Thursday, October 1, 2015

Impulse: Bart Saves the Universe

Christopher Priest Writer
Jason Johnson Penciller
Edwin Rosell Inker
Willie Schubert Type Design
Bad @$$ Color & Separations
Page 31 borrowed from All Star Comics #7 by Gardner Fox with Sheldon Mayer
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo
Publication design by Kim Grzybek

So here is a special, 48-page one-shot (with no ads!) all about Impulse. Here's what the back of the book says: "During Zero Hour, Extant tried to reshape the universe in his own image. It took all the world's heroes to stop him. Now he's back to try again ... and this time, only Impulse stands in his way. Things don't look good for the universe."

Our cover shows a glorious gold statue of Impulse holding the entire universe on his shoulders. His monument is surrounded by all the heroes who co-star in this adventure — the JLA, JSA, Linear Man and Flash family. It is a really neat image, unfortunately hampered by Bart's deformed face. Jason Johnson has a very loose, wild style that mostly works for Impulse. But every now and then, an image gets away from him. Unfortunately, one of those goofs popped up on the main character's face on the cover.

Our story begins in 1941 with a younger Max Mercury battling the time-traveling villain, Extant. Unfortunately, things are not going well for Max. Extant causes the roof they're standing on to age and crumble, then he warps the time around Max to effectively take away his speed. In a shocking display of brutality, Extant uses a shattered bottle to slice Max's throat. We then see that he has already defeated the Justice Society of America.

Right on cue, a couple of time police, the Linear Men, arrive. Rip Hunter and Liri Lee very easily defeat Extant and imprison him at Vanishing Point. Liri wants to go back further in time to prevent the battle, but Rip says they can't risk changing the time stream by being spotted by the JSA. He notes that the heroes will recover from their injuries just fine, and the building Extant aged is scheduled for demolition anyway. So the only real damage Extant seems to have caused was the killing of a couple of bystanders, which Rip agrees they should prevent by going back 10 minutes. But neither of the Linear Men noticed the injured Max Mercury on the rooftop. Max tries to warn them, saying they're doing exactly what Extant wants, but he's too weak to make himself heard.

Today, Impulse is shadowing Batman — and he's even brought along his own magnifying glass to help out the world's greatest detective. For some reason, Impulse decides to stay just out of Batman's sight, but Batman figures out pretty quickly that Bart is standing right behind him. Instead of turning around and confronting the teen speedster, Batman begins talking aloud about how detectives always take into account the position of the moon and direction the wind is blowing. Batman says a detective should know to dull down the chrome and lens on his magnifying glass so it's not so reflective. And he'd also know that rubber boots give off a distinct odor after running at high speeds.

Bart hastily ditches the magnifying glass and examines his shoes. Batman then addresses Impulse, still without turning around. He says that since he's still alive, he knows the figure behind him isn't a hostile, and he rules out the Flash, who wouldn't insult Batman's intelligence by sneaking up on him. Therefore, Batman concludes that Impulse is behind him, either studying him or attempting an ill-advised prank. Batman doesn't care which is true, but all that matters is that Impulse is gone for good before he turns around.

So Impulse ditches the Dark Knight, and tries instead tries to help Superman battle a few bad guys. The Man of Steel appreciates Bart's effort, but tells him that he's mostly just getting in the way. So Impulse visits Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, who give him similar messages. Bart throws on a scuba tank to help out Aquaman, who also doesn't want him, and Arsenal is not impressed with Bart's attempt to fire seven arrows at once. Somehow, Bart manages to sit on the Mobius Chair, which Metron doesn't like one bit, and Martian Manhunter is not pleased when Bart comes calling at his private residence. And the Spectre is so annoyed, he spooks Bart off with a vision of his own tombstone, which reads, "Here lies Bart Allen who was very stupid."

Later, Bart and Carol are visiting the Flash Museum for some reason. A depressed Bart is sitting on the statue of his grandpa, Barry Allen, which says he lived from 1957 to 1991. Carol tells Bart that she knows he's upset that the museum has so little about him, but she says these things take time, reminding Bart that he is only four years old. They walk past the Cosmic Treadmill and into the Impulse room, where a couple of visitors wonder what an Impulse is. Carol tells Bart she knows he'll get his chance to save the world and fill ten museums with his great deeds. She then heads off to get some ice cream, leaving Bart to gaze at one of the few relics in his room — the guitar he played with Jenni at the high school dance.

