Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Impulse #56

The Best of Both

Todd Dezago • Words
Ethan Van Sciver • Pencils
Prentis Rollins • Inks
Janice Chiang • Letters
Rick Taylor • Colors
Digital Chameleon • Separations
L.A. Williams • Edits
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

Our cover by Van Sciver and Wayne Faucher shows Impulse, Secret, and a strange, green composite of Robin and Superboy. Hmm ... who do we know who's a green shapeshifter? Hmm ... Well, while you think on that, I'll heap my usual praise on this pretty funny image. Impulse's face is brilliant, as is his simple "Sorry." Secret does look slightly off, though, as she will throughout the issue. As amazing as Van Sciver is, for some reason, he just couldn't quite nail Secret. And some of this probably has to do with the inks and colors. And really, that is a very minor complaint in an otherwise beautiful comic book.

Our story opens with Helen telling Bart to clean his room before he hangs out with his friends. And Bart's room is pretty darn messy. There aren't a whole lot of Easter Eggs in it, but of note is a miniature helicopter Bart apparently built out of vacuum parts, more comics of the After-Life Avenger, a sleigh named Rosebud, a few pieces of Batman memorabilia, and posters of the Flash and Superman logos. Anyway, Bart does clean his room — by stuffing everything in his closet.

Unfortunately for Bart, Helen is too clever for this trick. As she reaches for his closet door, Bart likens their encounter to a Wild West duel at high noon. But while Bart draws a pistol, Helen pulls out a bazooka and blows a hole through Bart. She opens the closet, and all of Bart's junk spills out onto the floor. Helen tells Bart to clean his room properly this time, saying he should probably look into getting rid of some stuff, since she doesn't even want to know everything he has in his room. As she leaves, Helen also tells Bart to clean the cage of his "Pinky and the Brain" mice we met in the first Dezago-Van Sciver Impulse story.

So Bart throws a little hissy fit, in which he says darn a bunch of times, but he ultimately realizes Helen is right, and begins the long, arduous process of cleaning his room. Five minutes later, Bart comes across a jar of leftover technosplasm from his fight with Craydl. Apparently Bart had the sense to scoop up the goop and not leave it in the forest. Now he realizes that it probably could still be dangerous and shouldn't be sitting in his closet. So he decides to take it to the Young Justice cave.

Impulse comes in to see Robin, Superboy and Secret working out. Superboy has chosen the music, a rap album by Hard Kore, which Robin absolutely despises. Superboy shouts at Robin, saying he never complains we he plays the Matthew Davis Band or the Goo Fighters. Impulse quickly becomes distracted by this argument, and he leaves the technoplasm on the computer, not noticing that it has come to life, escaped the jar and entered the Young Justice computer.

Craydl begins downloading the chromosomal data on Young Justice, starting with Robin and Superboy. While Superboy rambles on about how great Hard Kore is, Robin hears the computer running and decides to check it out. Craydl has to abort his transmission prematurely, but the data he did acquire enables him to transform into the composite Superboy-Robin we saw on the cover, a form that is more than powerful enough to send Robin flying down the hall.

Meanwhile, back in Manchester, at the half-demolished dental offices of Helen Claiborne, Max wonders why his daughter won't let him make the repairs himself at super-speed. Helen actually has some pretty good points (which I'm surprised Max didn't think of) — first, the neighbors would be suspicious of the sudden repair; second, the insurance company already approved the project, filed under an act of God (or act of a god, Kalibak to be precise); and third, Helen wants Max to take it easy with all his injuries that seem to keep piling up. Helen then meets her contractor, a hunky man named Matt Ringer, who looks remarkably like the guy on the Brawny paper towels. Max gently tells Helen that her jaw dropped when Matt arrived.

Back at the Young Justice cave, Craydl is beating the snot out of Robin and Superboy. He explains that he is a composite of the two heroes, possessing all of Robin's skills combined with Superboy's powers. And once he defeats Young Justice, Craydl will resume downloading their detailed genetic scan files and will acquire the abilities of all of Young Justice and the Justice League. Impulse tries to tell his teammates what they're up against, likening Craydl's technoplasm to programmable Jell-O.

Robin orders Secret to cover Craydl's head with fog, and for Impulse to get him off balance with a vortex. Unfortunately, these two orders contradict each other, as Secret gets caught up in Impulse's vortex. She yells at him for messing her up, and he yells at her, saying he was just doing what he was told. Craydl goes back to wailing on Superboy and Robin, who begin pleading with Bart for any information on their enemy. Impulse tells them that Craydl is like a combination of Robin and Superboy, split right down the middle, but they already knew that. They yell at Bart to think, but he comes up empty.

So Robin comes up with a new tactic. Craydl has the files on himself and Superboy, and he has experience fighting Impulse. But he knows nothing of Secret. Robin tells her to go inside Craydl and find a way to take him down. So Secret enters Craydl through his nose, but is immediately met with suffocating darkness. This brings up bad memories of being trapped and studied by the D.E.O., and before too long, Secret comes flying out of Craydl's mouth, trying to escape her memories.

Impulse catches Secret as Craydl knocks out Robin and Superboy. Bart wonders how they can stop something that can imitate anything. Secret wishes they could imitate something to stop Craydl, and Impulse very slowly gets an idea. Luckily, he's much faster at implementing his ideas than forming them. He tells Secret to grab Superboy's rap CD, while he takes off. Craydl, meanwhile, returns to the computer to download the information on the Justice League.

