Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Unlimited Access #3

The Greatest Heroes of all Time!

Karl Kesel – Writer
Pat Olliffe – Pencils
Al Williamson – Inks
Greg Wright – Colors
Jim Novak – Letters
Tom Brevoort – Editor
Mike Carlin – Consulting Editor
Bob Harras – Chief
Mark Gruenwald – Guiding Spirit

In the background of the cover, in gold for some reason, is the main character of this Marvel/DC crossover — Axel Asher, aka Access. He has recently been chosen as the custodian of the Marvel and DC universes, tasked with making sure they don't bleed into each other. But Access is new with his powers, and basically messed up. So not only do we have DC heroes and villains showing up in the Marvel universe, but we also have a bit of time travel going on here, as well. The cover gives us the original Avengers fighting the original Justice League. So that's not Wally West battling Giant Man, but Bart's grandpa, Barry Allen.

The cover itself is a fold-out cover, containing a brief synopsis of what's already happened in this series and who all the main characters are. I kind of like this idea, as it gives new readers a chance to catch up without wasting any space on the inside pages. And if you don't need to be caught up, you can easily keep the cover folded and ignore it.

Our story continues the fight from the cover — apparently all the heroes have been brainwashed by one of Darkseid's minions. Access is desperate to stop the fighting since Darkseid has teamed up with Magneto. So Access summons the present-day Superman to save the day. Superman uses his new electrical powers to shock the Avengers and JLA out of their brainwashed state. Soon, the two teams of heroes are united in battling Darkseid's forces of parademons.

Unfortunately, all the heroes are distracted and don't realize that Access has been captured by Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. So Access summons all the teenaged heroes he can think of — Wonder Girl, Captain Marvel Jr., Robin, Superboy, and, of course, Impulse. Wonder Girl is thrilled to be sharing an adventure with these other heroes, and Superboy feels like he took a wrong turn in Albuquerque. But Robin notices that Access is in trouble, so he gets the group of teen on track. Impulse quickly saves Access, and easily dodges Quicksilver when he tries to retaliate.

Robin quickly takes down Toad, while Superboy and Wonder Girl battle the Scarlet Witch. Captain Marvel Jr. is attacked by Juggernaut, and Superboy stops Sabertooth from sneaking up on Wonder Girl. Robin moves on to the Blob, but finds him a lot tougher than Toad. And Impulse just kind of stood around during all this. Suddenly, the original X-Men show up, and Darkseid and Magneto decide to withdraw their forces via boom tube.

Superboy, bemoaning his torn jacket, says they need to go after the villains, but Professor Xavier telepathically warns all the heroes to stay put until he figures out what's going on. Wonder Girl notes how similar the X-Men are to the Doom Patrol, but she can't figure out why she's never heard of them before. So Access finally explains everything to them.

Magneto and Darkseid then broadcast a message around the world, claiming domination for mutants and Apokolips. Robin wants to go find Superman and the JLA, but Cyclops insists on waiting for Professor X's orders. The two suddenly get into a fight for no reason, and Angel intervenes, but only makes things worse. Access tries to stop Robin and Angel from fighting, and he touches both of them at the same time. But that somehow fused Robin and Angel together into one new hero.

Well, that was fun. Impulse only had one small moment, but it was a good one. Some people like to debate whether Quicksilver is faster than the Flash, but at the end of the day, it's no contest. Impulse can run laps around Quicksilver, which is very fun to see. It's also interesting to see the group of heroes Impulse arrived with. There was a group of Teen Titans in early 1998, but they weren't terribly popular. This group — of Impulse, Superboy, Robin, Wonder Girl and Captain Marvel Jr. — were a lot more popular and prominent, although they didn't have their own team — yet. Before too long, all these heroes, minus Captain Marvel Jr., will form the wonderful team of Young Justice.

The story itself is rather average, especially on the insistence of making all the heroes fight each other. At least with the adult heroes, they used the brainwashing excuse. But why did Robin feel the need to start tossing around Cyclops? Whatever. There aren't any letters or editor's notes, so let's head straight to the ads.

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Marvel subscription ad with a special deal for the Heroes Return titles.

UCI offering free signed comics for Christmas.

Your worst nightmare is about to come true ... again ... and again ... and again ... Introducing Choose Your Own Nightmare, the interactive Multipath Movies where you control your fate.

Buy it now on videocassette! Men in Black. Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Yes, I did own this wonderful movie on videocassette. I thought Tommy Lee Jones was a much more natural fit as an alien-hunting secret agent than he was as Two-Face.

Next time, we'll return to the DC Universe with the special Impulse & The Atom Double-Shot #1.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Impulse #33

Time Out

William Messner-Loebs Writer
Craig Rousseau Penciller
Barbara Kaalberg Inker
Chris Eliopoulos Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt Assistant Editor
Paul Kupperberg Editor

The Jeff Matsuda cover era is over now, but the good news is that Craig Rousseau finally gets to start drawing his own covers again! I always appreciate it when the inside artist is also the outside artist — it helps give the reader a good idea of what they're going to get. Here, Rousseau teams up with mainstay cover inker Wayne Faucher to give us a light-hearted Thanksgiving scene. I haven't really seen anyone mention that Impulse needs to eat an enormous amount of food — as is often the case with other speedsters — but it's still a really fun image, even if this issue doesn't directly deal with Thanksgiving. I do find Carol's inclusion to be a bit odd, and I want to find out who messed up Helen's hair. It's supposed to be black with a white streak through it, not brown.

Our story begins in a dark office, where an old man has hired a familiar face — White Lightning. The man explains that he has an investment in the men who are being tried for toxic dumping in Manchester, Alabama, and he wants White Lightning to punish those who arrested these men and frighten the witnesses to death. White Lightning readily agrees, saying for the money she's being offered, she'll gladly terrify the whole state.

We then check in at Manchester Junior High, where Bart is helping a bunch of kids set up a large Christmas tree in the school. Bart complains that Impulse could have quickly done the whole thing, but Carol points out that he would have blown all the needles off and wrecked the tree. We then cut in to the office of Assistant Principal Randall Sheridan, where he is meeting with the school's new social worker, Jasper Pierson. Apparently the school board sent him to Manchester in light of all violence and civil disobedience surrounding the students during the past year.

So Pierson soon gets set up in his new office, and begins meeting with the problem students one-by-one, hoping to give them a "time out" to quietly reflect on what they're doing. His first student is Carol Bucklen, who is being raised by her older brother. Pierson notes that she's getting very good grades, but he's worried she's using school to cover up deeper problems, such as struggling to define her brother's role as a father in their sick role-playing fantasy used to cover up their pain. Carol insists that everything is fine, but Pierson senses lots of buried resentment and declares they have a lot of work to do.

Pierson's next victim is Preston Lindsay, who is being raised by his dad, while his mom continues to receive treatment for her violent tendencies. Pierson notes that Preston's home life is mostly stable and his grades are average, but he worries that this is a sign that Preston has a terrible, compulsive fear of change. But Pierson assures Preston that if they keep talking, they'll prevent the boy's bad feeling and resentments from coming out inappropriately and damaging his relationship with his family. Preston didn't even realize he had bad feelings he didn't know about, and he asks the counselor what he's going to do to hurt them. Pierson then calls a time out, saying they have a lot of work to do.

Next up is Evil Eye, whom we last saw trying to rob the mall during the big curfew strike. Pierson reveals that Evil Eye's real name is embarrassingly Wilfred, and he notes his grades are borderline at best and his father has never attended a parent-teacher conference. As Pierson combs through Evil Eye's rather thick file, he notes the boy has been running with a gang called the Legion of Eels, and been associated with vandalism, fighting and truancy. Evil Eye proclaims that school is stupid and he's only hanging around until his dad hits a big score and sets them up on easy street. Pierson continues to dig through the file and finds evidence of an extortion ring and 12 charges of trafficking in stolen property. He suggests they call a time out, and looks up to see Evil Eye has already left, which he thinks is a good idea.

Finally, it's Bart's turn to meet with Mr. Pierson. The social worker notes that Bart's grades are variable, and he's managed to impress his teachers. He sees Bart lives with his uncle, but can't find any record of guardianship papers. In fact, Pierson can't find birth certificates for Bart, Max or his parents. He says it seems like Bart never existed and his mom completely vanished. Bart truthfully explains that his mom is in the 30th century, fighting a rebellion against an evil empire. Bart also says that he was raised in a video game and that Max is a time-traveling superhero. He finally realizes he's let the horse out of the barn, and he tries to take back what he said. But Pierson believes that Bart's home life is so terrible that he's had to construct this imaginary life to deal with it.

Across town, another investigation is ongoing, as the accused toxic waste-dumpers are having a private meeting with the district attorney. Their lawyer is furious about this, and demands to see them immediately. Suddenly, a huge hole is blown in the side of the building by a heavily armed White Lightning. She tells the police to release her friends from the ridiculous dumping charge, and quickly takes off before the police can retaliate. One of the officers recalls a report saying White Lightning had stolen some ordnance from a secret government facility, which she is now using to intimidate the Manchester police.

Later that evening, Bart tells Max about his latest predicament. He says the diabolical social worker is on to them and will soon undo the months Bart spent establishing a secret identity through endless preparation, constant stress and brilliant improvisation. Max notes that Bart's definition of "brilliant improvisation" is blurting out the truth every time someone asks. But Bart is in a right-out frenzy, saying they need to do something about all the missing paperwork Max apparently forgot about when they first moved to Manchester. Max says he'd rather investigate the full-scale military assault on the police station from earlier in the day, but he reluctantly agrees to solve Bart's problem. With one phone call, Max is able to order birth certificates for himself, Bart and his parents, driving records, credit histories, a death certificate and grave site for Bart's dad, as well as a feedback loop to alert him if anyone goes poking around. Bart stares at Max in stunned silence, who simply says, "What?"

