Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Impulse #49

The Old Reform School Dodge

Janice "Chiang Gang" Letters
G.C. "B4" W. Separations and
L. "Alcatraz" Williams Warden, grant unconditional parole to:
Bill "Midnight Express" Messner-Loebs Writer
Craig "The Prisoner" Rousseau Penciller
"Caged Heat" Kaalberg Inker
Tom "Cool Hand" McCraw Colorist
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

And so we come to the end of an era, with one more cover by Craig Rousseau and Wayne Faucher. The best thing about this cover is the bus driver is actually Rousseau himself, while Messner-Loebs is reaching out to grab Evil Eye. Messner-Loebs had his right arm amputated as an infant because of a cancerous tumor, so his comic book representation got a robotic arm. Unfortunately, this cover is otherwise kind of a mess. The bus looks really wonky, and Impulse is rather lackluster. Apparently, this cover had a rather troubled production history. On Rousseau's website, he has the pencils for two different versions of this cover, both of which look better than the finished product. It seems like there were a bunch of hasty, last-minute alterations, which is especially unfortunate on the final issue of these creators' run.

Our story begins with Max Mercury finally getting that meeting with his former nemesis, Dr. Morlo. Morlo measures Max's speed with some advanced equipment, and as he tallies the data, he tells Max he's willing to do whatever it takes to help him since he feels a little responsible for Max being shot by the gang his grandson, Evil Eye, was running with. Morlo tells Max that even though they're a family of meta-criminals, he and Evil Eye's father, the Transparent Weapon, are concerned about the boy's behavior, so they decided to send him to a very exclusive, very pricey reform school called Sunnyside Boys Camp.

Morlo tells Max that one of the features of the camp is that the counselors themselves will "gently, but firmly" remove the boy from his usual environment, then take him to their facility in international waters, which allows them the freedom to give the boy the best treatment possible. Max says this sounds a bit harsh, and as we see, it really is. Evil Eye was harshly abducted right in front of Preston and Roland (at the corner of Dezago Way and Van Sciver Road). Evil Eye was then taken to the "camp," which is really a prison with barbed-wire fences. Evil Eye also had to surrender his trademark eyepatch, which covered up a dead, completely white eye.

The abduction of Evil Eye and several other kids at Manchester Junior High worried Preston and Roland enough that they teamed up with Carol and Bart to confront Assistant Principal Sheridan about it. In Sheridan's office, they meet with the director of Sunnyside, Dr. Rudolph West, the less-than-admirable father of Wally West. Rudolph West is rather rude to the kids, scolding them for shouting and throwing tantrums when they were actually quite calm. He also assures them that his program has had five successful months of reforming troubled young men.

(And just because I love these things, here are all the books in Sheridan's office: Craig & Trish A Love Story, New Horizons, Views of L.A., L.A. Confidential, Ethics for the New Millennium, The Third Wave and 1984.)

It doesn't take long for Evil Eye to attempt an escape. He climbs over the wall using a rope made of bedsheets, but he's quickly caught by the Sunnyside staff of Craig Rousseau, William Messner-Loebs, Tom McCraw and Barbara Kaalberg. Evil Eye is beaten, chained up and placed in solitary. Sometime later, Evil Eye befriends a kid who calls himself Dr. Richard Renquist, the smartest boy on Earth. (I strongly suspect Richard was the winner of the Running Wild Sweepstakes that was advertised in Impulse #45. The timing fits, and it seems a bit suspicious to focus so much on a rather throwaway character.) Evil Eye tests Richard's knowledge by asking him the gross national product of Markovia, but Richard says he doesn't care about stuff like that. As the boys run laps in the prison yard, we also catch a glimpse of a forgotten Impulse/Arrowette villain, the Spazz.

We then cut back to Bart and his friends leaving Sheridan's office. Bart complains that their meeting was boring, and Carol is upset that the adults didn't even listen to them. Preston begins to wonder if Evil Eye does deserve this treatment, noting he was a wannabe gangster, bully and thug. But Roland is quick to defend him, saying he saw Evil Eye leave the gang and even protect Roland from them. Carol then starts to get a little paranoid that even more kids, including themselves, could someday be shipped off to Sunnyside. So Roland decides to research the camp on the Internet, and Bart says he'll ask Max ... and some other people ... about Rudolph West.