Bart's first step is to pick up a book on sewing, which happens to be next to a copy of Views of L.A. and a book called Drawing Tiny, Microscopic Panels. After reading the book, Bart grabs some scissors, fabric and a wig. He returns to the cave, looking just like his arch enemy and Craydl's boss, Inertia. Bart has Secret pop the rap CD in the computer, then pulls off his best Inertia impersonation by telling Craydl to download the Justice League files, saying, "As soon as we have the strength of the entire Justice League, we can ... um ... er ... y'know ... kick butt!" Craydl is shocked to see Inertia back in the 20th century, but he doesn't dare disobey his boss.

Impulse's plan works perfectly, and he even thinks of Craydl as a turkey, since the technoplasm creature unwittingly downloads the Hard Kore CD instead, transforming himself into a green version of the rapper. Robin recovers enough to deliver the final blow to Craydl, admitting it felt real good to punch out the rapper.

Epilogue/Prologue. In Chicago, Red Tornado has somehow figured out how to disguise himself as an ordinary human to take his adopted daughter, Traya, out kite-flying. He's approached by Doiby Dickles, who remarks that there isn't enough wind today for flying kites. After commenting how children need to be protected these days, Doiby gets to the heart of the matter, telling Red Tornado that Old Justice sent him to appeal to the android one last time before something really terrible happens.

Continuity is killing me! This is our second-straight issue with a Young Justice cameo and an awkward, contradictory to the current Old Justice storyline. First of all, we have never seen Red Tornado disguise himself as a human like this before. I'm not opposed to the idea, I just wish it had been previously established. Secondly, is Doiby Dickles meeting with Red before or after the court hearing? Their conversation could be read either way, although the editor's note at the end of Impulsive Reactions invites readers to check out Young Justice #16 to find out what this final page was about. And thirdly, Secret should still be missing. True, I am glad that Arrowette didn't show up, but where was Wonder Girl? What it really comes down to, is Todd Dezago wanted to use the Young Justice team he last wrote about — just the boys and Secret. So the only way I can sort of make this work, it to pretend that this happened after the Old Justice hearings began and Secret was rescued. And maybe Wonder Girl is still trying to cheer up Arrowette? I don't know. My head hurts.

Setting aside my nitpicky continuity problems, this was actually a very fun issue. Composite Superman is a classic old school villain, so it was really nice to have a Superboy-Robin version. It was also really neat to see Robin slip up by giving Secret and Impulse contradictory orders — and then to have the kids yell at each other just like ordinary kids. And everything Impulse did in this issue was hilarious. The best, of course, was when he impersonated Inertia and had a hard time talking like a bad guy.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Dominic Sheehan praising Impulse #52 and the idea of Inertia being the Reverse-Impulse. Dominic says every hero needs an archenemy to clarify their reason for being. He also thanks the creative team for building on and honoring the past, while making the present such a darn good read.

Kevin Dragone, of Phoenixville, Penn., admits that he stopped reading Impulse after Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos left. But he came back with issue #50 when he saw Todd Dezago and Ethan Van Sciver would be on the book. Kevin wants to see Bart train more and become a bit more serious, and he also asks for some Impulse posters and T-shirts.

Charlie Seelig praises the decision to have Walt Simonson draw the Kalibak scenes, saying it complemented that part of the story like no one else can.

Grant Winship says he loves Impulse because it pairs hilarious storylines with cool action moments and heart-stopping cliffhangers. Now for the new ads:

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Donny Kong Country The Legends of the Crystal Coconut. This was a terrible, terrible computer-animated cartoon show of what was one of the best games ever for the Super Nintendo.

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Power Rangers Lost Galaxy action figures.

May the Force be with you. Star Wars: Episode I: Racer for Game Boy Color. I also had this game, and it was actually pretty awesome. It was one of those Game Boy games with a rumble pack, which was a pretty big deal back then.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing action figure model kits.

The Flintstones Bedrock Bowling for PlayStation.

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Scooby-Coo! Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom. A PC mystery game.

Next time we'll find out what it means if you want to date Impulse in Wonder Woman #153. No, seriously!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #6

The Subs Part Two

Geoff Johns – Writer
Lee Moder – Penciller
Dan Davis – Inks
Tom McCraw – Colors
Heroic Age – Seps
Bill Oakley – Letters
Mike Carlin – Editor
Courtney Whitmore created by Johns & Moder

Three cheers for our red, white and blue-skinned aliens on this month's cover, courtesy of Lee Moder, Dan Davis, and Richard and Tanya Horie! Well, I can't quite give three cheers to this pretty bad-looking cover. I mean, everyone just looks awful. It's almost as if Moder is intentionally doing everything he can to ruin this fun story for me. Fortunately, the art isn't quite bad enough to make me overlook the great humor of this cover. I love Impulse saying, "I hate when that happens!" as if he's turned into an alien on a regular basis.

Our story picks up where last issue left off, with the Star-Spangled Kid and Impulse being turned into aliens just like on the cover, except now their hair has disappeared, exposing tall, pointy heads. Superboy grabs the aliens' ray gun and dismantles it with his tactile telekinesis before any one else can be turned into an alien. But Robin lectures Superboy, saying they probably could have used that device to turn their friends back to humans. Before the heroes can get any answers out of the aliens, they all teleport away.

Impulse thinks being turned into an alien is "sorta cool," and the Star-Spangled Kid chews him out, saying she was supposed to have a date later that night. Robin picks up the pieces of the damaged ray gun, and Red Tornado realizes something bad must have happened to Wonder Girl, Arrowette and Secret, who have been M.I.A. all day. Courtney's friend Mary offers to help repair the ray gun, while Courtney continues shouting at Impulse, saying she doesn't want to be an alien for the rest of her life. Impulse sheepishly admits that Max would probably be mad to see he had lost his secret identity. Superboy then adds insult to injury by noticing the Star-Spangled Kid has braces, and she retaliates by making fun of his earring. Fortunately, the adults of the group are able to calm everyone down. Red Tornado offers to take the strongest members, Superboy and the Star-Spangled Kid, into the swamp to search for the girls, while S.T.R.I.P.E. will take Robin, Impulse and Mary to his lab to work on the ray gun.

