Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Flash #158

Reverse Flash

Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, Story
Paul Pelletier, Pencils
Doug Halewood, Inks
Tom McCraw, Colors
Saldino & Oakley, Letters
Joey Cavalieri, Editor

Our cover by Steve Lightle is typically disappointing for such an exciting story. Against a bland, green background, we have Replicant holding both the Flashes by the throat, underneath the giant floating head of Abra Kadabra, which is emanating pink energy beams? There are some good ideas here, but there are too many strange, vague things going on. And this is a really good issue, I swear!

Our story picks up with Max Mercury, Impulse, Jesse Quick and Jay Garrick being tortured by Professor Zoom and his neuron gauntlet, which uses our heroes' speed against them to cause crippling pain. Meanwhile, Kadabra is practicing his magic on images of Walter West by burning them, stabbing them, and slicing them in a million pieces. Kadabra then suggests they now go after Walter's girlfriend, Angela. Zoom objects to this, saying Kadabra already allegedly got rid of one of Flash's girlfriend's (Linda Park), and that they need to go straight to the target. Kadabra turns on Zoom, but Replicant pulls him off, saying he agrees with Zoom.

Walter then finds the hideout of these villains — an abandoned theater conspicuously covered in ice. Walter easily vibrates through the ice, only to encounter a field of absolute zero. It takes Walter a moment to accelerate his system through this, but once he does, he ignites the potassium Replicant laced the ice with. But even though he's now on fire, Walter still charges ahead toward the three villains. Kadabra turns Flash into pure light, and entraps him in Replicant's mirrored suit. However, Walter is able to pull himself out of this, demonstrating complete molecular control like Barry Allen had, according to Zoom. Professor Zoom complains about working with amateurs and their overly complicated death schemes. He grabs Walter as soon as he pulls himself out of Replicant, and hits Flash with his neuron gauntlet.

With Walter now incapacitated by searing pain, Abra Kadabra takes a moment to gloat, reminding Flash of how he ruthlessly took away Linda just when Walter thought he had her back. But to Kadabra's astonishment and fury, Walter asks him who Linda is. Zoom mocks his ally, saying he always suspected that Kadabra made up the story about Linda. But Kadabra is mad with rage, demanding to not be robbed of his greatest victory — torturing two Flashes with the loss of their girlfriend. Since Kadabra insists that everybody appreciate what he's done, he decides to undo the spell that caused everyone to forget Linda Park. But once this spell is complete, Linda Park materializes in front of everyone, bringing a big grin to Impulse's face, even though he's being electrocuted. And, to add an even bigger surprise to the mix, Professor Zoom removes his mask to reveal himself as Wally West.

Wally discards the neuron gauntlet, grabs hold of Kadabra, and slams him against the wall. Replicant immediately seizes this opportunity to absorb the neuron gauntlet, but it immediately begins to electrocute him. The other speedsters then reveal they're just fine, and Wally explains that the lightning effects from the gauntlet were just a light show. The true purpose of the device was to contain a nanovirus created specifically for Replicant by the Pied Piper. Impulse references a classic Superman cover to describe the electricity that was supposedly hurting the speedsters.

With Replicant incapacitated, Kadabra surrounds himself with a force field to work up another spell. The Flashes understand they need to stop him from casting this spell, but they can't vibrate through the bubble. So Linda suggests they fight the magician with his own tricks and use mirrors. So Walter and Wally race around Kadabra with a couple of mirrors as he unleashes his spell to erase the two of them from human existence. The spell rebounds off the mirrors and hits Kadabra, who appears unharmed by the blast, but has completely forgotten who he is.

Once Kadabra and Replicant are in custody and under the care of prison doctors, everybody meets up at the Central City Police Department to figure out what the heck just happened. Wally explains that when he and Linda were on Walter's world, Kadabra thought he incinerated the two of them. But Wally managed to vibrate himself and Linda into immaterial wraiths so they'd survive Kadabra's blast and hopefully find a way back home. But Wally and Linda had a hard time navigating through all the different worlds. Among the places they saw was a world where Linda loved Kyle Rayner instead, one where Wally was homeless, one where Wally was a dictator, one where Linda had super speed, one where Wally died in Linda's arms, and one where they were married and had a baby.

After a week of shifting through all these different dimensions, Wally and Linda came across one where Jesse, Jay, Max and Impulse were wondering aloud who Linda is. Wally and Linda initially thought this world was another dead end, but then they heard Impulse tell everyone that Linda is Wally's girlfriend who helped them fight Kobra. Wally and Linda realized that this was their home world, and that Impulse, their little chronal misfit, would be able to remember Linda since he was pulled out of time. As Wally explains this part of the story, Impulse is kind enough to not gloat out loud. But inside, he imagines himself as a genius, and Max and Jesse as stupid apes.

But even though Wally and Linda found the right world, only Wally was able to come back in a tangible form. Kadabra's spell was so powerful that Linda remained a wraith, unknown and unseen by everyone except Wally and Bart. As Wally tells his story, a strange thing happens. For a brief moment, everyone's clothes change, and he refers to Jay as Jack. But things quickly return to normal, and nobody really noticed it. Returning to his story, Wally explains that he still didn't completely trust Walter, so he went to Jay first, told him everything, and asked him not to tell anybody else that he's alive, since Kadabra could be watching them. Wally spent the next few weeks living in secret and searching the city until he found Kadabra's hideout. He then devised his plan to disguise himself as Professor Zoom, and, working through Jay, had Pied Piper create a device that could take down Replicant.

