Monday, April 4, 2016

Impulse #51

It's All Relative

Todd Dezago Writer
Ethan Van Sciver Penciller
Prentis Rollins Inker
Janice Chiang Letterer
Rick Taylor Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separators
L.A. Williams Editor
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Our cover by Van Sciver and Wayne Faucher shows Impulse battling a new villain, who is terrorizing a toy store with his gaseous powers. I love the melodramatic goofiness here, especially the one adult (in a Flash T-shirt) amidst all the kids clamoring for the action figure. And if you're worried about that smoky noose around the doll's neck, I did buy two copies of this issue ... well, that is if you count the Impulse 100-page special that included this issue.

Our story begins with the same hooded figure secretly watching Impulse last issue. This time, our mysterious stranger is using his advanced computers to observe Impulse on June 13, 1999, battling the "humidity manipulating adversary" from the cover. Once the computer, Craydl, is switched to conversation mode, it chews out its master for repeatedly watching this same fight. Craydl claims Impulse's victory was nothing more than dumb luck, and that this hooded figure can take Impulse in a cinch. Craydl worries that its master has developed a full-blown obsession, which the stranger says is wonderful before ordering Craydl to replay the entire day.

If I interpreted the date correctly, Craydl is showing us a day in Bart's life during what must be the last week of school (and a date that occurs more than a year after that April Fool's adventure with Batman). The video opens in the cafeteria, with Bart intently focused on his Game Boy, while Preston shows off his new issue of The After-Life Avenger (which has an ad for Views of L.A.: The Movie). Preston is joined by Roland and a couple of new kids, one of whom is named Mike and wants to take Preston's comic to his algebra class. Meanwhile, one of Carol's friends catches her crushing on the hunky jock Jeff Weber.

Bart's friends are perplexed that he doesn't read comics because they're "too slow." But as they talk more about the After-Life Avenger, his sidekick Cherub, and his arch-nemesis Baron Bad, Bart becomes intrigued and quickly reads Preston's entire collection. Bart notices issue #16 is missing, and he's told that's the rarest issue of the series, apparently having sold out immediately because it features the Avenger defeating the Emulator. Bart is completely engrossed in the comics until he finishes the most recent issue, which ends with the words, "Continued in 30 days." Realizing he'll have to wait a whole month for the end of the story, Bart declares the whole thing a rip, and tosses the comics aside.

Our mysterious figure then pauses the video and orders Craydl to fast forward to 2:36 p.m. of the same day, while also changing the location to Denver, Colorado. Here, the video focuses on 15-year-old Nelson Arling, who is having a hard time finding an action figure of the After-Life Avenger's sidekick, Cherub. Nelson throws a fit in the toy store, and the worker tells him the rumor is the Cherub figures were stolen off trucks and stashed in a warehouse in West Virginia to jack up prices for the speculators. Nelson decides it's time for him to try out his new toy, a high-tech device that surrounds him in swirling fog.

The video then returns to Manchester, where Max and Helen are giving Bart, Carol and Preston a ride home from school because it's raining. But Bart hates slow-paced car rides. He's so frustrated, he even uses the futuristic euphemism "grife," which we haven't heard in quite a while. Bart argues that he wouldn't even get wet if he just ran home, but Max warns him to mind his secret identity around Preston, while Helen sings along to "Cat's in the Cradle" on the radio. Finally, Preston is dropped off, but sadly Max still won't let Bart run home.

Bart notices that Carol has been in a sort of trance the whole ride, and he snaps her out of it. Embarrassed, Carol quickly brings up the topic of Preston's upcoming birthday party, and Bart realizes he hasn't got a present for his best friend yet. Helen suggests he find something thoughtful that only he would know Preston wants. Bart quickly comes up with the perfect gift — the one issue of After-Life Avenger Preston is missing. And before anyone can stop him, Bart vibrates through the car, pops on his Impulse costume, and takes off. Helen comments on Bart's impatience, and Max says Bart gets anxious waiting for the light to come on. By which he means any light switch — the kitchen, the living room, etc. Even though it seems like the light comes on immediately, for Bart it doesn't.

The video is then paused again, and the hooded figure has Craydl replay the origin video of Bart Allen. We're treated to a clear and concise chart showing the Allen family tree, explaining how Barry Allen went to the future and had the Tornado Twins, Don and Dawn, who then had Bart and Jenni. The video then shows how Bart rapidly aged and looked like a 10-year-old when he was only 2. It goes over the details of how Bart's grandma Iris rescued him and took him back to the 20th century so Wally West could stop his accelerated aging. However, the video avoids any mention of Bart's mom and his other grandfather, the evil President Thawne, which I find odd. Anyway, the mysterious hooded figure is still perplexed as ever by Bart's success despite his impulsive behavior.