Robin, Impulse and Mary load up into the Super-Cycle and follow Pat Dugan back to his secret lab underneath his suburban house. Impulse thinks this is pretty cool, too, but Robin has to point out that this lab doesn't have anything the Batcave doesn't. Pat, Mary and Robin begin putting the alien's device back together, and it's Mary who figures out how to reverse the gun's polarity, which should turn their friends back to normal.

Impulse, however, quickly becomes bored after looking through all of Pat's junk. And suddenly, he becomes violent, and starts throwing things at the others. Robin asks if that DNA charge went right to his brain, and Impulse replies with an evil grin, "Actually ... it just did!" The evil alien Impulse quickly knocks out Pat and Mary, and grabs the ray gun. Robin has pulled out his bow staff, and Impulse mocks him, saying he has unlimited access to the Speed Force and can zap Robin 1,000 times before he even thinks about using his staff. Robin, however, grins, and says, "Let's go, pal."

The power team of Red Tornado, Superboy and the Star-Spangled Kid quickly find the spaceship in the swamp. However, the Star-Spangled Kid turns evil and attacks Superboy. She's soon joined by evil alien versions of Arrowette and Wonder Girl (which explains where they were all last issue). The three aliens are joined by a couple more, and they manage to subdue Superboy and Red Tornado, then blast Kon with their ray gun.

Back in Pat's basement, Mary's alterations to the ray gun appear to have failed, as the evil alien Impulse has bested Robin, and transformed all four of them into aliens, praising the planet Laroo. Pat gets in S.T.R.I.P.E. and Impulse, Robin and Mary hop in the Super-Cycle, and they all fly off to the swamp to meet up at the spaceship.

On the ship, the aliens realize they couldn't transform Red Tornado, so they place his hands in a device, which I assume blocks his powers, and lead him to a prison cell alongside Secret. She couldn't be transformed, either, and was placed in a glass container. The Laroonians preemptively begin celebrating their conquest of Earth, and even open up the auction of the planet to other aliens. The other four transformed heroes are welcomed on the ship, but Impulse immediately blows their cover by sneezing all over Mary's face. He says some makeup got in his nose, and when Mary wipes her face, some blue makeup comes off. The Laroonians realize they've been tricked, and move to attack the imposters. Luckily, Impulse is too fast for them.

In no time at all, our heroes are all turned back to human, and Red Tornado and Secret are released. But the Laroonians are masters of retreat, and they quickly open a door beneath all the heroes, which drops them out on the ground, while the spaceship takes off into the sky. Even though most of our heroes can fly, they probably couldn't have caught the ship even if they wanted to.

Arrowette makes a new rule for Young Justice — no more swamps. Wonder Girl cheerfully introduces herself to the Star-Spangled Kid, and compliments her costume. Courtney, however, openly mocks Cassie's outfit. Robin offers Courtney a spot on the team, and Impulse wants S.T.R.I.P.E. to join, as well. Superboy just wants more girls on the team. However, Courtney respectfully turns them down, saying she's already busy with the Justice Society of America. Before they leave, Red Tornado gives Pat a file that shows Merry the Gimmick Girl is still alive, which comes as a big surprise to the former Golden Age hero.

And the last couple of pages set up the next villain of this series, but we don't really care about that. All in all, this wasn't too bad of an issue, despite the unsavory artwork. The fake-out with Impulse and Robin didn't work that well, since we never had any reason to think that the ray gun had not been reversed. So we pretty much knew right away that evil alien Impulse was going to blast Robin, be perplexed when nothing happened, which would then give Robin an opening to grab the gun and fix Impulse. But there were still some funny moments — especially between Bart and Courtney. I really would like more Young Justice to meet more teen heroes.

But now, I must make a very geeky, nit-picky complaint. Red Tornado did not learn that Merry the Gimmick Girl was alive until after Secret went missing and Arrowette decided to stop being a superhero. So Secret and Arrowette should not have been in these two issues of Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. Or, we can pretend that this story happened after Secret was rescued and Cissie somehow decided to have another go at being Arrowette. But that's pretty unlikely. The most logical timing for this story is to be before all the stuff happened with Arrowette and Secret. And that mention of Merry the Gimmick Girl should have been dropped. It's really odd that Geoff Johns knew about Merry and Old Justice, but he chose to ignore the larger story lines with Arrowette and Secret. I know he wanted to show Pat Dugan's connection to Old Justice, and, naturally, when Young Justice makes a guest appearance, you want all six of them. But in this instance, Johns could not have his cake and eat it, too.

None of the letters in Stars and Stamps mention Impulse or Young Justice, and none of the ads are new. So I'll see you next time, with another Young Justice cameo in Impulse #56.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Young Justice #16


Peter David – Writer
Todd Nauck – Pencils
Lary Stucker – Inks
Ken Lopez – Letters
Jason Wright – Colors
Maureen McTigue – Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza – Editor

This cover is reserved for our elderly heroes. Todd and Lary provided the cookies. WildStorm FX provided milk and color. It is a very fun cover, showing the contrast between Young and Old Justice. I especially like the confused Impulse dropping in upside down for no reason at all. But I don't know why Red Tornado's face is covered. It seems like Nauck had room to drop him down just a little bit. I also need to point out that even though Secret is on the cover, she does not appear in this issue.