The next day, Bart decorates the school Christmas by himself, happily pointing out to Carol how he was able to do it two seconds instead of two hours. Carol says the other kids would have wanted to help, but Bart insists everyone hates tree trimming, and that he saved them all from hours of jostling, arguing and screaming. Suddenly, the tree explodes, courtesy of White Lightning. The super villain introduces herself as Moonshine for some reason, and warns Carol not to go off testifying about things she doesn't know about. Impulse quickly appears and disarms White Lightning. But the massive rifle begins beeping suspiciously, which worries both Carol and Impulse. White Lightning suggests that Impulse may have triggered the rifle's self-destruct, and to their horror, the rifle begins counting down. Impulse asks Carol to shut it off, but she says that he's the superhero. So he gives the rifle back to White Lightning, saying she has no choice but to shut if off now. But the villain laughs, saying maybe the gun isn't a bomb at all, and maybe it's just a beeping rifle. She then disappears in a cloud of smoke.

After school, Bart tells Max about his latest failure. Although Max points out that he saved Carol, Bart feels like White Lightning was able to escape because he didn't have a plan. So he spends the next few minutes filling out a big stack of papers of possible plans and alternatives. Max takes a look at one of his pages, which involves using microwaves to set Greenwich mean time back an hour. But Bart is determined this is the correct course of action, telling Max he's been right all along. Max says, "If I'm so right, why am I filled with dread?"

At twilight, Bart takes Carol and Preston on a walk outside Manchester. He has correctly deduced that White Lightning has come after everybody involved in the toxic waste-dumping trial, leaving Preston as the last target. He says White Lightning will soon show up to start pushing Preston around, but he has contacted Impulse, who will be there waiting for her. But Preston feels like he's coming face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus rex. Suddenly, Mr. Pierson spots the kids out on their own and tells them it's dangerous for them to be alone out here. His arrival was not a part of Bart's plan, so he tries to tell the counselor they're fine and there's no danger around for a hundred miles.

But Bart's interrupted by the arrival of White Lightning — in an Apache helicopter. Mr. Pierson stupidly tries to call a time out on the villain, but White Lightning begins firing her machine guns anyway. Max Mercury shows up in the nick of time to save Mr. Pierson, while Bart stands under the helicopter to adjust his plan to these unexpected developments. But as he shuffles through his big stack of papers, they get caught up in the wind and are sucked into one of the helicopter's engines. The papers cause the helicopter to crash, and Bart is so stunned by this development, Preston and Carol have to pull him to safety.

Later, Max is reading the paper while Bart plays his GameBoy. Max confirms that there's been no sign of Moonshine, and the trial is still on. Bart tells him Carol and Preston are still eager to testify, and he says he couldn't have stopped the villain without his plan. Max says he's glad to hear it, and continues reading his paper, which features an article with the headline, "Good luck JHR!" and a picture of man heading off to film school. Another article says "Kupps #1 Dad." I know for sure the first one is a reference to Assistant Editor Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt, who is leaving after this issue to pursue a career in film. Kupps is short for Editor Paul Kupperberg, and he may have had a child when this issue was being made, but I'm not entirely sure.

Anyway, on our final page, White Lightning returns to her mysterious, old client. She's nursing a broken wrist, but is otherwise fine. She reports her mission a success, and is rewarded with a large briefcase of money. The old man then reveals himself as Edward Dunsany, boss of bosses. He explains that his son set up a rival organization to undercut his own dumping business. So Dunsany hired White Lightning to stir up trouble around his son's case so the law will come down on him like a ton of bricks.

This was a really nice issue in terms of realistic human reactions and comic book continuity. I think it's completely reasonable for a school board to send a social worker to Manchester Junior High considering all the school has been through. And while Jasper Pierson is well-meaning, I'm sure we've all had to deal with people like him, who like to create problems to solve where there aren't any in the first place. I was also glad that Messner-Loebs is reminding us of past details about Carol, Preston and Bart, while also bringing back Evil Eye and White Lightning. However, Messner-Loebs' great weakness with names was on full display here, as he constantly switched back and forth between White Lightning and Moonshine. But overall, I really enjoy the job he's doing on this title. A lot of issues of Impulse have been standalone one- or two-shots. So it's nice to have something like this dumping trial serve as the backdrop during this run, while Messner-Loebs continues to tell stories about Bart and his friends growing up.

Our letters column begin with a farewell from Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt. He says he'll be leaving DC after three-and-a-half years, but he'll be sticking around Impulse for a few months. He does praise the efforts of Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, saying they planted the seeds for William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau, who have taken the ball and run with it.

Sam & Gabe, of Oak Park, Ill., simply ask for a professor to make a duplicator so there's like a hundred Barts. Jason jokes that will be DC's next big crossover, and says they're working with representatives from other comics companies to have Impulse appear in every comic published in America for one month. I know he's joking, but I kinda wish that did happen.

Aaron Cullers, of Miamisburg, Ohio, says his favorite joke in Impulse #29 was Impulse imagining a seal in a Navy uniform. And Jason happily admits that gag was his idea.

Zeke Ruffen, of Los Alamos, N.M., says he always enjoyed that Impulse was mostly comprised of self-contained stories and (incorrectly) says Waid waited 23 issues before doing a multiple-part story. That said, Zeke says he was worried about Messner-Loebs jumping into a continuing story like this, but said he's pleased with the results, especially with finding out what happened to David Claiborne.

Melissa K. Lester (17) loved how excited Preston got after being shot, and praises the artwork, saying Rousseau's really giving a great feel of the characters.

Jason Simmons (Da Bomb), of Greensboro, N.C., reports that Disney Adventures magazine named Impulse the best new superhero. I also read this magazine as a kid, but I don't remember Impulse's honor. That's probably because I didn't know who Impulse was back in 1997.

Aaron Cullers has a second letter printed for Impulse #30, saying he liked Dr. Morlo, but felt like David Claiborne was forced into the story. He also says Preston and Carol are some of the better supporting characters in the DC Universe.

Mamoun Nazul, of Boston, says the Genesis miniseries itself is disappointing, but many of the individual crossover issues are great. Mamoun also loved the teachers in issue #30, as well as Rousseau's facial expressions. Well, let's check out the new ads now:

Brett Favre says, "This holiday season, have a ball ... a cap, or Madden 98! ... And don't forget that really handsome Brett Favre action figure!" Take it from the NFL's two-time MVP, " 'Tis the season to get all new NFL gear. And don't forget that handsome Brett Favre action figure! Ho, Ho, Ho!"

Scooby-Doo where are you? Right here in a new-to-video feature-length animated movie kids are going to love! Scooby-Coo Goes Hollywood.

Dark Past. Dark Present. Dark Future. Across the generations they battle the eternal evil of Vandal Savage. Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty.

DC Comics Online. Featuring live chats with Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn and Grant Morrison.

Stratego. Now and beyond. This is a little comic strip, with alien warlords acquiring the board game, believing it will teach them Earth's defensive strategy.

Can you survive? Has man learned to live with the most powerful creatures imaginable? Don't miss Steve Spielberg's spectacular adventure! The Lost World: Jurassic Park. This was a rather disappointing movie, failing to live up to the magic of the first movie or the source material book by Michael Crichton.

Next time, Impulse will take part in DC's latest crossover with Marvel, Unlimited Access #3.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes #100


Tom Peyer Co-Plotter/Scripter
Tom McCraw Co-Plotter/Colorist
Lee Moder and Derec Aucoin Pencillers
Ray Kryssing and Drew Geraci Inkers
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Frank Berrios Assistant Editor
KC Carlson Editor

Here is the special anniversary issue of Legion of Super-Heroes. For issue #100, we got ... 96 pages. I don't understand why DC couldn't have thrown in four extra pages of something simple like a timeline or who's who pages. But we also got this fun fold-out cover from Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. It shows exactly what happens in this issue — the Legion finally returns to the 30th century and is reunited with the rest of the Legionnaires. And I'm very proud that Impulse was chosen as one of the guest stars to stand beside Martian Manhunter and Superman.

Our story begins with C.O.M.P.U.T.O. wreaking havoc along the northeastern seaboard. Things have gotten so bad that even Green Lantern has come in to help prevent airplanes from colliding midair. C.O.M.P.U.T.O. also has disconnected 911, so Saturn Girl is using her telepathy to locate any and all emergencies. She then directs Impulse toward each home invasion, house fire and any other crisis that is going unrecorded. Apparently, they've been at this for quite a while, since the usually energetic Impulse is actually asking for a break.

Meanwhile, Brainiac 5 is holed up in the makeshift war room with Robin, Superman and Martian Manhunter. Robin suggests they feed C.O.M.P.U.T.O. a virus, but Brainiac says a virus will be too slow, and his ultimate machine would be able to quickly adapt to it and destroy it. But he does get an idea to create a large electromagnetic pulse, aided by Superman's new electric powers. Superman is willing to help, but as is custom for this era, he once again professes to not fully understanding how his new powers work. By the time he figures them out, he'll be back to normal again.

Superboy, meanwhile, is stuck guarding the time portal C.O.M.P.U.T.O. created above Metropolis. His job is to make sure nothing accidentally enters or leaves the 30th century, which he feels is a very boring assignment. Four minutes later, Brainiac finishes building his EMP rods, saying Superman needs to take one into the stratosphere, while two of them need to be placed at the North and South Poles. So they form two teams to head to the opposite ends of the globe.

Martian Manhunter leads a group to the South Pole, which makes sense because his base is in Antartica. C.O.M.P.U.T.O. sends the possessed Cosmic Boy there to stop them, but our heroes are able to save the leader of the Legion, largely thanks to Martian Manhunter's shape-shifting ability confusing the machine. Once freed, Cosmic Boy says he needs to head straight to the time portal.

Impulse was placed on the North Pole team with Green Lantern, and they are encountered by C.O.M.P.U.T.O. and the possessed Triad. As Impulse attacks the evil machine, something odd happens. C.O.M.P.U.T.O. says, "Impulse! I've been admiring your accelerated nervous system! Mind if I tap in?" It then blasts Impulse with some sort of electrical energy, and poor Bart begins having seizures on the ground. Soon, he's up and running around, but I can't tell if he's being controlled or is just running wildly. In any case, Green Lantern teams up with the teleporter Gates to finally catch Impulse in a net. But the poor kid continues to have seizures on the ground until C.O.M.P.U.T.O. is finally defeated.