After Wally's story, Max congratulates him on his brilliant plan, then turns on Walter, saying none of this clears him of the charade he pulled on them. But Walter brushes him off and tends to his fiancee, Angela, who now feels like Walter will leave her to be with Linda. Walter explains to Angela that his Linda is gone, and he still wants to marry her. He tries to put the engagement ring on Angela's finger, but his wrist is suddenly caught in Wonder Woman's lasso. Accompanying the Amazon is Superman, who doesn't look too happy.

This issue, and the whole story, is a wonderful culmination of everything Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn (both as editor and co-writer) have done on The Flash. The Wally-Linda romance, Wally's relationship with the other speedsters, the idea of the Speed Force and alternate realities, the time-travel aspect of Bart Allen and the sheer power of Abra Kadabra are all the result of the years Waid and Augustyn put into the book. It makes for a rather complex story, but these guys do a really good job of explaining everything. And those who have been reading The Flash for a while gain a greater sense of appreciation for having everything come together in such a fun, exciting way. And the best part is we're not done yet!

Next time, we'll see how Impulse and his friends handle the press after accidentally destroying Mount Rushmore in Young Justice #18.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #8

Crisis in Blue Valley

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

The Star-Spangled Kid and S.T.R.I.P.E. soar to new heights on this month's cover by Lee Moder, Dan Davis, and Richard and Tanya Horie! Well, as far as Moder's art go, this cover isn't too bad. But I'd hardly call it soaring to new heights. It's a pretty nice image, although it doesn't have anything to do with the story inside.

Impulse only makes a very quick cameo in this issue, so I'll go really quick. During Courtney's very ordinary day at school, she has a bit of a rough time at gym. The teacher is a pretty big jerk, and the kid playing goalie is kind of full of himself, so Courtney covertly uses her power belt to blast the soccer ball past the kid and get the teacher to lay off her. Later, Courtney's friend Mary says she shouldn't use her belt for stuff like this, but Courtney brushes her off, saying she'll bet her $20 that Impulse is the track star at his school. While Courtney's reasoning is understandable, we all know she is completely wrong. Despite his impulsive nature, Bart actually is disciplined enough to not use his super speed in school sports.

While Courtney is being a typical selfish teenage girl, her step-father Pat Dugan is attacked by an old enemy named Nebula Man. When Nebula Man tracks onto Courtney's power belt and takes off after her, Pat panics and calls in every single hero he knows. And I mean every single hero.

But here's the joke: Courtney had already defeated Nebula Man by the time the JSA, JLA, Titans, Young Justice, Metal Men and the Marvel family arrive. Superman is understandably a bit annoyed by this, but the new Flash (Walter West) calms him down. He tells Courtney she's doing a good job protecting Wally's hometown, and all the heroes take off. Oddly, Courtney and Pat didn't say a word to Young Justice, despite having a pretty wild adventure with them not too long ago.

So there you have it. Not too bad of an issue — mostly built around one big joke. Sadly, Moder's art did not do justice to this massive gathering of heroes. However, I am glad that Arrowette was not included, which follows continuity. But I'm not exactly sure why Max Mercury was there, too. I guess he just saw Impulse taking off and decided to come help out. After all, Pat was telling everyone this was a Crisis-level threat, along the lines of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour.

Actually, I'd have to say my favorite part of this issue was Courtney casually mentioning Impulse on the school bus. I always love seeing kids in the DC Universe have everyday conversations about other heroes. So anyway, we actually do have one letter to the editor worth mentioning.

Jeff Coburn asks if Wally West will pay a visit to Blue Valley sometime, but sadly Mike McAvennie doesn't say anything about that in his answer. Jeff also says he's looking forward to the Young Justice appearance. So I guess we're a bit too early for any discussion on Young Justice, but at least we saw someone was excited about it. Now let's check out the new ads:

Even super heroes get hungry. Batman Beyond toys at Burger King.

Never let her out of your sight. Never let your guard down. Never fall in love. The Bodyguard. Starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. For people who see sound effects.

Asteroids rocks! Asteroids Hyper 64 for Nintendo 64.

Polaris SnoCross. Ride the best! For Game Boy Color.

Next time, we'll return to an exciting, intense situation in The Flash #158.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Impulse #57

A Plastic Christmas

A wild and wacky Holiday gift, created just for you, by
Todd Dezago Writer
Ethan Van Sciver Penciller
Prentis Rollins Inker
Janice Chiang Letterer
Rick Taylor Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separators
L.A. Williams Captain Christmas
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo
Plastic Man created by Jack Cole

Our cover by Ethan Van Sciver and Wayne Faucher gives Impulse fans something they've wanted for a very long time now — a team-up with Plastic Man! And to make things even better, Mr. Mxyzptlk is here! And it's Christmas! And Mxyzptlk is stealing Santa's cookies! This issue is guaranteed to be amazing.

Our story begins with Plastic Man sneaking his pal Woozy Winks onto the JLA Watchtower. Plastic Man is supposed to be on monitor duty, but it's Christmas Eve, and he wants to continue his tradition of watching "It's a Wonderful X-Mas" with Woozy. So they pop the VHS in, get settled with their popcorn and snacks, and are promptly interrupted by an incoming message from the Young Justice cave.

Impulse is on the other end of the line, happily and politely explaining to Plastic Man that he has a jar of technoplasm, which is the most dangerous glop in the universe. Robin said they shouldn't keep it in their headquarters, and Impulse apparently talked to Steel about it, and he said the Watchtower has a cryo-lab that can safely store it. Plastic Man very reluctantly agrees to teleport Impulse to the Watchtower, telling Woozy that Impulse is the most impatient, obnoxious, impulsive little cretin he's ever met. And L.A. Williams reminds us of how Impulse battled Plastic Man in JLA vs. The Titans #2.

