Friday, November 20, 2015

The Flash #147

Chain Lightning, Chapter Three: Shooting the Rapids

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Story
Paul Pelletier, Pencils
Vince Russell, Inks
Gaspar, Letters
Tom McCraw, Colors
Frank Berrios, Assistant Editor
Joey Cavalieri, Editor

When editor Paul Kupperberg left, he took L.A. Williams with him, giving The Flash a sort of "whitewash" on the editorial front right in the middle of a big event. But I'm sure Waid, Augustyn and company handled this transition just fine. Our cover is by Steve Lightle once again, keeping to the trend of Chain Lightning. In the foreground is Eobard Thawne, aka Professor Zoom, running alongside a shocked Impulse, the current Flash, Wally West, and some future robotic Flash. The cover looks pretty nice, but I still would have preferred to have Pelletier draw it — I really like his style.

This issue begins with a recap page that I'm sure will do a much better job than I ever could, so here's what it says.

What Has Gone Before: Malcolm Thawne — twisted twin brother of Flash's predecessor, Barry Allen — has sworn vengeance against all Flashes past and present using a fiery gem of frightening and unpredictable power. According to its mystic prophecy, the gem's sinister magic will span the next thousand years and doom the entire Allen legacy, consuming two Flashes before finally slaying Barry Allen during his time in the 30th century.

To prevent tragedy, Flash has sent himself, Jay Garrick, Max Mercury, Impulse, and Jesse Quick through time to save all future Flashes from the Allen-Thawne feud and to spread the message of danger.

In order to defeat the Cobalt Blue of the 25th century, however, Flash must first face another threat: the psychotic Professor Zoom, Barry Allen's archenemy ...

And that takes us right to Wally's encounter with Eobard Thawne. But to Wally's surprise, Eobard has been recruited by the police to help them battle the Cobalt Blue of this era, who is actually Chardaq Allen. Chardaq was the Flash, but he lost his powers during a battle with Savitrix. Later, he began studying the Cobalt Gem in an attempt to better understand the Allen-Thawne feud. But Chardaq got too close and was consumed by the gem's power and hatred, vowing revenge against all Allens, even though he is one, himself.

Chardaq's son, Simogyn, works for the police, and he believed they could recruit Professor Zoom and keep him in line by monitoring Eobard's thoughts telepathically. Wally tries to warn them that this is a stupid idea since Eobard can move faster than thought. And before he can stop him, Eobard grabs ahold of the Cobalt Gem.

We then check in with Jay Garrick, who is in the not-too-distant future with Wally's daughter, Iris. They easily defeat the Cobalt Blue of that era, and Jay takes Iris to the Flash Museum to show her how to use the Cosmic Treadmill. He gives her a large shard of the Cobalt Gem, saying it'll help her find other Flashes throughout time, and that she should break the shard into smaller pieces to give to them. With Iris all set on her mission, Jay returns home to the 1990s.

Back in the 25th century, Eobard can't quite take the gem from Chardaq, although he does see a vision of the centuries of the Thawnes' anger toward the Allens. Wally takes advantage of this enraged Professor Zoom, and he tricks him into going after Simogyn Allen. Just as Wally hoped, Chardaq's love for his son overcame the gem's hatred, freeing him from its grasp. Wally instructs the police not to touch the gem, then he notices with dismay that Eobard has taken off. Flash follows Professor Zoom to the Flash Museum, but is too late to stop him from using the Cosmic Treadmill. Wally sees that Eobard traveled into the future, and he decides to follow him.

Meanwhile, Max Mercury teams up with Sela Allen to rescue a young boy who accidentally touched the Cobalt Gem. Sela is a being of pure speed energy since her body is in a comatose state, still recovering after being ravaged by Cobalt Blue. Since she can't hold a shard of the gem, Max leaves her behind, wishing her luck and promising to meet her again.

We then see how Impulse is doing with the hilariously enormous Thondor Allen. Thondor explains that he's "horizontally challenged" because he's a fifth-generation Jupiter colonist, and all of them have evolved to this size because of the heavier gravity. Thondor also admits he's terrified of Cobalt Blue, who is actually 10 different people in this era. But fearless Impulse quickly takes out the 10 enemies by shoving Thondor into them like a large bowling ball.

Bart's plan worked, knocking out all the Cobalt Blues, but it did get Thondor wedged into a wall. Bart tries to pull Thondor out, who tells Bart he really is impulsive. Bart says everyone tells him that, but he doesn't get it. They're then joined by the Flash of the year 2591, who came to warn them of Cobalt Blue, but sees he arrived a little late. Impulse asks him to pry Thondor free, while he heads off to find his cousin, Jenni Ognats.

