Saturday, August 15, 2015

Year in Review: 1998

What a big year 1998 was. At least for me, it was. As an 11-year-old, I got to watch my Utah Utes reach the NCAA national championship game, only to lose to the evil Kentucky. A couple of months later, my beloved Utah Jazz reached the NBA Finals for the second straight year, only to tragically lose to the evil Chicago Bulls once again. Despite the two heartbreaks, it was still a very exciting time.

In the world of film, only one movie cracked the $500 million mark, Armageddon, which I did see and enjoy. Shakespeare in Love surprisingly beat out Saving Private Ryan at the Academy Awards, and Godzilla depressed and angered everyone (although I did have quite a few Godzilla toys). On the animated side, A Bug's Life edged out Mulan and crushed its blatant rip-off, Antz. As far as superheroes go, I only consider Blade to be the year's true offering in the genre. Wikipedia counts The Mask of Zorro (which I did see and enjoy), but I don't think it's a true superhero movie. Anyway, I did not see Blade that year, since it's rated R, but I did watch it later and review it here.

For Impulse, 1998 was a huge, monumental year. He appeared in 36 comics, ranging from his usual guest appearances in The Flash, to merging with Iceman to form Quick Freeze in yet another DC/Marvel crossover. But most importantly, Impulse finally found a new superhero team to join, and one that ended up being a much better fit than the New Titans. In fact, Impulse didn't just join a team, he helped found Young Justice alongside the two most popular teenage heroes, Robin and Superboy. It opened up an exciting new chapter for Impulse, and set the stage for my absolute favorite era of the character.

Best Issue: JLA: World Without Grown-Ups

So I may be cheating a little bit here. This story was technically split into two issues, but they form together one of the most exciting and influential stories in Impulse's career. Impulse, Robin and Superboy officially formed Young Justice with this event, and in the end, Impulse played a major role in saving the Earth. All things considered, it was probably the most heroic thing he's ever done. The story was beautifully written by Todd Dezago, and Humberto Ramos made a glorious return to draw all the Kid World parts. Of course, JLA: World Without Grown-Ups wasn't a clear runaway in this category. I strongly considered Young Justice #1, which was the perfect beginning to the great series by Peter David and Todd Nauck. And I guess I'd give third place to Impulse #38, the flood issue that is perhaps the best representation of William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau's run.

Best Writer: William Messner-Loebs

Mark Waid's four-year run comes to an end. Although I did end up considering him for a fifth-straight award. True, he was completely absent from the main Impulse series this year, and largely absent from The Flash, but the few stories he wrote were still very good. Especially his short story in Secret Origins 80-Page Giant. I also strongly considered Todd Dezago, who did wonderful work setting up Young Justice, and Peter David, who kicked off the main series with amazing charm and humor. But ultimately, this award belongs to William Messner-Loebs, who really put his own stamp on Impulse this year. Most of his stories were quiet, down-to-Earth lessons about human nature. Impulse often didn't save the day, technically, but he usually did learn a touching, and sometimes sad lesson about life. But that's not to say there weren't any funny moments. Messner-Loebs never betrayed the light tone of the series, always throwing in good jokes and wacky situations, perhaps best exemplified by the goofy time travel issues.

Best Artist: Craig Rousseau

Humberto Ramos' three-year run also comes to an end. But as with Waid, Ramos was also a strong candidate to repeat. He did a great job on World Without Grown-Ups, as well as the charming Secret Origin of Impulse. Todd Nauck also made a very strong debut with his Young Justice work, and Ethan Van Sciver even made a nice impression in limited action. But the award belongs to Craig Rousseau, who really came into his own in 1998. He himself has admitted his early work on Impulse wasn't that great, but he quickly got a lot better, and turned out some great stuff. Rousseau maintained the necessarily goofy look of the series and Impulse himself, complete with big hair and big feet. But Rousseau even managed to make Impulse look cool without any hair. And each issue is full of hidden gems from Impulse peeking up from behind a random panel to newspapers mentioning other big events throughout the DC Universe.

Best Supporting Character: Superboy

This is kind of a surprise winner, but after considering all the potential candidates, Superboy just rises to the top. Carol Bucklen won this award last year, and was a very strong candidate to repeat. And Max Mercury, who won this award once before, is a perpetual runner-up in this category. But I really want to give this award to Bart's best friend — someone his own age he can just goof off with. And having superpowers does help that friend better relate to Bart. In 1998, Bart became such good friends with Robin and Superboy, that they decided to form a full-fledged superhero team. Impulse does have fun with Robin, but he seems to have a bit more fun with Superboy. Their banter is always one of my favorite moments in each issue of Young Justice.

Best Villain: Bedlam

This was by far the easiest category to decide. One weakness of the Impulse series so far is it's failure to create any lasting, memorable villains. The Dunsany crime family was behind the longest source of conflict on the pages of Impulse — the toxic waste dumping trial — but they weren't particularly threatening. Dr. Julian Tremaine was fun, and Glory Shredder was interesting, but both of them quickly faded away. Mighty Endowed and Rip Roar were also very fun, but not very threatening. Bedlam, however, was quite threatening. He sent all the adults away to another world, which is a pretty monumental feat. And more importantly, he was just a kid himself. Young Justice's first main antagonist was someone their age, which really strengthens the conflict. And kind of levels the playing ground at the same time. When we're presented with a bunch of stories of kids doing great, heroic things, it only makes sense to have the occasional kid doing horrible, villainous things. And, of course, the greatest thing about Bedlam was that he was a villain custom-made to be taken down by Impulse. For the first time ever, Bart's obsession with video games helped him save the day, as he was able to repeatedly "reset" Bedlam's projections and frustrate the kid villain into submission.

Well, I guess that's it for 1998. Entering 1999, we'll see the conclusion of the exciting JLA/Titans miniseries, regular guest appearances in The Flash, a lot more Young Justice, and a creative team change on the Impulse title. But first, we'll do one more Halloween issue with Impulse #44.

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