Thursday, January 14, 2016

Young Justice #9

Thug of War!

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Pencils
Jon Sibal & Lary Stucker Inks
Jason Wright Colors
Clem Robins Letters
Frank Berrios Ass't Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

Our cover by Nauck and Stucker shows our heroes being attacked by cuddly cartoon characters. This is sort of what happens inside, but not quite. However, everybody looks great, as is always the case with Nauck's art. And, of course, I am thrilled that Impulse is the most prominent character, which ties in nicely to the story. As we'll soon see, poor little Bart is the most susceptible to these cute bad guys.

We open with a cartoon of these cuddly characters. The robbers are trying to sneak away with their latest haul, but they're soon caught by the police officer. A cute little girl with pigtails is watching the cartoon, transfixed by the cuteness. The police officer then shows the robbers his badge, which has an odd, demonic face on it with four eyes. When the little girl sees this badge, her eyes reflect the demonic face and she goes into a trance.

The girl's parents are awoken by the loud TV, which she was apparently watching at 4 a.m., and the mom hears her daughter rattling around in the kitchen. Coming down the stairs to check on her girl, the mom slips on a toy truck. As she tumbles down, she sees her daughter standing at the bottom, holding a very large knife in her hands. The mom tries to warn the girl to get out of the way, but it's too late.

We then cut to Cassie Sandsmark screaming bloody murder. But it turns out the teenager is just being melodramatic about having to babysit the neighbor's toddler twins. Cassie initially calls the twins evil, which her mom scoffs at, reminding Cassie of the real evil monsters she's had to deal with. Cassie then tries to say she had plans with Cissie King-Jones that night, so her mom suggests she invite Cissie to help with the babysitting. To Cassie's surprise, Cissie is thrilled to help out, saying she loves kids. And in Cissie's room, we see posters of Superman, Green Lantern and the JLA, as well as a stuffed Batman and a pink think that looks like Kermit the Frog with bunny ears.

In Keystone, at the temporary residence of Tim Drake and his dad, Tim reads the morning paper, while his dad sleepily pours himself a cup of coffee and almost accidentally puts rat poison in it. Tim reads a story about an Arkansas mother being stabbed by her 18-month-old, and he notes that this is the fifth incident in the past week of a child causing serious damage to their parent. Tim wonders aloud what could be causing this, but his dad says there might not be a cause, and that sometimes bad things just happen. Tim ponders this and goes into his thinking position, which we next see him in as Robin in the Young Justice cave.

While Robin ponders, Impulse is kicking Superboy's butt in chess, while also having fun with a paddleball (perhaps inspired by the Old West dream in the battle with Bedlam). Robin asks where Wonder Girl and Arrowette are, and Impulse tells him they're babysitting. Superboy takes a long time to carefully consider the perfect move, but Impulse instantly checkmates him. Superboy smashes the board in frustration, sending all the pieces flying. But before they can hit the ground, Impulse catches them all and puts them back in place for another game, all while keeping his paddleball going.

We then check in on the girls, who have quickly become exhausted by the toddler twins. Cissie has even fallen asleep on the couch, while Cassie angrily decides to put on a tape to keep the kids quiet. The twins ask for their new Hugga-Tugga-Thugees tape, which Cassie gladly puts on. She then gets a phone call from Superboy, who asked Cassie's mom for the number (this was how we had to do things before cellphones). I think Superboy was secretly hoping to talk to Cissie instead, but he's stuck with Cassie, while Cissie continues to sleep on the couch. As usual, Cassie gets flustered talking to Superboy and puts her foot in her mouth by griping about parents before remembering Kid doesn't have any.

Cassie is so wrapped in her phone call that she doesn't notice the toddlers entering the kitchen and pulling out two large knives. The kids sneak up on Cissie and wake her up by chanting the name "Kali." A perplexed Cissie starts fighting off the kids, narrowly avoiding a swipe of the knife. Cassie hears the commotion, but assumes the twins just got bored with their movie and are goofing off with Cissie. The little boy manages to get on top of Cissie and says, "Kali ... Kali ... Hugga-Tugga-Thugees will rule over all ..." Cissie flips the boy off her and grabs his knife, right as the twins' parents come home to find a teenage girl holding a knife over their little boy. Superboy hears the mom's scream over the phone, and Cassie rushes out to try to help, but only makes matters worse by saying Cissie would never take a knife to a kid unless he really pushed her. The mom calls the police and the twins, out of their trance, rush to her for safety.