Impulse soon arrives on the Watchtower, asks where the cryo-lab is, then decides to try to find it himself before Plastic Man has a chance to say anything. After dropping off the technoplasm, Impulse takes a quick tour through the Watchtower. Plastic Man desperately tries to stop Impulse from running recklessly through the headquarters, but Bart's too fast for him, and Plastic Man is eventually tied up in a big ball.

We then head to Metropolis, where Mr. Mxyzptlk is posing as one of Santa's elves in front of the Metro City Music Hall (which is playing Dogs and View of L.A. The Musical). But this Santa is actually a Santandroid super-bot, which Mxy is planning to fight Superman with. Of course, Mxy doesn't expect his robot to defeat the Man of Steel — he just hopes that it will destroy Superman's reputation. Mxyzptlk believes the people of Earth will turn against Superman when they see him beat up Santa Claus. So Mxy starts things off with a few explosions to get Superman's attention.

Back on the Watchtower, Plastic Man has turned into a giant broom and is trying to sweep Impulse away in the most polite way possible. But Impulse sees Woozy is watching his favorite Christmas movie, so he plops himself down on the couch next to him and asks to share his popcorn. Plastic Man prepares to attack Impulse, but he's interrupted when a JLA monitor alerts him to several large explosions in Metropolis. Plastic Man knows Superman is off in space on this Christmas Eve, so he prepares to go down there. Impulse wants to go, too, but Plastic Man forbids him and teleports away.

In Metropolis, Mr. Mxyzptlk is sad to see Plastic Man has shown up to fight him instead of Superman, but he figures he can still salvage his dastardly plan by adjusting his Santa robot to fight Plastic Man. Mxy hops inside the robot and begins fiddling with the controls. Plastic Man sticks his head in there to see what's happening, but this startles Mxy so bad, he jumps up, hits his head on the machine, and is knocked unconscious. The Santa robot begins going haywire, and the latch slams shut, trapping Mxy inside before Plastic Man can pull him out.

Impulse teleports back to the Young Justice headquarters like he's supposed to, but he's still mad at Plastic Man for not letting him join the mission. So instead of running straight home to Manchester, he decides to take a quick detour to Metropolis. Once there, Impulse sees a distressed Santa Claus on the ground, being attacked by Plastic Man. Impulse puts himself between Santa and Plastic, and angrily shouts, "HEY!!? What happened to Santa?!? What did you do to him ... ?!?!?!" Before Plastic Man can explain himself, Impulse concludes that Santa is in no condition to deliver all the presents tonight, and will need his help. Impulse scoops up a nearby bag of presents, shoves it in Santa's hand, and races off, dragging the robot behind him.

Meanwhile, at Alabama's Manchester Mall, Max is criticizing Helen for putting off her Christmas shopping until the last possible minute. But Helen has a good reason for this. She was worried that Bart would peek at his presents early, or stumble upon them accidentally. While shopping, Max bumps into someone, knocking all their presents out of their hands. This shocks Helen, because Max is normally fast enough to avoid such collisions, and this harmless little bump really seemed to knock the wind out of him. Max tries to assure his daughter he's fine, and returns the conversation to Bart's present. So Helen shows him what she wants to get, and Max says, "Oh, no! Helen ... not that! Anything but that ... !"

Meanwhile, back at the Watchtower, Plastic Man has hastily returned to the JLA headquarters to use their computers to track Impulse. Woozy thinks Impulse is fine, since he's just delivering Christmas presents, but Plastic Man points out that Impulse is running around the countryside toting a malfunctioning robot built to battle Superman, which is roughly the equivalent of Impulse running around with an A-bomb.

Inside the Santa robot, Mxyzptlk begins to wake up, but is promptly knocked out again by Impulse's reckless running. Outside the Santandroid, Impulse is happily spreading holiday cheer across the planet. At each house, he drags Santa up to the roof, shoves him through the chimney, and fills the house with presents from Mxyzptlk's perpetually restocked sack. Of course, Bart doesn't think there's anything wrong with this — Santa's just feeling a bit lethargic after his fight with Plastic Man.

Finally, Plastic Man is able to triangulate and calculate Impulse's position to an orphanage in Opal City. Plastic Man grabs Impulse, who instinctively tries to shake him off, but Plas is able this time to tell Impulse that Santa is actually a robot with Mr. Mxyzptlk inside. Impulse remembers Mxyzptlk from last Halloween, so he stops resisting and allows Plastic Man to teleport him and the robot up to the Watchtower.

Mr. Mxyzptlk finally wakes up and vows revenge on Plastic Man, threatening to turn him into a candy cane. But Woozy points out that Plastic Man can already do that himself, and Plas proves this by turning into a candy cane. Mxy says that's not that impressive, since he can also turn into anything he wants. Impulse thinks this sounds neat, so he asks if Mxyzptlk can turn into an octopus, which he does. Woozy has Plastic Man turn into a lizard, then a rocket ship, while Mxyzptlk is requested to became an elephant and a taxicab.

The fifth-dimensional imp then asks for a real challenge, so Woozy  tells "Mr. Mixy-fishsticks" to become a character in his favorite movie. Mxy instantly appears on the screen of the black-and-white film, boasting of his power. He also corrects Woozy on his name, saying it's Mr. Mxyzptlk, but soon realizes he's made a grave mistake. Woozy hits the rewind button, which causes the imp to say his name backwards, which sends him back to his dimension.

