Monday, June 29, 2015

JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #1

Story Todd Dezago
Grown-Up Pencils Mike McKone
Grown-Up Inks Mark McKenna
Kid Pencils Humberto Ramos
Kid Inks Wayne Faucher
Jason Wright Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separator
Letterer John Workman
Special thanks to Grant Morrison

Our cover is a really cool wrap-around image that unfortunately is impossible to enjoy because of the perfect binding of this 48-page book. Well, I guess you could pull out an Exacto knife and destroy your book just to see the full image. But I wouldn't recommend that. Ramos and Faucher drew the young heroes on the roller coaster in the foreground, and McKone and McKenna drew the adult heroes in the background. And that big purple guy on the back? The villain of this great event — Bedlam. This comic is available digitally as DC Comics Presents: Young Justice #1, which combines the two issues of JLA: World Without Grown-Ups, and has this cover:

All in all, it's a really cool image. And it is absolutely wonderful to have Humberto Ramos back drawing Impulse again. He perfectly captured the personalities of Robin, Impulse and Superboy. I'm not the biggest fan of Mike McKone's style, but at least his contribution to the cover is limited to the background.

Our story begins in Gotham City, where Robin has tracked down a pretty big thug. Despite his size disadvantage, Robin handles himself quite well in the fight. That is, until he slips on some oil, and is caught by the large man. When the thug lifts Robin above his head — in a pose similar to Bane breaking Batman's back — the Dark Knight decides to end his role of observer and call the Boy Wonder off.

In downtown Metropolis, a giant samurai robot is causing some destruction and calling out for Superman. Instead, it's met by Superboy, who just happened to be passing through. Superboy easily destroys the machine, and pauses long enough for a quick interview on TV before preparing to fly off. But Lex Luthor stops the young man, asking whether he'll help clean up the giant mess he caused. Superboy isn't inclined to listen to the notorious villain, but Superman himself soon arrives and says Luthor is right.

In Manchester, Alabama, Bart Allen is hanging out with Carol Bucklen (who is called Carol Trent — an unfortunate error initially introduced by William Messner-Loebs). The two friends are microwaving some popcorn, which is taking far too long for Bart's liking. When the popcorn's finally ready, Max scolds him for putting off his homework. So Bart begrudgingly heads to his room, and Max orders him to study at normal speed so the information will stick.

Bart feels like Max is pouring molasses on his head, and as soon as Max turns his back, Bart takes off for Puerto Rico to search for the legendary goat-sucker, the chupacabra. Max quickly notices Bart's absence, and thanks to Bart's copy of The Big Book of the Unexplained left open on his desk, Max is easily able to track down his young ward. Bart sheepishly races back home to finish his homework, and Max grounds him for the weekend.

We then head to the Stuart home in a suburb outside of Boston. It's Matthew's 13th birthday, but he refuses to blow out the candles on his cake because his dad isn't home. But as soon as he says that, his dad walks through the front door and presents his son with a priceless birthday present — an ancient Atlantean artifact he found while on his archaeological dig. Matt's dad says his colleagues believe it was a toy for boys about Matt's age, but they weren't able to figure out how to make it work. But Matt is determined to be mad at his dad for almost missing his birthday, and he complains about not getting a Playtendo. His mom scolds him for acting like a brat, and Matt continues to throw a fit until he storms off to his room.

Matt throws himself on his bed and wishes his parents would go away and leave him alone. The Atlantean artifact then begins to glow, and Matt notices the figure of a man inside the glass. He smashes the artifact open with a sports trophy, and is immediately surrounded by a purple light, as the gaseous figure enters Matt's body through his eyes, ears, mouth and nose. As Matt is engulfed by the dark purple energy, he receives visions of the power's past. A long time ago, a mad sorcerer summoned a dark, dangerous power that feeds on dreams and wishes to reshape the world — the power of a god. But while the power is near-infinite, it still requires the vessel of a man. And the mad sorcerer was defeated by his brother, who drew out the dark power and trapped it in a tiny crystal chamber to be kept from and forgotten of by man. Matt, however, pays no attention to the warning of this story, and excitedly imagines what he could do with the power of a god. His eyes glow purple, and his parents disappear from a family photo.

At dawn the next day, at the venerable estate of Jack Drake, the maid tries to wake up Tim for breakfast. When he doesn't answer, she enters his room to find it surprisingly empty. And all across the country, every parent wakes up to find their children have mysteriously disappeared. In Manchester, Max assumes Bart is just out goofing off, and he vows to ground him for more than just the weekend when he gets back. Helen tries to calm him down, and the morning news explains the dire situation — all juveniles under the age of 17 have suddenly disappeared.

The Justice League meets at the Watchtower on the moon to frantically determine the cause of the crisis, but to no avail. After scanning the entire planet and finding nothing, Green Lantern tries to lighten the mood by joking about the plight of the Kids WB channel. But Flash chastises him for joking at such a time. Martian Manhunter points out the state of the adults on Earth — falling into mass hysteria and rioting — and he worries what the children must be going through after being abducted from their beds.

Elsewhere, in a place now known simply as Kidworld, we see that most kids aren't quite as terrified as Martian Manhunter feared they would be. On average, the kids' reaction to the missing adults was about 7.9 minutes of fear and loss, followed by roughly 3.4 minutes of mild disorientation, before making way for an incredible, exciting sense of liberation. With all the adults gone, the kids can now do whatever they want, and most of them choose to party. They get into their mom's makeup, break into toy stores and use chainsaws to destroy their furniture.

Some learn very quickly that some things aren't as fun as they thought they'd be, such as smoking cigars. Others, though choose to live dangerously. We take a peek at a couple of kids goading a younger boy into jumping off a roof with an umbrella. Luckily, Mary Marvel is there to catch the kid and scold the older ones. In Manchester, Arrowette stops some would-be arsonists. In Gateway City, Wonder Girl stops a wayward minivan. Inferno deals with some dangerous fireworks in New Mexico. The Teen Titans save a bunch of kids from killing themselves at an amusement park in Ohio. And Spoiler rescues a kid from nearly drowning in the Gotham Harbor.

At Ferris Aircraft in Wisconsin, one kid is able to actually get inside a jet and get it up in the air. Luckily, he flies right past Superboy, who is quite concerned to see such an inexperienced pilot. Meanwhile, at the Montgomery Zoo, a couple of kids have broken into the control room and opened all the animals' cages. A wild stampede soon erupts, and a little girl is nearly eaten by a tiger, which she mistakingly believes is Tawny. Luckily, Impulse is able to zip her to safety. And in Gotham, one kid brings a real gun into an arcade, much to the horror of his peers. But before he accidentally shoots somebody, Robin knocks the gun out of his hand with a batarang and tells him to go home and not do anything his parents wouldn't let him. Robin then hops in his Redbird car and determines to investigate the cause of the crisis.

Superboy catches up with the kid pilot, who is quite terrified at this point. Superboy politely asks him to cut the engines, then begins the delicate act of gently guiding it down to a safe landing. Impulse finds the kids in the control room, who realize too late that they've endangered the lives of the animals and people by opening all the cages. They ask what they can do, and Impulse simply says, "Time me."

Impulse gets all the animals securely and safely in the cages in 35 seconds flat. He did pause for a second to notice a wayward jet passing above, but he makes sure to get an apology from the kids before checking out the plane. Impulse quickly finds the plane, Superboy and the frightened pilot collapsed on the ground. Impulse asks if the kid's going to be alright, and Superboy says he will once the world stops spinning. Impulse then asks if the world is actually going to stop spinning as well, but Superboy tells him to forget it.

Robin soon arrives, saying he followed the jet on his radar. But Robin is happy to see his friends, and suggests they team up once more to figure out what happened. Impulse asks why the JLA can't do it, and Superboy impatiently explains that the disappearance of all adults includes the Justice League. Robin points out that with the JLA gone, then they're all the world has. Superboy and Impulse readily agree to help Robin, and they follow him back to the Batcave for research.

With no adults to run any broadcast signals, all TV channels and radio stations are just a steady stream of static. Robin tries to contact the JLA Watchtower, but a bored Impulse easily becomes distracted with all the trophies in the Batcave, including the old uniform of Jason Todd. Bart asks if Robin put his old costume behind glass because it smells funny, and Robin yells at him to stay away from it. Bart obediently zips to Robin's side just in time to hear Robin make a startling announcement — according to the computer, the JLA Watchtower doesn't even exist. But the computer is able to pick up something — a faint broadcast from Fawcett City. Young Billy Batson is reporting on the damage caused by the unsupervised kids and asks where the Justice League is. Impulse asks if Billy is talking about them, and Superboy says he is now. Robin, though, is thinking where he's heard the name Batson before.

Back in Adultworld, Superman confers with President Bill Clinton, who is eager for some kind of lead, since there is no protocol for what to do when half the world's population vanishes from the face of the Earth. Superman promises the president they'll find a solution, while the other members of the Justice League begin looking into any villain that could have caused this, including Mr. Mxyzptlk and Darkseid. Flash asks the League to start figuring out where they're not looking. And in the Batcave, Batman is wrapped up in Clinton's use of the phrase "vanish from the face of the Earth." This gives Batman an idea, and he begins inspecting the dust in his cave.