Back at the cave, Robin uses the computer to look for any connection between the child attacks, but he's not able to find anything. Superboy then tells everybody that Cassie and Cissie are in trouble, so Impulse immediately zooms off. Superboy groans, and Robin counts down, "Three ... two ... one ... aaand ... " Right on cue, Impulse returns, meekly asking where he's going.

The cops arrive to take Cissie away, who is now putting her own foot in her mouth by saying her mom's going to kill her, leading the police to believe her family has a history of violence. No one is listening to Cassie, and the twins are begging their mom to keep "the bad lady" away. Suddenly, a blinding light appears overhead, accompanied by a lot of smoke. Secret tells Cassie to follow her voice, so she grabs the handcuffed Cissie and flies up to the Super-Cycle.

As the team flies away, Robin is a bit concerned to learn they just aided and abetted a fugitive. Superboy says they're innocent, but Robin feels a judge and jury might disagree. Impulse vibrates the cuffs off Cissie, and Superboy asks the girls why the kids attacked them. Cassie thinks it has something to do with the tape, which she fortunately had the sense to take with her before the big escape. Cissie also reports the kids saying "Kali," and Robin happens to know exactly what that's referring to. In Hindu mythology, the wife of Shiva was Kali, the bringer of death and destruction. Her followers would rob and strangle their victims before sacrificing them, and were called thugs, a word that made its way into the English language. And it's no coincidence that the tape is called the Hugga-Tugga-Thugees.

They fly back to the cave, the girls suit up, and they all gather around the computer to watch the tape. Superboy finds it unbearably cheesy, and wonders aloud who could find this remotely watchable. Impulse, however, is transfixed by the show, loving it just as much as the toddlers. (And remember, Bart really is a toddler in a teenager's body.) However, when the cuddly cartoon police officer shows his strange badge to the camera, Impulse runs away screaming and hides under the table. Robin says the computer wasn't able to find any subliminal images on the tape, but Impulse insists he saw something terrible.

Robin confuses his teammates by conferring with Oracle, who reports that the Hugga-Tugga-Thugees are controlled by a dozen different corporations serving as fronts, but the central source for it all is in Calcutta, which is exactly what Robin expected. As he explains to his team, Calcutta derives its name from the "Steps of Kali," basically making it the home base of the Kali worshippers.

So the kids fly all the way to India, and quickly find a rather isolated temple equipped with a very large satellite dish. One of them asks Robin what their plan is, saying they can't just knock on the front door and ask if they know anything about a Thugee cult. But that's exactly what they end up doing. Robin knocks, and the door is answered by a very large man in a turban. Impulse asks if he knows anything about a weird Thugee cult, and the man says he does. Apparently, the cult has created a child-friendly image in the form of the Hugga-Tugga-Thugees, and made them an international phenomenon. But some of the tapes contain sorcerously subliminal images that are only visible to the very simple and pure of mind. And all this is part of a master plan to corrupt innocent minds and bring Kali back to rule the world. The very large man then says good day, and closes the door.

Impulse comments on how easy that was, but suddenly, the floor opens up beneath them. The three members who can't fly — Robin, Arrowette and Impulse — fall down a long tunnel, leaving Secret, Wonder Girl and Superboy above them. Superboy tries to dive in after them, but the floor shuts itself too quickly. Robin notices the the tunnel is angling off, and he stops his fall with his bow staff, holding Arrowette next to him, while Impulse keeps himself aloft by spinning his arms around. But they soon smell something burning, and see a wave of liquid metal heading toward them. Impulse grabs Robin and Arrowette and rushes them out the tunnel. A nearby boulder moves itself into position, sealing the metal out, and sealing the heroes in a large cavern full of strange blue creatures all chanting Kali's name. And up above, the flying heroes are shocked to see the demonic face of Kali on the sun.