And that happens when Cosmic Boy returns from the 30th century with the entire Legion roster as reinforcements. C.O.M.P.U.T.O. saw through Brainiac's plan and blasted the EMP rod out of Superman's hand. So Brainiac falls back on Robin's original plan of using a virus, counting on all the extra heroes to confuse and distract the machine long enough for the virus to take hold. The Legion comes through, largely thanks to the illusions created by Sensor, which mixed up everybody's powers — XS, for example, appeared to be turn invisible, while the Invisible Kid was apparently using super speed. Once the illusion is lifted, C.O.M.P.U.T.O. doesn't know what to do, and Superman is able to deliver the virus and destroy the evil machine once and for all.

We're then treated to a very fun two-page splash with everyone catching up with their long-lost friends. Bart is naturally thrilled to see his cousin, Jenni, again, but we don't catch any of their conversation. Instead, we just see them running circles around everyone and bugging people. Finally, the time comes for the Legion to return home, and they take Ferro with them, who was in tears over the prospect of losing his best friends. They also bring along the little white monkey Koko, much to Brainiac 5's displeasure.

There are also a whole bunch of backup stories in this 96-page special, but none of them involve Impulse, so I'll skip them. Overall, I thought this was a great way to send the Legion back to the future. It was an epic adventure, involving all the Legionnaires and a handful of great guest stars. Once again, the art was the weakest part for me, and I also wish they would have better explained what exactly happened to Impulse. But all in all, it was a fun ride, and I will miss having the Legion around. I was growing particularly fond of Brainiac 5.

Next time, we'll return to the main series with Impulse #33.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Year in Review: 1997

Three movies in 1997 grossed more than $500,000,000. No. 3 was the wonderful Men in Black at $589 million. No. 2 was the disappointing The Lost World: Jurassic Park at $618 million (I read the book and liked it much better). The highest grossing film of the year made more money than those two combined. Coming in at a staggering, record-setting $1.8 billion — with a B — was Titanic. It also won the Academy Awards for best picture, director, original score and song. Since I was only 10 years old at the time, I had to wait until it came out on VHS to watch it. And even then, I could only watch the second tape, which did not contain any nudity. That's right. As late as 1997, we were still splitting long movies onto two separate VHS tapes.

Unfortunately, 1997 was not a good year for superhero films. The big one was Batman & Robin, which nearly destroyed the Batman franchise and all superhero films altogether. Just a terrible, terrible film. And many people forget this, but DC also released another movie in 1997 — Steel, starring Shaquille O'Neal. That movie is unwatchable, and technically worse than Batman & Robin. But the latter committed the greater sin by having a much larger budget and infinitely more popular and important character. I didn't see either of these movies in 1997 because I knew both would be awful. But I was more than occupied with Disney's Hercules and the release of the special editions of Star Wars.

This year was also a big one for Impulse. Coming off a relatively quiet 1996, Impulse appeared in 38 comics in 1997. Besides that, he also went through a major creative shift, swapping out Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos for William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau. Impulse still didn't find a new superhero team to replace the New Titans, but he did make a relatively high number of appearances thanks to the Flash Month, the Plus series, and the Genesis event. We also got to see Impulse in the DC Animated Universe and were given one final glimpse of the Impulse-Quicksilver cross, Mercury.

Best Issue: Impulse #24

This was a tough one to decide. Impulse #25 and Impulse #32 were both wonderful and emotional. But issue #24 earns the slight edge mainly for the one amazing splash page of Bart giving a farewell hug to Max. It was such a wonderful and effective image, perfectly encapsulating the dynamic of these two characters. This issue also introduced us to Bart's long-lost mother, gave us lots of backstory about Bart's origins, reunited Max with his distant daughter, and revealed that Carol knew Bart was Impulse. It was such a monumental issue with superior artwork, writing, emotion and humor. This, and issue #25, was the perfect way to end the amazing Waid-Ramos run.

Best Writer: Mark Waid

Waid claims this award for the fourth year in a row, even though he only wrote a handful of Impulse issues in 1997. But he also had a big hand in the Flash Month event, and the few issues Waid did write, really were the best of the year. There were a handful of fill-in writers this year, and William Messner-Loebs didn't become the official full-time writer until later in the year. All that adds up to a stronger case for Waid, who didn't just go through the motions in handing off his creation. He made sure to send off Impulse on a high note, while also laying the groundwork for a new direction for the series. It's going to be very sad moving forward without the incomparable Waid, but I know we'll be able to see him again from time to time.

Best Artist: Humberto Ramos

Ramos claims this award for the third consecutive year, even though he worked on even less issues this year than Waid did. But he did do a handful of wonderful covers, and he left on such a beautiful, strong note, I just had to give him the slight edge over Craig Rousseau. Rousseau got off to a very rough start, but improved dramatically by the end of the year. But he only got to do one of his covers in 1997, and even Rousseau at his very best isn't as good as Ramos, in my opinion. And let's not forget that Ramos had the greatest impact of Impulse out of all the artists to draw him. Ramos set a new standard for how the character looks and feels, laying the foundation for years to come. Rousseau picked up from there, and did do a great job, but at the end of the day, he's a very close second place in my book.

Best Supporting Character: Carol Bucklen

Carol finally breaks through after threatening to win this award pretty much from the beginning. And it's all because she finally figured out Bart is Impulse and told him about it. Now she can fill that void Bart has been missing in his life the whole time. He really needed someone his age who knew his secret identity. Now Bart has someone he can talk to openly about his double life, and someone who can help cover for him and protect his identity, as well as keep his fleeting mind focused. Max Mercury comes in a very close second, especially for his emotional outbursts with Bart in issues #23 and #24. But Max spent big chunks of 1997 playing the damsel in distress and needing to be rescued by Bart. Other strong candidates for this award include Preston (see issue #32) and Helen Claiborne.

Best Villain: President Thawne

Bart's other grandpa comes away with the award in a rather weak field. Darkseid was involved in Genesis, but he wasn't really the main villain of that event. And after him, who else really threatened Impulse? There was Dr. Morlo, the Spazz, and the Suit, but none of them really felt that threatening, at least as far as Impulse was concerned. So I give the nod to President Thawne. Not so much for what he did to Impulse in the present, but more for what he did to him in the past. Thawne killed Bart's dad, kidnapped Bart, told Meloni that Bart was dead, then tried to turn Bart into his personal soldier. He also is the sole reason Bart has to stay separated from his mother. He may not do a lot in terms of classic super-villain fighting, but the effects of his behind-the-scenes actions are enormous.

That's it for 1997. We'll now move into another big, monumental year for Impulse, in which he will finally, finally form a new, wonderful superhero team! But first, we have to send the Legionnaires back to the 30th century. Next time, Legion of Super-Heroes #100.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes #99

When the Reign Comes

Your guides to the 20th century:
Tom Peyer Co-Plotter/Scripter
Tom McCraw Co-Plotter/Colorist
Lee Moder & Derec Aucoin Pencillers
Ray Kryssing Inker
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Frank Berrios Assistant Editor
KC Carlson Editor

Our cover by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, the last of our Faces series, shows the Legionnaire known as Triad. Impulse has already has several encounters with the Legion of Super-Heroes, but he hasn't directly with her. Basically, all you need to know is that she can split into three people — obviously. But why was she chosen for this cover? Because she kind of inadvertently becomes the bad guy in this issue.

So apparently Brainiac 5 got a bit desperate and experimental in his efforts to return to the 30th century. He designed a super computer conveniently called C.O.M.P.U.T.O. Unfortunately, Brainiac's machine turned out to be too advanced and moody. It did open a time portal for the Legion of Super-Heroes as instructed, but then it soon realized it wouldn't be needed after they left. So C.O.M.P.U.T.O. basically threw a tantrum, took over Triad's body, and began doing everything it could to prevent the Legion from returning to the 30th century.

Oracle picks up some weird computer activity coming from Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, the Legion's new headquarters, so she orders Robin to go check it out. Meanwhile, the Legion tries and fails to stop C.O.M.P.U.T.O. Realizing the evil machine knows everything about them, Cosmic Boy suggests they call in some heroes C.O.M.P.U.T.O. doesn't know anything about. Brainiac 5 agrees this is a good idea, so he uses his telepathic earplug he gave to Impulse a long time ago to call in the fastest teen alive. The rest of the Legionnaires complain about this, but Brainiac points out that speed is of the essence here since their time portal will only remain open for three more hours.

Cosmic Boy calls in Superboy, and they all head over toward the Happy Harbor nuclear power plant, which is being attacked by C.O.M.P.U.T.O. Robin headed straight to the power plant and is the first hero on the scene. But Impulse arrives soon after, and is thrilled to be teaming up with the Boy Wonder once again.

Impulse races Robin into the power plant, saying the last one in is Max Mercury, which is a very odd thing to say, but oh well. Robin reluctantly follows Impulse inside, while Brainiac 5 communicates with Impulse en route. Brainiac deciphers Impulse's thought-pictograms as C.O.M.P.U.T.O. destroying the plant's systems. But this confuses Brainiac since his machine is a creative force, not a destroyer. Impulse then has to rush Robin out of the plant before it collapses, but they soon see that the building's not collapsing, but transforming. Turns out Brainiac was right after all, and C.O.M.P.U.T.O. transformed the power plant into a massive tank.

Impulse thinks this is pretty cool, but Robin insists it's very uncool. The tank soon launches a large missile out of its main gun, and Impulse is unable to reach it. Luckily, Superboy arrives just in time to catch it and tease Impulse. The Legion of Super-Heroes start to demolish the tank, and Impulse and Robin each get a hit in on C.O.M.P.U.T.O., knocking it down momentarily. Brainiac 5 tries to reason with his creation, but is quickly takes over Cosmic Boy and teleports away.

Impulse, Robin and Superboy together at last! It's amazing! Of course, these guys are merely the guests here, so we don't get to see too much interaction between the three biggest teenaged heroes of the time. But it was still wonderful to have them all together in the same comic book that wasn't also some large crossover event such as Genesis, Final Night or Zero Hour. Overall, I thought this was a very fun comic book, building up to the Legion's climactic 100th issue. Unfortunately, the art was pretty crappy, taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it.

