Sunday, March 6, 2016

Impulse #50

First Fool's

Hey, Kids! Order now! Any item for $1.00
Todd Dezago X-ray Specs
Learn to draw "Cubby" by Ethan Van Sciver
Prentis Rollins Disappearing Ink
Rick Taylor & Digital Chameleon Magic Colors
Janice Chiang's Famous Penmanship Course
You can earn a living reading comics the L.A. way!
Waid & Wieringo & Kane's Incredible Creations

Our cover is by Ethan Van Sciver and Wayne Faucher, and it is totally awesome! It's bold, brash, dynamic and detailed. Impulse looks great (I love the look on his face), and he's accompanied by two of the most prolific characters in superhero history. It really is the perfect way to launch a new creative team on the book. The title, "Impulse ... Agent of the Bat?" is a spoof of the series Azrael: Agent of the Bat. This cover was also used as the house ad announcing the new creative team, as well as the Impulse 100-Page Spectacular, which was published in 2011 and collects issues #50 through #53.

Our story begins with a mysterious hooded figure watching a video of Bart on April 1, 1998, at 5:32 p.m. We're dealing with somebody with some pretty advanced technology here, because not only is this computer able to get some pretty great video of Bart's home life, but it seems to know every detail about Bart, Max and Helen. Anyway, the video shows Helen preparing an April Fool's joke on Bart. First, she places a rubber band around the spray nozzle on the kitchen sink. Then she sets out a plate of cookies and an empty milk carton. Max warns her she's asking for trouble, but Helen is quite excited by this prank.

Bart comes zooming in and thanks Helen for the cookies. When he sees the milk's gone, he checks the fridge, but can't find anything else to drink. So he goes to the kitchen sink to get some water, but is promptly blasted by the spray nozzle when he turns the handle. Helen laughs and laughs, and Bart angrily demands to know why she did that. She tells him not to get mad since today's April Fool's Day. Bart clarifies this by asking if you can play a trick on anybody and they can't get mad. Helen says yes, but before she can further explain the concept, Bart's hair rises into devil's horns, and he rushes off with a mischievous grin.

Bart runs to his room, where he finds a copy of Mad Magazine on his bed. He flips to an ad for a gags shop (which coincidently contains this issue's credits), and he sees the store is based in Gotham City. Deciding that it would be pretty sweet to trick Robin with a hand buzzer, Bart takes off for Gotham before Helen can stop him. And all Max can do is say, "I told you so ..."

At that moment, in Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon is overseeing a hostage situation at the very novelty warehouse Bart was planning on visiting. Oh, and since it's Gotham, it naturally is raining. In the DC Universe, it only rains in Gotham and at funerals. Anyway, Batman soon arrives, and Gordon tells him the Joker has taken 12 to 15 night shift employees as hostages, plus he has his own men disguised as the Marx brothers. Batman approaches the warehouse to talk to the Joker, but Joker insists on only communicating through a goofy, green radio with a giant smile on it. And of course, he makes Batman say "roger," so he can make the joke that Roger's not here right now.

Impulse, meanwhile, is 227 miles away, excitedly dreaming up more pranks to play on Robin involving a gag can of nuts and X-ray glasses. When Impulse arrives at the warehouse, he overhears Commissioner Gordon mention Batman. Impulse excitedly asks if Robin is with him, then he overhears a nearby TV reporter mention the Joker. Impulse then comes across the Joker's radio, which Batman has discarded, even though Joker is still talking through it. Impulse decides Batman needs the radio, and he takes off before Gordon can stop him.

Impulse races to the roof of the building, and is momentarily perplexed by a broken pipe. Batman sneaks up behind Impulse and tells him to go home. Bart gets big puppy dog eyes and meekly shows Batman that he brought his radio. Batman still refuses, so Impulse tries to make the case that his speed would be a humongous advantage. But Batman counters with a diatribe about how psychopathic the Joker is, and that he could never live with himself if he allowed anything to happen to Impulse. Bart points out that Batman lets Robin help him, but Batman says he's trained Robin.