Once again, another stellar job by David and Nauck. This issue perfectly balanced the scary, creepy stuff with the downright hilarious stuff. I liked the bad guys being rooted in Hindu mythology, and I thought it was very reasonable to have Impulse be simple-minded enough to see the evil images in the cartoon, but also old enough to recognize them and not fall into a murderous trance. But my favorite part of this issue was all the time spent on our heroes' secret identities. It helps flesh out these characters so much to see them in everyday scenarios out of their costumes. Yeah, we didn't get to see Bart as a civilian here, but he has his own series where that happens all the time. And watching him kick Superboy's butt at chess was pretty great.

Sarah Beach, of Los Angeles, enjoyed the introduction of the girls in Young Justice #4. She also says Wonder Girl is even more reckless than Superboy, and that Impulse doesn't count in that territory since he's in a class all his own. But Sarah did like how Impulse vibrated the arrow out of Arrowette's shoulder.

Mike McCullough, of Selbyville, Del., called issue #4 rather unusual, mainly because of the serious nature of Harm. wrote a pretty long letter complaining about the death of Harm. One point he makes is how strong and brilliant Harm was to manipulate Superboy and Impulse, saying Impulse's control of speed and vibrations is lightyears ahead of what the Flash was capable of at the beginning of his career. And as upset as this letter writer is about Harm's death, he says it would be even worse if Harm suddenly came back to life.

Jason Todd (who insists that's his real name), said Young Justice #5 is just as good as the first couple of issues in the series and better than issues #3 and #4. Jason particularly enjoyed the ending of the issue, and praises Peter David's writing, Todd Nauck's energetic and expressive pencils, and Lary Stucker's "active yet crunchy" inks.

Doud Ohmer, of Covington, Ky., said Harm was annoying, but he didn't want him to die. But now that he's dead, Doud doesn't want him to come back. Yeah, the concept of death had been severely compromised in the world of comics in the '90s, and even today remains a point of concern among readers. Now for the new ads:

Calling all Earthlings! Drink Slurm the favorite beverage of contented wormulans. Fry sex: "This drink is so sweet your teeth will throb for days!" Be sure to watch Futurama.

Brian Griffin: Family Dog, while reading the Wall Street Journal, says, "This is as paper-trained as I get." Family Guy. What a boring ad for such a funny show!

This April ... live the legacy! A whole bunch of Green Lantern projects, including the 80-Page Giant, which we just reviewed.

They say gods never came from the heavens. They say the world will not end in 2012 A.D. They say there was no Bat-God. They're wrong. Batman: Book of the Dead.

Next time, we wrap up the William Messner-Loebs/Craig Rousseau run with Impulse #49.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Flash #149

Chain Lightning, Chapter Five Whirlpool

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

Steve Lightle continues the Chain Lightning format on the cover, but this time, it's just Wally West and his former mentor, Barry Allen. And it looks like they've just about reached whatever it is they've been racing toward — this is the penultimate issue of the story, after all. The cover is alright, but the biggest problem — as we'll see inside — is that Wally and Barry are wearing exactly the same costume. The only way to tell them apart is by the color of their eyes, and even then that's not always reliable. And, as I am want to do, I must once again complain that Paul Pelletier's superior pencils didn't grace this cover.

What Has Gone Before: Cobalt Blue — a.k.a. Malcolm Thawne, twisted twin brother of Flash's predecessor, Barry Allen — has sworn vengeance against all Flashes past and present. Using a magic gem of incalculable power passed from generation to generation, Thawne's own descendants targeted Flashes for the next thousand years — until Wally West and his allies moved through time to stop them.

Unfortunately, Thawne's revenge has taken a chilling twist. Using fragments of his gem, he has possessed the bodies of all speedsters save Wally — and Barry, who is living out the last of his days not in the past, but in his new hometime of the 30th century. Now, Wally and Barry face their final showdown with an army of former friends under Thawne's command.

Because Barry is destined to perish not her but in the cosmos-spanning Crisis War, Wally is confident that his uncle will not die before his time. Wally himself has no such assurances, however ...