Vowing to remove all errors and oversights for when he confronts Impulse, the stranger then resumes the video, switching it now to 12 kilometers east of Strasburg, Colorado. A Mack truck for We 'B' Toys is suddenly surrounded by very thick fog. The driver, who had been singing "On the Road Again," is forced to hit the brakes. The fog then rips the door off the truck, and pulls the driver out, spilling his Superman thermos. The fog forms itself into the image of a large monster, and we see it's being manipulated by Nelson Arling, who's now wearing the same silver suit we saw on the cover.

Meanwhile, 84 kilometers away, Bart happily runs back home with After-Life Avenger #16. He had to go all the way to Seattle to find it, but it'll be worth it once he sees the look on Preston's face. Bart soon encounters the patch of fog, which he thinks is thick as pea soup, and he decides to stop for a moment and check it out. And it's a good thing he did, too, since he discovered the big fog monster ripping the truck in two, while Nelson digs through the boxes of the action figures, looking for Cherub.

Impulse quickly disperses the fog by running around in circles, which gets Nelson's attention. Nelson boldly proclaims that Impulse can't stop him since he can control fog. Impulse thinks this is a pretty lame power, and he makes fun of his enemy, naming him the Fog Prince, Master of Mist. But Impulse soon learns that Nelson can make the fog pack quite a punch. The two 15-year-olds yell at each other to shut up for a bit, then Nelson explains that his dad is Silver Fog, which is where his powers came from, although he needs a "conduit-thingy" to focus them better. Nelson claims that Silver Fog used to stomp the Flash, which Impulse thinks is a lie. And Craydl confirms this lie, by stating that Silver Fog did battle the New Teen Titans, but the Flash was absent, and Silver Fog fled from the heroes, anyway.

The Fog Prince says, "Oh yeah ... ? Watch this!" and creates several more fog monsters. Impulse responds with, "Oh yeah ... ? Watch — this! — and this! — and this! — and this!!" as he disperses each monster. But the Fog Prince counters by recapturing the truck driver and threatening to tear him limb-from-limb. Impulse looks down at his comic book, which shows the After-Life Avenger defeating the Emulator by threatening to throw his Emu-Ray into the fiery Hellpits of the Molten Underworld. And lying right next to that comic is the coveted Cherub action figure.

Impulse decides to mimic the comic book cover by grabbing the action figure and holding it over the edge of the overpass in the exact same pose as the After-Life Avenger. And he even quotes the hero by saying, "I believe you were looking for this?!" Nelson falls for the bait, and as he lunges for the action figure, Impulse snatches away his conduit-thingy, which causes all the fog to fade away, including Nelson's suit, leaving him just a stocky bald kid who's actually shorter than Bart.

Impulse ties up Nelson and rushes him and the truck driver over to a nearby police station. He asks the driver to stay there and tell the police what happened while he goes back to clean up the mess. Bart puts all the toys back in their boxes and stacks them up neatly, pausing only for a moment to consider taking the Cherub action figure to give to Preston. But even though Bart knows Preston would love the toy, he decides that's not fair, and just sticks to the comic book.

As the video ends, Craydl claims that Bart's victories are only a matter of coincidence and the fact that he's never been seriously challenged. The hooded figure agrees with Craydl that he'll use his superior intellect to defeat Impulse. He then removes his cloak, revealing his blond hair and a green-and-black outfit identical to Impulse's. He proclaims that as the last of the Thawnes he will do what he was bred to do — to right a wrong that was visited upon his family generations ago. He will remove the littlest Allen, replace him and become him. And Bart will never see him coming because he is Inertia.

I think we need to talk about the end first. Impulse finally has an archenemy — something he has seriously been lacking these past 50-plus issues. And although we still don't know that much about Inertia, it is pretty frightening that he has access to videos of Bart's life and is obsessively studying them in preparation to defeat and replace Bart. This terrifying concept, combined with Inertia's fun interaction with Craydl, made each of their scenes captivating.

Another way the story could have been told would have been to show Inertia reviewing past highlights of Impulse's career. It would have been fun to relive Impulse battling Kobra and Savitar again and having adventures with the Teen Titans and Young Justice. But instead Inertia focused on an entirely new adventure, which I think worked out for the best. The Fog Prince really isn't that much of a villain, but he was pretty hilarious as an overly emotional geeky teenager, matching Impulse on the most juvenile level.

