Sunday, March 20, 2016

Legends of the DC Universe #19

Manchester Monkey Business

Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt Writer
Pop Mahn Penciller
Romeo Tanghal Inker
Daniel Vozzo Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separator
L.A. Williams Zoo Keeper
It's monkey business this month on Duncan Fegredo's painted cover.

Well, just because it's a painted cover doesn't mean it's good. The proportions are all wonky — it looks like Impulse's head isn't connected to his body, and that evil gorilla has an unbelievably massive hand. But it is a fun concept, despite the poor execution. Impulse is going all Tarzan style, but instead of a vine, he's swinging on a big snake. To be technical, though, Carol is captured by a gorilla in this issue, but none of the action takes place in a jungle.

Our story begins with everybody at Manchester Junior High becoming quite annoyed with a student named Gordon Matthews. In class after class, he goes out of his to make sure everybody knows how smart he is, whether that's expounding philosophically on Charles Dickens, demonstrating mastery in chemistry, or speaking Latin fluently. (He quotes the Archpoet, "Feror ego veluti sine nauta navis ut per vias aeris vaga fertur avis" — "I am borne along like a ship without a sailor, like a wandering bird through airy ways.") But it's more than his rude and arrogant behavior that has students and teachers against Gordon. It's something they can't quite put their finger on.

We then head over to the Manchester Monkey Business School, which trains various primates for movies, television and other show biz opportunities. I don't know why such a school would be based in Alabama, but we'll go with it. Anyway, Max Mercury and Impulse are visiting the school because there was an apparent break-in. All the doors and cages were opened, but fortunately, only two chimpanzees, one orangutan and one gorilla escaped. I don't know why we don't see the police investigating this, but Max Mercury assures the school director he and Impulse will find the missing apes, while poor Bart gets swarmed by a handful of chimps.

So Max and Bart begin canvassing the town, and this is where the ugly art of Pop Mhan really becomes a detriment to the story. And unfortunately we get a handful of "maps" like this throughout the issue.

Impulse tells Max he saw 98 cats, 74 dogs, six foxes, 21 snakes and 114 squirrels, but no apes. And since Max couldn't find any either, they both decide to call it a day and go home. Bart heads over to Carol's house to study for their chemistry test with Preston, and Max begins to realize that he probably shouldn't have given up looking for the apes so quickly. Once he's alone, Max begins to meditate. Probing the surface of the Speed Force, Max discovers that the missing apes have somehow tapped into the lightning and are terrorizing Paris at super speed. This is the first instance of super-fast animals Max has heard of since the legendary 4th-century panda, Xong Tsai. Max is in costume and halfway to Paris in less time than it takes a hummingbird to flap its wings once.

Meanwhile, Bart, Carol and Preston are having a hard time studying. Among their scattered chemistry and algebra books is Views of L.A., naturally. Carol says she should have taken Gordon up on his offer to study with her, and Bart spends the next several hours actually studying and filling his head with chemistry. In fact, his head is so full of chemistry, that it takes him 10 minutes after arriving home to realize that he left his books at Carol's house.

We see that Max has caught up with the apes, but it's only the two chimpanzees and orangutan. However, while chasing them from the Netherlands to Romania, Max sees these three apes are wearing special helmets that allowed them to tap into the Speed Force.

Back with Bart, by the time he gets back to Carol's house, he finds the place trashed and Preston tied to a chair. Preston tells Bart that Gordon showed up, went nuts, kidnapped Carol and stole Preston's nachos. Luckily, Preston did see that Gordon took Carol away in a light blue van, so Bart immediately takes off to "find" Impulse, leaving his friend tied up.

Max finally catches the orangutan on the Kamchatka peninsula with a Wuhan fishing net. He ties the ape up to a tree and takes a moment to examine its helmet before pursuing the chimpanzees. Meanwhile, it takes Bart almost a minute to find a light blue van, which just happens to be parked in front of Manchester Junior High. Because he still has chemistry on his brain, Bart immediately rushes into the science lab. Turns out that was a good impulse, since that's where Gordon has taken Carol and hooked her up to a machine with the missing gorilla.

Turns out Gordon was expecting Impulse since he's placed an anti-Speed Force field around the room. Impulse asks Gordon why he's doing this, pointing out that he has a big unit test tomorrow. Gordon reveals that he knows Impulse is Bart Allen and like him, Gordon is also continuing a legacy. Gordon takes off his shirt and pushes a button on his big yellow belt, which transforms, or rather reverts him back into a gorilla. The ape from the cover of the comic announces himself as Gorbul Mammit, son of Gorilla Grodd.