Well, that's it for 1997. Before we can send the Legion of Super-Heroes home, let's take a look back at this very busy year for Impulse and hand out some rewards.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Impulse #32

Unhealed Wounds

William Messner-Loebs Writer
Craig Rousseau Penciller
Barbara Kaalberg Inker
Chris Eliopoulos Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt Assistant Editor
Paul Kupperberg Editor
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Our cover by Jeff Matsuda and Wayne Faucher gives us a very nice and fun closeup on Impulse's face. I'm not exactly sure what the lightning on Bart's remarkably skinny tongue is for — perhaps that's a result of him sticking his tongue out at super speed. This is also Matsuda's final cover on Impulse. I really enjoyed his expressive, angular style, and I wish we could have seen that on the inside pages.

Now that Genesis is over, and Max has been rescued from Dr. Morlo, the Owlhoot Syndicate and the Suit, life can finally return to normal in Manchester, Alabama. And that means Bart finally is able to tell Max about his disastrous encounter with the toxic-waste dumpers, in which Preston was grazed by a bullet. Bart tells Max the whole story, getting faster and faster at the end, then crosses his fingers in hopes Max won't yell too much. To Bart's astonishment, Max seems more interested in the Manchester Courier, and simply says, "You did fine. Don't get anyone else shot."

A perplexed Bart then takes his problems to Helen, who says, "Now there's an unusual concept. A teenager who doesn't understand the person who's raising him." When Bart tells her Max is being nice and accepting for no reason, Helen says, "You have my sympathy ... not!" (Ahh, so '90s!) Helen tells Bart to call her when he has a real problem, like world peace breaking out. So a very confused and upset Bart grabs his backpack and heads out to walk to school with Carol.

To Bart's frustration, Carol also fails to see the problem with Max failing to yell at Bart, reminding him that Preston is completely fine. Carol also tells Bart she's been contacted by the D.A.'s office, which thinks the dumpers were connected to organize crime, meaning she and Preston could testify at the trial. Bart begins to pout since nobody talked to him, but Carol points out that Bart technically wasn't there — Impulse was, and he can't testify. Bart then notices they're being followed by a suspicious car, so he quickly changes into Impulse to pull out who he believes to be more criminals.

Preston, meanwhile, is visiting his mother for the first time in nearly six months. After the horrific events of Impulse #6, Preston's mom was placed in therapy so she wouldn't be a danger to her son. And now Preston is finally coming to see her, with a potted plant in his hand. But Preston's mom isn't quite herself. She warns her son that the hospital is dangerous, since all the doctors are secretly lizard people from the underground city of Lizardia. She says she's written a 500-page document detailing their plans for world dominance, and she warns Preston to trust no one, not even his father. The case worker explains to Preston that his mom agreed to some elective drug therapy, but the doctors are having trouble adjusting her medications. This, however, doesn't make Preston feel any better.

We then cut back to the action with Bart and Carol, who find out the people following them are indeed undercover cops. They explain that there've been some threatening letters surrounding this toxic-waste dumping case, so the police decided to hire some protection for the potential witnesses. As the cops get back in their car, Bart calls them a couple of dweebs. To his surprise, Carol chides him for being mature, and praises the cops for acting like heroes, being tall and smelling like mint.

Carol takes off in a huff, leaving a confused Bart behind. He decides from now on he needs to start thinking more, which doesn't work out too well when Preston joins him. Preston tells Bart all about the state of his mom and he wonders whether he's making things worse by visiting her or staying away. Bart tries to think real hard, but can't come up with anything, so Preston decides to try to work things out on his own.

Later, we see Preston visiting his mom again. He's brought her another potted plant, and sees the three others he gave her have died. Today, Preston's mom is very happy. Too happy, in fact. Preston tries to tell her about the toxic-waste dumping trial, but she's only focused on milk and cookies and the sock hop.

At school, Preston gives Bart and Carol the latest update on his mom, and sadly begins to doubt if she'll ever get better. As they talk, Bart becomes annoyed with the undercover cops' poor job of discreetly protecting them. Although Carol still has her crush on the tall cop, calling him very intellectual. Bart tells Preston to pretend to ignore the cops, since it hurts their feelings when they're noticed. Preston responds by asking, "What about my feelings, huh? What about my mom's feelings?"

Preston then begins to go on a bit of rant about how no one cares about his mom at the clinic, and how his mom is either a raving loony or some person he doesn't even know. His emotional outburst is suddenly interrupted when the undercover cops tackle a suspicious man in a suit. Carol begs Bart to do something, but he worries about making the situation worse, since they could start shooting or throwing grenades at each other. Luckily, it turns out the man in the suit was merely a lawyer, trying to tell Carol and Preston that they've officially been called witnesses for the defense. So a happy Bart points out to Carol that he didn't do anything and it was good.

Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems. The lawyer's client specifically wants Carol and Preston to prove that no laws were broken. So on Preston's next visit to his mom (with another plant), he presents this quandary to her. Preston also asks her why Carol is following the one cop around like a puppy. Sadly, Preston's mom is still in no condition to help her son, being in a completely unresponsive state during this visit.

Luckily, Bart does have a responsive guardian to help him out. Bart is caught up on the concept of action vs. inaction, and expresses his frustration with not knowing which decision to make. Max says it's hard to make decisions, and sometimes he just flips a coin. This only causes Bart to freak out even more — not liking the idea of Max running his life with a coin toss. Their discussion is cut short by a news bulletin on the radio. Police have surrounded and begun evacuating Green Acres Mental Health Facility after receiving a threatening letter targeting the place. And, of course, Green Acres is where Preston's mom is being held.

Max and Impulse soon arrive on the scene, and after some worrying, Impulse decides to risk talking to the cops to see what's up. They tell him there are still a few patients inside, but they don't have any major cause for concern yet, especially since all the other letters turned out to be hoaxes. For some reason, Carol is also there, and she notices that Preston is gone.

Preston, naturally, is inside, visiting his mom. Bringing her a cactus this time, Preston is still wrestling his confused feelings about whether he feels guilty for his mom's predicament. But ultimately, he's resolved not to desert her when it seems like everyone else has. However, Preston's mom is not a good mood today. She begins shouting at Preston, calling him Susie for some reason.

Back outside, Impulse is struggling mightily with what he should do. He acknowledges he could check each room in the hospital in about five seconds, and if he finds a bomb, he'll be a hero. But he worries that perhaps the Flash's Rouges Gallery could be in there waiting for him with an advanced trap that is triggered by his super speed or vibrations. Impulse tries to consider all the possibilities, including the hospital being a trap set up by aliens seeking to send the whole town into space. Max tells Impulse he's overthinking this, but Bart reminds him he's always been taught to have a plan. The poor kid then begins to worry about how much planning is too much, and he gets caught in a loop saying, "Plan! No plan! Plan! No plan!"

Meanwhile, Preston's mom continues to shout at, and threaten to beat her son. But she's calling Preston by her own name, Susie, and she refers to herself as Ezra, who was her grandfather. Preston then realizes that she reliving a traumatic experience from her childhood. Outside, Impulse makes several false starts at entering the hospital, and Preston gives him a nice shock by walking up behind him.

Impulse is thrilled to see Preston is alright, and he explains that his mom quickly fell asleep after her episode. Preston goes on to tell Impulse that he just discovered him mom was beaten by her grandfather while staying on his farm in the summers. And Preston is relieved to finally realize that none of this was his fault. And Impulse is relieved to see Preston solved his problem without super powers. So he begins to contemplate retiring and picking up hobbies such as glassblowing and starting an herb garden.

This was a very good issue. I'm very glad that Messner-Loebs decided to write a followup to Impulse #6, which is still probably the best issue of the series. We got a great look inside Preston's head, and I felt his emotions and thoughts were very realistic. The only thing missing here was Preston's dad, who wasn't mentioned at all. As wonderful as it was to see a boy deal with his abusive/psychotic mother, I really wanted to see the expanded family dynamic of that boy's father and that woman's husband deal with this difficult situation. But other than that, I really loved this issue, including the tough debate Impulse dealt with. It's never easy to know when or how to interfere in other people's lives, and I think Bart did some major growing up in this issue. He's taken the first step to actually think about these consequences, but now he needs to learn how to think and not let moral and ethical quandaries mire him in inaction. Well, let's see what the readers thought about Impulse #28:

Claudio Franke says he's returned to the world of comic books after a six- or seven-year hiatus, and it's mostly due to Impulse. Claudio loves how Impulse is a book about a kid who happens to be a superhero and not the other way round.

Doud Ohmer, of Covington, Ky., hopes to see Arrowette return without her mother in the future. He also says Tom Peyer is the only guest writer who doesn't feel like an obvious guest writer.

Stacy Hogan also wants to see more Arrowette, and kind of rails on Max for his reluctance to get involved in family matters.

Mark Kiewlak, of Nanticoke, Penn., calls issue #28 the strongest issue not written by Mark Waid. But he didn't quite appreciate the ending, feeling more people needed to learn a lesson at the end, and he called Bart a brat for guilting Max at the end.

Gloriann Marters, of Naguabo, Puerto Rico, simply praises Impulse for being super-cool and says that she needs to subscribe to the series since her shop is always sold out of Impulse issues. Now for the few new ads:

New Marshmallow Alpha-Bits Supershapes!

Cut 'em out and clean up! With Post Toy Buck$ you can save up to $17.00 on all this cool stuff! (Crayola Deluxe Activity Set, Crash Bandicoot for PlayStation, K'Nex construction sets and select TYCO radio control vehicles.)

Watch This Space does have a very slight relation to Impulse. Letterer Chris Eliopoulos will also be lettering Green Lantern. Exciting, right?

Deck yourself with Dannon Sprinkl'ins!! Fa-la-la la-la ... la-la-lala! Get Mom to get yummy Dannon Sprinkl'ins! With glittery holiday stickers on every Holiday 4 pack! Collect all 4 sets and deck your tree! Your stockings! Yourself!