We then get a quick montage of Jesse Quick, Jace Allen, John Fox and other Flashes traveling to different eras and battling different Cobalt Blues. Back in the present day, Malcolm Thawne is preparing to escape the Speed Force prison Wally put him in. Malcolm is just about to attack Wally's girlfriend, Angela Margolin, when Jay arrives in the nick of time and takes the brunt of the blast from the blue flames. Angela is knocked down, and as she loses consciousness, she sees a furious Jay reach out to attack Malcolm.

The final scene of this issue is a word-for-word repeat of the closing scene of The Flash Secret Files and Origins #1 from way back when. Wally has followed Professor Zoom to the year 2980, where Bart's other grandpa, President Thaddeus Thawne, has just killed Bart's dad and aunt, the Tornado Twins, Don and Dawn Allen. In a strange, secret ceremony, President Thawne and his followers celebrate the end of the Allen line and the reconstitution of the Cobalt Gem. Wally spots Eobard preparing to steal the gem, and he realizes that Eobard saw this is the gem's final destination — an era without any other speedsters to provide competition. So Wally prepares to stop Eobard, worried about the ensuing fight.

This is a pretty epic story. There's a lot going on and it can be pretty confusing, but it still is pretty awesome all the same. Most of the fun simply is seeing different versions of the Flash. On a whole, this story is a bit intense and serious. Luckily, we have Impulse to provide the comic relief, and his two pages with Thondor Allen were wonderful. I wish we had about 37 more adventures of the tiny Impulse with the massive Thondor.

There aren't any letters to the editor in this issue, but there are a couple of new ads:

He's saving the world ... like it or not! Anarky.

Batman Nosferatu. For the city's ruling class, the laughing man sees death, and only the bat can stop it.

The Justice Society of America PVC set.

Can Alex Elder run away from his troubles? Inquisitive minds want to know ... Crimson by Brian Augustyn and Humberto Ramos. I haven't read this series yet, but I guess I should since it's by two Impulse creators.

Krypton. Galactus. 'Nuff said! Superman/Fantastic Four.

Next time, we'll wrap up April 1999 with Impulse #47.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Young Justice #7


Peter David, Writer
Todd Nauck, Pencils
Lary Stucker, Inks
Jason Wright, Colors
Digital Chameleon, Seps
Ken Lopez, Letters
Frank Berrios, Assistant Editor
Eddie Berganza, Dean
This issue's cover featuring the clash of the moms is by Todd & Lary with the colors of Patrick Martin.

It is a pretty fun cover, especially with the apt disclaimer, "Note: Mommies inside are actually smaller, but they do wale on each other." And the moms in question are Wonder Girl's mom and Arrowette's mom. So, without further ado, let's find out why they're waling on each other.

Our story begins with the team out on a campout. They have pizza, soda, popcorn, potato chips and cookies ... but no fire. Robin tries to explain that their generator if far more efficient because it's non-polluting and doesn't pose a threat of forest fires. But Robin can't even convince himself with this logic, and he admits a campout without a fire is no fun at all. So Robin asks Bart to find some firewood, and Bart dumps a big pile on Robin's head before he can finish asking.

The teens excitedly begin building their fire, and Superboy and Robin both express their amazement that Arrowette's and Wonder Girl's moms allowed them to go on a co-ed campout. The two girls are bit uncomfortable, but both insist their moms didn't give them any problems at all about the campout. The boys don't notice anything suspicious about their girls' behavior, and they turn the conversation to wondering how the first Young Justice parent/teacher conference is going. Bart predicts "it's probably a lot of dull yakking."

But Bart couldn't have been more wrong, because right at that moment, Arrowette's mom is slamming Wonder Girl's mom into a big cake decorated with the symbols of Robin, Superboy and Impulse. Max Mercury can only stand to the side and say he should have realized that when Arrowette's mother said she'd been released from psychiatric observation, she meant she'd released herself. Red Tornado politely asks Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Sandsmark if they've concluded their altercation because he does have a full agenda he'd like to get to.

However, the two mommies have only begun to fight. Helena Sandsmark wipes the cake off her eyes, then flings some in Bonnie King-Jones' face and leaps on top of her. Dubbilex, representing Superboy, asks Max if they should separate the brawling women. But Max says one thing he's learned in his long life is the only worthwhile things you can bring to a catfight are popcorn and a drink. The mommies collide with the food table, destroying all the appetizers, sandwiches, punch and the melon balls Red Tornado worked so hard. The women continue fighting out into the cave's entrance, where they encounter the late-arriving Nightwing, who separates them, and says they're both lucky that Batman was too busy to attend the conference. Nightwing then asks for an explanation, and Red Tornado begins to fill him in.

