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.

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