Next time, we'll wrap up 1997 by helping the Legionnaires finally return to the future in Legion of Super-Heroes #99.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Flash #132

Emergency Stop Part Three: Fashion Victims

Grant Morrison & Mark Millar • Writers
Paul Ryan • Penciller
John Nyberg • Inker
Gaspar • Letterer
Tom McCraw • Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt • Asst. Editor
Paul Kupperberg • Editor

Our cover by Steve Lightle is part of the Faces of the DC Universe event for this month. All the covers featured a closeup on the main character's face, and I think the result was pretty nice. I think it's fun to have different trends like this for the covers every now and then.

We pick up right where we left off last issue. The Suit has captured Max Mercury, beaten down Impulse and Jay Garrick, and freed a bunch of random and weird-looking super criminals, whom you've never seen before and will never see again. Wally, still suffering from two broken legs, has figured out how to create a new suit for himself made entirely out of Speed Force energy, which can prop him up and enable him to run like normal, despite his shattered bones.

Wally arrives in his new, golden suit just in the nick of time, and Jay quickly fills him in. The original Flash asks Wally to call in the JLA, but Wally says he'll only do that as a last resort. He then touches Jay and transfers some excess Speed Force energy to him, telling him to share it with Impulse while he battles the Suit. The sentient super villain costume uses Max's speed to break down a tree into a bunch of large, sharp spikes, which he launches directly at Wally. Flash simply vibrates through the spikes, and, as what happens with everything he vibrates through, they explode. Wally then gives the Suit an extra boost in speed, causing it race out of control around the world.

Jay catches up with the recovering Impulse and gives him a share of the Speed Force energy. Jay notes that the last time he moved this fast, Hitler was still alive. Impulse excitedly puts this extra speed to good use by first retrieving Jay's trademark helmet from one of the random prisoners. Impulse says, "Don't you know this hat ends up in a museum?" and tosses it back to its proper owner.

Back to the main fight, the Suit quickly recovers from its trip around the world and manages to whip up a low-level whirlwind, which slices through the legs of Wally's energy suit. Wally's broken legs give way, and he crashes on the bank of the river. His suit begins repairing itself, but the Suit is faster. So Wally tries to stall by calling out to Max, asking him to fight off the Suit. His plan works, and Max is able to make the Suit hesitate for just a second, which is more than enough time for Wally to flick a grain of sand through the Suit at super speed. This attack doesn't hurt Max, but it does create a small tear in the fabric, which Wally is able to grab hold of and quickly unravel the super villain.

Max is a bit beat up, but otherwise OK. He explains that the Suit didn't kill him because he was able to feed it Speed Force energy instead of letting it drain his own life energy. He also tells Wally that the Suit is actually an electrical field creature that was broadcast from another world and killed the original wearer of the suit and took control of it. Jay checks in with Wally and Max, saying he's already rebuilt the prison and has Impulse on cleanup duty, which does not compute with Max.

But while our heroes are busy talking, none of them notice that the entity has reformed the suit and attached it to Jay. Wally begs the Suit to release Jay and take him instead. The Suit can't resist the proposal, and releases Jay, wrapping itself around Wally. Bart then finishes putting all the prisoners back in their cells, and reunites with everyone to see Wally in terrible danger. He shouts, "I'm thinking a million things but they're all dumb! Think of something really smart, Max!"

So Max tries talking to the Suit, reminding it that Wally's legs are broken and the other speedsters can take advantage of that. Bart points out that the Suit's not listening, but that soon becomes irrelevant. Wally manages to use his vibrating trick to cause the Suit to explode and apparently trap its entity in the Speed Force. With the day finally saved, Bart congratulates Wally by saying, "Not bad for a crip." And he asks if he can keep his extra speed.

For Max' sanity, Wally denies Bart's request. All the heroes run home, but when Wally gets to his house, he finds the Mirror Master there waiting for him.

So this wasn't too bad of an issue. I've never been a fan of Wally making things explode by vibrating through them, but I did enjoy the creative use of this power here. And I thought Impulse and Max were handled well here, too. I was disappointed to learn the Suit was actually an electric entity from another world. I liked it so much better as just being a highly advanced costume that became sentient on its own. Maybe the whole entity thing would have worked better had we been given more than just a quick mention about it from Max. And although I guess you could call me a Grant Morrison fan (I love his Multiversity series), I feel like there's a time and a place for some of his wildness. I guess I should give Mark Millar some of the blame, but all of the lines about the Speed Force feel very much like Morrison. Talking about condensing pure Speed Force into three-dimensional space is just a bit too much for me.

Only one letter in Speed Reading mentions Impulse, and it brings up a pretty good point. Frequent writer Doud Ohmer, of Covington, Ky., asked why Wally didn't call in Bart, Max and Jesse for a recent adventure. This is a frequent problem with all superhero stories within a shared universe. Once it's established that a group of heroes can and will come together to face a specific threat, then it feels very strange when they don't reunite for the next, seemingly bigger threat. Even in this storyline, it felt weird that Wally didn't also include Jesse Quick, and he had to have a couple of throwaway lines about not wanting to bother the JLA. And I don't think anyone's been able to find a completely satisfactory solution to this problem. Well, let's get on with the ads now.

Meet the root of our evil. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero for Nintendo 64 and PlayStation.

Eat. Burp. Eat. Burp. Eat. Burp. Puke! These guys know how to party. Rampage World Tour for PlayStation and Sega Saturn.

Don't be left out in the cold. Batman & Robin. Own it on video. In this case, you'd be better to stay out in the cold.

Always chillin' the turf! Always Coca-Cola.

Sigourney Weaver. Winona Ryder. Alien: Resurrection. Also starring Ron Perlman before he played a vampire in Blade II, voiced Slade on Teen Titans, and took the lead in the Hellboy movies.

He who unwraps the Twix gets both bars. It's not just safe, it's the law.

Little Red Riding Hood just wet her pants. Chequemate C-3D Imaging.

Next time, we'll return to the main series with Impulse #32.

The Life Story of the Flash

Written by Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn
Art by Gil Kane, Joe Stanton & Tom Palmer
Lettered by Gaspar Saladino
Colored by Lovern Kindzierski
Separations by Digital Chameleon
Cover painting by Glen Orbik

This original 96-page hardcover was one of the crowning achievements of Flash Month, although it technically came out after that celebration period ended. Regardless, this is a beautifully packaged presentation of the biography Iris Allen wrote about her late husband, Barry Allen. I'd say this book is an even split between pages of traditional comic book panels and pages filled mostly with text and a few pictures. Altogether, it's a very impressive package. Although I'm not the biggest fan of the cover. Barry's Flash logo is way too big and fake-looking.

This book is a comprehensive retelling of all the major moments in Barry Allen's life, and I highly recommend it for all Flash fans. But this blog is focused on Barry's grandson, so let's skip ahead to page 92, where we're unfortunately treated with one of the worst images of Impulse I've ever seen.

The only negative I have with this book is the uneven art, and this is biggest example of that. It looks like Impulse's hip is broken and his neck has been removed. There's no way around this — it's just an awful, awful drawing. Anyway, Iris spends a whole page recapping Impulse's origin — how he was born, grew up too fast, was taken back to the 20th century and then moved in with Max Mercury. We should all know this by now. But the really interesting part of the book is the epilogue, where Iris writes about things that haven't happened yet. Here, I will directly quote Bart's grandmother:

"I will comfort Impulse when he learns a harsh lesson about life that will cost him a friend but gain him a lifelong companion. I will watch his greatest thrill come in the form of a very special gift from his timelost mother, and I will worry the day his greatest challenge arrives in the form of his own dark twin." Spooky!

The really neat thing here, is that this book also exists in the comic book universe. After Iris secluded herself in a cabin in the woods, she spent her time writing this biography. And we'll get to see it make its rounds in the pages of The Flash and Impulse.

The Life Story of the Flash has been reprinted at least twice in paperback, and is available digitally through Comixology. Anyone curious about the pre-New 52 Barry Allen needs to check this out, even with the freaky-looking Impulse in the back.

Next time, we'll begin the publication month of December 1997 by wrapping up the Emergency Stop storyline in The Flash #132.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Flash #131

Emergency Stop Part Two: Threads

Grant Morrison and Mark Millar Writers
Paul Ryan Penciller
John Nyberg Inker
Gaspar Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt Asst. Editor
Paul Kupperberg Editor

In Emergency Stop Part One, Flash battled a sentient super villain suit simply called The Suit. It has the ability to wrap itself around people, drain their life energy, and acquire their abilities. The Suit thought it killed the Flash last issue, but Wally obviously survived the encounter. But as our cover by Steve Lightle shows, Flash did not emerge from that fight unscathed. However, Wally's even more injured than indicated here — both his legs were shattered by the Suit.

Our story begins with a depressed Wally trying to get used to life in a wheelchair. His casts are signed by Amy, John (Nyberg), Brian (Augustyn), Max, Heather, Jay, Jason (Hernandez-Rosenblatt), Joan, Grant (Morrison), Mark (Millar), Smitty, (Paul) Ryan, Bart Rules, Linda (with a heart over the i) and Kupps (Paul Kupperberg). Even with his super speed, the doctors say it will take Wally a week or two before he can walk again. And since the Suit is still on the loose, Wally decides to call in Jay Garrick, Max Mercury and Bart Allen.

All the speedsters meet at Wally's house to put together a plan, and Linda serves snacks, which Bart immediately shoves into his face. Bart asks why Wally doesn't just become the fastest man on two wheels, and Wally explains that he did try it, but quickly destroyed his wheelchair in the process. Wally then gets back on point, and says that they have the element of surprise on their side. Since the Suit thinks he's dead, Wally wants the other speedsters to impersonate him, and he gives them his suit. Bart then asks Max how he can get one made of that shiny stuff, which makes no sense to me. Isn't Bart's suit from the 30th century, and should, therefore be better than Wally's? Anyway, Linda gets a phone call from the police. Apparently the Suit has taken over a highway patrol man and is now riding his motorcycle toward the prison.