Back at the campout, the kids are using Arrowette's arrows to roast hot dogs over the fire. Arrowette, or rather, Cissie, insists that everyone use their first names — with the exception of Robin, who is apparently under strict orders from Batman to maintain his secret identity even among his teammates. Cissie also suggests they play truth or dare, but Robin's hesitant. Bart, however, perks up at the talk of a game and asks where the goggles are, or the joystick or controller or whatever. Cissie says this is a game without visuals, which starts to put Bart to sleep. Cissie elaborates, saying they either have to answer a question truthfully or do a dare, and Bart regains his excitement, demanding to go first.

So Cissie asks Bart "truth or dare." He enthusiastically requests "dare," but Cissie struggles initially, and tries to get Bart to choose "truth" instead. When that fails, Cissie admits to Robin that there's no fun in daring Impulse to do something, because he's do anything without thinking like always. Luckily, Robin is able to come up with a suitable dare for Bart — stay quiet for five minutes in a row. This seems like an awful long time for Bart, but he's determined to do it. So Bart sits down, and crosses his legs nice and neat. Then he fidgets. Then Superboy leans in close and says, "Hey, Imp, nice hair." Bart immediately responds with, "Hey, thanks, I don't even know what I was thinking when I ... shaved it." And everybody laughs at poor Bart.

Bart tells Kid that was a cheap shot, and he demands another turn, but everybody wants to move on. Secret volunteers to go next, and Wonder Girl asks her "truth or dare." Secret chooses "truth," so Cassie asks her to talk about her first time. Superboy tells Cassie to leave Secret alone, but Secret says she's fine discussing her first time, although she doesn't know what Cassie means. Everybody glares at Cassie, who says she just wanted to know about the first time Secret kissed a guy and says, "Geez, guys ease up! What'd'ja think I was gonna say?"

So Secret tells the story of the first kiss she can remember. One night, at the D.E.O., a young man snuck into her room and tried to kiss her — she thinks. But then he looked into Secret's eyes and suddenly started screaming. He wouldn't stop screaming and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Secret then asks her teammates if that time counts, but all she gets in return are horrified stares.

Back at the cave, Red Tornado tells Nightwing how the fight got started. Helena and Bonnie seemed to despise each other the minute they met, but things really turned south when Bonnie launched into a tirade about merchandising rights. As Bonnie demands that they make an equal number of Arrowette action figures as those of Robin, Superboy and Impulse, Todd Nauck shows us some really fun Young Justice merchandise that I really wish I had. In addition to the action figures, there's a line of plush dolls, T-shirts, cereal, video games, lunch boxes, and even a comic with the cover of Young Justice #6.

Helena was outraged to see that Bonnie is more concerned with toys than her daughter's safety, and she chewed her out for living vicariously through Cissie. When Helena pointed out that Bonnie didn't even know Cissie recently had an arrow thrown through her shoulder, Bonnie snapped and slammed Helena's face into the cake. And that brings us to where this issue began.

Nightwing reminds all the parents/mentors that they're supposed to talk about the kids, not act like kids. Bonnie tells Nightwing he doesn't know what it's like, since he's not Robin's father. Nightwing responds by saying each time he goes to sleep, he's haunted by the screams of those he didn't save. Having effectively shut up everyone, Nightwing then gets everyone back to business.

Close to the campout, a couple of drunk hunters try to shoot a fawn, but Impulse deflects the bullets and Secret scares the hunters off by transforming into a gigantic, monstrous deer. Bart and Secret return to the campfire and Robin asks who was tromping around out there. Bart says it was some hunters who've decided to take up cross-country sprinting. Superboy gives Bart a high-five, then asks Robin "truth or dare." Robin chooses "dare," so Superboy asks him to take off his mask. Robin dramatically stands over the fire, then removes his mask, causing everyone to gasp.

Back at the cave, order has been restored, and Red Tornado can finally deliver his appraisal of the team. He reports that the team is bonding well, and the boys are getting along with the girls. There is some harmless flirtation from Superboy, Robin is either too serious-minded or otherwise involved to get into that, and Impulse simply appears oblivious. Max says, "That's m'boy," to hear Bart still isn't interested in girls. Red Tornado says he'll give the mentors regular updates and he asks for the same from them.

Dubbilex asks Red if he'll accompany the teens on missions, and he says he'll take it on a case-by-case basis. For easily handled situations, he'll hold back and observe the team learn and grow. But Helena points out that even "easily handled situations" can quickly spiral out of control, and Max agrees, saying that counts double whenever Impulse is involved. Bonnie begins chewing out Helena and Max for being so controlling, saying they should let their kids do what they're passionate about. But even Bonnie's concern for her daughter is exposed before too long. Red Tornado admits this endeavor carries a great amount of risk, and he asks the mentors if they wish to withdraw their young charges.