Max finally catches up with the chimps over open water, which he uses to his advantage to knock them out. Meanwhile, Gorbul explains to Impulse that the gorilla he freed is going to be his wife once he transfers Carol's brainwaves to her. Gorbul then plans to become a sort of Adam and Eve with his wife to sire a race of super gorillas. But as Gorbul gloats, his bride-to-be becomes distracted and accidentally rips out the power cords to the machine, which shuts down the force field that prevented Impulse from using his speed.

Max loads the drowned-out chimps in a nearby fisherman's boat, which he quickly pulls to shore. Not wanting to perform mouth-to-mouth on the apes, he rushes over a professional, the director of the Manchester Monkey Business School. Impulse, meanwhile, frees Carol and launches into a big fight with Gorbul. Impulse throws out all the strategies and lessons he's learned from Max, Wally and Jay, and acts on pure impulse, which completely throws off Gorbul.

Impulse gives Grodd's son quite a beating before tying up the normal gorilla in some cables. Bart then checks on Carol, whom Mhan has disgustingly decided to draw with her shirt off and bra barely hanging on by a strap. Dude! She's like 14! Anyway, Gorbul pushes another button on his belt and begins to glow with a green energy. Bart thinks this is a bomb, so he pulls Carol to the ground and covers her up. But Gorbul just grabs his gorilla girlfriend and teleports away. Max then arrives to find Bart awkwardly lying on top of Carol.

Our story ends with an epilogue of sorts, showing us that the two chimpanzees Max rescued landed their own show on the WB Network, and the orangutan was hired by a Russian circus. Gorbul is enjoying some quality time with his new wife, still planning on increasing her intelligence somehow. And Grodd is reading about his son's exploits in the N.Y. Daily Probe, chastising him for thinking far too small. And eventually someone did untie Preston. Probably Carol's brother or sister we never see anymore.

This issue was a prelude to the upcoming JLApe event to be carried out in DC's annuals. For some reason, Impulse didn't get an annual in 1999, so I guess this issue kind of counts as it. Legends of the DC Universe was sort of an anthology title, with each issue focusing on a different character and featuring a different creative team. I suppose following this series would have been a fun way to keep tabs on the DC Universe as a whole, but I think I would have become frustrated with the inconsistency on a month-to-month basis. In my experience, quality begins to suffer with these types of guest-creator one-shots, as we often see in annuals, 80-page giants, and here.

As happy as I was to see Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt on this issue, I was even more dismayed to see Pop Mhan. His artwork seems to have hit an all-time low with this issue, filling each page with ugly, lazy drawings. Each character looked awful, every "map" was impossible to follow, and he really lost a lot of points with me by trying to sexualize Carol. I also want to criticize the letterer, but the one time I want a name to blame, I can't find one. But this comic was literally tough to read because of the lettering. The worst part was when Gorbul Mammit first announced his name. It was written in such a difficult to decipher, stylized font, that I have seen other websites list his name as Gorbzil.

As for the story, well, it wasn't really Hernandez-Rosenblatt's best. I suppose it was a noble pursuit to give Impulse a tie to Gorilla Grodd, but just as Todd Dezago tried in World Without Grown-Ups, this idea just doesn't work. Well, maybe the idea isn't that bad, but rather the execution. Gorbul probably could have worked as a character in Impulse's main series, giving us some more time to get to know the student Gordon Matthews first. But he's just really thrown right at us in this issue with no rhyme or reason to his actions. Why does he want a junior high student to be his wife? And if he could develop devices to allow apes to tap into the Speed Force, then why didn't he wear one of those devices himself? But this comic wasn't all bad. The narrative captions were simply wonderful. And Impulse asking the bad guy why he isn't studying for tomorrow's test is just about as funny as it gets.

Surprisingly, one of the letters to the editor actually mentions Impulse. Someone calling themselves Daredevil praised the Legends of the DC Universe Crisis on Infinite Earths special, saying it helped explain to him how Impulse came about. I haven't read this issue, but I'm assuming Daredevil is referring to how Barry Allen set up a family in the 30th century before sacrificing himself in the fight against the Anti-Monitor. Now for the few new ads:

PlayStation infestation. Centipede.

Discover what's out there. Star Ocean: The Second Story for PlayStation.

Like a chatroom except everyone's packing heat.

Next time, we'll deal with the recent tragedy in Red Tornado's family in Young Justice #11.

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