So Bart tells Max the whole story, but Max says they shouldn't interfere since Morlo is helping him with a delicate situation and he doesn't want to alienate him. Bart then goes to Helen, but she says this may be what Evil Eye needs, pointing out that he hasn't exactly been a friend of Bart's. Bart then somehow gets up to the JLA Watchtower on the moon and tells the Flash the whole story. Wally admits that his dad has been involved in a lot scams in the past, but he thinks he's now trying to atone for that by legally helping society. Wally then teleports Bart back to Earth, but he does make a note to check in on his dad after he cleans up this current mess with the Titans. Bart then sadly reports to his friends that nobody wants to listen and they have to do it themselves.

Meanwhile, the foul-mouthed Sunnyside staff (all their swear words are censored) have taken offense at Evil Eye's insistence of using a nickname. They make all the boys run laps for Evil Eye's cheek, but Richard supports his friend in his quest to drive the guards nuts. At dinner, Evil Eye notices a boy becoming sick with the gruel, and upon hearing the staff is eating hot dogs in the kitchen, he tries to get some for the ill boy. When he's denied this, Evil Eye slops some gruel on Kaalberg, and is sent to solitary once again. But he happily accepts his punishment, since he succeeded in annoying the staff once again.

Bart, Carol, Preston and Roland ride the bus down to the Gulf of Mexico, and Bart complains about how long the bus ride was. The kids conveniently find an abandoned rowboat and decide to row it out to the island. Upon realizing the island is hundreds of miles away, Carol craftily cons Bart into propelling them like a motor boat with his hands sticking out the back, which she explains to the others as the natural effect of the Gulf Stream. Thanks to Bart's super speed, the kids arrive at the island in no time, and quickly locate the back entrance to Sunnyside. It is a fierce-looking barbed-wire fence, but the lock to the gate is a rather simple padlock. Carol says she wishes Impulse were there with them so he could pick the lock at super speed. Bart says that's dumb, and Impulse would just vibrate through the fence instead. Preston agrees with Bart, saying the Flash or Jesse Quick would pick the lock, but Impulse isn't smart enough to do that. So to prove Preston wrong, Bart picks the lock so fast it looks like it just fell off its hinges by itself.

Inside the prison yard, Evil Eye's friend Ricky is having a hard time with the day's activity of smashing rocks since the staff took away his asthma inhaler a week ago. Unable to breathe, Ricky soon collapses, and Evil Eye rushes over to the staff, begging for the inhaler. The guards use this opportunity to force Evil Eye to tell them his real name, Wilfred Riodan Parker, which they immediately mock. And to add insult to injury, they deny Evil Eye the inhaler, saying they're not allowed to administer medications. Evil Eye attacks the guards in a fit of rage, but is easily subdued and thrown into solitary once again. But Evil Eye is met by Impulse in the cell, who hands Evil Eye back his eyepatch and tells him to stay quiet.

Out in the yard, the other boys see Richard still struggling to breathe and the injustice to Evil Eye, who was just trying to help. They all rally together to take on the guards, who try to fight off the boys with firehoses, but Preston secretly shut off the water. The guards then try to call in for reinforcements, but Roland had disconnected their communications systems. As the rioting boys break into the administration building, Carol further cripples the staff by shutting off the power. And when the guards try to get their taser rifles and tear gas, they find all their weapons have been stolen by Impulse and Evil Eye.

Meanwhile, Max has brought Morlo into his garage to continue their tests. Morlo reports that Max has lost about 10 percent of his normal speed and any additional exertion may aggravate his discomfort. Max vows to let Impulse carry more of the load until he's back to normal, but Morlo's worried that Max's condition is permanent. This bad news is interrupted by Helen, who found a note left behind by Bart, detailing his plans to storm Sunnyside.

One of the Sunnyside guards manages to get Rudolph West on the phone to tell him about the riot. Rudolph tells the guard to break out the fragmentation grenades to kneecap a couple of the brats. And we see why Rudolph is so desperate. His office is a small rundown trailer, filled with threatening notes from Blockbuster and Lex Luthor to pay back the money he's borrowed. Max suddenly arrives at Rudolph's door and tells him not to hurt the kids. Rudolph contends that the law is on his side, and he's technically the victim in this case. Morlo walks in behind Max, and says he knows something about victims — he creates them. And this shuts up Rudolph pretty quick. (And since this wouldn't be a Messner-Loebs story without some name confusion, Morlo introduces himself as Sebastian Parker. So, is Augustus Morlo just his stage name, then?)