I also loved how this issue began expanding Bart's circle of friends. Bart's now interacting with more people than just Preston and Carol, and Carol not only gets a new girl friend, but a hunky jock to crush over. And Max's line about Bart waiting for the light really stood out to me. If they ever did make an Impulse cartoon, watching Bart get annoyed by slow light switches would have made a great gag. And in case you think I'd forget, the art was once again gorgeous. Ethan Van Sciver was exactly what this book needed.

The only complaint I have with this issue is an atrocious ad placement. Four pages of advertisements were stuck right in the middle of the book, interrupting pages 12 and 13, which were a two-page spread of Impulse's origin. To read those pages correctly, you had to read the top half of 12 and 13 before reading the bottom half of the two pages. And with those ads in the way, this became a confusing pain in the butt. Luckily, this is not a problem in the Impulse 100-Page Spectacular or the digital version.

Impulsive Reactions starts with Matt W. complaining that Impulse #46 had a misleading cover. But he did say that he still liked the issue as a whole with all its jokes and villain cameos. I agree with L.A. Williams' response that the cover did say it was "kinda, sorta part of Chain Lightning," which did make it accurate.

Dave Anderson, of Rockford, Ill., calls Impulse your annoying little brother constantly asking a bazillion stupid questions. But Dave did like how Bart seemed to mature a bit after reading (or rather daydreaming) about his grandpa in issue #46. In Impulse #47, Dave actually thought that Impulse should have followed Superman's standard in fighting crime 24/7.

Robert Swerdlow, of Seldon, N.Y., says he only picked up issue #47 for Superman, and he felt the issue used him in the worst possible way. Robert says Superman has better things to do than talk to Impulse. L.A. agrees, pointing out that was why Superman flew off on Impulse at least four times during their conversation.

John Steib enjoyed the way William Messner-Loebs portrayed Superman and kept him consistent with all the other DC Universe books, as well as showing a scene that also occurred in Titans #2, which came out the same week.

Shane Sarte also was a fan of Superman's appearance and how Impulse came to realize that his current tactics weren't the best way to go.

Hank Kurz, of Sterling Heights, Mich., sees that the Riddler was set to appear in Impulse and Robin the same month, and was wondering whether someone would comment on that. And as L.A. says, the Riddler did make mention of his recent battle with Robin in the pages of Impulse.

Natalie Mourra, of Santa Ana, Calif., was happy to see Evil Eye get a reality check, but she was confused as to why Superman was acting that way. Natalie also asks where Bart's street clothes go when he puts on his Impulse costume. For the Superman question, L.A. referred her to Superman's titles. For Bart's clothes, L.A. referred Natalie to Flash assistant editor Frank Berrios. (I'm assuming he had a whole thing about where speedsters' clothes go.)

Jennifer M. Contino thought the interaction with Superman, Impulse and Superboy was very realistic. She also praises the whole art team, especially Craig Rousseau, lamenting his upcoming departure. But Jennifer says she's seen some of Ethan Van Sciver's work and is excited for it.

Ali Crolius, of Amherst, Mass., says that her 7-year-old son, Ezra, is now really into the comics scene, and is especially drawn to Impulse. I wonder if Ezra still likes Impulse now that he's in his 20s. Time now for the new ads:

Are you a Mega-Dude? Warheads candy and merchandise, including a coupon for 25 cents off — if you don't mind cutting out Bart's head on the other side of the page. Man, the ad placement for this issue was just horrible.

Everyone's excited for the return of the Oreo Stacking Contest. Stack 'em high and you could snag $20,000, a trip to Orlando and a role on TV!

NesQuik. It's great, even if your brain is the size of a walnut.

Send us the greatest Eggo creation and we'll send you to Florida with $10,000.

He'd like to have a few words with you. A closeup on Darth Maul for a toy that quoted movie lines when you placed the corresponding action figure on it. Ironically, Darth Maul only has about two lines in The Phantom Menace.

The World's Mightiest Mortal is back! The Shazam! Archives Volume 2.

More adventure than most summer vacations! Croc 2 for PlayStation.

It takes more than a hit single to reach the top. 15% of adult height is added during teen years. So we give our growing bones lots of calcium by drinking milk. How do you suppose we reach all those high notes, anyway? Got milk? with the Backstreet Boys. Ironically, growing up actually makes it tougher to reach those high notes.

Well, that is it for August 1999. Next time, we'll dive into September with Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #2.

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