Sunday, September 13, 2015

Impulse #45

The Christmas Impulse!

William Messner-Loebs Writer
Craig Rousseau Penciller
Barb Kaalberg Inker
Janice Chiang Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Jamison Separators
L.A. Williams Asst. Editor
Paul Kupperberg Editor ...
All wish you Happy Holidays as do
Waid & Wieringo Impulse Creators

Our cover is a fun Christmas image that has very little to do with the inside story. But, as is usually the case with Impulse, that's OK, because this cover is goofy enough to stand alone. The presents are addressed to Mikey T., Annabeth Christiana, Max, and L.A. (Our assistant editor keeps finding way to sneak his name in these books.) This cover also brings up a very interesting, unanswerable question: Is Santa Claus faster than Impulse?

Our story begins with Max Mercury slowly recovering after being shot on Halloween. The process is long and arduous for the veteran superhero, who is confined to his armchair while he heals. Max reads a copy of Newstime, which reports the destruction of the Flash Museum. But that doesn't take too long, so Max turns on the TV, and sees a news report about the Green Cigarette attempting a daring midday break-in of Manchester Savings and Loan. The Green Cigarette has a whole gang with him, and has taken several hostages. So Max reaches for crutch, determined to help out in some way.

But Max doesn't even get out of the room before he runs into an unexpected visitor — Bart's mom, Meloni. She has decided to leave her father, the evil President Thawne, for a moment to spend the holidays with her son she never sees. Meloni has brought some presents and a translator, but she doesn't need it around Max, since he learned Interlac during her last visit. Meloni offers to help Max recover, but she can't figure out where to plug in the healing ray. She then is distracted by ancient flat television — something she's only read about before. Max explains that he's watching a live broadcast of a bank robbery, and he needs to get there before Impulse shows up. But Meloni tells him he's much too old and sick for that.

We then check in on the robbery and are introduced to Green Cigarette's gang: Coffin Nails, a knife-weilding woman; Lighter, master of gravity; Matches, a woman armed with a flamethrower; Stubbs, a man armed with explosives; and Gaspar, a French kick boxer and the team's lawyer. Green Cigarette asks the bank manager for the safe combination, but the manager is confident in his new automatic security devices. Suddenly, our lovable hero arrives.

Coffin Nails throws a bunch of knives at Impulse, but he easily catches them and returns them to her, saying, "I think you dropped these, lady." Lighter boldly proclaims that no matter Impulse planned, he couldn't have anticipated a man with the power of gravity. Impulse realizes he should have had a plan, so he tries to disorient Lighter by waving up a little whirlwind. But Impulse is interrupted by an apparent earthquake.

Turns out, the bank's security walls are sliding down, but the regular walls can't handle the strain, causing the whole building to begin to collapse. Green Cigarette and his gang start working to save their hostages, pushing people out of the way of falling debris and killing live wires before anyone is electrocuted. However, the criminals are all buried beneath the rubble as a result of their heroic actions. So the people of the bank work together to save the gang, and Impulse tries to help, but the instability of the debris pretty much negates his speed.

Once the criminals are rescued, Stubbs uses a couple of grenades to create an exit for everybody. Lighter and Matches notice the vault has been sprung, but they decide not to take people's money right before Christmas. When asked if he's going to reform, Lighter says he just had a "Christmas impulse." Green Cigarette apologizes to the manager for the bank, but he tells him not to worry, saying the building was insured. The lawyer Gaspar also offered to help the manager sue the security company that installed the faulty device pro bono. Naturally, Impulse's ears perked up at the phrase "Christmas impulse," and equally naturally, Bart misinterpreted that phrase to apply directly to himself.

Bart runs home to excitedly tell Max all that happened, and he's overjoyed to find his mom there waiting for him. Meloni tells Bart how proud she is, but Bart says it was the Christmas Impulse that made everybody do the right thing. Max says he saw Bart zap through the walls without thinking — again — which set off the alarm. Bart says the walls were malfunctioning, but it doesn't matter because the Christmas Impulse will take care of everybody during the holiday season. Max thinks this is insane, but Bart keeps repeating the words, "Christmas Impulse." Max tries to explain that superheroes are needed most during the holidays because people are often desperate at this time of year and make poor decisions — but not as poor as the decisions Bart usually makes.

Meloni is furious to hear Max talk to her son this way, and she says she won't put up with that kind of behavior during the three weeks she stays here. Helen originally thought Meloni was just staying for the weekend, and she begins to yell at Max. Soon, all three adults are yelling at each other, and poor Bart, who just moments ago was super happy, can't handle all this conflict and runs away.

Bart runs to the janitor's closet at his junior high, where he's discovered by counselor Jasper Pierson. Bart's so depressed and distracted that he honestly opens up to Jasper, not even thinking about protecting his secret identity. Bart tells him that it's his fault Max was shot, how he couldn't stop the bank walls from crumbling, and how it's suddenly his fault that his mom has come to visit. Jasper says he knows Max was shot on Halloween while wearing a Max Mercury costume, and that Bart was dressed as Impulse, but the way Bart's talking makes Jasper ask if he really is Impulse. Bart struggles to answer that question, realizing he's let the cat out of the bag.

