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!

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