The Joker then interrupts their discussion by telling Batman to give Impulse a chance. Impulse says he didn't push the button on the walkie-talkie, and Joker explains that he's bugged the device so he can always hear the other side. Joker then says he'll kill the hostages if he so much as sees Batman's boot enter the building. Also, the Joker proposes they use Impulse as a messenger instead of the radio, which he causes to self-destruct.

Impulse then excitedly begs Batman to let him help, and he promises he won't do anything impulsive. Batman grabs Bart's hair to get him to stop, and he gives the teen speedster very specific instructions. Impulse is to stay 20 feet away from the Joker at all times, to only tell him what is necessary, and to check in with Batman before doing anything. Impulse agrees, and Batman releases him, warning him that Joker is most likely carrying a flamethrower. Bart starts to ask how he knows this, but Batman slipped away while Bart's back was turned.

Inside, the Joker has three men guarding seven hostages in one room, while he's in a separate room with one hostage for himself. The goons are communicating to Joker via cellphones, although they are concerned the cops could be listening in on their conversation. Impulse zooms through the first room and into the Joker's room. Just as Batman said, the Joker is wielding a flamethrower, which he's pointing at his hostage. Joker addresses Impulse as Kid Flash and says he's beaten up little girls half his size, so he'd better not do anything impulsive.

Impulse starts to correct Joker, saying he's not Kid Flash, but then he remembers Batman's instructions and promptly shuts up. The Joker rambles on about making this hostage his fourth Marx brother, Zeppo or Zippo, and Bart realizes that he's standing too close to Joker, so he quickly zips away to a 20-foot distance. Joker realizes Impulse is following Batman's instructions, and he starts mocking the Dark Knight, gloating about how he killed the other Robin. Impulse remembers seeing that Robin's costume in the Batcave, and is horrified.

Joker then gives Impulse some rules of his own. First, Impulse has to do everything the Joker says. Second, Batman better not enter the warehouse or Joker will use his flamethrower to activate the sprinkler system and flood the place with his Joker Gas. As he says this, Batman comes across the broken water pipe that Impulse was staring at earlier, and he discovers the canisters of Joker Gas hooked up to the sprinkler system. Joker, meanwhile, shows Impulse his custom Jokia cellphone (instead of Nokia) and says that at any time he could just speed-dial his Marx brothers and have them shoot the other hostages.

Getting down to business, the Joker then prepares his list of demands for the fastest kid on the planet. Joker's first request is the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex, which Impulse grabs from a museum, leaving behind a note: "I.O.U. One dinosaur head. Sincerely, Bar Impulse." Next, Bart has to fetch some piranhas, which he puts into a small fish bowl along with some bones that look a lot like a human hand.

Batman disconnects the Joker Gas and gives the canisters to the police, who wisely treat the gas like hazardous waste. Impulse then gives Batman a quick map he drew of the warehouse, which he was somehow compelled to sign "By: Ba Impulse." Batman is actually quite pleased that Impulse was able to clearly show him where the Joker, his men, and the hostages are. And Impulse is very happy to see Batman is proud of him.

Continuing the Joker's list of demands, Impulse starts taking pictures of himself with a Paularoid camera (instead of Polaroid) all around the world. Impulse poses with the Thinker statue and races past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, stands in front of the Forbidden City in China, takes a picture with a kangaroo in Australia, and takes selfies at Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. That's right, Impulse was taking selfies before they were cool! Impulse also grabs a baby penguin, a life preserver from the Titanic, and an order from Big Belly Burger for Joker and his men.

Joker complains about his puny Smily Meal, and Impulse says he doesn't even know why they call it fast food. The Joker is now sitting on a throne, surrounded by all the goodies Impulse has brought him, which now include a disco ball, a Dunkin' Donuts sign (which Joker has altered to say Funkin' Gonuts), a robot from Mystery Science Theater 3000, some Christmas lights, boxing gloves, a Grinch doll, and Elvis Presley's casket. Joker uses his hostage as a table, while he tries to write a poem for his next batch of demands. But Joker has a hard time concentrating with Impulse playing with a big box of noisy chattering teeth. Joker shouts at Impulse to stop playing with the teeth, so he stops and puts them away.