By the time Bart gets home, it's past midnight, and he knows Max is going to greet him with a lecture. To his surprise, however, Max and Helen are still up, enjoying some hot chocolate by the Christmas tree. Max says it is technically Christmas, and Helen insists that Bart open one present now. Bart excitedly asks which one, and Helen tells him this present is in the kitchen. Waiting for Bart there is a sweet little puppy, who immediately begins licking the boy's face. Helen starts to tell Bart he needs to be responsible for the dog, but Bart is too busy laughing and saying thank you and Merry Christmas.

I cannot do this comic justice. It truly is one of the funniest Impulse comics ever. I feel like I say that a lot, but that's because Impulse is such a consistently funny series. Fans began asking for Plastic Man right from the start, and he did not disappoint. And Mr. Mxyzptlk, whom Impulse technically did create, was the perfect foil for the two of them. Placing the story at Christmas was another brilliant move, as it allowed the little boy in Bart to come out and enjoy the festivities of the season. Remember, he is really only 3 or 4 years old, so it's perfectly reasonable for him to still believe in Santa Claus — even to the point of protecting an obvious robot from Plastic Man (one of my all-time favorite scenes). And how about Woozy Winks for the win?

Continuity wise, it was nice to see a reminder that Max is still not doing well. Of course, poor Max has been in some state of injury for more than a year now, but it makes sense. Just when he started to recover from his gunshot wound, he got the snot beaten out of him by Kalibak. So we can continue to expect more on this front moving forward, as well as all the fun possibilities of Bart Allen owning a dog.

Impulsive Reactions starts with Ryan Fahrenkamp, of Cincinnati, Ohio, praising the series for being true to its style and loyal to its readers. Ryan loved Impulse #50, saying it was great to see the contrast between Impulse and Batman, combined with the chaos of the Joker. He also enjoyed seeing the comic's credits hidden the Mad magazine ad, and called the artwork and layout incredible, striking and bold.

The next letter writer withheld their name, but they explain that they picked up the Impulse: Reckless Youth trade paperback on a whim, and instantly became hooked, searching out all the back issues of Impulse, Young Justice and The Flash. This letter writer also praises issue #50 for Batman's and Joker's realistic reactions to Impulse. The letter ends by asking how Max Mercury was able to get his gunshot wound treated without compromising his secret identity. L.A. Williams explains that Max was shot on Halloween, so everyone thought he was ordinary Max Crandall just wearing a costume.

Lou Bernard, of Lock Haven, Penn., says he thought nobody could live up to Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, until he read issue #50. Lou also describes Ethan Van Sciver's art as a mix between Ramos and Phil Jimenez, which I think is fairly accurate.

Tim Linnhoff, of Cologne, Germany, always thought speedsters were dumb, until he read Young Justice #1. Since then, Impulse has been Tim's favorite character. But Tim has also been reading Batman for 14 years, and was happy with how Batman was handled in issue #50. He also calls out the team-ups with Superman in Impulse #47 and Green Lantern in Green Lantern 80-Page Giant #2.

Craig Young says he became a fan of Todd Dezago for life after reading JLA: World Without Grown-Ups and Young Justice: The Secret. Craig also enjoyed Van Sciver's art from Impulse #41 and Flash 80-Page Giant #1. Craig says DC couldn't have picked a better team to handle the most impulsive kid on the planet, and I have to agree with him.

Nightwing writes about Impulse #53, saying the cover was Van Sciver's best by far (and I agree wholeheartedly). He also enjoyed Angel Unzueta's artwork and liked how Impulse remembered what Batman told him about his name.

Mart says he enjoyed Bill Messner-Loebs' writing, saying he often puts a slightly different spin on each character he handles, but never does it in an irreversible way. But Mart is enjoying the book even more now with the new creative team. He asks if the Max Mercury/New Gods adventure mentioned in issue #53 was a reference to an actual story, but L.A. tells him that was an original idea of Dezago's.

Wil Moss, of Nashville, Tenn., is in the minority by saying he was not too impressed with issue #50. But he did enjoy the two following issues a lot more. Wil loves how Dezago is handling the Bart-Carol relationship, and calls Inertia a great villain with a great look. He also enjoyed the work from guest artists Unzueta and Walt Simonson, although he did not like the Kalibak subplot.

Whew! That was the most letters we've had in a long time! But I think that's a good thing. Letters to the editor really add a whole new dimension to comic books, especially in a historical sense. Well, let's check out the new ads:

In brightest day ... in darkest night ... no evil shall escape their sight! Green Lantern PVC set.

Man of tomorrow. City of tomorrow. Superman.

Ace Ventura When Nature Calls. Starring Jim Carrey, after he played the Riddler in Batman Forever.

Bring home your very own giant! The Iron Giant. I just watched this again the other day, and I can say it still holds up very well. This is one of the most beautiful, touching animated movies ever.

Video Gear. The ultimate in video game accessories.

Tiny Toon Adventures Toonenstein Dare to Scare! for PlayStation.

Next time, we'll enter March 2000 with a quick cameo in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #8.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Young Justice #17

Stuff Blows Up

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Pencils
Lary Stucker Inks
Jason Wright Colors
Digital Chameleon Separations
Ken Lopez Letters
Maureen McTigue Assoc. Edits
Eddie Berganza Just Edits

This cover by Nauck and Stucker is one of the cheesiest, most wonderful jokes in Young Justice. Get it? The nose is going to blow? Of course, technically speaking, Young Justice do not blow up Abraham Lincoln's nose in this issue. But something very similar does happen, so this cover isn't any less enjoyable.

Our story begins in the middle of an intense action scene. Superboy, Wonder Girl, Robin, Impulse and Secret are hiding behind a wall with troops firing at them with energy bolts. Superboy asks what they should do, and Impulse suggests they have a flashback.