As the title of this story says, we are dealing with the aftermath of last issue. After that nightmare in the forest, Superboy apparently found Arrowette in a catatonic state. Not knowing what else to do, Superboy took Cissie to Cassie's house, where the poor girl promptly curled up in a fetal position on her best friend's bed. And no matter what Superboy says — even wild dreams of meeting Leonardo DiCaprio — Cissie remains non responsive.

As a quick aside, Cassie's bedroom is a treasure trove for geeks like me. On her walls are posters of the Frontstreet Boys, Space Girls, Wendy the Werewolf Stalker and Dalton's Creek. And scattered throughout are Flash comics, a Flash pillow, pictures of Flash, Green Lantern, Superman and (embarrassingly) Superboy. Not to mention the stuffed animals of a blue Pikachu, Superman and Ambush Bug, a Martian Manhunter action figure, and a little blue box (CD case?) of something called Toshi's Station (for you Star Wars geeks out there).

Anyway, Cassie failed to tell her mom about the guests in her room, which quickly becomes a problem when Helena Sandsmark gets a phone call from Cissie's mom, Bonnie King-Jones. Cassie tells her mom she's studying, and does her best to keep her out of her room, but Helena forces her way in since Bonnie is going ballistic on the phone, looking for her missing daughter. Helena tells Bonnie that Cissie is not in Cassie's room, but Bonnie has correctly guessed the location of her daughter. She tells Helena to look harder by checking under the bed and such. Helena has correctly guessed that Bonnie is wearing her old mask again, which always makes her a bit more unhinged. She urges Bonnie to calm down and promises to call if she hears anything about Cissie, never realizing that Cissie and Superboy are hiding on the ceiling just above her. Helena hangs up the phone, gives Cassie a big hug, and leaves her to her "studying."

We then cut to Washington, D.C., where Senator Neptune Perkins is leading a meeting, which he begins by reading a statement from the man Arrowette almost killed, Richard Pulilio. Richard gave a fairly accurate account of the incident — although he did present Superboy much more sinister than he actually was. When Perkins finishes reading this statement, he motions to form a subcommittee to immediately evaluate the existence of Young Justice, saying these teen heroes are proving to be a bigger menace than those they propose to stop. Perkins' fellow senators agree, and Perkins relays the news to an old man named Dan, who excitedly promises to have his people at the Capitol later that afternoon.

Now let us check in on our favorite detective team, Robin and Impulse. Wait ... what?

That's right, with the three others hiding in Cassie's room, Robin and Impulse have decided to go searching for Secret. Robin does most (if not all) of the detective work, while Impulse mostly gets bored. Eventually, Impulse wears through Robin's patience, and the Boy Wonder grabs Bart's head, shoves a magnifying glass to his eye, and says, "Quiet. Look. Learn." Robin points out two sets of footprints, one larger than the other. The small set of footprints carry the same brand name that Agent Ishida Maad wears.

Robin's next clue is even more exciting — a bizarre-looking fiber snagged on a tree that looks like a part of Secret that got detached from her somehow. Before Robin can stop him, Impulse touches the fabric, which immediately evaporates. Robin bemoans losing their best clue, but Impulse points out the fact that the fabric evaporated proves that it belonged to Secret. Robin can't argue with that, and he puts their two clues together: Secret was captured by the A.P.E.S.

Meanwhile, Red Tornado is in the Young Justice cave, watching news reports of Senator Perkins' subcommittee. Noting the odd timing of this, Red pulls out the card Old Justice gave him, wondering if they are somehow involved. Suddenly, a hologram of an old woman in costume appears on the card. She introduces herself as Merry the Gimmick Girl, which surprises Red Tornado, since she is officially listed as dead on their records. Merry brushes this off with a reference to the famous Mark Twain quote, and tells the android that he was released from jail partly out of need, but mostly at the urging of Old Justice. Merry says they're taking on Young Justice, and she warns Red Tornado that if he sides with Old Justice, things will look good for him in the courts. But if he sides against them, then he can pretty much kiss his parental rights goodbye.

Impulse and Robin arrive at the cave shortly after Red's warning. Impulse excitedly tells Red Tornado about his and Robin's detective work, talking so fast that all his words are blurred together. Red asks Impulse to slow down, but he doesn't, going on to say that they need to attack A.P.E.S. headquarters. This angers Red Tornado, who shouts, "Bart, shut up!" He tells the two boys they are to do nothing about Secret until he gets things sorted out. But Bart wonders what "things" he's referring to.

We then see that Kon and Cassie have decided to try restoring Cissie back to her normal, happy self by taking her to the natural habitat of the teenage girl — the mall. Cassie grabs some fries and a Soder, but Kon's not too sure if this was such a good idea. While Cassie maintains that the mall is Cissie's regular environment, Kon contends that being Arrowette is regular for her. The two debate for a while about being normal people and having career aspirations outside of the superhero world, when suddenly, slowly, Cissie grabs a fry and takes a bite. Finally, she speaks, saying, "I'm going to have to be a super-villain."

Cissie explains that she committed a villainous act by trying to kill that man. Despite Cassie's protests, Cissie insists on resigning herself to the life of a villain — not winning anymore, not having friends, and having to wear a tight, skimpy black outfit that shows off her cleavage. Cissie then moans that she'll have to get cleavage. Kon can't stop himself from laughing out loud at this ridiculous comment. Cassie tries to stop him, but she soon starts laughing, too. But Cissie is still upset, and bitterly mocks their laughter.

Meanwhile, Cassie's mom has entered her room to deliver some laundry. Naturally, Helena is upset to find her daughter has snuck away when she claimed to be studying. But Helena becomes much more upset when she opens Cassie's closet and finds Arrowette's gear tumbling out.

