Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Impulse #42

Virtual Pets, Virtual Heck

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 shows Impulse being attacked by one of those pesky virtual pets that were all the craze of the late '90s. If you didn't have a Tamagotchi or a similar device, then you weren't really a kid of the '90s. Sorry, but that's one of the requirements. Anyway, I really enjoy this simple cover. The blue background is nice, Impulse looks great (especially the detail on his fingers) and the monster arm is pretty cool. If you look closely, you can see a fun pixelation effect on the monster's arm near the device. The only sad thing here is the monsters don't look anything like that inside.

Our story begins in 1941, where the young Herbert Lyle Jameson is listening to reports of the Pearl Harbor bombings over the radio. The boy is frightened, but he tells his rag doll, Binky, that in the future there won't be any wars or hunger, and everyone will live in domed cities on Mars with moving sidewalks.

In 1952, at the height of the Korean War, the teenaged Herbie occupies himself with improving radios, believing that improved communication across the globe will eliminate wars and hunger.

In 1963, Herb is a whiz kid at a computer lab. His co-workers want to leave work to watch the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, but Herb chooses to work through it, believing there won't be any more assassinations once computers are as small as cars.

In 1972, Herb focuses on personal computers, saying the Vietnam War would have ended much earlier if everyone had a computer small enough to carry. And that thought carries the scientist through 1982, as he continued to work on smaller computers with higher speeds and easier interfaces.

In 1992, Doctor Jameson invents a virtual creature prototype to be programmed to act just like a real pet with artificial intelligence. In honor of his old rag doll, Jameson names the device Binky. He also has a paper on his desk telling him to compare notes with Julian September, who would later become a Justice League villain.

In 1998, Jameson's technology has been mass-produced and marketed as the hot toy of the year, Binkatoochies. Carol excitedly shows off her new toy to Bart, who, for some reason, is wearing one of Gamal's old work shirts over a Charlie Brown shirt.

Just like the Tamagotchis of real life, these Binkatoochies only have three buttons that require a complex combination of codes to interact with the virtual pet. Bart, who normally loves all video games, finds these toys boring and repetitive, and even considers Carol a screwball for enjoying them. Carol says Bart's just jealous, then reveals the greatest weakness of the Binkatoochies — they require constant care. So Carol asks Bart to take care of her toy during class, presumably because his super speed will help him conceal his playing.

But in Mr. Snodgrass' history class, Bart has a hard time interacting with the Binkatoochi's non-intuative interface, and he is soon spotted by Snodgrass. But Bart wasn't the only one. Nearly every kid in the class was also trying to sneakily take care of their virtual pets during the lecture. So Mr. Snodgrass rounds up all the toys and throws them in his desk. The students protest, saying their pets will die without them, but Snodgrass says they're just toys and nothing bad will happen from neglecting them for the day. Just then, a large energy monster erupts from Snodgrass' desk, proving the teacher wrong.

More energy monsters appear, creating quite a commotion. Carol asks Bart what's going on, and he immediately says this isn't his fault. Carol urges him to do something, but Bart decides to plan his strategy carefully — hundreds of lives could be lost — plus, he wants to make sure class is officially over. The monsters begin speaking, demanding to know where the robot teachers and electronic thought transfer caps are. When Carol begins yelling at Bart, he finally switches into Impulse to save the day.

Impulse's first thought is to run through the energy monsters to disrupt them. But he's repelled by their electricity, and is unable to stop them from breaking out of the school and destroying everything in site because there are no holo-projection screens, moving sidewalks, flying cars, dehydrated food pills or machines to make food from energy. Impulse notices a couple of the monsters are turning on each other, and he hopes that they'll just take themselves out. But when the energy beasts touch, they are combined into one larger monster that is furious there are no anti-grav shoes or robot trees.

The school begins to collapse, and Impulse creates a whirlwind to protect the evacuating students from falling debris. Carol, meanwhile, finds a clue. On the back of the Binkatoochies is an address in Atlanta. So Impulse zips over there, hoping to see if they know how to stop the monsters, which are also appearing in Georgia and demanding electron rays to teach languages, floating houses and spunky robot secretaries. Unfortunately, Impulse learns the address in Atlanta is only the distribution center, and they get the Binkatoochies from Metropolis.