Somewhere dark, Matt Stuart has begun calling himself and his new world Bedlam. And he's created the perfect throne room for a 13-year-old boy, filled with toys, junk food, nudey magazines, video games, movies, music, and a big stack of Impulse comics. The purple figure from the artifact is standing silently over Matt, who gloats about how he was able to think up a whole world by using the most powerful child's mind as a conduit. And the more people believe the new reality, the more imagination they feed Bedlam with, making him even more powerful. Matt makes himself a New York Yankee, then a race car driver before imagining what his parents would say if they could see him now. But the thought of his mom and dad distracts Matt for a bit, and his eyes lose their purple glow. The mute creature next to Matt notices this lapse in focus, and hits the child with a blast of energy to "correct" the situation.

Meanwhile, in Fawcett City, Impulse, Robin and Superboy have traced Billy Batson's signal to the WHIZ radio and TV station. Billy sees the heroes, and mistakingly calls Impulse Kid Flash. Impulse grumpily says he gets that a lot. Robin pulls Billy aside to talk to him privately, revealing that he knows Billy is Captain Marvel. But Billy is worried about what will happen to him if he transforms into an adult. He worries all the adults could be dead, and he'd die as well if he turned into Captain Marvel. Impulse asks Superboy what they're talking about, and Superboy teases him, saying they're talking about how Impulse is really fast, but not too swift. The weather service satellite in the station then picks up a major anomaly originating over Happy Harbor, Rhode Island.

Back in Adultworld, Batman informs the JLA on the Watchtower that he's ran several carbon dating samples, and has found that everything is only 17 hours old. Their entire world, down to the minutest detail, is an elaborate illusion. Batman says the kids weren't abducted, the parents were. The League begins to panic a bit at this news, but Superman and Green Lantern are hopeful the younger heroes left behind will get the situation under control. They have full confidence in the Teen Titans, Robin, Superboy and Wonder Girl. But Wally begins to panic when he realizes they have Bart.

On Kidworld, Superboy realizes that Happy Harbor is the site of the former JLA headquarters, and the temporary base of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Impulse rushes over there and back, telling the other heroes they need to go see it. Robin again asks Billy to help them out, but he refuses. So Robin angrily shoves Superboy and Impulse out the door, saying he was wrong to think Billy could help them. They arrive at Happy Harbor a short time later, and find the landscape resembles some kind of twisted nightmare. The ground suddenly gives way under them, and Robin catches hold of Impulse's ankle, and Impulse clings to Superboy's jacket.

Back at WHIZ station, a scared Billy Batson realizes that Robin was right. And even if he is afraid, it's his responsibility to try to save the world. So Billy boldly opens his mouth and says, "Sha—"

Wow. Wow wow wow. This is a wonderful, monumental issue. It has an epic scope, but never allows itself to be weighed down in tragedy. It is downright hilarious, yet never lets the goofiness eliminate the seriousness. Todd Dezago found the perfect tone that made Impulse so successful and will make Young Justice amazing. I love how he started off by showing each of the main heroes fail in different ways, only because of their youth. It did a good job of establishing their personalities and setting up the whole point of this story — these boys must prove to their mentors and themselves that they can get their act together when it matters most.

Dezago naturally did an amazing job with the chemistry between Impulse, Superboy and Robin. And I was really impressed with how Matthew Stuart was handled. So many 13-year-old boys become big brats, and they don't even know why. I know, because I had a similar phase when I was 13. I thought everything Bedlam did was very natural and fitting. Not to mention a bit frightening. An all-powerful angsty tween most certainly would doom the entire planet. And did I mention how wonderful it is to have Humberto Ramos back? His style was meant precisely for these type of stories.

The Justice League Unlimited episode "Kids' Stuff" is vaguely similar to this story. In the cartoon, Morgaine Le Faye's son, Mordred acquires a very powerful artifact and banishes everyone older than himself to an alternate dimension. But that's about where the similarities end. The Justice League cartoons really didn't have any teenaged heroes, so they had to get a bit creative in solving this problem. But it still is a really fun episode, though.

There are no editor's notes or advertisements in this special miniseries, so I'll see you next time, when we conclude our epic tale with JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #2.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Impulse #40

Like a Two-Legged Man in a Three-Legged Race

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

Our cover by Craig Rousseau and Wayne Faucher is a pretty good symbolization of Impulse being at odds with Max Mercury. Of course, it is rather ridiculous for them to attend this picnic in their superhero outfits, but this is the cover, so such things are a necessity. Another thing to note is Impulse's hair. It's still a ways off from it's former glory, so I suspect he's still wearing his wig while in Bart Allen mode, which he happens to be in for the entirety of this issue.

Our story begins at the Manchester Junior High Student/Parent Day picnic. Carol's brother couldn't come (probably at work) so she's hanging out with Bart's family. But Bart is also absent. Helen notes that Bart has been upset all week, and asks Max if he knows what's up. Max gets a bit defensive, and Carol, who's been told the whole story by Bart, fills Helen in on how Max left Bart out of the loop on his long con, making the poor boy feel like a dweeb. Max tries to change the subject by helping set up their picnic table, and when that doesn't work, he takes to chastising the girls for speaking so freely about their secret identities.

A distraction arrives in the form of social worker Jasper Pierson, who informs Max the three-legged race is about to begin. He also notes that Bart has seemed a little troubled lately, only making Max feel worse. Bart then arrives with the foreign clerk from the drugstore. Bart introduces him as Gamal, and says he'll race with him since Gamal won't make him look stupid. The oblivious immigrant thinks he's filling in for Max because he's too old to race. So an angered Max grabs Carol, determined to show Bart up.

All the contestants line up for the race, including Preston with his dad, Roland with his dad, and even Evil Eye with his low-rate villain dad. But Gamal is approached by his brother, Pete, who owns the drugstore and is quite upset that Gamal left his post. But they have no time to discuss the matter as Pierson blows the whistle and starts the race. Max is confident that Bart will be tempted to use his speed and will trip up, but Bart actually handles the pattern quite well, being reminded of the third level of Super Monkey Brothers.

Bart and Gamal race ahead to the lead, while Max and Carol fall far behind, only making Max angrier. So Max decides to use a little bit of super speed to catch up. But Carol wasn't ready for it, and they both come crashing down, spraining Max's knee. Meanwhile, Bart and Gamal easily win the race, but Gamal is sad his younger brother, Pete, doesn't share in his joy. Helen wraps up Max's knee, and he says he can't understand how Bart was able to win that race. Helen says its because he was with someone who could let him lead and didn't expect him to fail.

Meanwhile, Evil Eye finally thanks Roland for saving him from the Glory Shredder. But the tough, troubled young man has to turn any of act of kindness around into some sort of conspiracy against him. Evil Eye tells Roland he can't tell if he's a genuinely good guy or a lousy skunk waiting to betray him, so Evil Eye plans to keep close watch over Roland until he figures him out. Roland, always desperate for friends, thinks this sounds like a fun idea.

The next big activity is a tug-o-war, and once again, Max suspects Bart will secretly use his super speed to cheat. So Max does exactly that, hoping to counterbalance Bart's efforts. But this time, Bart sees Max speeding, so he does the same. The two speedsters end up ripping the rope in half and causing everyone to fall down.

Bart then tosses a frisbee around with Gamal, and he admits he only asked Gamal to join him because he's mad at Max. Gamal understands Bart's anger, and he tells him how angry he became when he immigrated to America only to find the degrees he earned in his native country weren't recognized here. The only job Gamal could find was at his brother's store, and while Pete is often harsh to his older brother, Gamal has taken the attitude of being grateful for his family. But the increasingly manic Max has to interrupt this moment with a fit of jealousy. He grabs the frisbee and begins flinging it back and forth with Bart at super speed, unconcerned about Gamal watching them.

Jasper Pierson's whistle then directs everyone to the volleyball courts, and Max once again teams up with Carol. Facing off against Bart and Gamal, Max makes it his mission to keep the ball away from Bart so he doesn't use his super speed. Of course, Max is also trying to use his super speed whenever possible without being noticed. But trying to do these things makes Max a pretty bad teammate, and he collides with Carol, causing them to lose the match. Undeterred, Max immediately challenges Gamal to an arm wrestle, and Bart begins to think of Max as a baby. Unfortunately for Max, he also loses this seemingly simple contest he thought he was sure to win.

Sadly, Gamal's fun comes to an end when Pete finally catches up to him and fires him on the spot for ditching work. Bart apologizes for causing Gamal to lose his job, but Gamal sadly tells his young friend not to worry about him. After all, Gamal says, he's a 40-year-old immigrant with no recognized education or work experience, so finding a new job shouldn't be that hard. As he sadly walks away, Bart and Max exchange worried glances.

Pete angrily returns to his deserted store and reads a newspaper with the headline, "Titans involved in Metropolis disaster." The lack of customers only makes Pete angrier, proving that Gamal easily could have taken the day off. But Pete is stubborn, and believes someone will soon arrive to prove him right. But Pete doesn't get any customers at first — only a speeding whirlwind that knocks food off the shelves and magazines off the racks. One magazine says, "Wonder Woman returns from Mt. Olympus" and another says "Reporter Linda Park struck by lightning."