So we get a flashback. Back in the Young Justice cave, Cissie is cleaning out her locker, much to the dismay of Wonder Girl. Cissie explains that she lost control and can't be a hero anymore. Cassie points out her act of heroism at the mall, but that only makes Cissie feel worse, since she saw little boys trying to imitate her, and she doesn't want the responsibility of one of them getting hurt. Cissie gives Cassie her arrows as a souvenir, and Cassie begins to cry, telling her best friend she can't leave. Cissie reminds her that they still be friends outside of their costumes, and she takes off Wonder Girl's wig and goggles to giver her friend a sweet hug.

Cissie now has to walk past the boys, and naturally, Impulse is the first to object to her leaving. He excitedly runs behind her, dramatically waving his arms in the air, saying they need her to help them go rescue Secret before Red Tornado gets back. But Cissie says there'll always be another mission and the team will be fine without her. She also says she's the main reason why Washington is coming down on Young Justice, so her departure should help them all out. But that's not good enough for Impulse. He insists that Cissie can't quit because of some pressure. He asks her what Green Arrow would do, what Batman would do, and what Brian Boitano would do (a reference to a South Park song). Cissie just pats Impulse on the head, saying, "I think I'm going to miss you most of all, Scarecrow."

Superboy smugly guarantees that Arrowette will be back, but Cissie startles him by saying, "I don't know you." She explains that she doesn't truly know what makes him or anybody else tick, deep down, so none of them should presume to know her. Cassie begs Robin to say something, so he slowly gets up from his chair and tells Cissie, "We all do what we've gotta do. Just don't be a stranger." He offers his hand for Cissie to shake, but she gives him a big kiss on the lips instead. Everybody stares at Robin as Cissie walks away, and all the Boy Wonder can say is, "It's the cape. Chicks dig the cape."

Red Tornado returns to the cave just in time to see Cissie walking away — a sight he calls unexpected. But then he sees the remaining members of Young Justice take off in the Super-Cycle, which he says is not unexpected. He flies alongside the cycle and asks what they're doing. Instead of answering him, Superboy knocks the android away with a big punch and tells Robin to floor it. Robin does continue to fly away, but he still can't believe that Superboy punched Red Tornado. Superboy justifies himself by saying he didn't hurt Red, and even if he did, he's an easily-repairable android. Superboy also argues that with their team down to four members and the government against them, they're going to have to start toughening up. Robin tells Superboy that if he ever does something like that again, they'll be down to three members. After an intense stare down, Superboy finally relents, and turns to talk to Wonder Girl, saying she'd look better without her wig and goggles. And Impulse missed this whole confrontation because he was busy playing Connect Four in the front seat with the pieces flying everywhere in the wind.

We then head to a secret laboratory inside Mount Rushmore, where Secret is being tortured by unsympathetic scientists, who refer to her as an "it." Special Agent Fite doesn't like this, telling the doctors that Secret is a she. He then goes into a long story about how he grew up in the bayou and as a kid, he once snuck into the house of a woman deep into voodoo. It was the most frightening moment of Fite's life, until he looked into Secret's eyes. He warns the doctors that Secret may be proof of God's opposite number, and they better hope that she never escapes.

Young Justice then arrives at Mount Rushmore, which surprises half the team. But Robin assures them that A.P.E.S. headquarters is inside the national monument. He almost says he got this information from Oracle, but quickly catches himself and says his sources told him. Robin says he and Impulse will head in for some reconnaissance first, with Superboy and Wonder Girl staying outside as their backup. Robin then starts to give Arrowette an order, before remembering that she's not there. So Robin hops on Impulse's back, who zips down Lincoln's nose and up his nostril. Bart jokes that instead of his nose running, he's running his nose. Robin sarcastically adds that maybe they'll blow his nose later.

Left on top of George Washington's head, Superboy begins to complain to Wonder Girl about Robin. He contends that Robin is showboating, trying to compensate for his lack of powers. Wonder Girl says Robin is just doing his best, but Superboy insists that a team's leader needs to be their point man — their toughest guy. He says that sooner or later, Robin being their leader is going to become a major problem. He asks Wonder Girl whose side she'll be on when it all comes down, his or Robin's. Cassie hesitates, so Superboy points out that Robin won't even trust his teammates with his secret identity, so why should they trust him? Wonder Girl tells Kon she'll think about it, and he tells her to take all the time she needs.

Impulse, meanwhile, is searching the A.P.E.S. headquarters, managing to be an invisible gust of wind blowing through the halls. Robin communicates to Impulse via their headsets while hiding in a vent, but when Impulse calls him "fearless leader," Robin misinterprets this as a sarcastic remark. Impulse finds Secret before too long, and quickly joins Robin in the vent, while Robin orders Superboy and Wonder Girl to hold their position. Robin starts to form a plan with Impulse to put the scientists to sleep before they can sound the alarm, but suddenly, Superboy and Wonder Girl come crashing through the wall and start fighting the A.P.E.S. agents. Superboy claims they're following Robin's orders, but Robin starts shouting that he'll kill Superboy.

We then head over to the Cook County courthouse, where Merry the Gimmick Girl is visiting the judge who heard Red Tornado's custody trial. Merry thanks Morris for helping them keep Red Tornado in line, and she returns an envelope to him with documents and photographs Old Justice were using to blackmail the judge with. Apparently this judge had a past life as a super villain, and although he's tried to make things right since then, he still doesn't want the public to know about his past. The judge accuses Merry of being as self-centered as he ever was, and she angrily leaves his office.

Back at Rushmore, Robin catches up with Superboy and demands to know what he's doing. Superboy says he heard Robin over the headset tell them to get down there. Robin says he didn't give that order, and asks Wonder Girl what she heard, but she apparently didn't have a headset of her own and just followed Superboy's lead. Superboy angrily asks Robin if he's accusing him of lying, but Robin speculates that the A.P.E.S. knew they were there and hacked into their headsets.