So Bart becomes the first to wear Wally's suit, even though it's too big for him. Bart meets the Suit out on a bridge, and introduces himself as Bart Allen, the Flash. He then vibrates the bridge just enough to make it shake and cause the motorcycle to crash, but not too much to make the bridge collapse. The Suit is shocked to see the Flash alive and demands to know why he isn't dead. Bart simply says there was nothing to do, so he came back. And Bart zips away to hand Flash's uniform to Jay.

Jay helps add to the Suit's bewilderment by attacking from the side with a big wave he whipped up from the river. He then passes off Wally's uniform to Max, but something goes wrong. The Suit was somehow able to attach itself to Max, taking control of him and his powers. Bart becomes worried for Max's life, and he and Jay try to save him, but the Suit immediately resumes his trek toward the prison.

Meanwhile, Wally has become sick and tired of sitting around in a wheelchair doing nothing. So he begins reciting the old Johnny Quick formula in his head over and over again — 3X2(9YZ)4A — until he taps into the Speed Force. Wally then somehow gains control of this energy and causes it to manifest itself as a gold suit that begins to wrap around his body. We then cut back to our lovable Impulse, who has taken to scare tactics to stop the Suit.

The Suit had begun to run around the walls of the prison, trying to break them down. Bart and Jay arrived just in time to stop him, but when Jay punches the Suit, it reminds him that he's only hurting Max. This throws our heroes off guard long enough for the Suit to pick up and Impulse and throw him at super speed toward the prison wall. Jay warns Bart to vibrate through the wall, which he does. But by doing so, Bart compromised the wall's integrity just enough to bring it crashing down.

A large group of strange super criminals immediately come rushing out, and Jay prepares to make his final stand to stop them and the Suit. But suddenly, Jay is joined by Wally West, who is wearing a suit made of pure Speed Force energy that can somehow prop him up even with his broken legs.

Poor Max just can't catch a break. After being kidnapped by Dr. Morlo and unfathomably defeated by the Owlhoot Syndicate, he now finds himself in the clutches of the Suit. Overall, I thought this was a rather interesting issue, although it was definitely missing that magical Mark Waid touch. All the characters felt just a little bit off, and I'll blame Grant Morrison for the overly complicated attempts at explaining the Speed Force. In my opinion, the less said about the Speed Force, the better. But I did like the concept of the Suit, as well as the idea of Wally being sidelined with two broken legs. I just wish they could have spent some more time with an injured Wally. Really make him fret before he pops out with a shiny new suit.

None of the letters in Speed Reading mention Impulse, and none of the ads are new, so that means we've finally wrapped up Flash Month. Well, that's not necessarily true. There is one more Flash Month book that just missed the November 1997 publication date, and that is the special hardcover 96-page The Life Story of the Flash, which I will briefly cover next time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Impulse Annual #2


William Messner-Loebs Writer
Craig Rousseau Penciller
Barbara Kaalberg Inker
Chris Eliopolous Letterer
Rick Taylor Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt Assistant Editor
Paul Kupperberg Editor
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Our cover is painted by Glen Orbik, and it features probably the most realistic-looking Impulse you'll ever see. At first, I found this cover to be a little freaky, but it's really grown on me over time. I also like the gag of Impulse defacing his own wanted poster. Although I have to point out the poster's lettering, which is conveniently spaced out around Impulse's head and hand.

This annual was part of DC's Pulp Heroes event, and the creators of Impulse decided to go with a Western theme, which offers an opportunity to tell an old Max Mercury story. And 35 pages of this 52-page comic is a pretty fun story of Max when he was known as Windrunner in the Wild West. But Impulse isn't in that story, so we'll skip it and only cover the short story he does appear in.

We start with Max and Bart on a train heading out to Mesa City, Arizona, to visit Max' old friend, Greg Saunders, who went by the name Vigilante back in the day. Saunders, who had been trying to establish a high-tech dude ranch out there, had been encountering some mysterious "accidents." So Max and Bart threw on their best cowboy outfits (with Bart wearing a comically large hat) and headed out to see how they could help. Unfortunately, the train is moving like molasses for the bored Bart.

So Bart begins talking to his fellow passengers, trying very hard to sound like a cowboy, and he meets one Jodie Huang, who got a job at the dude ranch in Mesa City. Suddenly, the train encounter a large boulder on the tracks. So Impulse rushes out and lifts the boulder with a whirlwind, only to discover several sticks of dynamite strapped to it. Luckily, Impulse keeps it high enough in the air that it explodes harmlessly.

We then check in on Mesa City, where Greg Saunders comes across a wallet full of thousands of dollars and no forms of identification. A couple of rough-looking individuals also lay claim to the wallet and suggest they split the prize. But first, they want everyone to chip in a couple of hundred dollars as "good faith" money and store it all in a safe to be evenly split in a month. But Greg realizes he's being scammed, and manages to slip out the money, leaving only a note in the wallet that warns the crooks not to mess with the Vigilante.

Bart, Max and Jodie then arrive at Mesa City and meet up with Greg. They tell him about the trouble they had on the tracks, and Greg admits to Max it feels like some people are trying to drive him out. Max remembers that Mesa City used to be controlled by the Owlhoot Syndicate, and he suddenly takes off to follow some leads. This gives Bart the great chance to say that Max is very impulsive.

Suddenly, trouble breaks out at the cappuccino saloon, where some software engineers broke out into a fist-fight over a movie trivia game. With Max gone, Greg tells Bart it's all up to him now. So he changes into Impulse again, and quickly puts down most of the rioting techies. But it's Jodie who actually puts an end to the fighting by launching into a big song and dance number that calms everybody down.

Jodie's singing is so good, it attracts the attention of the bank manager, Harvey McTeague, who offers to pay her three times what Greg is paying her. Greg and the manager get into an argument over the ethics of business. Jodie takes advantage of his distraction to head out and start looking for a certain map. But she's suddenly scooped up by a hot air balloon with a brown owl on it. Impulse notes her kidnapping, and alerts Greg Saunders, who recognizes the symbol of the Owlhoot Syndicate.

Impulse tries to save Jodie with another whirlwind, but he accidentally kicks up a huge sandstorm. The sandstorm does bring down the hot air balloon, and Jodie, who'd been taking karate lessons, manages to fight off the thugs who grabbed her. She tells Impulse that was looking for her great-great grandfather's gold, which he melted down into railroad spikes and hid in the rails of the first transcontinental railroad. Jodie explains that her family always thought the gold was just a legend, until someone stole her great-great grandfather's diary.

Impulse then notices that his sandstorm uncovered a long-lost ghost town called 20 Coffins. So he and Jodie go to check it out, only to find McTeague and the Owlhoot Syndicate has captured Max. Greg soon arrives and finds himself in a standoff with McTeague and his goons. The old Vigilante is outgunned by the bad guys, but Impulse is there to catch all their bullets, letting Greg shoot the guns out of their hands. But McTeague is a sore loser, and burns the map to the gold spikes.

Jodie sadly describes the enormous effort it would be to individually check each spike without the map, but while she talks, Impulse does all the work for her, and soon drops a big pile of gold spikes at her feet. Jodie rewards Impulse with a big hug, and Greg starts working on a business plan with Jodie.

This was a pretty fun story, but it feels incomplete. Perhaps it was meant to be the usual 20 pages, but got cut down to 17 at the last minute. In any case, I really want to know what the heck Max was doing this whole issue. He took off right at the beginning and didn't show back up until the end, having been captured by a couple of low-level thugs. Come on, Max! You're better than that! At least he redeems himself with the next story, Thunder in Mesa City, in which he meets and inspires a young Johnny Thunder.

There aren't any letters to the editor in this issue, so let's head straight to the ads.

Tangent Comics. The only thing you know is the names! The Joker #1, Metal Men #1, Nightwing #1.

Watch This Space continues to talk about San Diego Comic Con and really has nothing to do with Impulse.

The toons are taking over! Scooby-Coo. The Mystery Inc. gang stars in all-new, hair-raising adventures every month!

The Flinstones and the Jetsons. The first families of the Stone Age and the Space Age share the spotlight in one all-new, sidesplitting monthly comic!

Next time, we'll wrap up the epic Flash Month with The Flash #131.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Impulse #31

Solving the Puzzle

William Messner-Loebs Writer
Craig Rousseau Penciller
Barbara Kaalberg Inker
Chris Eliopoulos Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt Asst. Editor
Paul Kupperberg Editor
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Our cover by Jeff Matsuda and Wayne Faucher shows Max Mercury battling Dr. Morlo, while Impulse idly watches by with a bag of popcorn in his hand. But as the cover kindly tells us, absolutely nothing like this scene happens in this issue. I do appreciate an honest cover, especially when honesty is used to a comedic effect. But I think the word "absolutely" might be a bit strong here. After all, Max really does battle Dr. Morlo, and Impulse really does little more than watch.

Our story begins with Helen, Carol and Bart coming together to get serious about finding Max, who has been missing for several days now. As they go through their options, Bart's history teacher, Professor Snodgrass, pays a visit. To Bart's horror, Snodgrass says he wants to talk to him about Impulse. Bart freezes in place, and Helen tells him to come closer to his teacher, saying he won't bite, but Bart imagines him as a vicious wolf.

Luckily, Mr. Snodgrass hasn't deduced Bart's secret identity (or at least that's what he's saying). Instead, Snodgrass says he knows that Bart and the other kids know how to contact Impulse, and he was hoping Bart could arrange a meeting with the superhero for him. Snodgrass says he wants to talk to Impulse since he was one of the few people who didn't lose their faith during the recent Genesis crisis. Snodgrass feels awful that he lost his love for history and teaching, and asks Bart whether this means he shouldn't be a teacher anymore. Bart imagines the wonderful freedom that would come from Snodgrass' early retirement, but decides to think for a minute before speaking.

Ultimately, Bart decides to do the right thing, and he encourages his teacher to not give up a passion developed over a lifetime because of one moment of doubt. Snodgrass loves what Bart tells him, and excitedly proclaims he'll never retire, which makes Bart feel like a dunce. Snodgrass then notices that Carol is over there, too, and is surrounded by various maps and papers. When he asks what they're doing, Carol decides to mostly tell the truth — that they're looking for an old-time hero called Max Mercury. Eager to help, Snodgrass suggests they give the Internet a try.