We then head back to Washington, where Senator Perkins and Congressman Zuckerman are holding a press conference to announce the formation of a subcommittee to examine the actions of Young Justice and determine if legislation needs to be passed against them. Zuckerman lists the roster of Young Justice — Superboy, Wonder Girl, Impulse, Arrowette, and a mysterious boy they haven't been able to get a photo of. (This is back when the idea of Batman and Robin being urban myths was in full force.) Interestingly, Zuckerman did not mention Secret or Red Tornado.

A flying car arrives on the steps of the Capitol, and Perkins proudly introduces Old Justice — Dan the Dyna-Mite, Merry the Gimmick Girl, the Cyclones, Mr. Doiby Dickles and Second Sweep. One of the reporters in attendance is an old friend we haven't seen for a while, Ace Atchinson, who openly mocks the age of Old Justice. Doiby Dickles angrily grabs Ace's collar and lectures him on being respectful around ladies, and says his friends are worth a hundred of the slimy reporters. Ace apologizes, and Dan asks everyone to excuse Doiby's behavior, saying until recently, he was royalty on another world. Upon returning to Earth, Doiby has had a hard time seeing the aged treated like jokes and shunted aside. Dan then explains that he and the rest of Old Justice are there to support Senator Perkins' efforts to protect America from Young Justice.

Back at the mall, Cassie and Kon have gone to the bathroom, unwisely leaving the distraught Cissie by herself. As she wanders around, a man runs past her, holding a bunch of stolen Beanie Babies in his arms. A security guard in hot pursuit explains that those Beanie Babies have been retired and are worth a fortune. (This was certainly true in 2000, but just a few years later, these cute little stuffed animals would be rendered virtually worthless.) The guard asks Cissie to stop the thief from reaching the elevator, but Cissie lets him go. The guard yells at Cissie for not helping, and references Spider-Man by saying she better hope this thief doesn't go on to kill somebody's uncle or mother or something.

At first, the idea of having her mother killed is appealing to Cissie. But then she thinks about how Cassie would react if her mother were killed. So Cissie decides to help, leaping on top of the thief's elevator as it descends. The man pulls out a gun and fires several shots through the roof of the elevator. Cissie does a backflip off the elevator, lands in front of it as the doors open, and knocks the man out with a strong kick to his face as soon as he exits. Kon and Cassie notice the commotion, and come out to congratulate their friend. Among the crowd are some small boys who now want to flip and kick like Cissie, and a mysterious teenage girl we'll be meeting before too long. Kon scoops up Cissie and flies her away before people start taking pictures, and Cassie tells her friend she's back to normal. But the look on Cissie's face indicates she is still far from normal.

Back at the Capitol, the subcommittee's meeting is in full swing, beginning with a statement from Old Justice. Dan the Dyna-Mite argues against giving minors too much power, referencing child actors whose lives fell in shambles when they were older. And he briefly goes over the backgrounds of Old Justice to illustrate the harm that befell them because they became superheroes at too young of an age. Merry the Gimmick Girl suffered a mental breakdown. Second Sweep began his career as one of the Minute Men under the original Hour Man, but his career as an adult hero led to disaster and a jail sentence. The Cyclones started out as the Cyclone Kids under Ms. Cyclone's mother, the original Red Tornado (who was little more than a large, clumsy woman wearing a bucket on her head). The Cyclones eventually married, but Ms. Cyclone's face was badly burned during one adventure, which destroyed her acting career.

Doiby Dickles was already an adult when he started adventuring with the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. But Dan says that Doiby is uniquely suited to testify against Young Justice because he can compare them to the old Justice Society of America. Dan finally gets to himself, saying he started out as a sidekick to a hero named TNT, and that he was a member of the Young All-Stars. What Dan doesn't mention, however, is that Senator Perkins was also a member of the Young All-Stars as Neptune Perkins.

Robin, Impulse and Red Tornado watch all this from the cave, and are quite dismayed that Old Justice's statement was met with rousing applause from the lawmakers. Red Tornado promises that he will inquire about Secret's whereabouts through the proper channels, but in the meantime, he insists that all Young Justice activities be placed on hold. Impulse objects, so Red turns to Robin, who begrudgingly accepts the android's order. But once Red Tornado leaves the room, Impulse asks Robin if they're going after Secret, and Robin says yes.

Cassie, Kon and Cissie return to Cassie's room and find Helena waiting for them, angrily holding Arrowette's bow in her hand. To everyone's surprise, Cissie grabs the bow, snaps it in half with her foot, and says it isn't hers anymore.

Things are starting to heat up. Robin and Impulse are planning a dangerous rescue mission for Secret, the opposite of Young Justice (appropriately named Old Justice) is turning the government against them, Red Tornado seemingly has stopped supporting them, and Arrowette has quite possibly ended her career as a superhero. Nauck's art really shined in this issue, giving us tons of Easter eggs in Cassie's room, and a fun look back at a bunch of Golden Age heroes. There wasn't a whole lot of humor here, but Cissie saying, "I'll have to get cleavage" is one of the funniest lines this series has ever had. And as tragic as it is to lose Arrowette, I really do enjoy the maturity of this story. Still, though, if Cissie really felt bad about almost killing someone, shouldn't she turn herself in to the police for attempted murder?

The letters to the editor begin with Meghan Martinez praising Young Justice #11, saying she enjoyed seeing the kids in their street clothes. But Meghan shares my complaint that it was weird seeing Cassie keep her black wig on while disguised as a civilian and swimming in the pool. Eddie Berganza  responds by hinting that Cassie will soon be losing the wig — as we've slowly been seeing over the past couple of issues.

Sarah Beach, of Los Angeles, liked the idea of Young Justice outmaneuvering the A.P.E.S. to rescue Red Tornado. She also liked watching Bart try to sneak up on Robin by the pool, and says that such a trip-up is only going to make Bart try it more often. Sarah does complain that Suzie is too ordinary of a name for Secret.