We pick up right where we left off with Barry and Wally battling all the possessed speedsters, led by Jay Garrick, who has turned white and blue under Cobalt Blue's possession. Wally and Barry hold their own for a little bit, despite being outnumbered. But that soon changes when Cobalt Blue uses the gem's ability to steal speed from Wally and Barry. Before completely running out of speed, Wally creates a diversion by vibrating the ground to cause a large explosion, which he and Barry use to escape.

Barry and Wally use the last of their speed to reach the Flash Museum and battle past its robot guards. Barry admits he's never been in the museum before since he doesn't want to find out how he dies. Things get a little awkward for Wally, who know that his uncle sacrificed himself to destroy the Anti-Monitor's weapon during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. So Wally apologizes for taking Barry to the museum, but he said it's the only place they can hide until they get their powers back.

Wally grabs some of Mirror Master's mirrors to cloak himself and Barry from XS and a very large Flash. Once they're gone, Wally and Barry continue their awkward conversation, which escalates into Wally angrily apologizing to Barry for stealing his identity. But Barry clears things up by saying he's proud of Wally, and he had the same feelings of fear when he first met Jay Garrick, whose identity he basically stole. Barry said that Jay was actually relieved to see someone else be the Flash, and he feels the same way about Wally.

With all that sappiness out of the way, the two Flashes feel their powers returning, and they decide to load up on the Rogues' weapons to help them defeat Cobalt Blue. Their first priority, though, is releasing Jay, which Barry accomplishes by blasting him with Captain Cold's gun, while Wally fends off the other speedsters with boomerangs and tops. The ice shatters the gem on Jay's chest, and the original Flash returns to normal. Barry warms him up, but the other speedsters remain under Cobalt Blue's control and move in to attack.

The Flashes then move on to the second part of their plan. Since time travel is a vibratory process, Barry came up with the idea of vibrating the ground to counteract the speedsters' vibrations, relax them, and send them back home. Barry, Wally and Jay place their hands on the ground and begin vibrating it, absorbing all the blows from the possessed speedsters. Wally worries about this, telling Barry that everything he vibrates explodes, but Barry exhorts him to focus. Eventually, their plan does work, and all the speedsters disappear, leaving the shattered gem fragments behind.

Wally, Barry and Jay take a moment to savor their victory, failing to notice the lingering blue flames around them. Jay is the first to leave, saying he's exhausted by the adventure. Wally continues to linger just a bit longer with Barry until they're suddenly approached by a strange man called Pariah. He delivers a dire warning of eternal night and says the end is here before he begins to fade away. A confused Wally says the Crisis already happened, which, in turn, confuses Barry even more, since he hasn't heard about the Crisis.

Amidst all this confusion, the flickering blue flames grow in strength and form a humanoid figure. Cobalt Blue says he'll go out in a blaze of vengeance, and uses the last of his strength to blast Barry from behind, killing him. Wally holds Barry's disintegrating corpse in his arms as the world around him fades to white. As Wally realizes that Barry's death now changed the Crisis, the world reforms to a dystopian landscape, with the Anti-Monitor standing right in front of Wally.

Now that's what you call a cliffhanger. After an exciting battle with Wally and Barry against all the other Flashes, aided by weapons from the Rogues, our heroes still failed, and the ultimate evil won. It's also really neat that Chain Lightning ties into perhaps the biggest crossover event of all time, Crisis on Infinite Earths. As an Impulse fan, though, I am disappointed that we only got one image of the "evil" Impulse — but it was a pretty awesomely creepy image! And, sadly, Impulse was safely sent home right before this story wrapped up, so we'll have to skip the conclusion in The Flash #150.

I only have the digital version of this issue, so no letters or ads this time. Next time, we'll see an unexpected weakness of Impulse's in Young Justice #9.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Green Lantern 80-Page Giant #2

The Lantern's Apprentice

Mark Waid Story
Mike McKone Pencils
Andy Lanning Inks
Pat Prentice Letters
Matt Webb Colors
Harvey Richards Asst. Editor
Kevin Dooley Editor
Cover by George Freeman
Colors by Richard & Tanya Horie

This 80-Page Giant is split into seven separate stories, each with a different guest star. And as our cover shows, these team-ups go from Aquaman to Zatanna. Sadly, that middle spot went to Plastic Man instead of Impulse. (I guess it also could have gone to Big Barda, Deadman or Guy Gardner.) I think this is an alright cover, although I do wonder what happened to Kyle Rayner's nose.