Jasper then calls Max, saying he'd like to meet with him, Helen and Meloni. Jasper explains that Bart's very upset, and he's worried with how he's handling the stress of Max's shooting, the holidays and his mom's visit. Max initially declines, but when Jasper says that Bart believes he's Impulse, Max immediately agrees to the meeting. So Max drags everybody up to the school, but before the meeting begins, Jasper tells Max that he thinks it's best if they play along with Bart's dissociative fantasy to show they value his perception of reality. Max tells Jasper he thinks he can pretend that he and Bart are secretly superheroes.

So the meeting begins, and Max tells Bart he's free to be honest and forthcoming about everything, which is a very liberating thought to Bart. But Helen starts the talking, telling Max all she's wanted was a normal life with him, but he seems to care more about super villains than her. Max admits he hasn't been fair to her, but he says he never asked for this life either. People call him the Zen Master of the Speed Force, but he really doesn't know what he's doing. Bart's astonished to hear Max admit that, but Meloni interrupts him, saying she would give anything to have had a father-figure like Max. Her real dad killed her husband and sister-in-law, and hid her own baby from her. She completely missed watching Bart grow up, and now she has to stay with her evil father, slowly trying to bend him toward good, while her son continues to grow without her.

Jasper is amazed at the commitment everybody has to playing along with Bart's fantasy, especially Meloni and her made-up language. Bart finally gets a chance to talk, and he quickly apologizes for getting Max shot. But Max says it was his own fault he got shot. Max forgot to check for a second bullet, and when it hit him, he was too embarrassed and stubborn to say anything to Bart, which is why he let him run off to the Hallow-Teen party with Young Justice.

Jasper is thrilled with the progress they made, and he suggests they end with a group hug. Luckily, the Green Cigarette interrupts that potentially awkward situation. The criminal says he was passing by the school when he had a Christmas impulse, and decided to donate all the money he's made throughout his career in crime. And he presents Jasper with a check for $50, admitting that he's never been a very successful criminal.

So Helen and Meloni head out to pick up some Thai food and bond a little bit while Bart and Max slowly walk home in the starlit night. Bart says, "Thanks for ... everything, Max." And Max suddenly gives Bart a small hug. They keep walking for a bit, and Bart asks if that was a Christmas impulse, to which Max tells him not to push it.

What a heart-warming ending! That last page was one of the best moments between Max and Bart. And it came at the end of a nice Christmas story with a fun surprise guest (Bart's mom), and a closer look at one of my favorite villains, the Green Cigarette. He is so random and goofy, and not at all a bad guy, making him the perfect foil for Impulse. And you have to love how Bart was once again able to protect his secret identity by blurting it out to the first person he saw.

Impulsive Reactions gives the This School Rules to New York City's W. Haywood Burns Elementary for Caelah Bennett's decision to forsake the life of Wall Street to dedicate herself to helping kids.

John Harvey, of Aldershot, England, said the return of Arrowette was even better than her initial appearance. John especially liked how Impulse was handled in issue #41, saying it reminded him of the Mark Waid-Humberto Ramos days. John also admitted that fill-in artists usually aren't up-to-scratch, but Ethan Van Sciver did a great job of following Craig Rousseau's style while also delivering a punch of his own.

Jeff Sullivan addressed his letter directly to Rousseau, saying he thinks his usual work is fantastic, but he loved his more animated style in Young Justice #1,000,000.  Jeff urged the artist to take a job in animation or, better yet, do an issue of Impulse where Bart daydreams of being in a cartoon. Craig responded with, "Jeff, you must be psychic! Check out our next issue, and thank you for your kind words."

Jennifer M. Contino wrote a short letter, simply thanking the creative team for bringing back Arrowette.

Matt Kersus was happy that Bart's hair finally grew back, and loved the wardrobe montage, especially the Devo costume. Now for the ads:

Catch the bug. A Bug's Life for PC and PlayStation.

It's the Bedrock Blizzard. Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles with snow sprinkles packets.

Stomp, snort, howl and win! Enter the Running Wild Sweepstakes to be written into a future issue of Impulse, plus a PlayStation, a copy of the Running Wild game, and a one-year subscription to Impulse. That grand prize sounds pretty awesome. Unfortunately, I can't find anything about the winner of this contest, but I'll keep an eye out in future issues for any suspicious cameos.

Seven issues that will blow the original universe to kingdom come. The Kingdom.

Coming in December! Staman #50, Batman: Reign of Terror, Superman 80-Page Giant #1, Plastic Man Archives, Superman: A Nation Divided, and DCU Heroes Secret Files #1.

Next time, we'll return to the team book with Young Justice #5.

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