a strange meteor. He loves having super speed, but when he sees the depressed Bart inside, he realizes he can't keep Bart's powers. Max asks him how he's going to give the speed back since he doesn't even know how he got it in the first place. But Gross-Out doesn't care. He runs back inside and grabs Bart's hand. There's a big flash of light, and, sure enough, Bart gets his super speed back.

The next day, Gross-Out decides to head out, despite Max really wanting him to stay since he shares his love of astronomy and thinks he'll be a good influence on Bart. But Gross-Out believes the soldiers searching for him will try to capture Bart and Max as well. So Bart somehow rounds up some clothes big enough for Gross-Out and loads him up with all sorts of supplies, including matches and Coca-Cola. Impulse then takes Gross-Out out of Alabama by "carrying" him in his speed stream. They then encounter the random purple severed head from earlier, which is still speaking nonsensically. Gross-Out becomes enamored with it and decides to take it with him so it won't be lonely. And Bart leaves him with these very true words: "Y'know, I gotta hand it to you, Phil. I may be faster, but when it comes to weird — no way can I keep up with you."

What just happened? Seriously. What the heck was going on in this issue? Absolutely nothing was explained, least of all who or what Gross-Out is. And wasn't the main goal of this "Plus" series to attract mainstream readers to the Scare Tactics series? But how are those mainstream readers supposed to get excited for Scare Tactics when this issue tells them nothing about it?

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Len Kaminski didn't read a single issue of Impulse before writing this story. He knew that Bart was from the 30th century, so he threw in lots of unnatural dialogue of him negatively comparing the 20th century to the 30th. Bart never does this because he barely lived in the 30th century and doesn't know a whole lot about it. Kaminski also heard that Max worked with Indians in the Wild West, so he threw in lots of unnatural dialogue with Max talking respectfully of the Sasquatch and decrying the sins of the white man. No. That's not how these characters act at all.

And there were quite a few missed opportunities presented by this issue. It would have been fun to see Helen's reaction to having a literal monster brought in her house. And if Kaminski read Impulse #6, he would have known that Manchester, Alabama, already dealt with stories of a swamp monster. And if he had read Impulse #10, he would have known that Bart has already experienced losing his powers. That's all this issue was: a missed opportunity.

Frequent fill-in artist Anthony Williams returned to Impulse, but sadly showed no improvement from his previous efforts. Instead of being a welcome and familiar art style in an unfamiliar setting, Williams' work just served as another reminder for why DC was wise to pass on him and give the series to Craig Rousseau. So when you put a bad story with bad art, you get a really bad issue. Which is a terrible shame, since Impulse Plus could have been so fun. How great would an Impulse Plus Superboy have been? Or Impulse Plus Ray, Damage or just about anybody but Gross-Out?

We also have a backup story, which has nothing to do with Impulse and everything to do with Scare Tactics. It feels quite worthless and is excruciatingly slow, which is surprising for a quick backup. But one whole page was devoted to a guy literally waiting for something to download on his slow Internet connection. It's an 11-page story that easily could have been four pages. And it's continued in Superboy Plus Slither #2! I can't wait to not read that!

We do have a letters page, which explains that there was a large demand to pair up Scare Tactics characters with mainstream heroes. All the letters are extremely weird and none of them mention Impulse, so let's just move on to the ads:

Snag a free Mitre mini soccer ball from Tang with one Tang able plus $1.75 postage and handling.

Introducing Weird Wally Watermelon. Wally wants all 7,000 of your taste buds for a little game of duck, duck, goose. New & Improved Tangy Taffy. I do remember Tangy Taffy, and I remember it to taste quite awful. Which is probably why you don't see it anymore.

Awesome! A cool 3-D image on one side ... a space age hologram on the other! Baseball cards offered through Denny's, featuring Ken Caminti of the San Diego Padres.

Another baseball card ad showing Kenny Lofton of the Atlanta Braves saying, "I feel better knowing Mike has my stolen base stats — so he can see he's not the only catcher I've embarrassed." Opposite him is Mike Piazza of the Los Angeles Dodgers saying, "Keep reading, Kenny. It'll give you something to do in the dugout after I've gunned you down." This does take me back to the innocent pre-Internet days when the best way to get player's statistics was through trading cards.

Fun for the whole family! The Adventures of Galgameth. Available only on home video prior to the Disney Channel premiere.

Two friends. One courageous adventure. Shiloh. Own it on video!

New Bronco Bright Post Fruity Pebbles colors so loud, you can dance to 'em!

Next time, we return to a much more normal Impulse #29.

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