Our story begins with Green Lantern frantically trying to save New Yorkers from jumping off buildings. The culprit is Hector Hammond, a paralyzed villain with an enormous head and telepathy and telekinesis. And Impulse is there, smashing open fire hydrants to catch civilians with the jet of water. Bart apparently muttered something about being in New York on a class trip, but I'd like to believe he just came here on his own. I mean, how many out-of-state trips does his junior high sponsor?

Anyway, Kyle continues rescuing people in odd, imaginative fashion, such as scooping them up with a shovel and placing them in a giant pail, and catching a couple of people with a large, chattering teeth toy. Don't ask me why. The chaos caused by the frenzied bystanders was merely a trap to lure a distracted Green Lantern close to Hammond so he could take control of the hero's brain. But before he can completely take control, Impulse pushes Green Lantern out of the way.

Enraged, Hammond begins blasting psychic beams at the heroes. Impulse tells Lantern to stop him, which he does with a stop sign and the words, "Your wish is my command." Bart thinks he's joking and says, "Yank my chain, why don'tcha?" Kyle creates a green chain around Bart's neck and literally yanks it, again saying, "Your wish is my command." Impulse gets him to let go, then realizes what has happened. Instead of being under Hector Hammond's control, Green Lantern is completely obedient to Impulse. Practically a personal genie for teen hero, which he thinks is pretty cool.

Hammond continues blasting away at Impulse, who tells him to knock it off so he can think. Hammond says thinking must hurt him, and Impulse, feeling that was a low blow, asks if he ever picks on Hammond. The villain replies in the affirmative, and throws a bus full of people at the heroes. Impulse has Green Lantern create a giant amusement park ride to catch the bus, then he changes Kyle's outfit to look more like a genie's, and gives himself a green turban.

Riding on the back of his "genie," Impulse has Lantern create an army of Megawar Thunderdroids to attack Hammond. But the villain is easily able to take control of the constructs and turn them on the civilians. Impulse frantically orders, "Squash 'em! No! The soldiers! Squoosh the soldiers!" Luckily, Kyle is able to take out the soldiers with a bunch of sledge hammers, and then places Hammond's head in a big green vise.

Hammond frees himself with a purple construct of his own — a large construction worker to undo the clamp. Impulse/Lantern counters with a giant green worker to battle Hammond's, and catches a couple more bystanders with a big pillow. Hammond mocks Impulse for having the powerful weapon in the universe at his command but not the slightest idea how to use it. So Impulse decides to go big. He has Green Lantern create an enormous cannon, hovering right above Hammond. The villain sees this cannon is probably big enough to destroy all New York, and he cries out in a panic, "You wouldn't dare!" Impulse boldly responds with, "You have a big head. You figure it out."

Luckily, this is the part where Green Lantern wakes up. He immediately grabs Impulse and demands to know what he's done. Bart can only get out, "Big head — bus — mental bolts — big head — !" Kyle releases his grip on Bart, but still holds on to him by strapping him in a chair. Gathering himself, he admits to Impulse he was on his way to a half-decent plan, which he completes by kicking Hammond into the cannon and then blasting him out of the city. Impulse wonders how far the villain will bounce, but Green Lantern prefers to not find out. He catches Hammond and places him in a cage surrounded by speakers blasting the Spice Girls to keep him from concentrating.

With the day saved, Impulse excitedly asks for a trampoline, a Game Boy and a cheeseburger, but Green Lantern tells him the game is over. Bart loudly brags how he was better with the ring than Green Lantern ever was, and how he nearly defeated the big head all by himself. So Kyle offers to let him play with the ring some more, by putting him in a prison outfit with a ball-and-chain and broom in hand to help clean up, which isn't what Bart had in mind.