Mark A. Brown, of Cornwall, Ontario, says his favorites are Superboy, Secret and Impulse, since he revels in his insanity. Mark says he'd like to see Superboy date Wonder Girl, but mostly he's upset with Superboy lighting himself on fire in issue #11. Mark says Superboy is vulnerable to heat and fire, and describes in painful detail how that little stunt should have killed the Kid. Berganza responds by appealing to the readers, asking if they goofed. I wish one of them would have mentioned Superboy's tactile telekinesis, which probably could have protected him from the flames. Now for the ads:

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Behind enemy lines! JSA The Liberty File.

Superman End of the Century.

The fat rats of Gotham City are scurrying for cover!! Catwoman for Game Boy Color.

Next time, we'll go back to battling aliens in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #6.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Year in Review: 1999

It seems each Year in Review post I do just gets bigger and bigger. I was 12 years old in 1999 — an age when you really become aware of the world around you, and almost an active participant in it. Just like everyone else, I was obsessed with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and helped it flirt with a $1 billion box office draw, easily dominating the rest of the competition. But there were plenty of other big films in 1999 — The Sixth Sense, Toy Story 2, The Matrix, Tarzan, The Mummy and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me all dominated the lives of 12-year-old boys everywhere. However, I was too young to see American Beauty, which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Sadly, there weren't any major superhero movies in 1999. Memories of Batman & Robin were too fresh and Marvel hadn't gotten their act together yet.

For Impulse, 1999 was easily his biggest year since his creation. Impulse appeared in an astonishing 55 issues — thanks in part to the number of Young Justice specials, and the entire Young Justice team making regular cameos in everything from Resurrection Man to Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. Impulse still made regular appearances in The Flash, and even had his own one-shot special, Bart Saves the Universe. But the biggest news for Impulse was the shift in creative teams. William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau ended their two-year run in style, and were replaced by Todd Dezago and Ethan Van Sciver, who brought a renewed excitement to the series.

Best Issue: Impulse #50

Most of the awards for this year were a bit tricky, since there were so many great options to choose from. Almost everything in Young Justice was fun and amazing, The Flash routinely churned out epic stories, and the old creative team went out with a couple of great stories, most notably the Riddler's guest appearance. Impulse: Bart Saves the Universe was simply wonderful, and probably would win this award in any other year. But I cannot pass by on the issue where Impulse annoyed both Batman and the Joker. This exciting, hilarious issue started the new creative team's run with a bang, telling a story energetic enough to match the character. Plus, it gets bonus points for introducing Impulse's arch rival, Inertia.

Best Writer: Todd Dezago

Last year's winner, William Messer-Loebs, was in strong contention for this award, demonstrating once again his ability to make you laugh and think. For every funny moment with the Riddler or Green Cigarette, there was an interesting philosophical debate with Superman or Evil Eye. Not to mention the great emotional moments with Max Mercury (more on that later). Four-time winner Mark Waid also made a strong case for himself, as did Peter David. But both of them only had Impulse as a supporting character. Christopher Priest did a great job with Bart Saves the Universe, but that was his only issue.

So the award goes to Todd Dezago, even though he only wrote a handful of Impulse issues this year. This is an instance where quality trumps quantity. Dezago made an immediate, lasting impact on Impulse, taking all the good that had come before, and making the type of series I always wanted. Not only did Dezago prove adept at balancing humor, action and emotion, but he expanded the cast in an organic way. Bart has always hung out with Preston and Carol, but now he's also hanging out with Wade, Mike and Rolly on a regular basis. (And it's so much fun that Wade and Mike are based off Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo.) Dezago even made sure to continue the Evil Eye story Messner-Loebs had spent so much time on. And, perhaps most importantly, Dezago gave us Inertia. Waid is the master of digging through old comics to find references to long-lost characters (that's how he created Impulse). Dezago pulled a page out of Waid's book (literally) and found a reference to Bart's evil twin in The Life Story of the Flash, creating the perfect enemy for Impulse.

Best Artist: Todd Nauck

This was another tough one to decide. Ethan Van Sciver certainly made a splash on his arrival, with beautifully detailed work that captures all the fun and charm from Humberto Ramos and Craig Rousseau. And Paul Pelletier put out beautiful work on The Flash. Rousseau, unfortunately, did not end his tenure on the book as strong as I would have liked. Perhaps some of this is due to the way he drew Bart's hair at the end (rather flat and short) or perhaps it was due to Rousseau being a bit rushed at the end (Messner-Loebs did say he was late with a few of his scripts). But Rousseau's work was still very good and whimsical, highlighted by the Chain Lightning tie-in, where Bart had a dream adventure with Grandpa Barry, and the art style was much more cartoony.

Really, this award comes down to two people: Van Sciver and Nauck. Comparing the quality of these two artists is really too close to call. They're both amazing in their own way. So in this case, I think quantity trumps quality. Even though Impulse was just a supporting character in Young Justice, Nauck had a lot more issues to work with. He proved he could handle the serious, fighting Impulse; the evil, possessed Impulse; and, most importantly, the silly, goofy Impulse, who is always doing something wild in the background. Peter David found some fun ways to stretch Impulse's power — such as vibrating a group of people through a building — and Nauck handled those scenes great as well. But the highlight for Nauck definitely has to be when Impulse got knocked in the head and briefly believed he was Batman. This scene was so much fun, someone even commissioned an Impulse-as-Batman drawing from Nauck in 2014.

But Ethan Van Sciver does deserve a special shoutout for this amazing joke he tweeted the other day: "What did Inertia study in order to kill Impulse? Bartending."