Seeing as how their element of surprise is lost, Robin decides they'll just have to fight to rescue Secret. Superboy and Wonder Girl try to smash open Secret's cage, but it's rigged to electrocute her if anyone touches the glass. So Robin throws a bomb on the glass container, which does free Secret, but it also knocks her out. The unconscious Secret falls right through Robin's arms, but Impulse figures out how to hold her by vibrating his arms at the right frequency. Impulse tells Robin to whistle for the Super-Cycle, but it's busy fighting off its own troop of A.P.E.S. agents. And that brings us back to the opening scene of this issue.

Robin starts to give an order, but Superboy cuts him off, and knocks down all the troopers by using his tactile telekinesis to send a shockwave through the floor. He leads Wonder Girl and Impulse charging down the hall, but Robin sulks behind. Unfortunately, Superboy leads the team right into a force field trap set by Dr. Markoff and agents Fite 'n Maad. Fortunately, Robin's pouting kept him from being caught in the force field, and he's able to sneak around and smash the doctor's remote control to free his teammates.

Secret then wakes up in Impulse's arms, sees the doctor who's been torturing her, and decides to get revenge. She enters Dr. Markoff's body through his nose, mouth and ears, and his eyes turn a scary black. More agents arrive and begin blasting at the team. Superboy says he's had it, and he uses his tactile telekinesis to cause a huge explosion, which destroys George Washington's nose.

The team is able to escape through the gaping hole, and Secret says she didn't know that Superboy could generate shockwaves like that. Superboy brushes it off, saying she's not the only one with secrets. But as Young Justice flies away on the Super-Cycle, Robin is shocked to see a bunch of news crews out in front of Mount Rushmore, seemingly waiting for them. Impulse optimistically says no one will care or link them to the destruction of the national monument. But he couldn't be more wrong. The next day, the Daily Observer newspaper blasts the headline, "Junior Justice League defaces national shrine." Old Justice gleefully read this paper, and announce that it's time for Phase Two.

This is what I love about Young Justice. Amidst all the nose puns and South Park references, we get some tender, emotional moments and an intriguing, action-packed story. Things are really heating up with Old Justice and, surprisingly, Superboy. He recently has been on a bit of role, proving very mature and sensitive in separate incidents with Wonder Girl and Arrowette. But now he's coming off as a jerk and openly challenging Robin for leadership. This could be attributed to the fact that he's a teenager in a very stressful situation, but still ... this radical shift in attitude combined with him using his powers in new ways is very suspicious.

In any case, I really am enjoying the tension on the team. Robin's doing his best to keep it all together, but he is sort of losing it. Wonder Girl is caught in the middle, too timid to choose one side over the other. And Impulse is predictably oblivious to everything. But he did come through big by figuring out how to carry Secret by vibrating his arms. I also loved his passionate, innocent pleas to keep Arrowette on the team. And Scarecrow is a surprisingly appropriate name for this scrawny kid with the big, messy hair and the tendencies to not think before acting. I also think Cissie will legitimately miss Impulse the most. True, she did have a crush on Robin and had to take advantage of her one chance to kiss him, but Impulse was the first hero she ever met, which gives them a special bond. Cissie will still be able to be friends with Cassie outside of the superhero world, but it really is impractical for her to hang out with Bart Allen.

Next time, we'll see what Bart decides to do with the technoplasm in Impulse #57.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Flash #157

Setting the Stage

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Story
Paul Pelletier, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr. and Doug Hazlewood, Inks
Tom McCraw, Colors
Gaspar, Letters
Joey Cavalieri, Editor

I'm so sad that these beautiful Paul Pelletier issues have to come with such lame Steve Lightle covers. Granted, this is far from his worst work, but it just comes off a bit bland for what's supposed to be a striking, emotional moment. Now, maybe I'm being a bit harsh of Lightle. The biggest reason this cover carries no emotional weight is because of the absurd tombstone. We've seen Linda "death" before, so why should we care this time? Also, why wouldn't they commit to a birth year for Linda? If they really wanted to hide that date, then they should have put the tombstone on the left, with the depressed Flash on the right, leaning on the grave marker, and conveniently blocking the years with his hand.

Impulse didn't appear in the last issue, but that's OK, since this one does an excellent job of recounting the whole story for us. Our story begins in Venice, where Walter West and Angela Margolin are celebrating their recent engagement. (I know he's the Flash, but that sure was fast!) The couple are attacked by Replicant, a villain that has a suit that has absorbed the power of all the Rogues' weapons. Walter eventually gains the upper hand on Replicant, but before he can deliver the final blow, Replicant is teleported away by Abra Kadabra, who was watching the battle from afar.

In Keystone City, Jay Garrick has commissioned the Pied Piper to build a device that he believes will be their only defense against what's coming, although he doubts they'll have a chance to pull it off. Hartley suspects Jay is withholding information from him, but Jay assures him he's told him everything he knows — more than he's told Max Mercury, Impulse, Jesse Quick or even those who deserve most to know. As Jay talks, we see Linda Park's mom, still distraught by the sudden disappearance of her daughter.