Suddenly, an injured Rip Hunter appears in the room, shattering the exhibit's glass. Rip tells Bart that only he can save the universe. He says everything Bart knows is going to change, but he alone is exempt from the changes in the time stream. Rip tells Bart to travel back to 1941, September 7th, at Gotham Square at 8 o'clock to stop him before he wins. And before he can explain more, Rip vanishes a flash of green light, leaving a perplexed Bart surrounded by a big mess.

Bart soon finds himself in trouble with both Max and Wally, and is grounded from the TV and video games. Wally is mad at Bart for bugging his fellow JLA members, and he doesn't believe Bart's story about a spaceman smashing up the Flash museum. Wally complains that his phone's been ringing off the hook lately about Bart's behavior, but both Max and Helen say that being connected to Bart comes along with being the Flash. And Max actually believes Bart's story, saying he knows the boy well enough to know he wouldn't make up a story like that. But Max does agree to punish Bart for harassing the other heroes.

Max brings Bart his dinner in his room, and tells him that both he and Wally really do like him. Max tells Bart that he reminds him of his old horse, Lightning, that was stubborn, skittish, ran like a rabbit, and was always where she wasn't supposed to be. And they shot Lightning. Max tells Bart that having all the gifts in the world means nothing without the discipline to use them, and he advises the teen to give some thought to growing up.

Bart wakes up the next morning by falling out of the bed. He groggily walks into the bathroom, and is stunned to see a beautiful, naked woman shaving her legs in it. She screams, and Bart rushes outside. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes, then concludes this must be Max's new girlfriend. So Bart vibrates back in through the wall, but is immediately attacked by the woman's husband, a very large and very angry man. The woman calls her husband off, concluding that Bart is just a harmless kid, perhaps a bit slow, who somehow snuck all his clothes into their closet. The woman is wearing a towel now, but it does little to contain her cleavage, which Bart is quite captivated by. He stares at her for quite some time, and when she asks if he can talk, he takes a minute to say, "Sometimes." And that, on page 17, is the first spoken word by Bart in this comic.

And so, Bart throws on his Impulse outfit and rushes over to Carol's house, and oddly plops himself in her bed. He tells her he's having a nightmare where Max is gone, but he got to see a naked woman, which was actually kinda cool. But Carol has no idea who this strange kid in her bed is, so Bart says, "Never mind. Wrong house."

He then takes off, looking for Wally, which actually turned out a bit harder than Bart thought. After looking up every Wally West in every phone book, he finally found the real one living with some woman named Angela in a small apartment in Central City instead of Keystone City. Bart begins talking too quickly again and not making much sense, and when Wally asks what he wants, Bart blurts out, "A cheeseburger." Wally slams the door on him, but Bart vibrates through the wall and does a slightly better job of explaining his predicament and says he wants to go home. When says his name is Bart Allen, Wally concludes he must be related to his uncle Barry, so he decides to drive Bart over there.

Bart initially faints when he sees his deceased grandfather, but when he recovers, he does a familiar face — his grandma Iris. He quickly tells her about his nightmare where Max was gone, Wally didn't know him and Grandpa Barry was still ... blond. When Bart realizes he's still in the nightmare, he tactfully uses the word blond instead of alive. Bart says everything's changed and they have to back to Gotham Square in 1948 (even though he means 1941). Bart asks the two Flashes to race over to the Cosmic Treadmill with him, but neither one of them is the Flash. And Bart only confuses them more by poorly explaining that they are both supposed to be the Flash. So Bart runs over to the Flash Museum himself, only to find a vacant parking lot in its place.

Feeling completely defeated, Bart actually tries to kill himself in Barry's oven. But Barry pulls him out, saying he actually believes Bart's story. He asks Bart to start over at the beginning. Suddenly, the injured Max Mercury appears in Barry's kitchen, telling Bart that either he stops Extant or the universe dies. Apparently Extant took the time to brag about his entire plan to the dying Max, so Max can now conveniently explain everything to Bart (and the reader).

Extant tried to remake the universe in his image during Zero Hour, but he was betrayed by Parallax, the former Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Extant was defeated that day, but now he has attained his revenge. Knowing the Linear Men would undo any changes he made to the past, Extant decided to trick them into thinking he made a change. The whole battle with the Justice Society of America was just a distraction to cover up the natural death of a physicist named Garnet Edwards. The Linear Men mistakingly believed Extant killed Edwards so they saved his life, doing exactly what Extant wanted.