After the "ghosts" have made quite a mess of Pete's drugstore, a couple of real customers arrive, Roland and Evil Eye. They asks specifically for Gamal, saying he's the reason they shop at the store. They then ask Pete for a whole bunch of different types of candy, which Pete is unable to find for them. Frustrated, the two boys decide to leave and come back when Gamal is working again. As they leave, Evil Eye admits that was fun, but he's not sure why they did that. Roland says they were helping Bart, and since Roland likes Bart and Evil Eye likes Roland, then they should all be considered friends. But Evil Eye isn't ready to go that far just yet.

Bart and Max then arrive at the store and ask for some Malted Jimmies. But Pete has collapsed in an emotional heap on the ground. Bart asks for Gamal, which elicits a scream of frustration from Pete. Right on cue, Gamal enters the store and helps Bart find his candy. In desperation, Pete begs his brother to return to the store, admitting that Gamal can run it better than he ever could. Bart and Max then happily leave the store, finally able to put their feud behind them.

This was a pretty fun, unique issue of Impulse. It's always a nice change of pace to have an issue where Bart never puts on the Impulse uniform. But more significantly, it was really interesting to see Max lose control like this. And as unusual as it seems, this actually felt perfectly in line with Max's character. He's always had a little bit of frustration, resentment and even a small rivalry with Bart. And when he realized he hurt Bart's feelings, that made him angry at himself, which he unintentionally directed toward Bart. And as the day progressed, Max's anger grew and grew, ultimately devolving into a childish jealousy of Gamal. Luckily, Gamal provided a crisis for Max and Bart to set their pettiness aside. Most issues of Impulse involve Bart learning a lesson, so it's kind of fun when Max gets to learn one.

I'm also happy to see Craig Rousseau taking advantage of newspapers to write headlines that mention other events in DC comics. Of course, the Linda Park headline is slightly problematic. If Bart and Max were still fighting like this shortly after Linda's death, then both of them would be far too petty for my liking. I'm going to assume that was an older magazine and that Impulse #39 and #40 both took place during that one-month break in The Flash #140. Hey, I have to do whatever I can to make it all work in my head.

Impulsive Reactions gives The Big Salute to the interns at DC Comics, and This School Rules to Long Island University.

The first letter, only signed, starts off by saying he hasn't read Impulse since Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos left, until Impulse #36, which he only picked up because Impulse's hair was gone. The letter writer says he likes William Messner-Loebs' writing, and is happy to Bart is still as impulsive as ever. But he does feel that the residents of Manchester, Alabama, have all become a bit too goofy.

Mike Lavalle, of Niles, Ill., says he loved Impulse & The Atom Double-Shot #1, and hopes to see Impulse interact with the Teen Titans again. L.A. Williams responds by saying Mike will sort of get his wish with JLA: World Without Grown-Ups and Young Justice. And now for the ads:

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Next time, we begin a very exciting chapter of Impulse's career — JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #1!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Flash #140

The Black Flash Part 2

Mark Millar • Writer
Pop Mhan • Penciller
Chris Ivy • Inker
Gaspar • Letterer
Tom McCraw • Colorist
L.A. Williams • Assistant Editor
Paul Kupperberg • Editor

Our cover by Steve Lightle is a pretty haunting image. Wally breaking down on the tombstone of his girlfriend. And the stark black background is a really nice touch. It's simple, yet effective, and says everything that needs to be said. I'm not necessarily a Lightle fan, but I do wish he would have done the inside pages instead of Pop Mhan, who's really getting on my nerves lately.

Once upon a time, Wally thought he lost Linda to a bolt of lightning. But to his amazement, Linda survived the strike, having been pulled to safety by Jay Garrick at the last nano-second. Wally chides Linda for scaring him, and, at Jay's prompting, Wally pulls out the ring and proposes to his long-time girlfriend.

One month later, the two lovebirds were married at a star-studded wedding. Afterward, Nightwing told Wally that some super villains tried to disrupt the ceremony, but Superman and Martian Manhunter took care of them. Batman was the only hero who didn't show up, but he did send a bouquet bigger than Swamp Thing.

During their honeymoon, the Mirror Master trapped Wally and Linda in a reflective surface where they hated each other, but they eventually figured it out, freed themselves, and enjoyed a real honeymoon the next week. Shortly afterward, Linda became the host of a TV show where husbands confessed to being super villains and super girls turned out to be schoolboys (not sure how that last one works). Wally admits it's not serious journalism, but he was happy for Linda when she became more popular than Oprah. But then Linda became pregnant, and because of Wally's super speed, the nine-month term was reduced to nine minutes.

Linda gave birth to three boys, each with super speed. They became known as the Tornado Triplets, and helped their dad battle the Rogues and their kids — Cadet Cold, Mirror Miss, Heat-Whelp, Weather Whiz-Kid and Captain Slingshot. Later, Pied Piper turned evil again, and tried to hypnotize Wally's kids into following him. Over the years, the boys lost their memories and their powers, turned evil, turned blue, transformed into classic Universal horror monsters and even wasps. They fought the nuclear family, the sixth continent, the Scout Master and Roy, Ra's al Ghul and Barry Grodd, who attempted to thwart Linda's bid for Congress. Wally and Linda lived a long, happy life, until Linda revealed a terrible confession one day. She really did die when that lightning bolt hit her. Wally was too late.

We return to the real world, where Wally, Max Mercury, Jesse Quick, Nightwing, Jay Garrick and Green Lantern are pallbearers at Linda's funeral. And since this is a comic book, the funeral is being held in a downpour. The funeral is attended by the entire Justice League and more. Wally bemoans the fact that Linda was completely vaporized and they had to bury an empty casket. He acknowledges Max's role in Linda's death, but he doesn't blame him, knowing Max was just trying to save his life. But since Linda died, Wally lost his connection to the Speed Force, and a general interest in life.

Mirror Master was able to attend the funeral with a police escort, but Wally doesn't care about his condolences. Superman apologizes for Batman's absence and gives Wally a rose Batman sent in his place, but it only makes Wally more upset. Green Lantern gives Wally a prayer someone gave him after his girlfriend died, but Wally finds it rather awkward. Hartley Rathaway tells Wally he's contacted all his old super villain buddies and arranged for a one-day ceasefire on Wally's behalf, but Wally doesn't care. Captain Boomerang, also escorted by police, has nothing nice to say. Jesse tells Wally she's taken time off work to take Wally's place in the JLA and Jay promised to protect Keystone City until Wally get's his powers back. But Wally doesn't even see the point of being the Flash without Linda.

All Impulse can do is give Wally a hug, but the mourning man can only bitterly criticize everything around him. Wally's mad at all the heroes showing up in costume and all the wannabes and celebrities showing up who didn't even know Linda. Some are surprised the vice president showed up instead of the president, and Weather Wizard contemplates improving the weather, but Captain Cold tells him it's fine. But there is one person more upset than Wally at the funeral — Linda's mom. She slaps Wally and shouts at him for murdering her daughter. And like Wally, she's also upset that no one at the funeral is actually talking about Linda's accomplishments.

On the JLA Watchtower, one month later, Steel and Aquaman congratulate Jesse for reprogramming a Manhunter sleeper agent. She then teleports down to Waynetech Enterprises in Keystone, where Captain Boomerang is stealing electric car blueprints for the Germans. Jay tried to stop him, but fell into Boomerang's trap and became attached to a giant boomerang propelling him out of Earth's atmosphere. Jesse runs up the side of Infantino Tower (a nod to former Flash artist Carmine Infantino), and manages to free Jay. He then immediately dives into the reservoir to stop Captain Cold's anthrax bacilli bomb.

Wally, who's grown a stupid goatee in the past month, watches the whole thing happen from TV. Oddly, Weather Wizard was shown being arrested, even though he wasn't mentioned during the fight, and the previous issue of this series made a big deal of him being reformed. Anyway, Jesse pays Wally a visit, and is surprised to see his whole house packed up in moving boxes — she was hoping Wally's absence would just be a temporary thing. But Wally insists it's time to move on. He's accepted a teaching job at Edinburgh University, looking to do something useful with all the scientific Flash facts he picked up over the years. Jesse says being a superhero is a useful occupation, but this only makes Wally angrier. He says Linda's death showed him this isn't a game, and he's ready to leave the world of Halloween costumes and code names before someone else gets killed.

Wally then gives Jesse the ring he wanted to give to Linda, which causes Jesse to break down in tears. After one final hug and plea for Wally to stay, Jesse takes off in a flurry, causing a bunch of papers to fly up in the air. These are all little notes Wally has made to himself, mostly to send thank you notes to various people. These include the JLA, and a bunch of Flash creators: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, Paul Ryan, John Nyberg, Grant Morrison, Gaspar Saladino, Tom McCraw, L.A. Williams and Paul Kupperberg. There's also a note to read Impulsive Reactions (the letter column in Impulse) and Views of L.A. I'm not sure what Views of L.A. is, but this is the second time I've seen mention of it — the Trickster also had a copy of it in a recent issue of Impulse. Perhaps it was another letter column from L.A. Williams.

Wally then heads to the airport, passing a big poster of himself as the Flash, causing him to wonder when they'll replace it with one of Jay. Wally tried to not draw attention to himself, but too many people recognized him and tried to talk about his Flash career with him. Suddenly, Wally finds himself wrapped in ropes and chains. This causes a small commotion, but it turns out to just be the work of Impulse, who didn't know how else to get Wally to stop. So Wally offers to have dinner with him before his plane takes off.