Our story ends with Rudolph ordering his guards to surrender and the boys making the staff run laps in their underwear. Roland speculates that Impulse was following them all along, secretly helping them. Bart quickly confirms that makes sense. Preston wonders aloud how they'll all get home now, and Evil Eye jokes that he could steal a Lexus for them. And we end with a hearty thanks to Impulse readers from the creative team of Craig, Bill, Barb and Tom!

And so ends the Messner-Loebs/Rousseau run. This wasn't exactly the strongest issue to go out on, but it was really fun to see the creative team cameo as the bad guys. We also got to finally find out what's going on with Max, and we got a bit of closure with Evil Eye. He definitely did deserve to be punished for hanging out with the Tigers gang and firing a gun at the Riddler. But nobody deserved the type of punishment exhibited at Sunnyside. So hopefully Evil Eye learned a lesson here and will start to be a little less evil.

But altogether, this issue really was rather weak. It didn't really make sense that Bart and friends would freak out that much about Evil Eye being taken to a reform school. They needed to have some sort of proof of abuse to validate their concern. And I was disappointed with the Flash's role in all this. If he's not going to come back to help out at the end, then he should at least have a valid excuse — not just "helping the Titans." And, sadly, the artwork in this issue was not as good as we've seen in the past from Rousseau and Kaalberg.

In a special edition of Impulsive Reactions, all the letters to the editor have been replaced with farewell messages from the departing creators.

Tom McCraw, who's been Impulse's colorist since issue #1, doesn't have too much to say. He thanks all the creators he's worked with over the years, says he'll miss seeing Bart and company, and says he'll be coloring Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., Legion of Super-Heroes and The Flash.

Barbara Kaalberg also doesn't have much to say. She says her favorite memory was being flown in to Cleveland for a signing with Bill and Craig, and that Impulse's enthusiastic fans spoiled her.

Craig Rousseau says his introduction began with a surprise phone call from Paul Kupperberg to pencil a fill-in issue. So Craig ran down to the comic shop and picked up a big pile of Impulse comics. One fill-in issue became two, and soon a full-time job. After 26 issues, an annual and a few odd jobs, Craig decided it was time for someone else to play with all these cool toys. He thanks all the creators he's worked with, especially Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt who recommended him, his girlfriend, Trish, and everyone who picked up the book.

Bill Messner-Loebs naturally writes the longest letter, which begins with a pretty nice story. Two maggots fall off a gravedigger's shovel. One lands on a dead possum and is able to eat to his heart's content. The other fell down a crack in the sidewalk and starved. The fat maggot eventually finds his lost companion, who is thin and weak, and asks his plump friend how he managed to be so successful. The fat one's answer: "Brains and personality."

Bill begins by thanking Mark Waid, who went out of his way to make sure Bill took over Impulse after he left. Bill talks about all the fun he had with Paul Kupperberg, and Craig Rousseau, saying that Craig's speed saved his behind more than once when the script was late. Bill thanks just about everyone else who helped him get into comics, and closes by saying he became a writer because of his "brains and personality."

L.A. Williams closes by praising the departing creators for being extremely talented, reliable and nice. He points out that this creative team worked on Impulse longer than Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, which is quite an accomplishment. L.A. says Rousseau will next be working on Batman: Gotham Adventures, and Messner-Loebs will be writing Brave Old World with Vertigo.

This run of Impulse will always hold a special place in my heart since it was my introduction to the series. Sure, I had a few frustrations with names being confused, characters not being developed, and the art not always being up to par, but by and large, this was a solid run of comics. Messner-Loebs and Rousseau did a good job of continuing what Waid and Ramos started, while adding their own brand of heart-warming stories mixed with plenty of humor. But as Rousseau said, I also am ready for someone else to play with these toys. Now let's check out the ads.

Lots of peanut butter cups were destroyed in the making of this ad. Chips Deluxe with Peanut Butter Cups.

Scary rides. Crazy characters. Win a trip to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure through Nabisco.

Scooby fans have spoken! The 4 most popular Scooby-Doo mysteries are now together on one video!

Kick evil in the asteroid. Starshot Space Circus Fever on Nintendo 64 and PC CD-ROM.

Detective Comics #27 is worth $160,000! Don't risk missing this milestone. Fanboy #5. Today, the first appearance of Batman has sold for more than $1 million, and could be worth more than $2 million if it's in good condition.

Free Batman Beyond comic book with the purchase of Jell-O Low Fat Yogurt. Batman Beyond: The Movie available on VHS.

That's it for June 1999. As we head into July, we'll get an all-new, all-exciting creative team for Impulse! But first, we need to take a very quick side trip to Supergirl #34.

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