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.

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