Jay then heads over to the Flash Museum in Central City, to talk to Max, Jesse and Impulse in Walter's secret underground hideout. We don't hear everything Jay says, but he does conclude his speech by telling the other speedsters they need to choose their words carefully since they could be under surveillance right now. Jesse is a little doubtful about being asked to risk her life for someone she doesn't know, and she asks Jay how solid his information is. Jay says the answer to that has been under their nose the entire time. He glances at Impulse, who is having an animated conversation with the wall: "— so then Max looks at me like a goldfish — and Jesse shakes my head 'to see if anything's loose' —"

Max and Jesse both correctly guess that Bart is talking to Linda. Bart freezes for a moment, then leaps into Max's and Jesse's arms, rejoicing that they finally believe him. But Bart's joy is short-lived. Max and Jesse still think Linda is Bart's imaginary friend. Bart kind of freaks out and explains the whole situation. Kadabra kidnapped Linda and caused the whole world to believe she disappeared before she ever met Wally or the other speedsters. According to Bart, Linda told him that he remembers because he's from the future — outside of time. And now Bart warns the others that they have to help Linda or she'll be lost like a ghost forever. Sadly, Bart's pleas fall on deaf ears. But as everyone leaves, we see a ghost-like image of Linda crying and thanking Bart.

We then check in with Abra Kadabra, who is clearly explaining the whole story to Replicant. Kadabra figured out that Linda is Wally's "anchor." Whenever he gets lost in the Speed Force, he is naturally drawn to his love and can always find his way back home. So Kadabra kidnapped her and caused the world to forget — just as Impulse said. But Linda escaped from Abra Kadabra and ended up in a parallel world — Walter West's world. In Walter's timeline, Linda was killed by Kobra, which made him emotionally unstable and violent.

To Kadabra's surprise, Wally was still able to find his Linda on Walter's Earth. Kadabra says he battled both Flashes before he finally killed Wally and Linda. Kadabra and Walter then engaged in a vicious fight, which left both of them wounded and scarred — Walter even had to age himself during the battle to recover from his wounds. Kadabra fled to this Earth (Wally's world), but was surprised to see Walter had followed him here.

Meanwhile, Walter has finally decided to tell his fiancee everything, admitting that he was hoping to just take Wally's place in this world. He kept the mask on until he could make his way through all of Wally's journals and chronicles so he'd never be found out. Even after saying all this, Angela still seems to love Walter.

Before Kadabra and Replicant can plot their next move, they're suddenly joined by Professor Zoom. He says he wants to help them kill this new Flash, and he shows off a neuron gauntlet, specifically designed to take down speedsters. Eobard Thawne also suggests they stop going after Flash's girlfriend and instead target his speedster friends, since they actually pose a threat to them.

We check in with Max Mercury, who is lecturing Bart about his imaginary friend, saying he wished the teen would put this much focus into his homework. But when Max turns to face his ward, he sees Bart has been transformed into a wooden puppet. Max reaches out for Impulse, but he turns into a liquid that envelops Max and hardens into restraints around him. Abra Kadabra and Replicant reveal themselves, and Professor Zoom sneaks up from behind to hit Max with his neuron gauntlet, which redirects Max's speed energy from his muscles into his nervous system, paralyzing him with intense pain. And we see these villains have also captured Jay, Jesse and Impulse, who are also suffering the effects of Zoom's gauntlet.

This is pretty awesome. This is a big, sprawling, complicated story, but it's broken down and explained very clearly. Wade and Augustyn have been building to this for a while, and now it has reached an exciting, terrifying conclusion. (That Impulse puppet was downright creepy!) I have complained in the past about how often Wally gets "trapped" in the Speed Force. But this story gave us a villain that noticed this, and tried to take advantage of it. Brilliant.

And how can I not praise the art? The panel I posted is probably one of my top 10 favorites images of Impulse — it's just so random and wonderful. But I also loved the shock and wonder and rejoicing Impulse showed when he thought the others believed him, followed immediately by panic and outrage. And that puppet ... man! I've said it before and I'll say it again — this is the best Impulse has looked across all the titles he appears in. Between Pelletier, Todd Nauck and Ethan Van Sciver, Impulse is being drawn at a consistently high standard.

Next time, we'll get some bad nose puns and an escape attempt in Young Justice #17.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Titans # 12

The Immortal Coil Part 3 of 3

Devin Grayson Writer
Mark Buckingham Penciller
Wade Von Grawbadger & Marlo Alquiza Inkers
Gregory Wright Color
Heroic Age Seps
Comicraft Lettering
Maureen McTigue Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

Titans clash all over this cover by Bucky & Wade with Richard and Tanya Horie's great colors! And this is a very involved cover — exactly what one would expect for a double-sized conclusion of a three-part story. We have lots of familiar friends and foes here. Vandal Savage has Jesse Quick by the throat, while the new Flash battle Gorilla Grodd. Plus, we have lots of Bart's old New Titans buddies — Damage, Starfire, Nightwing, Troia, Arsenal and Cyborg in his gold Omegadrome body. Sadly, this issue is not a reunion for Impulse and his former teammates.

This is a very large, complex story, and it's pretty tough to get a grasp of what's going on since we're coming in to the third act. But it really doesn't matter too much, since Impulse and Young Justice have a very small roll here. So, telling the story from our hero's perspective, Impulse, Robin and Superboy hop aboard the Super-Cycle to check out a sudden burst of natural disasters in the country of Zandia. None of the girls are there, but this actually makes sense continuity-wise — Secret is still missing, Arrowette has quit, and Wonder Girl is likely trying to help Arrowette.

Anyway, Robin finds it awfully suspicious that this country was hit with five natural disasters in one day, but he can't figure out why. Superboy is excited to see so many other heroes there, including the beautiful Wonder Woman. Impulse randomly finds a bunch of sticks of TNT and brings them back to show his friends. Robin sighs, telling Impulse to get rid of them, and Superboy makes sure the dynamite is properly disposed of.