This was such a fun story. It's always wonderful to have Mark Waid return to Impulse, even if it is a just a quick 10-page fling. The characterization was there, the dialogue spot-on and the humor plentiful. I only wish we had more pages to explore this goofy situation! Well, I also wish the art could have been a little better, but it got the job done.

That's all for Impulse in this issue, so we'll skip the six other stories. And there aren't any letters to the editor, so we'll head straight to the ads (and some of them are pretty good this time):

No music was harmed in the making of this product. Sony MiniDisc Walkman Personal Stereo.

Time Tremors: The Continuum Project. If you haven't started yet, you're already 80 million years behind. From Cherry Coke and MTV.

Power. It moves mountains. It stops evil. It gets you out of class. Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. All-new monthly action by Geoff Johns, Lee Moder and Dan Davis. Yes, we've already reached the Geoff Johns era of DC Comics. When Impulse was just getting started in the pages of The Flash, Johns was still a student at Michigan State University, getting his letter published in Speed Reading. And now here he is with his first comic book series.

The touching story of a boy and his right hand. Idle Hands. Starring Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson and Vivica A. Fox.

Batman told them not to go in. But did they listen? Young Justice in No Man's Land. By Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Andy Kuhn and Chris Ivy. Cover by Scott McDaniel and Danny Miki. Breaking curfew this May. So this is a pretty exciting one-shot coming up, tying into the big Batman event of the year. It makes sense to bring in Robin and his two best friends, Superboy and Impulse, although Lagoon Boy does seem like a random addition since we haven't seen him before. Otherwise, this is a pretty cool-looking ad, minus the goof on Impulse's mask.

Clone Superman, get Bizarro. Clone an ordinary schlub, get ... A. Bizarro.

Meet the Dark Knight's new partner. You can stop laughing now. Impulse. Introducing the new Impulse team: Todd Dezago, Ethan Van Sciver, and Prentis Rollins. Issue #50 hits stores in May. This is so exciting! Impulse and Batman vs. the Joker! And we get new creators we already know and trust. Dezago did a great job getting Young Justice off the ground, and Van Sciver proved himself a phenomenal fill-in artist. With all due respects to William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau, the Impulse title really needed a jolt like this. Sales had been in a steady decline since Waid left, and I can think of no better way to boost things up than to bring in these creators with these guest stars for the landmark 50th issue.

Clark Kent left home to find himself. He never dreamed he'd end up a hero. Superman: The Odyssey.

Well, that wraps it up here. Next time, we'll return to Chain Lightning with The Flash #149.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Impulse #48

When Is a Riddle Not a Riddle?

Bill Messner-Loebs Writer?
Craig Rousseau Penciller?
Barb Kaalberg Inker?
Janice Chiang Letterer?
Tom McCraw Colorist?
G.C.W. Separations?
L.A. Williams Editor?
Dedicated to Bob Kane!
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo?

Our cover by Craig Rousseau and Wayne Faucher shows our lovable hero pestering this month's guest villain, the Riddler. And once again, Impulse takes advantage of the required annoyances on covers, such as the barcode and Comics Code Authority symbol. In case that cover's hard to read, here are all of Bart's questions: Who are Loebs, Rousseau & Kaalberg anyway? Who's on first? What has four wheels and flies? How many super-villains does it take to change a lightbulb? What's up with this (CCA)? What's black and white and red all over? Guess who? How many elephants fit into a station wagon? Why did the chicken cross the road? Where do you get your question suits from? What does (barcode) mean?

We open with the Riddler giving a highly flavored account of his career. As he puts it, he has repeatedly baffled Batman with his riddles, and has become king of Gotham. He had Robin in a cage, Flash trapped in a giant hamster wheel, Batman in chains serving him drinks, and Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Bane, Joker and Penguin all looking up to him on his golden question-mark throne. At least, that's how the Riddler put it.

We see that the Riddler's talking to two hostages on top of a building, where he explains that the recent earthquake in Gotham cost him his empire. And since he was apparently defeated by Robin and the Flash recently, the Riddler has decided to get back at them by striking out at a hero they both have close ties to, Impulse. And the Riddler's hostages are Max Crandall and Dr. Morlo.