But one of the chattering teeth got away from Impulse and made its way into the next room, where it distracts one of the Joker's men. This gives Batman the opening he needs to pop down and quietly take out the guard. Joker continues to write his poem, which is actually just some scribbles and smiley faces, and he asks Impulse what rhymes with obnoxious, irritating, fleet-footed super-brat. Bart thinks for a moments, then says, "No it doesn't ... !" Batman, meanwhile, takes out the second Marx brother. Joker says, "If I wasn't already, I think this kid could actually drive me crazy."

The last remaining Marx brother calls Joker to tell him his two companions have disappeared. As he talks, and struggles to remember their Marx brother names, he is suddenly cut off by Batman. Joker shrugs, says it's time for Plan B, and gleefully fires his flamethrower up at the sprinklers. But to his dismay, harmless water comes pouring down in the warehouse. Batman shows up behind Joker, but he has a hard time getting near the madman, who is now going crazy with his flamethrower and uzi. Impulse asks to help, but Batman tells him to take care of the hostages and put out the fire.

Impulse begrudgingly follows Batman's orders, and as he pulls out one of the Joker's men, he notices his cellphone. Batman and Joker, meanwhile, are locked in a cat-and-mouse game, with Batman having a hard time getting a fix on Joker's voice with all the smoke, fire and sprinklers. Impulse stands in front of all the prizes he brought Joker, and we see that Elvis' casket is actually filled with weights instead of the King of Rock 'n Roll. Bart thinks about using the cellphone for a minute, then ultimately decides to push the redial button. This plan works perfectly, as Joker's ringing phone gives away his position, allowing Batman to finally end this madness once and for all.

Later, Impulse excitedly recounts their adventure with Batman on the roof, and Batman says Barry and Wally would be proud. Bart asks him to tell that to Max. Then Bart says that Wally told him that Batman named him Impulse, and Bart asks the Dark Knight what's up with that. Batman says that Wally misunderstood — that he never meant for Impulse to be his name, but a warning. Bart contemplates this for a moment, and soon realizes that he's talking to himself since Batman has once again slipped away when his back was turned.

We then return to the mysterious hooded figure who has been watching all this from a computer screen. This person concludes that Impulse was successful that day ... under Batman's guidance. So he vows to make sure Bart doesn't have any help when it's his turn.

Holy cow! Now THAT is an issue of Impulse! Two of the most iconic guest stars in Joker and Batman, two new dynamic and exciting creators, and one amazing, fun-filled adventure. We know Todd Dezago and Ethan Van Sciver. Dezago did a great job on the special leading up to Young Justice, so it's no wonder that he already has a perfect grasp on Bart's personality. Van Sciver drew Impulse in The Flash 80-Page Giant #1 and Impulse #41. Both of those stories looked great, but he's really stepped up his game now. Van Sciver's Impulse is a perfect blend of Humberto Ramos and Craig Rousseau, while fitting in a bit better with Todd Nauck. If Rousseau gave Bart big hair, Van Sciver gives him long hair that falls a little more naturally and realistic. But Bart is still pretty much a living cartoon with his massive feet and thin body. And yet he still fits in perfectly in Van Sciver's hyper-detailed, realistic world. Impulse is such a perfect contrast to Batman, it makes me sad that we can't have this every month.

The story was practically perfect, with all sorts of fun gags littered throughout. I really liked how Impulse and Batman figured out how to work together and stop the Joker in their own way. I appreciate stories that show Bart learning, but also don't take away anything from his impulsive nature. I also appreciate stand-alone stories that actually leave a few threads to be picked up later. You probably already know who the mysterious hooded figure is, but I'll keep the suspense going.