We then have a quick Max Mercury interlude, where the Zen Master of Speed is having one of his regular meditation sessions. At the periphery of the Speed Force, Max senses Linda's presence. He also sense the Black Flash, and feels it's anger that it ended up with Linda instead of Wally. Max then realizes that the Black Flash is coming back.

We return to Wally and Bart who are eating at a Booster Gold burger place. Bart is snarfing down tons of hamburgers and sodas, and telling Wally he should have said goodbye before he left. But Wally points out he's only moving 5,000 miles away, and Bart could traverse that distance quicker than it takes a normal kid to cross the street. While Wally was blinking, Bart wrote a goodbye note and drew a picture of everyone at the barbecue a month ago. Except Bart added his mom, Meloni, who's still in the 30th century. Bart starts to ask why everyone he meets disappears, but he freezes in mid-sentence.

Wally looks around and sees everyone and everything in the airport has stopped moving. From Manchester, Alabama, Max cries for Wally to get out of there, but it's too late. The powerless Wally West has come face-to-face with the Black Flash.

This wasn't a bad issue, although I must admit my favorite part was Wally's dream sequence at the beginning. It's the outline of a wonderful Silver Age series that never ran. The funeral scene itself was all right, if a bit clich├ęd. I wish the Weather Wizard really would have improved the weather to help remind everyone that he has reformed. But watching Jesse Quick and Jay Garrick step up for Wally was nice. However, my biggest problem lies at the root of the story. The Black Flash is supposed to be the personification of death for speedsters, right? Then how did it accidentally kill Linda instead of Wally? And why was Wally destined to be killed by a random lightning bolt? The Black Flash hovered over Barry Allen and Johnny Quick right before they both sacrificed their lives to save others. So Wally getting struck by lightning while meeting with his girlfriend is a very lame idea.

But I did like how Impulse was handled in this issue. He's still acting just a bit young for his age, but I guess emotional moments like this bring out the little kid in him. He is, after all, just two or three years old in reality. And he did make a good point with everyone around him disappearing — his parents, his cousin, and even his grandma, who has chosen a life in exile. This issue also gives us the first instance of Impulse showing an inclination toward drawing, something he will be doing a bit later in Young Justice. I almost wanted to see Bart's drawing, but then I remembered it was Pop Mhan's artwork, so I figured it's best to pass on that.

Next time, we'll return to the main series, where Bart is still mad at Max in Impulse #40.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Flash 80-Page Giant #1

The Speed of Life

Mark Waid Writer
Pop Mhan Pencils
Chris Ivy Inks
Tom McCraw Colors
Gaspar Letters

Our cover is unfortunately by Mhan and Ivy, who are simply incapable of drawing anybody in a flattering way. And this is a real shame, since several other more talented artists worked on this issue. But Mhan was the regular Flash penciller at the time, so I guess the honor defaulted to him. But a lackluster cover does not belittle how exciting and awesome this comic is. We have seven separate 10-page stories, one all about Impulse, and he makes a quick appearance in two others. And the other stories aren't bad, either. However, I do wish this could have been Speed Force #2, since that's essentially what it is. And calling it an 80-Page Giant seems a bit misleading when there's actually only 70 pages of content.

Our first story entirely takes place in the short amount of time it takes for Linda Park to strike a match. As she slowly drags the match across the box, Wally receives a bunch of different visions of what his life could have been like had he not become the Flash.

His first dream is a sad tale, where he's a paraplegic and trying to visit the Flash Museum after hours in the rain. He doesn't know why, but he feels like he belongs there, but is unable to enter. In his next dream, Wally works at Go West Travel Agency in Blue Valley, Nebraska. He spends his days sending people to exotic locations that he's never been to, and while he boasts of his speed, he's still not fast enough for at least one client.

The third dream has Wally catching his dad cheating on his mom. He tries to protect his mom from this secret, but she discovers it, and ultimately both parents blame Wally. In his fourth dream, Wally is chasing down his girlfriend, Frances. But he's too late. She's already on the plane, taking off. In the fifth dream, Wally tries to run away from home as a young man, but he's caught by his dad.

The sixth dream has Wally failing miserably at running the hurdles in track. In the seventh dream, Wally jealously watches a news conference where the Flash introduces his new sidekick, Kid Flash, who looks a lot like Bart Allen and is wearing a really stupid red-and-blue suit.

In the eighth dream, 14-year-old Wally is sent away to visit his aunt Iris. She arranges for him to meet the Flash, who tells Wally how he gained super speed. Wally is then struck by lightning, bathed in strange chemicals, and acquires superpowers just like his mentor. Wally becomes Kid Flash, then the Flash, and for the first time in all his dreams, he is happy.

Linda finally finishes striking the match and lights the lone candle on Wally's birthday cake. She asks if he's made a wish, then stops herself, knowing Wally will say what he says every year — he already had his wish granted when he was a boy.

So Linda asks a different question: Has Wally ever thought about what his life would have been like if he hadn't become Barry Allen's successor? Wally says, "Once. And only for a second."

It was really fun to have Mark Waid come back for this introspective story of alternate possibilities. And it's interesting to see who showed up to Wally's birthday party. It looks like we have Jay and Joan Garrick, Bart Allen, Jesse Chambers, Hartley Rathaway and his boyfriend and Iris Allen (just cut off). Max Mercury is the only notable absentee. Overall, the story was very fun, although Mhan's art really brought it down for me.

Our next story is called Dark of the Sun, written and drawn by John Byrne. This is a flashback to Barry and Jay, battling the Shade. It's a nice enough story, but there's no Impulse, so we'll move on to the third story, which is all about him.

"The 5,000 Rats of Bartholomew Allen"

Todd Dezago – Writer
Ethan Van Sciver – Artist
Albert T. De Guzman – Letterer
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Our story begins with Bart on a Friday morning field trip to the Manchester Animal Husbandry Facility. Bart has a hard time focusing on the tour, wishing he was still in bed. He strays away from the group a little bit to play with a white mouse, which he accidentally frees when Carol surprises him with a loud protest against the treatment of these animals. Carol says all the poor rabbits, rats and mice are going to be subjected to cruel torture and death. The worker tries to explain that most of these animals are involved in intelligence studies, but Carol's not convinced. Bart, meanwhile, follows his runaway mouse, and is shocked to see the small rodent hop up on a keyboard and access the computer's mainframe.

Somewhere else, somewhere dark, Gorilla Grodd reveals he has been behind the animal testing in Manchester, exposing the rabbits, rats and mice to intelligencia radiation and programmed to retrieve classified government secrets and email them back to Grodd. All that remains is for the animals to be delivered to the government facilities.

The next morning, a couple of Grodd's gorillas, disguised as men, arrive at the Manchester facility, only to find all 5,000 animals are missing. The disappearance is reported on the morning news, which Max and Helen happen to be watching. Helen remembers that Bart took a field trip to the husbandry facility, so Max wakes up his young ward. Bart frantically gets dressed and tries to explain himself, telling Max everything Carol had said. Max tells him to put his Impulse suit on, and they take off.

Max explains to Bart that even though his intentions were noble, what he did is still considered stealing. So he has Bart lead him to the animals so they can be returned to their rightful owners. Bart tries to explain that these mice are smarter than they look, but Max doesn't buy it. So Bart takes him to the school gym, which he thought would be a great place to hold 5,000 animals on a Saturday. However, when Bart opens the doors, all the rodents are gone.

After a quick sweep through the town, Bart and Max discover the animals are everywhere. Bart begins to panic, but Max calms him down, saying they can gather up all the critters and put them in the old abandoned water tanks behind the school. So Impulse gets a big bag and starts shoving all the rabbits, rats and mice he can into it. When he sees a lady frightened by a mouse, he decides to keep one for himself to scare Jesse Quick.

Max, meanwhile, finds a couple of mice in a computer store, accessing America Online. Finally understanding what Bart was trying to tell him, Max comes up with a new plan. Instead of returning the animals to the husbandry facility, they'll play it safe and spread the animals to various pet shops across the nation. Soon, shops in Greensboro, North Carolina, Appleton, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, find a sudden, mysterious arrival of rabbits, rats and mice.

Days later, Grodd is furious to find that his trained animals are sending him nothing more scintillating that emails to grandma. And in Manchester, Bart has decided to keep a pair of mice for himself. And those mice just happen to be very similar to the stars of that great '90s cartoon, Pinky and the Brain.

This was a fantastic Impulse story, and not just for the Pinky and the Brain reference at the end. We've already seen what a great handle of the character Todd Dezago has, and I am happy to say we will see him again before too long. And with this story, we're introduced to the amazing artwork of Ethan Van Sciver. He fills each page with lush, realistic detail, while also keeping things goofy enough for Impulse. And I'm very happy to say we'll also be seeing Van Sciver again before too long.