Extant later went on to create a powerful doomsday weapon that was tested in outer space. But it proved more powerful than anticipated, and nearly destroyed the moon, halting its orbit for a fraction of a second. This resulted in an infinitesimal slowing of the Earth's orbit around the sun, which changed the planet's relative position exponentially over the following decades. This altered things just enough so that Abin Sur's crippled spacecraft hit Earth's atmosphere at too steep an angle and was destroyed, meaning he never gave the Green Lantern ring to Hal Jordan, who never became Parallax.

The changes also resulted in Superman's rocket landing in Uganda instead of Kansas, turning the Man of Steel into some sort of crazed villain. And Barry Allen missed his fateful lightning bolt by a fraction of a second, preventing the entire Flash family of Wally, the Tornado Twins, Impulse and XS from ever existing.

Max has been telling this whole story while trying to not succumb to the massive gash in his throat. Bart has been listening, but also spinning on his head on the couch. Max explains that Bart is a living time anomaly because Barry was displaced in the future when he sired Bart's parents, and now Bart is further displaced in time by coming back to the 20th century. So far, this has kept Bart aware of the changes in the time stream and immune of Extant's powers, making him the only person who can save the universe.

Finally, after all that talking and explaining, Barry suggests they take Max to the hospital, since he has been bleeding out on Barry's armchair for the past few minutes. But Max says there's no time for that, and explains one final detail — that he "leaped" forward in time to follow Rip Hunter to deliver his message. Max begins to struggle breathing, and Bart finally notices that his beloved guardian is in any peril. Bart rushes to Max's side, who tells Bart it's all up to him. And then Max dies.

Bart begins screaming and crying. He tries to lift Max up and get him to a medi-center, but he's too heavy. Bart shouts at Barry to not just stand there and watch Max die, but Barry tells Bart that Max is gone and wraps him up in a warm embrace. They hug and cry for a minute, and Bart vows revenge against Extant.

Later, Bart reconstructs the Cosmic Treadmill from memory, and Barry is skeptical whether this crude contraption will work. But Bart says they don't have time to worry about that, and he has to try it. So Barry wishes Bart luck on his mission, saying he looks forward to becoming the Flash and joining Bart on these adventures in the future. Bart still doesn't have the hear to tell his grandpa that he died, so he just hugs him instead and says he loves him.

Luckily, Bart's treadmill does work, but it initially sends him to the future. He's able to get things sorted out quickly, though, and arrives in the proper time of 1941, where the JSA are having a meeting discussing the plight of the war orphans around the world. Bart remains hidden in their conference room, and kind of dances around them, making goofy faces until he's discovered by Max Mercury.

Max quickly pulls Bart out the room, and Bart gives him a big hug, saying he's so glad that Max is ... brunette. Max explains that he doesn't know who Bart is, but he felt a disturbance in the time stream, which brought him to Bart. Once again, Bart does a very bad job of explaining himself. Max cuts him off by saying he's actually blond, and he suggests Bart continue his story in prison. But Bart stops him by saying Max never told him why he shot his horse. This convinces Max to hear the boy out.

Meanwhile, the most powerful member of the JSA, the Spectre, has become frozen in time. This is the work of Extant, who begins his attack with a big explosion. Max realizes this was what Bart was trying to tell him about, so he advises Bart to remain hidden. Bart says they need to find Dr. Edwards, but he doesn't know what he looks like. So Max and Bart rush out onto the street and begin checking everybody's wallet. Max sees the JSA struggling against Extant, and he decides to buy Bart a few more seconds by confronting the villain head-on.

Bart tries to stop Max, but Max tells him not to reveal too much about the future. He orders Bart to focus on his mission and let history take care of itself. Max says having all the gifts in the world means nothing without the discipline to use them, and he takes off. Bart eventually does find Garnet Edwards, while Max loses his battle with Extant. Bart spots Rip Hunter, and pushes him out of the way, allowing the falling debris to crush the physicist. Rip Hunter begins to shout at Impulse, but he's soon blasted away by Extant, who is furious at the teen for thwarting his plan.

Extant says he has spent a thousand years putting this perfect plan together, and now a mere boy has undone it. Extant says he'll kill Impulse, then make the adjustments necessary to correct his scheme. Bart tries to dodge him, but Extant lands a powerful punch on him, knocking him into some trash cans. Bart asks how he was able to do this, and Extant picks him up and tosses him into a car's windshield, explaining that he's speeding up time around Impulse to cancel out his super-speed. He says he would just age Impulse to dust, but he can't since he's a time anomaly. But Extant says that doesn't matter, and it's time to end the game.