Apparently Max had invited Morlo out to lunch to discuss a research project of his. Morlo blames Max for their capture, and says something bad happens whenever they get together. Max says Morlo's bad luck might have something to do with his 40 years of crime, and Morlo childishly counters by saying Max doesn't have any friends. The Riddler angrily interrupts their arguing, reminding them that he has a gun, but the two old men aren't too concerned.

Riddler quickly grows impatient waiting for Impulse, noting that his stunt has already attracted the attention of the police and several news stations. Morlo whispers to Max, asking why he hasn't taken out the Riddler himself, and Max says that this is good exercise for Impulse, and that the Riddler is more dangerous than he appears. Max then tells Riddler that he doesn't think Impulse watches TV news ... or listens to the radio ... or reads newspapers. So Riddler takes a more direct approach to contacting Manchester's hero by launching a sky-writing rocket that says, "Impulse! Riddle me this! How many bombs does it take to destroy a town!"

As usual, Max tries his best to build up the public image of his protégé, saying that heroes like Impulse are often immersed in study and research, leaving a dedicated team of staffers to constantly scan the media for any signs of criminal activity. Once these staffers put the clues together, Max says, they summarize their findings to the hero, who then, in turn, carefully analyzes his options before springing into action. In reality, Bart was inside playing video games when Riddler's message went up. Luckily, Helen happened to see the sky writing, and she told Bart about it, who immediately rushed off, leaving Helen to play Bart's game.

Impulse quickly spots the Riddler, and he mimics a trick he saw his grandpa Barry do in a dream by running up the side of the building to confront the villain. Bart can't help himself from calling out to Max when he sees him tied up. He then tries to cover himself, but only makes things worse by saying, very quickly, "I mean ... oh my goodness it's Max Crandall a man I only know casually, who is the uncle of Bart Allen, someone I also know only casually, since we are two entirely different people." Morlo sarcastically compliments Max for Bart's smooth save, and luckily, the Riddler doesn't seem to care about Impulse's secret identity.

We then cut to Evil Eye, who has learned of his grandfather's capture. In his desperation, Evil Eye turns to the only people he knows, the remaining members of the Tigers gang. The gang isn't doing so well after their recent encounter with Superman — Steelboy and Dedrick have left, and Raffles has a hearing coming up on that gun charge. So Jake and Raffles are more than willing to let Evil Eye join them again, but they absolutely refuse to help him save his grandpa. Evil Eye tries to point out that taking down the Riddler will make them more famous, but Jake insists they need to keep things small, like robbing gas stations. Evil Eye realizes the only reason he wanted to join the Tigers was to impress his criminal family, and if his family is dead, then there's no point. So Evil Eye angrily storms off, vowing to do something himself, while Roland nervously watches from the shadows.

Back on the rooftop, Impulse admits he's confused to see the Question acting like a villain, saying he thought he was a hero and didn't have a face. Riddler angrily says he's not the Question, so Impulse asks if he's Mr. Freeze. Max admits he should be angry at Impulse's ignorance, but this is so much fun to watch. The enraged Riddler repeats his name and tries to explain to Impulse how he works. He says he's planted a bomb under the porch of a random house in Manchester, and the only way to find it is to solve his series of riddles. But before he can finish explaining, Impulse checks every porch in town until he finds the bomb, which he brings back to the Riddler and casually tosses aside.

Morlo and Max nervously notice that the bomb is still ticking down, and Max notes that even though Impulse dealt with a bomb with Young Justice not too long ago, he never really learns his lessons. To make matters worse, Morlo recognizes the type of bomb Riddler is using, and knows that those timers always tend to run a bit fast. So, while Riddler angrily explains to Impulse that he's not Two-Face, Max slips out of his ropes and zips the bomb out to explode harmlessly over the river. Morlo compliments Max for saving the day, but Max says he was pretty lucky to be able to do that, saying they really need to talk later.

The Riddler then smugly tells Impulse that he actually planted two more bombs out there, but Impulse steals his thunder by revealing that he found those, as well. Impulse again carelessly tosses the bombs aside, while the Riddler continues to shout out him, leaving Max to once again rush the bombs out over the river.