The Professional

Christopher Priest – Writer
Mike Collins – Penciller
Tom Palmer – Inker
Gaspar – Letterer
John Kalisz – Colorist

This story focuses on Jesse Chambers, who's trying to balance her life as CEO of QuickStart Enterprises with her superhero career as Jesse Quick. She responds to a bank alarm one morning in Philadelphia to find herself face-to-face with Captain Boomerang. He starts with a bunch of small boomerangs, which Jesse easily destroys in a cloud of smoke. But then Boomerang reveals that was only the first part of his two-part attack. He throws a second boomerang that emits a static charge to ignite the metallic particles from the first boomerangs. The result is a painful, self-sustaining electric shock for Jesse, as the second boomerang feeds off Jesse's super-speed kinetic energy to continually circle around her and keep electrocuting her. With great effort, Jesse is able to fight through the pain and cause the electric field to spike by rubbing her hands together at super speed and directing all the electricity at a nearby power pole.

Jesse wakes up 12 minutes later surrounded by police and paramedics. She immediately asks which way Captain Boomerang went and how much he stole. When Jesse learns Boomerang only made off with $75,000, she realizes that the crime was only a setup for something larger. Boomerang was counting on Jesse to fry the bank's power grid so he could rob a residential address. But it takes Jesse nine and a half minutes to check all the potential houses, and when she finally finds Boomerang's target, all that's left in the safe is a boomerang and a note that reads "Clever girl!"

Jesse returns to work and tries to make it through her day. But her mom, the former Liberty Bell, saw the fight on TV and decides to call up her daughter to tell her everything she did wrong. Jesse is so distraught by this conversation, she doesn't even notice when Impulse drops by to eat all her candy and leave a mouse behind to scare her.

But then Jesse gets a rather welcome visit from a cute EMT she met earlier. She thinks he wants to ask her out, and he admits he is interested, but says he first wants to check her vitals from her electrocution earlier. After all, Jake says, he is a professional. That reminds Jesse that she is a professional as well, which means not being too stubborn to admit you need help. So Jesse excuses herself from the cute boy and calls up Wally to ask for some superhero advice.

I really liked this story. Jesse Quick is forgotten all too often, and she's really a fascinating character. The daughter of two superheroes, a student of superheroes and speedsters herself, and the head of a major corporation. But she still isn't very experienced herself, so it was appropriate to have a veteran like Captain Boomerang kick her butt. And, of course, the best part of this story was the unexpected Impulse cameo. It not only stayed true to Impulse's character, but it created a bit of continuity between these short stories. I wish more comics would have random Impulse cameos just like this. Bart zooms in for no reason at all, grabs some candy or something, and is gone before anyone can react.

The last three stories do not involve Impulse, but are still fun all the same. Thunder and Lightning, by Michael Jan Friedman and Craig Rousseau focuses on Max Mercury back when he was known as Lightning in 1921, and saved Babe Ruth from a group of gangsters. Split-Seconds by Brian Augustyn and Oscar Jimenez takes the future Flash John Fox to 2945. He doesn't meet Bart, who won't be born till 2980, but he does meet Eric and Fran Russell and their infant daughter Iris. And John helps them send her back in time to be raised by Ira and Nadine West. And the last story, Your Life Is My Business by Mark Millar and Ariel Olivetti, has Wally West meet up with the real Mark Millar in a bar in Scotland to help him right the story.

I absolutely loved this comic. It was so rich and dense. Each story was great and unique, while all working together to build the Flash mythos. Almost all the art was rock solid, and all the writers were pretty big names in the world of Flash and Impulse. Although William Messner-Loebs was oddly absent from this compilation. Luckily, this 80-Page Giant sold well enough to launch a second issue in the series, even if it really was a 70-Page Giant.

Next time, we'll see what's going on with Wally and Linda in The Flash #140.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Power of Shazam! #41

Monster Society of Evil Part 4 Death Warrant

Jerry Ordway • Writer
Pete Krause • Penciller
Dick Giordano • Inker
Glenn Whitmore • Colorist
John Costanza • Letterer
Frank Berrios • Assistant Editor
Mike Carlin • Editor

The cover by Jerry Ordway shows Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel fighting Mister Mind, the evil, telepathic caterpillar that for some reason is gigantic. Actually, we'll find out why inside. The Marvels are joined by two Green Lanterns — the current, Kyle Rayner, and Hal Jordan from the past. Sadly, this issue only mentions the time travel, but doesn't really explain it. And even sadder still, Ordway's solid art is limited to the cover, leaving us with rather mediocre art inside.

It's a little disorienting popping into the end of a story, so in this case we'll know as much going in as Impulse does. Let's pick up with Bart at Manchester Junior High, where an air raid alarm is going off. Bart hears someone mention trouble at Fort Marshall, so Bart decides to go check it out as Impulse. Since this story occurs when Bart was still going with the shaved head look, he has to stash his wig away with his clothes before heading out.

An official explains that two soldiers have gone crazy and locked themselves into the missile command center. If they insert their keys at the same time, a nuclear warhead would be launched. Max Mercury soon arrives, and he's so distraught by the situation, he calls Impulse "Bart" twice right in front of everyone. Bart's worried that Max is going to lecture him for skipping school and jumping into the delicate situation without a plan. But Max does no such thing, choosing instead to work with Impulse, telling him to take the soldier on the left, while he takes the one on the right.

Impulse and Max quickly knock out the soldiers and take their keys before they could insert them. Bart wonders why they would want to do that, but when he picks up a key, he gets a sudden urge to do it himself. Max then discovers a green worm very similar to Mister Mind. He and Impulse vibrate through the wall and tell the captain that the men inside were being mind controlled. Max tries to show the caterpillar to the officer, but he accidentally vibrated it into goo.

And that is the end of Impulse's adventure. The rest of the issue shows how the Marvel family prevents Mister Mind from launching a full-scale nuclear war. Captain Marvel Jr. and the Teen Titans show up, as do the two Green Lanterns to re-create the image we saw on the cover. Turns out Mister Mind didn't actually grow that big, he was just using his telepathy to trick the heroes. Ultimately, Mister Mind is blasted to smithereens by Sarge Steel, who I don't think we've seen since The New Titans. With Mister Mind finally dead, all his agents also die, releasing dozens of people across the nation from his mind control, and the day is saved.

So yeah, that was a rather random appearance by Impulse, and a very out-of-character appearance by Max Mercury. But I am still happy to see other series use him as a guest, and I'm even happier to see other artists acknowledge Impulse's haircut. But I was sad that Impulse didn't deal directly with the Marvel family. Since his story felt so separate and extraneous, I suspect that Pete Krause may have simply wanted to draw Impulse on his final issue. Just a hunch.

Next time, we'll take a look at The Flash 80-Page Giant #1.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Impulse #39

The credits were accidentally omitted from this issue, but assistant editor L.A. Williams will tell us in a future Impulsive Reactions that the usual team of William Messner-Loebs, Craig Rousseau and Barbara Kaalberg did work on this issue. Our cover by Rousseau and Wayne Faucher shows us that the Trickster has been brought back by popular demand. And we see that Impulse officially has decided to let his hair grow back. However, this amusing scene only appears on the cover, as Impulse in no way tries to trick the Trickster inside. But this cup-and-ball trick does remind me of Bart playing the game way back in The New Titans #118.

Our story begins with Impulse trying his hand at some old-fashioned espionage work. Max Mercury was called away on business two days ago, the same day Bart noticed the Trickster sneaking around town. Even though James Jesse helped Impulse take down Lord Manny I the last time he was in Manchester, Bart decides to keep an eye on him just in case. Conveniently, Max had left his surveillance tools out in an easy spot for Bart to find.

Impulse follows the Trickster all the way up to New York, where he visits the mansion of notorious crime lord Edward Dunsany. Eavesdropping from a distance, Impulse learns that Edward is locked in a power struggle with his son, Gerald, who went behind his back with the toxic waste dumping operation in Manchester. Edward did all he could to ensure his son's conviction, including hiring White Lightning to drum up bad publicity for the case. But Gerald and his men got off scot-free by bribing the judge — at least that's what Edward suspects.

Knowing of this feud, the Trickster has come to Edward with a proposition to eliminate his son for $1 million. Edward is suspicious, having heard that Trickster had been reformed since Underworld Unleashed. Trickster simply says he needs money to donate to charity, and he sees no better way to make that money than to do so while taking out a scumbag like Gerald. Edward then tells a quick story to illustrate the kind of man he is. Years ago, an assistant district attorney refused to give Edward a favor. So he waited. And one day, the assistant D.A.'s son became terminally ill. Knowing Edward could save his son, the man became his servant. But Edward let the boy die anyway, all to send out the message that he is not to be trifled with.

Luckily, Trickster's plan against Gerald isn't so morbid — he only wants to remove his wealth. Having heard all this, Impulse surmises that the Trickster never really did reform, and it's up to him to stop this Rogue and old crimelord. Impulse decides to try to be patient and gather more information. He spots a man with a rifle sneaking around the other side of the house, but Impulse is interrupted by a "Rowfl."

Edward Dunsany's guard dogs have found Impulse and chased him toward the compound's electric fence. Impulse has never tried to vibrate through an electric fence before, so he hesitates a bit, which gets him shocked anyway. By the time he recovers, the would-be assassin has already left. But Impulse is able to follow Trickster across town to Gerald Dunsany's mansion. Trickster meets with the crime lord's son by his pool, and Impulse sneaks into the water with a snorkel to listen in.