We then check in on Max, who is still in Dr. Morlo's basement with David Claiborne. Max has decided to bluff by telling his captors that Impulse has already found him and will soon be there to rescue him with the Flash and the Justice League. But Morlo's unconcerned, saying he's planted a bomb under the lab, which he will detonate at the first sign of an attack. This information is new to David, and troubling to Max, who realizes that even a small explosion would be greatly amplified by all of Morlo's old and dangerous chemicals in his basement. Morlo then leads David upstairs to show him his plan.

Back at Helen's house, we see that their Internet search has paid off quite well. Not only were they able to find one of Max's villains still operating, but they saw he has his own webpage linked to the JLA site. Visiting Morlo.com, Bart and the others are able to easily access Dr. Morlo's plans for world and local domination, secret formulas and recipes, and his secret location. Mr. Snodgrass recognizes the town of Hancock, about 30 miles from Manchester. Once he hears that, Bart decides to turn into Impulse and go save Max.

Impulse arrives in Hancock less than a second later, only to realize that he didn't wait the extra two seconds to get Morlo's actual address. He briefly considers finding a phone to call home, but doesn't want to risk having Snodgrass answer the phone, so he decides to manually check house to house.

Elsewhere, Morlo shows David a very large and fancy antimatter gun, which he says he bought cheap from Intergang. David notes that the gun looks rather old and damaged, but Morlo insists it's fine and tries to demonstrate it on a squirrel. Nothing happens to the small animal, but the gun does begin smoking and dangerously overheating. Morlo realizes that if the gun explodes, it will turn the whole town into a crater. Suddenly, Max zooms by, grabbing the gun and rushing it out to the fairgrounds to explode safely.

Impulse sees the explosion and wishes he could live in Hancock, believing the blast to be a regular event. He then notices Max zip past him, so he follows. Max returns to Morlo's basement and tries to figure out the best way to stop Morlo without destroying the neighborhood. Impulse suddenly appears right next to him, proudly proclaiming that he found him all by himself — except for some help that doesn't really count.

Bart apologizes to Max for getting mad at him about the video game contest and then wishing he'd disappear. But Max explains that he came out to Hancock to visit Helen's legal father, David, but then he was captured by Dr. Morlo. At the mention of a bad guy, Bart excitedly says they should go get him, but Max stops him, explaining that the whole place is going to blow. Max suggests they wait and see what develops, and Bart angrily vibrates in place, saying he hates waiting to see what develops.

David then comes down the stairs, and a panicked Impulse has a hard time finding a place to hide until Max tells him to vibrate through the wall. David tells Max that he now realizes Morlo is insane, and even though he still hates Max for stealing and impregnating his wife, he will work with Max to stop Morlo. Max says they first need to find the switch to the underground bomb, which David assumes Morlo is keeping on his person.

Once David is gone, Impulse comes out of the wall, saying, "That horrible! Did you know there was dirt in there?" "Out there," says Max. "We're underground." Max then tells Bart that his plan could work as long as Bart didn't tell anyone else where they are. Bart says he didn't tell anyone, but they all found out on their own, and pretty much everyone they know and love will be there in about 20 minutes. So Bart tries to come up with his own plan, quickly coming up with several possibilities, but immediately realizes each of them won't work.

So Max enacts his own plan, which begins with him swiping Dr. Morlo's age-defying potion to egg him on. Predictably, Morlo rushes down to his lab to yell at Max. Per Max's instructions, Impulse is carefully hidden, repeating Max's instructions in his head: "Don't run in until he shows the control. Don't run in until he shows the control. ..." Max keeps egging Morlo on until the mad scientist actually does pull out the control switch, saying he'd gladly die to kill Max.

David then punches Morlo, knocking out the elderly villain. Max wonders what they could do next while still keeping his secret identity intact, and David offers to call the mental hospital he broke Morlo out of. Impulse, still hidden, and still repeating Max's instructions, finally realizes the threat has been neutralized and he missed his opportunity. Max then tries to talk to David, but the old man walks angrily walks away, saying Max is still the man who ruined his life.

Max and Bart change into their civilian clothes, and an ambulance soon arrives to take Morlo away. Helen, Carol and Mr. Snodgrass pass the ambulance on their way to Morlo's house, and Snodgrass is astonished to see that Bart is already there. Bart struggles explaining himself for a moment, but Max steps in, saying that Impulse brought Bart with him. Max also explains that he was captured by a delusional old man who thought he was the old hero, Max Mercury. Snodgrass laughs at the idea, saying Max would have to be 100 years old to be that hero from the 1930s. Max glances toward the still bitter David, and says, "That's right. And some days I only feel that old."

This was a wonderful issue of Impulse. It feels so good to get back to basics after all the special events in-between. William Messner-Loebs is doing a great job with the humor of the book, giving Bart some really funny lines. However, Messner-Loebs does begin to show his great weakness with names in this issue, giving Carol the last name Trent instead of the previously established Bucklen. But Craig Rousseau has also come into his stride here — giving Impulse so many amazing expressions. And I loved having him vibrate when he gets angry. It's such a simple, yet effective detail.

Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt begins the letters column by saying Rousseau's artwork is the coolest thing since Arnold put on his Mr. Freeze outfit. (I consider that to be a highly offensive insult, but I think Jason meant it as a compliment.)

Matt Child also praises Rousseau's artwork, but he's mainly concerned with one panel in Impulse #26, in which a partygoer is chasing a naked girl with a torch. I admit I completely missed this detail, but I do think it's pretty fun.

Craig Elliot, of Stirlingshire, Scotland, says Impulse is a breath of fresh air since it features a character who is not angst-ridden, overwhelmed with responsibility, carrying a grudge against life or constantly facing life-threatening menaces.

Mark E. Bermingham, of Eden, N.Y., was happy with all the guest characters in issue #26, saying that Wally and Robin acted perfectly in character. But Mark does point out that it was rather odd that Jesse Quick was so reluctant to help Bart when she was happily helping prep for his birthday party just a few issues previous.

Kerry Aldrich, of Fredericksburg, Va., says Rousseau is doing a great job since he gave Bart big feet, big hair, patented thought pictograms, and made him look about 14 or 15 years old.

Doud Ohmer, of Covington, Ky., is happy with the new status quo of Carol knowing Bart's secret identity and having Bart and Max live with Helen. Doud feels Carol will be able to help Bart out and Helen will provide a motherly influence in the series. Now for the new ads:

Tangent Comics. The only thing you know is the names! The Flash #1, Green Lantern #1, The Atom #1.

The faces of the DC Universe. For one month, all the covers of DC Comics featured an extreme closeup on a character's face, which is pretty neat when you put them all together. We'll see The Flash and Impulse pretty soon.

The world's greatest heroes can be yours! Get 18 comics for the price of 12! A single issue of Impulse normally cost $1.75 in 1997, but through this deal, you could get 12 issues of Impulse plus six bonus issues for just $15.

Watch This Space talks about San Diego Comic Con. I guess the only Impulse-tie to this is the appearance of Mark Waid on the panel called The was DC: The Write Stuff!

Next time, we'll continue Flash Month with Impulse Annual #2.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Speed Force #1

This cover by Craig Rousseau and John Dell features Wally West as a young Kid Flash, running side-by-side with his mentor, Barry Allen. It's a nice, happy image; unfortunately, the Kid Flash story inside features an older Wally, practically an adult. But it's still a fun cover. Max, Jesse and Jay look great, and the inclusion of all these characters made this cover a natural choice to be the advertisement for Flash Month. The only change they made for the ad was to replace the Mystery Flash with a Jeff Matsuda Impulse from the cover of Impulse #29. My biggest complaint with the cover is actually the font they used to spell out Speed Force. It just looks too light and goofy for what is actually a collection of some rather serious stories.

Now, Impulse does not technically appear in any stories in this issue, so I am cheating a little bit. But I figured this was a significant issue to cover anyway. Plus, we do actually see one nice image of Impulse in this comic, so I'm not stretching my rules too much.

Our first story is called Burning Secrets, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Jim Aparo. This features Barry Allen as the Flash and a nearly adult Wally West as Kid Flash. They battle the mysterious Cobalt Blue, who has an energy sword that can steal their super speed. Barry figures out how to turn that against Cobalt Blue, actually overloading the villain in energy, which manifested itself as blue flames, which consumed him. By doing so, Barry felt for the first time that his power came from something beyond him, and he began to worry whether he was still human.

The second story is called Like Straws in a Hurricane, written by Bill Messner-Loebs and drawn by Kenny Martinez. This features Jesse Chambers, who is frustrated over her inability to get several large media moguls to meet her at QuickStart Enterprises. So she turns into Jesse Quick and pulls the three CEOs into her office and also brings in two men who were laid off due to the CEOs' unethical business practices.

The third story is called Childs Play, written by Brian Augustyn and drawn by Dusty Abell. This takes place in New York in 1893 when Max Mercury operated under the name of Whip Whirlwind. When Whip learned of a corrupt factory owner mistreating his child workers, he paid a visit to the owner to scare him into changes his practices. Unfortunately, the encounter had the opposite effect. The owner decided to get Whip Whirlwind off his back by getting out of the business by burning down his factory and taking the insurance money to start over again in Metropolis. The corrupt owner also colludes with the corrupt orphanage worker, who convinces him to burn the factory with the children still inside so he'd get more insurance money. Luckily, one of the kids is able to escape and find Whip Whirlwind, who saves all the children, puts the corrupt adults in jail, and makes sure the orphans are sent to a proper orphanage.

We are then treated to a beautiful two-page spread of practically everybody in the Flash family, drawn by Phil Jimenez.

I really love this splash page, and I think Impulse looks great. I do wonder, however, who he's covering up with his hand. Is it possible that Jimenez made a mistake and decided late to cover it up with Impulse's hand? Regardless, this is a really neat image that could make a fun poster.

The fourth story is called A Stranger with My Face, written and drawn by John Byrne. This features a young Jay Garrick in 1942. His girlfriend, Joan Williams, has been kidnapped by the Fiddler. By trying to save her, Jay falls right into the Fiddler's trap, a circle of deadly violins specifically set up to counteract Jay's super speed. Suddenly, Jay is visited by his future self, who tells him to simply walk out of the trap at normal speed. And an editor's note tells us to check out Wonder Woman #129 to find out how Jay went back in time to help his younger self.