Back at the campout, we see that Robin anticipated this exact scenario, and wore a second mask underneath just in case. Cassie teases his over-preparedness, saying he was probably potty trained by 3 months old. Cissie asks him if he would ditch the mask and superhero lifestyle if he could. Robin surprises the others by answering, "In a heartbeat." But he elaborates, by saying the only way he'd quit would be if mankind entered a happy utopia where crime and wrongdoing were abolished.

Robin turns the question around on Cissie, who says she'd ask her mother first, then do the opposite. She admits that after being pushed by her mom so much, she doesn't know how much in her head is her own or from her mom. Cassie says she'd like to swap moms, since hers hates her being a superhero. Cassie also boldly proclaims that she'll never give up being a hero, saying they're continuing the mythic era of heroism adventure that goes back millennia. She then asks Impulse if he'd be normal if he could. Bart, who's building a giant s'mores tower, gives an answer that's as goofy as it is profound: "I don't understand the question. I am normal. It's the rest of the world that's weird."

Secret says she'd give anything to be normal, admitting how jealous she is of her teammates' outside lives and families. She then reveals that Red Tornado told her how Superboy is permanently stuck at the same age, and she assumes being normal must be even more important for him. None of the others knew this about Superboy, and they start to express their concern for him. But the Kid laughs it all off with some bravado, saying he's happy to be blessed with eternal youth. Declaring himself Peter Pan, he happily flies up into the sky, crowing like a rooster. But his teammates all think he's in denial.

We return to the cave, where Red Tornado is pleased that all mentors agreed to let the kids stay in Young Justice, and he suggests they meet again in four months. Max says that Impulse told him they're on a campout tonight, but that sounds so benign, Max is almost afraid to think it's true. Helena says that's a coincidence, since Cassie is also on a campout, and Bonnie says the same about Cissie. Red Tornado tells them the girls are out camping with the boys, and the two mothers understandably freak out at the idea, immediately marching off to kill their girls.

At the campout, everyone has gone to bed except for Superboy. Staring forlornly at his shadow, Superboy watches his shadow grow up and fly away. He cries out to it, "No! No ... don't grow up! Don't leave me! If you do, I'll ... I'll really be ... be alone!" Red Tornado then arrives with the two furious mothers, and Superboy points them in the direction of the girls' tent. The moms peek in on their daughters to find them peacefully sleeping side-by-side, with the boys safely away in a separate tent. The two women, who don't agree on much, decide to wait to talk to their daughters in the morning, and both wish they had a camera to capture the cute scene. Once they leave, the alone Superboy quotes Peter Pan: "To die ... would be a great adventure."

This was another great issue of Young Justice. It was nice to spend some quiet time with the kids and get to know them better — and their mentors/parents, as well. I loved Impulse's turn at the truth or dare game, and Secret's awkward and ominous response. The ending with Superboy was poignant and captivating. We've never seen this side of him before, and I really would like to see a story where all of Superboy's friends are in their 20s but he's still 16. Unfortunately, that never will happen, since everybody else is also more or less stuck at the same age forever. The Young Justice animated series sort of addressed this idea, but it never really felt like a big deal since Superboy already looked like he was 18 years old to begin with.

As fun as this issue was, I do have a couple of frustrations. I loved Arrowette's idea of using their first names while on the campout. But I wish they would have taken it a step further and dressed in normal civilian clothes, as well. And I'll never understand the obsession with protecting Robin's secret identity. I understand this was a company-wide thing, but there really is no point in Robin insisting on wearing a mask at all times around his teammates. My final frustration with this issue is the hunting scene. It was unnecessary and just a bit too political for the tone of this book.

Laurie Fletchner, of Bridgeport, Conn., said Young Justice #1,000,000 was better than the first two issues of the series, and called the protagonists of that tale the 853rd Century's answer to the Three Stooges. Laurie also enjoyed Young Justice #3 since it didn't have any of the boys say "kewl" once. She points out how the boys are still rough around the edges, as evidenced by Superboy standing up for Robin when he didn't need or want anyone to stand up for him. Laurie points out that Impulse was just following Superboy's lead, and that Bart is much less mature than his teammates.

Michael A. McCullough, of Selbyville, Del., also said issue #1,000,000 was better than the first two issues, especially liking Toy Wonder's story that combined elements of Knightfall and Zero Hour. Michael also speculates that the frozen original member they found was a deactivated Red Tornado since Impulse couldn't detect any brain activity.

Mark Haden Frazer, of Oconomowoc, Wisc., wants Peter David to be in charge of every major DC event. Mark says the one panel with the Millennium Chicken was better than the majority of the crossover nonsense they've been bombarded with the past 12 years. I'll agree that it was better than Genesis, and maybe better than Final Night. But not Zero Hour. That one was actually pretty decent.

There aren't any new ads, so I'll leave you until next time, when we return to Chain Lightning with The Flash #147.