The Trickster has presented Gerald with a promise of unlimited wealth. And to demonstrate, he drops an ordinary pebble into a vial of liquid, which turns it to gold. Trickster explains that a scientist named Dr. Herkimer Xavier Rassmussan discovered an elixir to change base metals to gold. However, Rassmussan, who worked for a toothpaste company, was only able to develop this elixir in his spare time. And after years of pulling 20-hour days, the old man became quite unstable, and boasted loudly of his discovery. The International Monetary Fund soon heard about this, and moved quickly to shut down Rassmussan before he undermined every currency on Earth. They had the scientist thrown into an insane asylum and confiscated all the transforming liquid he'd made — all, except for a small vial the Trickster was able to obtain.

The Trickster further explains that the government decided to quietly and illegally dispose of the elixir, classifying it as toxic waste and handing it over to Dunsany's company, which he unwittingly dumped in Manchester, Alabama. Trickster then tells Gerald that he had already presented this same story to his father as a lie to con Gerald. But Trickster tells Gerald the story really is true, and together they'll use it to con the old man Edward. However, Edward had a hidden recorder out by the pool and learned of this double-cross.

So Impulse races back to Manchester and enlists the aid of Carol and Preston to search the Trickster's temporary housing. Impulse digs through Trickster's books, including "Under a Yellow Sun" by Clark Kent, while Preston complains about how confusing this predicament is. Carol then finds a photograph of the Trickster with Dr. Rassmussan, proving his story was true. Impulse recognizes the old man as the would-be assassin at Edward Dunsany's mansion, and Carol asks whether Impulse went back to see to if he returned. All Impulse can say is "Oops," as he races back to New York.

Luckily, Impulse arrives in the nick of time, and tackles Rassmussan into Edward's office before the mad scientist can kill the old crime lord. Impulse and Rassmussan are quickly surrounded by Edward's guards, and Impulse tells Edward he doesn't want to kill Rassmussan since he'll never get the gold without him. The scientist yells at Impulse for revealing his identity, and Impulse tries to talk his way out of it, but only makes things worse and ends up blurting out everything he knows. Rassmussan then admits that the Trickster had originally promised to work with him, but only wanted to steal the formula and have him locked away.

Meanwhile, the Trickster and Gerald have rounded up the dumpers to find out where they buried the "toxic waste." To help motivate them, Trickster and Gerald have tied them upside down, which seems to do the trick. Gerald's men say they buried most of the wast in Ian Cook Memorial Park, and Gerald knows his men are too stupid to lie, negating the need for further torture. However, Gerald isn't sure of the best way to retrieve the barrels, so Trickster suggests they visit the town's mayor.

We see the mayor isn't the same black mayor from the previous issue, but a white man with a large orange mustache. The new mayor initially turns down the bribe to dig up a public park, but his tune changes when Trickster points a gun at his head. He gladly accepts Gerald's money, and allows him to begin tearing up the park.

Later, Preston, Roland (with a Runk Enterprises hat) and Carol watch the progress of the heavy machinery and bemoan the rampant corruption in their hometown. And Carol secretly hopes that Bart knows what he's doing. Impulse is hanging out with Edward Dunsany, who says he's put Dr. Rassmussan back in a lab, but worries the scientist's mental state will prevent him from remembering the formula. But Edward still has a plan to come out on top over his son.

Before too long, Gerald and his men are able to recover all the barrels, the last one having leaked and turned into gold. Gerald spends the last of his money to pay off his men and send them far away. But he's fine with having spent so much money on this operation since he now has a warehouse full of elixir that can make him wealthier beyond his imagination. But as he and the Trickster deliver the final barrel to said warehouse, Gerald is shocked to find the whole place empty. His father, Edward Drax Dunsany, is waiting for him inside, along with Impulse. Edward explains that he bought off Gerald's people and over-bribed the people he bribed. He also reveals plans to extort the IMF and banks for billions of dollars to keep the elixir a secret.

Enraged, Gerald pulls out a gun and fires several shots at his father. But Impulse catches the bullets and tells Gerald to put the gun away. Bart's a bit frustrated at having to team up with a criminal and being unable to bring Edward to justice as long as he has Rassmussen in captivity, but at the very least, Impulse knows he can keep these people from shooting each other. Edward then pulls out a laser pistol and points it at the Trickster, saying even Impulse can't stop a beam of light. But Impulse becomes very serious and says he'll run Edward to jail himself if he pulls that trigger. Unwilling to be a sore winner, Edward gloats about being the one man to outfox the Trickster, and he takes off in his helicopter.

Feeling like a complete failure, Impulse begins wishing for a miracle to stop Edward Dunsany once and for all. Suddenly, a miracle arrives in the form of Dr. Rassmussan, who explains that he escaped from Edward by using his super speed. He then pulls off his mask to reveal himself to be Max Mercury. Max explains that the formula was a fake all along, and that he worked real hard to follow Impulse and get in front of him to pose as the would-be assassin of Edward. Trickster explains that he tricked the Dunsanys into "bribing" the town officials to help pay for the flood damage and to remove the real toxic waste. To assist them, the Trickster planted an actor to play the mayor with the orange mustache and the judge who let the dumpers go free earlier. The actor was the assistant D.A. from Edward's story, and he was more than happy to help out with this scheme.

Gerald points out that he saw the formula work in action, but the Trickster reveals that display was a simple sleight-of-hand to get him to bite the bait. Impulse asks Max if the original dumpers were also in on the long con, and Max said they weren't. He said they kept it on a need-to-know basis so everyone would act naturally. Trickster says the dumpers were just more marks for the con, and Impulse says, "Just like me." Bart angrily runs away, leaving Max behind, who just realized how bad he hurt Bart.

Whew! What a complex story to wrap up something that Messner-Loebs began in Impulse #29. This issue required several re-reads to figure out what was going on. Not only was the story itself quite convoluted, but a lot of essential information was crammed into lengthy text boxes, and a couple of art errors further complicated things. Ideally, this story should have been spread over two issues to help show a lot of things that happened off panel.

Ultimately, I did enjoy this issue, as it finally wrapped up a storyline that was getting a bit long. And I especially loved Impulse's very human reaction at the end. Not only had he been put in a compromising situation, and felt like a failure for letting the bad guy get away, but now he finds out it was all an elaborate plan and his own mentor didn't trust him enough to let him in on it. However, I feel like Max's plan was needlessly complicated. And how is he going to guarantee that Edward Dunsany will dispose of the waste properly? Or won't retaliate when he learn's he's been duped?

Impulsive Reactions begins with The Big Salute to Ennis Cosby (son of Bill Cosby) and Jonathan Levin (son of Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin). Both men dedicated their lives to education despite being born to celebrities. And both men were tragically murdered in 1997. And This School Rules goes to the University of Massachusetts.

Mark E. Bermingham, of Hoover, Ala., praised Impulse #35 for its wacky plot and fun take on classic villains Zoom and Grodd. Mark says only a series like Impulse can humiliate its main hero by turning him into an ape and still come out looking cool. He also is excited to see the bald Impulse in action.

Brian Rubin, of Jericho, N.Y., however, is furious with the decision to shave Bart's head, and demands he re-grow his hair at super speed.

Paul Dale Roberts, of Sacramento, Calif., loved all the humorous moments in issue #35, and is pleased to see Impulse is getting more clever.

Get your hands a chance to win a Goosebumps 2000 trip through Lunchables.

Grab the bags, save the points, get the goods on lunch! Planet Lunch points on Frito-Lays chips.

A stone-age hit! The Flintstones: I Yabba Dabba Do! on video.

Kellogg's NBA Pop-Tarts. Slightly hotter than your normal breakfast.

Ultra new-age gadgetry from the Nintendo laboratories. Game Boy Camera and Printer.

Next time, Impulse will make a quick cameo in The Power of Shazam #41.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Flash #139

The Black Flash: Part 1 The Late Wally West

Mark Millar • Writer
Pop Mhan • Penciller
Chris Ivy • Inker
Gaspar • Letterer
Tom McCraw • Colorist
L.A. Williams • Asst. Editor
Paul Kupperberg • Editor

The cover by Steve Lightle shows Linda Park being struck by lightning, much to the horror of her boyfriend, Wally West. The attempt at shock and sentiment is there, but it misses the mark in my book. It's just too busy and cluttered of an image, with an odd color palette and sloppy pencils.

Our story begins four hours to the death of the Flash, with Max Mercury trying to take a group photo of Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick, Wally, Linda, and Impulse. The occasion is the wedding anniversary of Bart's grandparents, Barry and Iris Allen, and on this emotional day, Iris decided to interrupted her self-imposed exile for a picnic with friends and family. Max wants to preserve the moment on his "Pauloroid" camera, but Bart got distracted by some ants.

As you can see, Bart has finally given up on trying to keep his head shaved. But even with his heightened metabolism, it'll still take a while to get his hair back to what it used to be. Max persuades Bart to try to hold still for one pico-second so he can take another picture, which Bart also ruins when he finds a quarter. Linda asks Max if Bart has worn down the patience of the Zen Master of Speed, but Max says Bart is actually making great progress, despite all appearances.

Bart then rushes Linda back inside to play some video games before he has to return to school, while Wally tries to convince Iris to come to more get-togethers. But Iris is worried she'll one day drink too much wine and accidentally reveal secrets from the future that could have untold consequences. Linda then gets a call from the station about Captain Cold offering an exclusive interview. So she takes off, confirming her dinner plans with Wally. As everyone leaves, a sudden downpour hits, which only seems to worry Wally. Jay is too busy asking when Wally's going to finally marry Linda, and Max seems oddly transfixed by the group photo he took.