Best Supporting Character: Max Mercury

Superboy won this award last year, and I still say he's Bart's best friend on Young Justice. But Superboy has spent most of this year flirting with Arrowette rather than hanging out with Impulse. Another previous winner, Carol, was also in strong competition, as well as Preston, who sadly has been unable to rise to the top of this list yet. Evil Eye also made a surprisingly strong case. But the award this year has to go to 1995's winner, Max Mercury. Messner-Loebs did a rather shocking thing with Max — having him get shot. This opened the door for a very nice emotional moment with Bart and Max, as well as the notion of Max slowly losing his speed. And later, Dezago put Max in a big fight with Kalibak, further worsening his condition. Bart's relationship with Max has become much less antagonistic, although there is still plenty of humor to be found in the natural friction between the two of them.

Best Villain: Inertia

Finally, an easy, no-brainer award! Inertia wins this by a mile. I won't even mention any other contenders, because there weren't any. As astonishing as it sounds, the comic series Impulse went 50 issues without having a significant recurring antagonist. All the other villains we've seen in Impulse have only appeared in one or two issues, and almost never posed a real threat. Finally, we have somebody with a deep, personal connection to our hero, the knowledge and power to provide a real threat, and the insanity to engage in a long, overly convoluted plot. This is exactly what Impulse needed.

The year 2000 also looks to be another great one for Impulse. We'll see more Flash, more Inertia, plenty more Young Justice, tons of cameos throughout the DC Universe, and one of my favorite events of all time, Sins of Youth. It'll be great — don't miss it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Impulse #55

It Ain't Easy Being Greenery

Shon C. Bury Guest Writer
Ethan Van Sciver Artist
Janice Chiang Letterer
"Buzz" Setzer Guest Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separations
L.A. Williams Editor

For the first time ever, Wayne Faucher did not ink the cover of Impulse. For some unspecified reason, Barbara Kaalberg returned to ink Van Sciver's pencils. And it's a fairly decent cover. It shows us pretty much what's going to happen in this issue without giving anything away. There's our new bad guy, Sir Real (which intentionally sounds like "surreal"), and those little green hands will be revealed to us all in due time.

Our story begins with Sir Real, the self-proclaimed master of virtual reality, robbing the poor Manchester Savings and Loan. (This is at least the third time this bank has been robbed. Impulse and Max Mercury should just live there.) As we see on the cover, Sir Real has tons of wires emanating from his suit, which cover every man, woman and child, placing them in a virtual reality world, while he drains their bank accounts. Sir Real also conveniently explains that he used to be a virtual reality developer, but became upset when his bosses became rich off his ideas. (Van Sciver also took some liberties with the faces on the dollar bills flying around. One of them, a million-dollar bill, has the face of a woman. I can't say for certain who these people are, but I suspect they are some of this comic's creators.)

Meanwhile, Bart is playing video games while gorging himself on pizza, Chips Ho! cookies, Cheezy Poofs, Zesti cola, and pretty much every other junk food you could imagine. Max has very sweetly prepared a well-balanced meal with ham, bread and fresh vegetables. He even put on an apron to lay this beautiful spread. He calls Bart to dinner, telling him a superhero needs to treat his body better. Bart repeats Max's counsel — "my body is a temple" — but then he loses his game, which he blames Max for.

Bart reluctantly walks over to the table, and wonders if today is a holiday. Max says he just doesn't want Bart to rot away eating empty calories all day. But Bart turns down Max's hard work, suggesting they instead order Allegro's Pizza's mucho meat-o supreme-o. Naturally, Max refuses. Fortunately for Bart, a news report on the TV interrupts their argument. Bart recognizes Sir Real, and remembers the papers talking about him last issue, and decides to go off and stop the villain right now. The fact that he gets to delay eating his vegetables is just a happy coincidence. Max actually agrees with Bart on this one, but the boy has left the house before Max can get ready.

Impulse finds Sir Real in no time, and tells the villain to consider himself beat. Sir Real admits he had heard Impulse protects Manchester, but he's confident he'll be able to beat the hero. He tries to hook Impulse up to his VR jacks, but Impulse easily dodges all the wires, ties them up in a ball, and does a quick victory dance. Unfortunately, Impulse's quick win goes to his head, and instead of apprehending the bad guy, he mocks him. Impulse suggests changing Sir Real's name to "Get-Real" since he's so lame. He also lectures Sir Real on how geeky it is to be the master of virtual reality, explaining that he grew up in a VR world, which is "jack when you're up against a real hero." But during all of Impulse's gloating and lecturing, he fails to notice Sir Real's wires sneaking up behind him. Before he realizes it, Impulse is electrocuted and falls into a strange darkness.

When our hero comes to, he finds three little green kids standing over him. They introduce Bart to Veggie Valley, and warn him to not let the giant catch him loafing. The kids are Veggie Lad, Niblet and Lazy Veg, and they tell Bart he needs to start his work in the castle under the Mushroom Man. Bart tries to explain to them about his battle with Sir Real, but they don't know what he's talking about. Lazy Veg says he's tired and lies down for a nap, but Veggie Lad and Niblet shout at him to wake up. Bart says his new friends need Prozac, but soon a robot called the Slice-o-Matic swoops down and validates the veggie kids' fears by slicing Lazy Veg into a spiraled peeling.

Bart shouts, "What the grife?!" (Returning to his 30th century slang he rarely uses.) Niblet and Veggie Lad show Bart that many of their friends have also been sliced up into piles of peelings, but they are somehow still alive and able to talk. Bart calls the Mushroom Man's behavior "whack" and vows to take care of him. Right on cue, the gigantic Mushroom Man shows up, and he just so happens to look just like Max Mercury covered in mushrooms. The veggie kids sing their song of praise to the Mushroom Man, who shouts at Bart for loafing and not eating his vegetables. Transfixed by the giant Max, Bart is frozen in place, and subsequently squashed by the giant's fist.