Riddler then pulls a paper out of his jacket and tears it into little pieces, saying they won't need the paper because this riddle is "When is a riddle not a riddle?" He then points to the two hostages, explaining that they're wired with a million volts. If Impulse tries to touch them or disconnect the power to the building, they're fried. Riddler then points out a control panel with three buttons, saying the right button will set them free and the wrong one will fry them. He gives Impulse 30 seconds, who actually spends some time thinking before ultimately piecing back together the shredded paper to reveal the message, "Push #3 twice."

Max and Morlo realize the answer to "When is a riddle not a riddle?" is "When it's a puzzle." Impulse admits he only put the paper back together to mess with Riddler's act since he's really a fake magician from the 64th century. As the Riddler angrily explains that he's not Abra Kadabra, Evil Eye somehow slips past the police and media, and makes his way up to the rooftop and points the Riddler's own gun at the villain.

However, the Riddler is not at all concerned about having his gun pointed at him. He calmly approaches the trembling teen and asks another riddle: "When is target shooting not target shooting?" The panicked Evil Eye says he doesn't do riddles, and this is the only way to save his grandpa. Impulse rushes over and pushes the gun up right as Evil Eye pulls the trigger. The gun fires backward, barely missing Evil Eye and Morlo. Defeated, the Riddler collapses on the ground, sobbing the answer to his riddle, "When it's trap shooting."

As the Riddler is carried off by the police, he shouts that he'll escape because he's a pro. Impulse responds with a riddle of his own, "When is a pro not a pro? When he's a con!" Morlo then asks Max what he wanted to talk about, and Max says it's about his life, but he'll call Morlo later.

Now that is a classic Impulse tale worthy of the impending departure of Messner-Loebs and Rousseau. With the Superman cameo being such a downer, it's great to get back to something downright funny. The Riddler and Impulse made a great comedic duo, especially with Impulse constantly confusing Riddler with other villains and heroes. And it makes sense for Bart to be confused like this because he hasn't met any of those villains yet and he's a teenage boy who doesn't pay attention. Impulse did come close to meeting Abra Kadabra, but Flash threw him through a wall before he could get a good look at him.

I also liked how the Evil Eye story is going, with that troubled teen finally realizing that he doesn't need to be a part of a gang. And I'm glad that Messner-Loebs is finally dismantling that gang between the legal process and Superman's involvement. The latest secret with Max is slowly, but surely building up, and since I know where it's going, I'm glad that it's being set up like this. So, all in all, this was a great penultimate issue for this creative team.

Impulsive Reactions begins with a newspaper article by Valerie D. Pinckney, praising the cover of Impulse #44 for showing Impulse holding a bag of Halloween candy with the Harlem logo on it. And Amy Bradley, a TV reporter in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, mentioned on the air how the cover included a bag with their town's name.

Luke Foster praises how Impulse #39 wrapped up the story with Bart being mad at Max, and how neatly Impulse #1,000,000 tied in to the DC One Million event. Luke says issue #44 had one of the best cliffhangers he's seen in a while, and he speculates that Max will die to fulfill the prophecy of The Life Story of the Flash.

Craig "The Boy Wonder" Young says the ending of issue #44 took his breath away and he wonders if Barry Allen will return during Chain Lightning and take Max's place.

Peattied asks if Max faked being shot to teach Bart a lesson, but as L.A. Williams points out, we saw that was not the case. Now on to the ads:

Nestle Quik. It's great, even if your brain is the size of a walnut.

Mega Warheads Extremely Intense Instant Win Game. Grand prize is a PlayStation and a bunch of crap.

It takes more than a hit single to reach the top. Got Milk? Featuring the Backstreet Boys.

The world's greatest superheroes on your shelf! JLA Bookends.

Monarch of Steel tightens grip on globe. Superman: King of the World.

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

A lost galaxy. A billion miles away. One zord may not be enough. Gimme five. Power Rangers Galaxy deluxe megazord.

That's it for May 1999. Next time, Impulse will make a quick cameo in Green Lantern 80-Page Giant #2.