Three hours to the death of the Flash, the original Flash is tracking down some criminals on motorcycles in Japantown, San Francisco. The current Flash unexpectedly joins Jay, just as it begins to snow even more unexpectedly. The two speedsters make quick work of the crooks, and Wally reveals his motivation behind tracking down Jay. His recent race across the cosmos gave Wally a new perspective on life, and he has decided to propose to Linda that night. Wally asks Jay how he's able to juggle being a superhero and a husband, and Jay basically tells him to not live his life in fear and do the best he can.

Two hours to the death of the Flash, Wally goes on a worldwide patrol, helping people wherever he can, while also noticing odd weather patterns everywhere: monsoons in Nevada, snow in Rio de Janeiro, and high temperatures in the Yukon. So Flash finally decides to take a serious look into this odd weather, and gets to work on the computers in the JLA Watchtower. With the help of Oracle, Wally is able to pinpoint the source of the disturbances — just outside of Mogadishu, Somalia. Using the satellites to zoom in on the scene, Wally sees none other than the Weather Wizard at the heart of all this.

One hour to the death of the Flash, Max Mercury interrupts Jesse Chambers at QuickStart Enterprises. As usual, Jesse is quite busy and a bit annoyed, but Max insists she look at the picture he took of Wally earlier that day. At first, Jesse thinks there's just a black smudge on the print behind Wally, but Max shows her the last photographs taken of her father, Johnny Quick, and of Barry Allen, and both speedsters had identical black streaks behind them. Max believes this is a sign that Wally's going to die tonight. He explains that the Indians taught him about the Slow Lightning or Black Flash, the personification of death for all speedsters, and Max says he even saw it once when he had a near-death experience. Ever the avid student of the Speed Force, Jesse readily believes Max and cancels all her meetings so she can help him save Wally.

At the death of the Flash, Wally breaks the Weather Wizard's nose and prepares to snap his wand in half. But Weather Wizard explains he wasn't hurting anyone — he was only trying to grow some vegetation in the desert. He acknowledges his experiment caused some strange weather around the globe, but he knows it wasn't anything big enough to kill people, something he's vowed never to do again since his trip to the underworld. Weather Wizard then convinces Flash to put on the finishing touches of his experiment by using his wand to think of sunny thoughts. Sure enough, when Flash uses the wand, the weather calms down, and a huge field of wheat springs up in what was once a desert.

So Wally rushes back to Keystone City for his important dinner date with Linda. But Jesse and Max intercept him along the way. Wally's a bit mad about being late, so Max pulls out the photo to explain. However, the black blur behind Wally has disappeared, leading Max to believe that whatever they interrupted Wally from saved his life. Wally says he was supposed to meet with Linda 30 seconds ago, and everyone silently realizes that whatever was supposed to kill Wally is likely to put Linda in danger.

We see Linda waiting for Wally in the rain. There's a flash of lightning, and Linda sees the face of the Black Flash. Wally, Max and Jesse race there as fast as they can, but they're too late. All that remains of Linda is a smoking section of pavement where she stood, and Wally falls to his knees shouting her name.

And thus begins one of the bigger, more interesting chapters in Wally's career. It is interesting to note that Grant Morrison has stepped away from the title for whatever reason, making this solely a Mark Millar story. And he certainly has turned on the drama. I mean, Linda Park just died! But the story is far from perfect. I felt the Weather Wizard stuff was a worthless diversion, and the timing of the countdown was way off. Wally was supposed to die/meet with Linda at 8 p.m., and the story began four hours earlier, at 4 p.m. So there shouldn't have been any talk of rushing Bart back to school — he should have already been done for the day. And later, Wally finds out Weather Wizard is causing the disturbances at about 6 p.m., but takes almost two hours to confront him. Did he decide to catch a movie on the way?

And I was very glad that Pop Mhan drew Impulse with short hair, but he and Millar really made Impulse look and act like someone half his age. I know he's easily distracted, but playing with ants? And later, he's seen making sick faces behind Wally kissing Linda. C'mon, Bart's 14, not 7! And come to think of it, why was everyone wearing their superhero uniforms at the picnic anyway? And where was Jay's wife, Joan? All these little complaints combined with the lackluster art really put a damper one what should have been an amazing, exciting issue.

I only have the digital version of this comic, so there's no letters to the editor or ads this time. Next time, we'll return to the main series with Impulse #39.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins #1

Guy Talk

Ron Marz Writer
Lee Moder Pencils
Dan Davis Inks
Tom McCraw Colors
Chris Eliopoulos Letters
Dana Kurtin Hostess
Kevin Dooley Bartender

The cover is by Gil Kane, Kevin Nolan and Digital Chameleon. It shows the three biggest Green Lanterns — Alan Scott, Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner. It's an OK image, but not a particularly striking one. The first inside page is a much cooler shot of just Hal and Kyle, and it looks like it could have been drawn by Todd Nauck, but I'm not sure.

Like all the other Secret Files and Origins issues, this 64-page issue is full of all sorts of goodies: Profiles Pages for each Green Lantern and their major villains, a couple of backup stories, a timeline and an "interview." The only extra of any note is the Profile Page for the last Guardian, Ganthet, which is drawn by Craig Rousseau. But all we're worried about here is the 26-page main story, which features a very quick shot of Impulse.

Our story puts us in Guy Gardner's bar, Warriors, just as he's cleaning up. Even though it's past closing time, the former Green Lantern can't resist the urge to tell the whole story of all the Green Lanterns. He starts with Alan Scott, then moves on to Hal Jordan, himself, John Stewart, and finally the current and only Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner. And he's the only one we're interested in.

Kyle's story begins with Hal's fall into madness and transformation into Parallax. When Parallax destroyed the Guardians and Oa, one of them, Ganthet, managed to survive and create one last ring. Ganthet tried to give the ring to Guy, but he had felt unappreciated by the Green Lantern Corps and turned him down. So Ganthet gave the ring to Kyle Rayner, who established himself as the new Green Lantern. He helped stand up to Parallax in Zero Hour, and later joined the New Teen Titans with Impulse, Arsenal, Terra, Damage, and Donna Troy, who was his girlfriend for a bit.

Kyle then graduated to the Justice League of America not long after the Titans disbanded. With the JLA, Kyle fights alongside the Flash, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman, Superman and Martian Manhunter. Guy Gardner finishes his story by telling how Hal Jordan redeemed himself during Final Night and died reigniting the sun. Guy then reveals a new painting of all five Green Lanterns, which he calls "Five Regular Guys."

So there you have it. Not a lot to say here, since this isn't a Green Lantern blog, but I was very happy to see that not everyone has forgotten about Impulse's short stay on the Titans. And it is nice to see Impulse next to that group and not be drawn like he had 200 extra pounds of muscle.

There aren't any editor's notes or letters, but there are a few new ads:

Thirst no more. Coca-Cola.

Imagine you're Batman and you've been thrown into a world of broken bones and twisted minds. Welcome to the nightmare. Legends of the Dark Knight action figures.

We're giving away 100,000 special edition Daytona USA Deluxe PC racing games. After all, the object of racing is to win, isn't it? Skittles.

Even the most powerful man alive is still just a man. Superman For All Seasons. Written by Jeph Loeb. Illustrated by Tim Sale. This is one of the better Superman stories that everybody needs to read.

Fruitopia Peachberry Quencher. If you fold A to B you get an image of the bottle.

Crunch it while you can! Oops! All Berries.

Watch This Space once again has nothing interesting to say. Just some fun Batman costumes for Halloween.

JNCO shoes and a new comic book series.

Milk. Where's your mustache? With Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. But this ad didn't seem to have the rights to mention the show, and only referred to "the undead" instead of vampires.

Next time, Impulse will make another guest appearance in The Flash #139.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Impulse #38

Rising Waters

A WGBS Report.
A Paul Kupperberg production.
Bill Messner-Loebs / Writer
Craig Rousseau / Cameraman
Barbara Kaalberg / Lighting
Tom McCraw / Color Technician
Chris Eliopoulos / Text Graphics
L.A. Williams / Assistant Editor

Our cover by Craig Rousseau and Wayne Faucher shows a still-bald Impulse having some fun with the flooding in Manchester. Cowabunga was still cool in 1998, right? This is a very fun and light-hearted cover, but as Impulse will quickly learn inside, a massive flood hitting his hometown isn't all fun and games.

Our story begins with Dave Trimble reporting live from Manchester, Alabama, which is frantically trying to protect itself from the incoming flood. The whole town has come out to stack sandbags along the Warrior River, led by Impulse and Max Mercury, who have worked nonstop for two days. Trimble reports that the Justice League is busy battling monsters in San Francisco, and we even see a clip of Superman, Flash and Martian Manhunter in action.

After delivering his report, Trimble opts to stay behind and help out, although the mayor of Manchester is a bit perturbed that he referred to their city as a "sleepy Southern village." Trimble tries to explain that's just the world of TV, then asks the mayor for an update. He says a couple of nearby towns have already been evacuated, and the water's rising a couple of inches each hour, meaning the sandbags won't hold for much longer. The mayor also has insisted that Max Mercury and Impulse rest 10 minutes every hour, since they've been working so hard. It's on one of these breaks where Max reveals how tired he is by almost calling Impulse Bart. And Bart learns that his hyper metabolism won't let him stay bald for too long. Luckily, though, he came prepared and give himself a quick buzz.