The only problem I have with this issue is Impulse's conversation with Batman at the very end. It is a nice idea that Impulse is a warning instead of a name, but Batman didn't come up with that. Bart named himself Impulse after Wally kept calling him impulsive. In Zero Hour, Bart introduced himself  as Impulse, and Batman was the first to address him as such. This strange change in continuity was introduced in Secret Origins: 80-Page Giant #1 by Mark Waid. Perhaps it was a mistake, or perhaps it was intentional. In any case, it is in continuity now. I guess I can justify it by saying both Batman and Impulse temporarily faded from existence during the continuity-altering Zero Hour, and they both probably came out of that with changed memories. Oh well.

Last issue, Impulsive Reactions gave the departing creative team a chance to say goodbye. This time, the new creative team gets to say hello.

Todd Dezago says he's been a fan of Impulse since the beginning with Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, following the Sophomoric Speedster over to his own title. He says he's excited to work with this creative team, and he thanks the Batman editors for letting him use the Big Guy and the Clown Prince. He doesn't, however, mention his work on JLA: World Without Grown-Ups, which I find interesting. I know he could have been the writer on Young Justice, but he left over editorial differences. Perhaps this was still a sensitive subject for him at this point.

Ethan Van Sciver talks about getting his start in comics with the independent title Cyberfrog. During that time, he met Humberto Ramos at a convention, and became a fan of Impulse through the work of Ramos, Anthony Williams and Craig Rousseau. In a later interview, Van Sciver would say that he specifically targeted Impulse, seeing the declining sales numbers, and he sent in some samples of Impulse to DC, which eventually got him the job.

Prentis Rollins gives the perfect description of Van Sciver's work: "Ethan's pencils are sumptuously detailed, and inking them is close, meticulous work. But the details don't dominate his work; they supplement it. His art is defined by the drama that comes from his excellent figure drawing and his breezy confidence in storytelling." Rollins also praises Dezago for his powerful and witty scripts.

Janice Chiang gets to say hello, even though she's been the book's letterer since issue #44. She mentions the other projects she's worked on, and mostly talks about her family and her mom, a Chinese immigrant, recently passed away.

Rick Taylor has by far the least to say, only reciting the other titles he's worked on and saying he lives in obscurity with his dog and roommate.

L.A. Williams also gives a shoutout to Wayne Faucher, who has inked every single cover of Impulse so far. We then get a couple of actual letters from readers.

Michael Bregman, of London, thanks Bill Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau for the great Impulse stories they provided. Michael is also excited for Todd Dezago to come to the book, saying he only picked up World Without Grown-Ups because it had the JLA in it. But he instantly fell in love with Impulse in that book and immediately picked up almost every Impulse back issue his store had.

Mark J. Kiewlak, of Nanticoke, Penn., says Messner-Loebs' greatest strength is his ability to create preposterous characters who still behave like human beings. Case in point, the Green Cigarette in Impulse #45. Mark really liked how Messner-Loebs allowed the story to tell itself and played with the readers' expectations to lend the story a touching finale.

Michael R. Bailey says he's been with Impulse since the beginning, but has felt some issues have gotten too silly. Michael says issue #45 was a good turning around point to allow everyone to deal with their emotional baggage. And now for the new ads:

How do you want your aliens crushed? Small, medium or large? Power Rangers Galaxy. I was a fan of Power Rangers when it first came out, but by 1999 I was 12 and too old for it.

Games for the next Mil-Looney-Um! Bugs Bunny Lost in Time for PlayStation.

Even better in a saucer. Nestle NesQuik. This is when Nestle decided that Quik wasn't a good enough name and decided to change it to NesQuik, and it still bugs me to this day.

"Aliens turned my milk green!" Cap'n Crunch's Cozmic Crunch.

Wild! Magicburst Pop-Tarts that become colorful when toasted.

Prepare for the Ride of a Lifetime on Nintendo 64! A Bug's Life.

Well, that wraps up the eventful month of July 1999. Between this issue, the No Man's Land special, and Bart randomly thinking he was Batman in Young Justice, this was a pretty Bat-heavy month. Next time, we begin comics with a cover date of August '99, starting with a return to the Impulse of the far future in DC One Million 80-Page Giant #1,000,000.

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