So Impulse heads up to Metropolis, and if you look real closely, you can just see Superman flying over the Daily Planet. The Binkatoochi monsters are also rampaging in Metropolis, and Impulse sadly learns that the address he was given was just another step up on the distribution chain. However, a worker is able to help Impulse track down the creator of the toys, Dr. Herbert Lyle Jameson in Seattle.

Impulse tells Jameson about his rampaging virtual pets, and he quickly whips up a computer circuit to infect the monsters with a virus. Excited to be "cooking with science," Impulse places the chip on the back of one of the beasts. Unfortunately, the virus only makes it grow larger, and it transfers this growth to all the other monsters. So Jameson tries a different circuit that should cause the monsters to split apart at the subatomic level. Impulse sees this as a piece of cake, and throws the new chip on one of the monsters. At first, they begin to split apart, like Jameson intended, but they only keep dividing and growing, creating even more monsters to spread their destruction.

Impulse yells at Jameson for making everything worse and says he hates science. Jameson is annoyed by the teen's attitude, saying he used to love science as a kid, always dreaming about the wonders the future would hold. As he talks, he realizes what's causing the pets to rampage. Jameson wanted to build worlds when he started his profession, but ended up making toys. And he realizes he inadvertently passed on his own frustration and rage into the virtual pets. So he throws together one last circuit for Impulse to try.

This one does the trick, causing all the energy monsters to shrink back down into their handheld devices. Impulse asks how Jameson did this, and the professor explains that as people grow up, they learn to cope with their lives not turning out the way they expected them to. And Jameson gave that programming to the pets — to learn to be disappointed.

Somewhat later, Carol happily tells Bart that the Binkatoochies are completely safe once again. However, all the teachers have banned them from the classrooms, so the students need one brave hero to make sure all their virtual pets get fed, watered and exercised. So she dumps off a bunch of Binkatoochies on Bart's desk, who says he hates being a hero.

This was actually a pretty sad issue. Once again, Impulse didn't really save the day, and learned a harsh lesson about growing up. "No one's life ever turns out just as they expect. Generally we become less than we anticipate. The world is not changed, but rolls over us, like a wave." I guess that's just a rather sad way of saying we need to accept the limitations of reality. But this issue wasn't completely depressing. There were still some nice laughs, and I think the extra time off really helped Craig Rousseau, who seemed to have fun experimenting with panel shapes and layouts in this issue.

Impulsive Reactions begins by welcoming back the regular creative team, and apologizes for leaving off their credits to Impulse #39. This School Rules goes to Westbrook Road Community Home in Bristol, England.

Brett Allen, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asks for a super-speedster to be named Brett Allen, saying every other combination of B. Allen has already been used.

Matt K. congratulates Impulse for finally getting a letter column name, although he did prefer Synapse, Crackle and Pop. He also loved how Impulse #38 showed how even though someone's evil on the outside, it doesn't mean they can't be good on the inside.

Paul Dale Roberts, of Sacramento, Calif., says he is a reserve with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, and has been called in to help fight floods just like we saw in issue #38. Paul says Bill Messner-Loebs did a good job of showing the camaraderie that occurs in disasters like this. He also really dug the Green Cigarette.

Kingsley Taylor, of Los Angeles, asks whether Carol will become Bart's girlfriend and if Zatanna will make another appearance in Impulse. Kingsley also asks why Bart is so smart, which I think is a very odd question, because I never really considered Bart that smart. But he's not stupid, either. Anyway, on to the ads:

JNCO CGI Sole. Patent pending technology.

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More mischief. More menace. Dennis the Menace Strikes Again now available on video!

Hang with Hey Arnold! Get a 3 foot lo-o-ong poster free in marked boxes of Post cereal.

Find the Magic Puzzle Piece with Banjo-Kazooie. You could win instantly a Nintendo 64 home entertainment center.

Find the orange Pebbles and you could win a Florida vacation!

Get everything but the bus. If you're a winner in the Nabisco Cool Bus Contest. (So many contests this issue!)

Next time: Ever wonder what the future will be like? The JLA does. But in their case, curiosity might kill the cat, the cities, the countries, and the centuries! We'll take on DC's big crossover event of 1998, DC One Million, starting with Young Justice #1,000,000.

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