The fifth and final story is called The Sacrifice, written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, and drawn by William Rosado. This takes place on the planet Petrus in the year 2754. The Flash of this era is Blaine Allen, and his son, Jace, has been poisoned by this era's Cobalt Blue. Since Jace did not inherit his father's super speed, he is unable to hyper-metabolize the poison out of his system. So Blaine attempts to keep his son alive a little while longer by absorbing all molecular motion on the planet to freeze everything in place. But when he realizes that everyone, including Jace, will die in this state, Blaine comes up with another plan. Having heard legends of the Speed Force from his ancestors, Blaine decides to take Jace there, where he could live in a heaven-like state. Unfortunately, Blaine's plan failed, as he got sucked into the Speed Force himself, leaving his son behind. But Jace's exposure to the Speed Force granted him super speed, which saved him from the poison. Realizing that his dad sacrificed himself to save him, Jace races off in the distance, presumably to become the next Flash.

All in all, I really enjoyed this issue despite the lack of Impulse. The Whip Whirlwind story got the strongest reaction from me, as I really wanted the bad guys to suffer more than simply being thrown into jail. I mean, they tried to burn alive a bunch of orphans! How evil is that? I also was interested in the final story, and I wish Mark Waid would have explained how Blaine and Jace are related to all the other Allens. Are they descendants of Bart? Last issue's family tree implied that Bart will have children, but I need the specifics! The low point of the issue was probably the Jesse Quick story for me. I really needed to see her do something super-heroic instead of going on a minor social crusade.

Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt wrote an editor's note at the end, explaining that this issue was the result of many readers requesting more stories with Max Mercury, Jesse Quick and all the other underserved speedsters in the Flash family. Jason said that if the response to this book is big enough, they'll probably make another Speed Force special or turn it into its own miniseries. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, those plans never came to fruition. I feel like a Speed Force title like this could have had a lot potential, but I guess in the long run, the market could only sustain The Flash and Impulse at the time.

Next time, we'll finally, finally see how Impulse rescues Max from Dr. Morlo in Impulse #31.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Flash Secret Files and Origins #1

A Run of Luck

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Story
Kenny Martinez and Anibal Rodriguez, Art
Gaspar, Lettering
Tom McCraw, Coloring
Digital Chameleon, Separations
Paul Kupperberg, Consulting Editor
Frank Berrios, Assistant Editor
KC Carlson, Editor

Our cover by Steve Lightle and Patrick Martin is rather classic, yet a little dull. I guess they had to keep it simple to fit in all those words. This is, after all, a special 64-page issue with four separate stories, a two-page timeline, a family tree, and 15 profile pages. There's a lot going on here, but not a whole lot of Impulse. So let's take a look at where he does pop up, beginning with the main story.

The main Secret Origin story begins with an unknown narrator recounting the origin of the original Flash, Jay Garrick. He was a lousy football and an overworked scientist, who fell asleep one night while experimenting with hard water. The strange mixture of fumes gave him super speed, which he used to win one football game, but later decided to use his new powers for good, becoming the superhero known as the Flash.

The Flash became so prolific, he later earned his own comic book series, which was a favorite of Barry Allen's. He was another scientist, who was struck by lightning and bathed in a strange mixture of electrified chemicals. Following Jay's example, Barry also took up the mantel of the Flash and became an enormously popular superhero as well.

Barry's biggest fan was his fiancee's nephew, Wally West. His aunt Iris left Wally in Barry's care one day, and he decided to arrange a meeting with the Flash for the lad. While telling Wally his origin story, the same accident fatefully occurred, this time bathing Wally in the chemicals, giving him super speed as well.

For several years, Wally worked with Barry as his sidekick, Kid Flash. But after Barry sacrificed his life to save billions during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the now grown Wally decided to wear Barry's uniform and carry on the legacy of the Flash. Our mysterious editor then briefly explains how Bart Allen, grandson of Barry, was brought from the 30th century to the 20th.

And ... wait. Did Bart just kiss that guy? I know he's impulsive, but to kiss a guy who's shooting at him? That's a bit too random for Bart's standards. Anyway, the narrator briefly mentions the fact that many other heroes throughout the future kept the legacy of the Flash alive. We then see our mysterious narrator was Bart's other grandpa, the evil President Thawne, whom Bart encountered during his adventure to the 30th century with his mom.

Thawne visits the Flash Museum and rejoices in the recent deaths of the Tornado Twins — Don and Dawn Allen (Bart's dad and aunt). Thawne visits the Cobalt Blue statue and obtains a mysterious gem, which he then presents to a cult-like group of followers. As Thawne announces his victory over the Allens, Wally West secretly spies on him from the shadows.

The ending there is leading into Mark Waid's next big Flash story, Chain Lightning. But he won't get to that until after his year-long hiatus. In the meantime, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar will take over the Flash. And we'll get to their first two issues, which debuted during Flash Month. But first, let's see what else this Secret Files issue had.

Immediately after the main story, we're treated to a handful of profile pages, starting with Wally West (Flash III), Barry Allen (Flash II), Jay Garrick (Flash I) and Impulse.

This page was written by Mark Waid, with pencils by Craig Rousseau and inks by Barbara Kaalberg. I particularly like the image of the rabbit outracing the turtle, especially since Humberto Ramos intentionally strove to make Impulse look like a rabbit. Since my picture of this page can be tough to read, I'll type up everything here:

Quicker Than Thought: Impulse. Impulse can vibrate through solid object without harm. He would gladly trade this ability for the power to fly. Bart Allen has inherited his grandfather's special ring, inside which he stores his Impulse costume.

Real Name: Bartholomew (Barry) Allen II (I think Waid made a mistake here. Bart has never been called "Barry.")

Occupation: Student

Place of Birth: 30th century Central Cityplex

Base of Operations: Manchester, Alabama

Marital Status: Single

Height: 5'1"

Weight: 105 lbs. (115 with shoes)

Eyes: Yellow

Hair: Brown

First Appearance: Flash #91 (June, 1994)

Bart Allen, 30th century grandson of Barry Allen, inherited the powers of his bloodline but no control over his speed. Hyper metabolized, Bart aged fourteen years in the space of his first two and would soon have died of old age had his grandmother not brought him to the 20th century, where Wally West found a way to temper Bart's accelerated system. Since Bart grew up in a VR environment set to match his speed, he still thinks the world around him has a big "reset" button and doesn't really understand the concept of danger. Poster child for the judgmentally impaired, Bart — a.k.a. Impulse, the most fitting super-hero name in history — moves straight from idea to deed without ever pausing along the way for the stage others call "thinking." He is kept alive solely through the grudging effort of his mentor, Max Mercury. Posing as Max's nephew, Bart lives in a small, slow Southern town. He believes this is punishment. He is correct.

So that pretty much sums up all you'd need to know about Impulse, written in an appropriately humorous manner. Next up in this issue is profile pages for Jesse Quick, Max Mercury, and a two-page interview with Max, in which he basically avoids every question and says as little about his past as possible.

After that is a profile page for John Fox, the future Flash, followed by a quick four-page comic by Brian Augustyn and Craig Rousseau, featuring a 1940s adventure with Jay Garrick and Max Mercury. We then get more profile pages for Linda Park, the Pied Piper, the Trickster, Professor Zoom, the Rogues Gallery and Gorilla Grodd.

Up next is a guided tour of the Flash Museum, written by Scott Beatty, pencilled by Todd Nauck and inked by Lary Stucker. Curator Dexter Miles briefly describes each of the major exhibits in the museum, but unfortunately he has nothing to say about Impulse, since that display is under construction. Although we are able to see a photo of Impulse, which he has autographed "To all my fans."

I could be mistaken, but I do believe this is the first time Todd Nauck drew Impulse, which is significant since he will soon be doing so on a regular basis in the Young Justice series. I absolutely love his style and can't wait till I get there. Nauck also drew a small Impulse toy, which was being used by a photographer to catch the attention of a little kid. One of the features of the museum allows families to get their pictures taken in Flash costumes. So we see the dad dressed as Grodd, the mom as the Flash, the kid as Captain Cold, and the photographer as the Blue Beetle.

We then get profile pages for Kadabra and Savitar, followed by a two-page timeline, which includes cutouts of Impulse and XS from the cover of Impulse #9, drawn by Humberto Ramos. The timeline tells us that Impulse appeared in the 20th century one year ago. Flash #91 established that date as May 12, 1994, but since comic books move much more slowly than real life, I guess we now have to say Bart arrived in 1996. The future dates are also changed from Flash #91, which had Iris making her great escape with Bart on June 12, 2995. But now, according to the timeline, Bart was born in 2980 and traveled back in time in 2982. Of course, it's entirely possible to explain these inconsistencies with several major continuity-altering events that happened after Flash #91, such as Zero Hour and even Genesis.

The last page of this issue shows a small fragment of the Allen Family Tree discovered by the Flash Museum in the 30th century. This document (written by Mark Waid) shows that Barry Allen is the son of Henry and Nora Allen. Barry married Iris West, and they had Don and Dawn. Dawn married Jeven Ognats, and they had Jenni, aka XS. Don married Meloni Thawne, and they had Bart. The fragmented paper shows that Meloni remarried and that Bart had a child, but both those lines are cut off. We also see that Iris' nephew, Wally, was married to an unknown person and had at least two kids. The only one we see is Iris West II, aka Flash IV.

So that's some pretty exciting stuff from a simple family tree. Many of these things will come to pass in upcoming years, although I don't think we ever learn about Bart having any children. All in all, this was an awesome issue, even with it's disjointed style. Sometimes I get frustrated with these secret origin comics, but when the subject material is good, I love it. The history of the Flash family is fascinating, and this comic clearly and cleanly presents it all in a way that can educate new readers and still entertain comic veterans.

There aren't any new ads, nor are there any letters to the editor, so I'll see you next time with a very quick look at Speed Force #1.