Bart concedes that Extant has won, and he asks to just go home now. But Extant is still intent on killing Bart, who says that's not fair. In his last moments, Bart imagines Extant breaking the rules of a big rule book, complete with a picture of Max next to Rule 327: "You must be this tall to ride this villain." But then Bart's imagination turns the page to Rule 328, with a picture of Extant and the words, "This villain's powers cannot affect you directly."

This gives Bart the inspiration to not give up just yet. He manages to dodge Extant's attack, grab a hold of his cape, slide between his legs, and pull the villain down hard on his face. This knocks out Extant long enough for the Linear Men to arrive and take him away. Before the time stream is reset, Bart gets one final goodbye with Max, who has actually wrapped a bandage around his throat this time. Bart exclaims how happy he is that Max isn't blond. Max tells Bart he gets the feeling they'll be good friends one day, but for now, he doesn't want Bart to tell him any more about the future. Bart agrees, and hitches a ride back with the Linear Men.

Bart wakes up back on his bed, and he creeps downstairs to see Max, Helen and Wally angrily discussing Bart's behavior. Wally sends Bart back to his room, and Bart happily accepts the punishment, seeing that everything has returned to normal.

Later, Bart and Max visit the Flash Museum to see the new trophy in the Impulse room, the swatch from Extant's cape. Max asks Bart if he's happy now, but Bart says he wishes he could do it over, having thought of some new stuff he could have used against Extant. Max says people always think of ways they could've don't their jobs better after the fact, and Bart just needs to get used to that feeling. Bart then says his adventure did leave him with a few unanswered questions, such as why did Max shoot his horse?

And at the end, we get a list of thank yous from the writer.

Priest sez:

Thank you Mark Waid for always answering the phone
Thank you Brian Augustyn for the big plot assist
Thank you Dave von Domelen and Greg Morrow, Ph.D. for the technical assist
Thank you Grant Giandonato, Addie Blaustein, Mike "The Parademon" Chary, Elayne Wechsler-Chaput, Sidne Gail Ward, Denise L. Voskuil-Marré, Max Chittister, Jerry Franke, Rick Jones, Kevin Maroney, Marc Singer, Hosun S. Lee for the research assistance

I'm not sure why Priest needed all those people to help him research, or what exactly it was they were researching. In any case, I'm glad so many people came together to make this comic as awesome and bombastic as it is. I really love this story. It was funny, intense, action-packed, and it ended with Bart truly saving the universe from one of the biggest threats in DC. But that's not to say this comic wasn't without it's problems.

The look and feel of the book took some getting used to. Even the lettering, which rarely stands out, was a bit rougher and more casual than average comic books. Johnson style is very fun and wild, which creates opportunities for some amazing, beautiful scenes. But his style also has a high margin for error, lending to a handful of very weird and unfortunate images. If he could have tightened up his art just a bit, this comic would have been perfect art-wise.

The story is very good. I loved the idea of making Impulse a time anomaly, immune to changes in the time stream. This idea will continue to be explored later on in some more fun stories. But I do have a few problems with Priest's story. Once again, Max Mercury was used to inexplicably explain everything, including a lot of things he really shouldn't have known. Did Extant really sit and explain every last detail of Zero Hour and all the minute changes he caused? And why did Barry and Bart let Max tell this very long story before noticing all the blood pouring out of his throat? Bart was happily spinning on his head as Max was dying, then cried for a bit when he did die, then was right back to goofing off half a minute later. I know Bart is impulsive, but not that much.

I also never really felt like the world was in that much peril after Extant's plan was enacted. Yeah, there's not Flash, Green Lantern or Superman, but everybody's day-to-day life seemed pretty much the same. What, exactly, did Extant want his new reality to be like? I also wish Impulse's final confrontation with Extant would have been more satisfying. All told, Extant punched Bart once, threw him on a car, and then Bart pulled Extant down by his cape. Fight over. Universe saved. Just a bit too quick for my tastes. But overall, I loved this story. Heck, the scene with Batman alone was worth the price of admission.

So that's it for Impulse comics with a publication date of March 1999. Heading into April, we'll start with The Flash 80-Page Giant #2. I'll be moving to another state over the next couple of weeks, so it'll probably be a while before I get to that, though.


  1. Replies
    1. Oh, hi! I hope I didn't come off too harsh. I really think it would have been great had you been able to draw more Impulse.

  2. "Here lies Bart Allen who was very stupid." The Spectre had right in his vision, Superboy Prime will write "Stupidest boy dead" in Bart's tomb.