Max realizes they need a new plan, because all they're doing right now is wearing themselves out. Bart then gets a great idea to build a dam and turn the river into a lake, but Max points out that said lake would put the towns north of Manchester under water. Bart wishes there was a nearby place that really needed water, but then he realized there is such a place. And without telling Max this plan, he takes off and runs on the river fast enough to create a waterspout. He then drags the waterspout with him to the desert of Texas to let the dry sands soak up the water.

Pleased by the success of his plan, Impulse makes 200 trips before before becoming exhausted and soaked. Max comes to check on him, and Bart says, "Hero ... going splorch ..." Max says he proud of Bart for having a plan and trying hard, but he reports that his efforts have only lowered the waterline about 2 inches, and now the Texas desert is getting more water than it can handle. So the two speedsters return to Manchester to resume their sandbagging duties.

School counselor Jasper Pierson makes himself useful by blowing whistles to keep people on track, even though Evil Eye thinks he's a dweeb. Preston and Carol are shocked to see the recently acquitted toxic waste dumpers have stayed behind to help out, and are even working side-by-side with the cops who arrested them, the prosecutor and the judge. Evil Eye is also shocked to see the dumpers' lawyer is also here, speculating he must have been paid to stay in town. Carol tells him that's a horrible thing to say, and he should be glad to see people put aside their differences to help out. But Evil Eye insists it doesn't matter anyway, saying only the greatest superhero ever could save them now, but who'd want to waste their time on such a junky little town. At these words, Roland suddenly gets an idea and rushes off, saying he has to call his grandmother.

Back on sandbagging duty, Impulse and Max meet Dave Trimble, whom Max accuses of implying that he's Impulse's sidekick. Trimble remarks on how sensitive everyone is, and says Max should be glad he doesn't have to worry about super villains right now. This gives Max an idea, and he asks Trimble to give him a direct link to the station. We then see that Roland, who has a Buzz Lightyear in his room, didn't go to call his grandma after all. Instead, he wrote an email to Charles Runk, aka the Chunk. Roland begged his hero to come save his town, and offered his entire college savings — $2,000 — plus free yard work.

Max then gets on TV with a special message for super villains. He speaks of how desperate Manchester is right now, and says he'll offer temporary immunity from arrest to all criminals who come out to help fight the flood. His message is heard by Dr. Morlo, the Transparent Weapon, the Glory Shredder, White Lightning and her mom, and many others. The mayor is furious with Max for offering such a deal, but Max gives him a phone number that confirms he does indeed have such authority. We don't know who was on the other end of that phone, but it was someone pretty big to get the mayor to shut up so quick. Impulse, however, is also mad at Max, saying he can't invite "thieves and monsters and ... carpetbaggers and murderers" into his town. But Max points out that all those people already live here, and he's just making them earn their keep. But Impulse still isn't convinced, believing asking for help from your enemies makes you look weak and stupid.

The first villains to show up are Gerald Dunsany's secret agents. They introduce themselves as Olson and Johnson and tell Max he never saw them there. They're immediately followed by the Transparent Weapon, the Song of Justice, the Spazz, and several other villains I don't recognize — I think one of them may have been the clown Impulse, Max and Jesse Quick fought during Genesis. Impulse points out the Transparent Weapon, and Evil Eye goes out of his way to say he's never seen him before. Dr. Augustus Morlo soon arrives, as well as a new villain called the Green Cigarette, a constantly coughing man whose head is an eternal green flame.

Impulse keeps a wary eye on the villains, and Carol wonders why the Transparent Weapon thinks being invisible will help him stack sandbags faster. The Song of Justice comes up with an inventive solution — using her harp to create huge water people to stack sandbags. Dr. Morlo has created a chemical atomic destabilizer that will break the water down to its basic, gaseous elements. Impulse takes the large purple tablet to drop in the middle of the river, while the Green Cigarette contributes by drying people's shoes. When Morlo's tablet dissolves, it turns a big chunk of water into oxygen and hydrogen, and creates a fairly large explosion that knocks Impulse off his feet. White Lightning dives in after him, and Impulse calls her Moonshine. She corrects him, then is shocked when the invisible hand of the Transparent Weapon pulls her out.

As Helen Claiborne works alongside her dad, David, Impulse regroups with Max and wonders how he'll ever be able to fight the two villains who saved his life. Max explains that most criminals start out with a little decency, but they changed when life threw them a curveball. Bart thinks this is bogus. To him, right is right and wrong is wrong. Bart says that Max traveled through time for years and he never became a criminal, but Max asks, "Whatever gave you that idea?"

But Bart and Manchester have more immediate concerns. Despite the town's best efforts, the water continues to rise and the sandbag wall begins to break down. The mayor is just about to give the evacuation order, when a helicopter for Runk Enterprises Ltd. arrives. The Chunk himself emerges, but the mayor knows Manchester can't afford his usual fee — he charged $1 billion to clean up the Gulf War. He starts to negotiate with the hero, but Chunk says his fee has already been paid, giving a nod to Roland, and adding that he's a sucker for yard work. Chunk lets Roland help him as he sucks up all the extra water and dumps it on a planet of water several dimensions away. Chunk knows that someday, someone will be willing to pay handsomely for that water, and he asks Roland if he can clip his hedges into swans with a wink.

In the end, David Trimble gives a final report on how heroes and villains came together to combat the natural disaster. And Trimble is careful to refer to Manchester as a "tiny bustling dynamo of a town" instead of a "sleepy Southern village." During the cleanup, the clerk from Pete's overhears Olson and Johnson discuss some high-tech, possibly illegal equipment, and the humble, foreign clerk reveals a keen scientific mind as he joins their conversation. But when he's met only by death stares, he takes the hint pretty quickly and backs away.

This was a great issue for several reasons. First was all the cameos! Anyone who was anyone in the world of Impulse got to show up here, which was fantastic. And I love how Messner-Loebs found an unbeatable problem for our hero — a rather simple, common natural disaster. But a natural disaster so large, it accomplished what many disasters are able to do, which is unite people. In the face of such all-encompassing calamity, people are able to put aside petty differences and come together for their fellow man. And this provided an excellent lesson for Impulse to learn: The world isn't always a simple black-and-white. All in all, I think this single issue is the perfect embodiment of Messner-Loebs' run on Impulse. The focus was on Impulse learning a lesson on humanity rather than saving the day in the traditional way. And these life lessons are taught with plenty of sweet humor. Plus, Messner-Loebs got to use Chunk, one of his creations from his run on The Flash. And, as promised, Messner-Loebs did clarify that White Lightning's name is not Moonshine. He didn't explain why Impulse thought it was, but whatever. At least the mistake was acknowledged and corrected.

After 37 issues with a nameless letter column, assistant editor L.A. Williams comes in and slaps a name on it on his first try — Impulsive Reactions, which I believe was one of the many suggestions over the years. L.A. also introduces The Big Salute Box, to thank Paul Kupperberg for hiring him, and This School Rocks Box, to give Fordham University a shoutout.

Zenobia Simmons, of New York, wasn't a normal DC reader, but was recommended Impulse and loved the artwork, characters and storyline enough to keep reading.

Debbie Wilson, of Bronx, New York, calls Impulse the perfect Generation X hero — someone who's totally into his life but not too caught up in it to prevent him from doing good. Debbie did, however, have a problem with Impulse #34, believing a simple fly-swat shouldn't be strong enough to propel the characters into an alternate future.

Jennifer Continua, of Ellwood City, Penn., praises the covers of Impulse and asks for either a Max Mercury miniseries or an appearance in the Legends of the DCU series. L.A. says there are no plans for Max in Legends of the DCU, but Max will continue to appear in Impulse, The Flash and the upcoming Flash Giant. Now for the ads:

Penny Hardaway says: "It takes one heck of a game to get me ... this bent out of shape!" It's the new Penny 1-on-1 Hoop Game! Basically just a cardboard cutout of Penny Hardaway in select boxes of Post cereal. You were supposed to use a real penny as a basketball and flick the cardboard Hardaway back to shoot. This ad was not licensed by the NBA, so Penny's wearing a plain white uniform instead of his usual Orlando Magic duds. And sadly, this ad was made around the same time the real Penny was bent out of shape, of sorts. The 1997-98 season was the last year he made the All-Star team and suffered a career-altering injury that limited him to just 19 games and 16.4 points per game.

Give history a wedgie. Rascal 3-D Action Adventure Game for PlayStation.

Guess why Alpha-Bits just got frosted? We fell into a birthday cake? Went mountain climbing in Tibet? Took a cruise to Alaska? Somebody forgot to close the fridge door? Polar beer licked us? We just taste awesome, why else?!!

Where have all the cookies gone? Into Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme.

Are you dangerously cheesy? A Cheetos "quiz" that's basically rigged to give kids a perfect score of the King of Cool.

New great taste, more golden color. Cap'n Crunch.

Find Ernie lost in time. Play the instant win game from Keebler to win a trip for four to Orlando.

Next time, Impulse will make a very quick cameo in Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins #1.