Later, Bart wakes up in a prison cell in the castle. Niblet is next to him, and she explains that they're in the room where the Mushroom Man's gnomes, Mucky, Ducky and Frump, transform normal kids into veggie kids. Across from Bart is a normal kid who has just started growing some leaves on the top of his head. He wants to go back home to his mommy, but the gnomes force-feed him a green soup, saying he'll soon be a hardworking veggie kid. Bart decides he needs to stop this, but Niblet warns him that the gnomes are mean. Bart vibrates out of his cell and says, "Don't worry about me, I'm Impulse. Saving people is what I do."

Impulse sneaks around the gnomes' backs and begins freeing the kids by vibrating his finger into the locks of their prison cells. With the kids free, they join Impulse in fighting the gnomes, who are promptly knocked out like a bunch of bowling pins. All the kids proclaim Impulse as their hero, but he reminds them they still need to take down the giant mushroom guy. But first, he has to battle one more gnome, Big Grub. Big Grub, who is much larger than the other gnomes, says, "Big Grub come squash." Impulse mocks his limited vocabulary, then races between the gnome's legs, causing him to fall down hard on his face by trying to hit the speedster. Impulse jokingly says he hopes the attack didn't give Big Grub more brain damage. One previously defeated gnome gets up, but Impulse simply says "boo," and he runs away screaming.

But Impulse's victory is quickly spoiled by the call of the Mushroom Man — "Yo ho ho!" The veggie kids instinctively begin singing their song, and Impulse says "grife" again. The Mushroom Man demands to know who woke him up during his mid-afternoon nap. Impulse takes responsibility, and begins attacking the giant's foot, making sure to joke about how stinky his feet are. But with a simple flick of his finger, the Mushroom Man sends Impulse flying hard into the wall. The veggie kids rush over and encourage him to get up, but Impulse blacks out once more.

When he wakes up, Impulse sees Max Mercury pulling Sir Real's cables off him. Impulse initially panics, calling Max the Mushroom Man, but Max calms him down, showing him that he defeated Sir Real. Max speculates that Impulse rushed in without thinking and tried to fight a villain with unknown powers. Impulse says that's not what happened at all, and that he got stuck in a crazy vegetable land, fighting a giant mushroom man that looked like Max.

Max says he also got zapped by Sir Real, who, while being taken away by the police, says he didn't "zap" Max, but "shwipped" and "fwipped" him. Max ignores that odd comment and tells Impulse that he was in a VR-dream where he was force-fed fudge cookies by little elves that looked like Impulse. And Max hates fudge cookies. Impulse wants to laugh at this, but he keeps it in, choosing to ask Max how he escaped, instead. Max says he got loose, tied all the elves to the tree and burned it, but then admits he was joking.

A pretty clerk at the bank, named Kaylene, thanks Max, and he stammers a bit while shaking her hand. Impulse considers Max a corn ball, and soon the speedsters are on their way home. Max lectures Bart for not taking time to think before fighting Sir Real, and Bart teases Max about making a new girlfriend. In response to this, Max grounds Bart from video games for a week.

Once they get back home, Max notes that his beautifully prepared meal has gotten cold while waiting for them, and he doesn't have much of an appetite anyway, after having eaten all those virtual reality cookies. Bart suggests pizza, and Max graciously relents, telling Bart to call in the order while he clears the table. But Bart has a sudden change in heart, telling Max that he'll clear the table since he doesn't want to loaf about. He also grabs a carrot, to Max's astonishment, saying some veggies would sure hit the spot.

Everything about this issue is strange. Wayne Faucher didn't ink the cover, Todd Dezago didn't write the story, Prentis Rollins didn't ink Van Sciver's pencils, and Rick Taylor didn't color the issue. That's not to say the art suffered in this issue — far from it — but I have certainly gained a greater appreciation for Rollins and Taylor. I'm not exactly sure how to phrase it, but this issue just felt ... muted compared to the regular art team.

The story itself was incredibly strange and goofy. And it was quite a bit of fun. As much as I crave Dezago's world-building, there's nothing wrong with an occasional harmless filler such as this. I am reminded of Impulse #18, which also had a guest writer, Martin Pasko, and also featured a virtual reality-centric plot. It would have been an amazing bit of continuity if Shon C. Bury would have found a way to connect Sir Real to the entirely forgotten characters of that issue.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Mark McConnell of Strasburg, Colo., saying he bought five copies of Impulse #51 to share with his family because his hometown was mentioned in the comic.

Paul Dale Roberts, of Sacramento, Calif., felt reminiscent while watching Bart and friends talk about comics and complain about the 30-day wait between issues. Paul also praises the art and Inertia's costume.

Charlie Flint, of London, says he didn't read comics for about 10 years until he stumbled across Young Justice. In that series, he became intrigued with Impulse, began reading his series, and has fallen in love with the light, but not fluff stories and funny characters.

Rob tries to answer four of L.A. Williams' quotes from past letter columns, but he only gets two right. He also welcomes Todd Dezago and Ethan Van Sciver, saying they have big shoes to fill (pun intended). Tim now for the new ads:

New Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Snax-Stix. Snapping them apart is half the fun.

Scooby-Doo! Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom. A PC mystery game.

DC Kids combo deal. Order any two titles for only $29.95 and receive this free erasable memo board and pen absolutely free! Impulse was included on this list. Single issues of Impulse cost $2.25 at the time.

Earthworm Jim 3D on Nintendo 64.

Well, that does it for 1999. Next time, we'll review this massive year in Impulse's history and hand out some awards.