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!


  1. I actually got to meet Todd Nauck this past weekend at Denver Comic Con (as well as Peter David). They were both amazingly nice and awesome, and they both signed my copy of Young Justice #1, as well as my YJ graphic novels. It was pretty awesome! :)

    1. I'm so jealous! I haven't met either of them yet. My brother did see Todd Nauck in Salt Lake last year, and he commissioned a beautiful Impulse piece for me. And my brother also said Nauck was the nicest guy ever.