To illustrate how Zandia is jam-packed with superheroes, Steel smashes open a fire hydrant to put out a fire, and inadvertently drenches Impulse. Steel does apologize, but Impulse thinks he should throw Steel in the ocean to get even.

What all the heroes fail to realize (except for the stars of this book), all the disasters in Zandia were part of a larger scheme to attract as many heroes together into one spot, then eradicate them with a nuclear warhead. Luckily, Cyborg's Omegadrome body proves flexible enough and powerful enough to contain the blast, protecting all the people and heroes on the ground, who never knew how close they were to being destroyed.

And that's really all that matters for us here. Yes, the new Flash and Jesse Quick were involved, but they didn't do anything that directly influenced Impulse. So we'll end this here. And since none of the letters to the editor mention Impulse, let's head straight into the ads.

You can attack, but you can't escape when good toys go bad. Toy Commander for Sega Dreamcast.

Generic knockoffs are okay for medication. This stuff is way too important. Official PlayStation branded accessories.

Polaris SnoCross on Game Boy Color.

Joe Kubert's World of Cartooning correspondence course for comic books.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six on Nintendo 64, PlayStation and Game Boy Color.

Thick & rich obscene noises. Heinz ketchup.

Go west! Wild Wild West starring Will Smith, who will also be starring in the upcoming Suicide Squad.

Asteroids rocks! Asteroids Hyper 64 for Nintendo 64.

Next time, we'll finally get to the bottom of this new Flash character in The Flash #157.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Wonder Woman #153

Mad About the Boy

Written by Mark Millar
Pencilled by Georges Jeanty
Inked by Stull, Hillsman and Vines
Lettered by John Costanza
Colored by Rick Taylor
Edited by Maureen McTigue
Special thanks to Cully Hamner
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston

This cover is very bright, happy and optimistic. I love the image of Wonder Girl gleefully soaring above Wonder Woman, signifying that this issue is all about Cassie. However, I do think Wonder Woman is showing a little too much cleavage.

Our story begins a month and a day ago, with a handy editor's note saying this tale takes place before current Young Justice events. (This means Arrowette hasn't left the team yet, Secret hasn't been kidnapped, and continuity stickler like myself can breathe a sigh of relief.) Cassie and her friends are playing a magazine dating quiz during lunch. According to the magazine, if you want to date Superboy, it means you're dangerous; Arsenal means you're a free spirit; Robin means you value intelligence; and if you want to date Impulse, like one girl does, it means it is time to stop reading the baby-sitter's magazine and go to bed. Oh ... poor Impulse! Of course, he's not really interested in dating anyone anyway.

Cassie has a hard time playing this game, though, since she is secretly Wonder Girl and is secretly in love with Superboy. And to make matters worse, all of Cassie's friends think Wonder Girl is pretty lame. When Cassie goes home that day, she reflects on her career — how she was granted powers from Zeus, became Wonder Woman's protégé, and joined Young Justice. (Just in case any readers don't know who Wonder Girl is.)

And that's really all the Impulse we get here. Just a sad reference in a girls magazine and a couple of flashback cameos. But there is still some fun stuff that's marginally relevant to this blog. One of Cassie's friends gets a Flash tattoo, which everybody thinks is awesome, but it makes poor Cassie feel even more lame and immature. There's also a lot of speculation that Jesse Quick is actually Cameron Diaz in disguise.

Anyway, since Cassie's feeling pretty down on herself, she reaches out to Arrowette to help give her a makeover. The end result isn't that much different — just a shorter black wig with the goggles pushed up, heavier makeup, and a miniskirt replacing her usual shorts. Wonder Girl's next step is to find an excuse for a team-up mission with Superboy. She says the next Young Justice meeting isn't for another two weeks, which surprises me, since I figured they met at least once a week. But then again, Wonder Girl does live all the way in California, so getting to their headquarters in Rhode Island has to be pretty tricky.

Luckily for Wonder Girl, she doesn't have to wait too long for an excuse to call in Superboy. Somebody at her mom's museum accidentally unleashes a giant minotaur on the city. Cassie is thrilled when Superboy answers her call, but she quickly gets worried when the monster begins beating the Kid to a pulp. In another bit of blind luck, Wonder Girl instantly defeats the minotaur by hitting it with the box it came from.

With the monster defeated, Cassie now has the perfect opportunity to ask out Superboy. But she suddenly feels like a fraud in her makeup and new outfit. The poor girl has a bit of a breakdown on the street, and starts taking off her costume. Superboy hurries her over to an alleyway to protect her identity, kindly lets Cassie rant for a bit, then very sweetly tells her she's not stupid and is beautiful. Superboy then kisses Cassie and flies away right in front of some of Cassie's friends. Cassie is the most popular kid at school the next day, and she is much more confident and happy with herself. However, she considers Superboy's kiss more as an act of friendship more than a romantic gesture. But this is good for her. She's no longer obsessed with her teammate and has now turned her attention toward another teen superhero, Captain Marvel Jr.

This was a nice, sweet little story. The art wasn't too great, but I did enjoy that one shot of Impulse. But much more than that, I loved taking a look at Wonder Girl at high school. It was a little sad but touching to see her struggle through all the normal teenage girl problems with the added weight of being a superhero. And I really liked seeing all the normal kids treat superheroes like celebrities. I'm always up for seeing more of the civilian life of the DC universe. And giving the spotlight to Wonder Girl was more than welcome. She has always felt genuine and human to me. Unfortunately, the large cast of Young Justice never gives her enough room to shine, nor would guest-starring in Wonder Woman's series. Sadly, Wonder Girl didn't get her own series until 2007, and it only lasted six issues.

Next time, Impulse and Young Justice will make a quick cameo in The Titans #12.