Thursday, December 22, 2016

Superman #163


Where Monsters Lurk!

Filmed in Superscope!
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Jeph Loeb Thrills!
Ed McGuinness & Paul Pelletier Spills!
Cam Smith Chills!
Tanya & Richard Horie Shocks!
Richard Starkings Rocks!
Eddie Berganza Blocks!

This month's wet-n-wild cover was brought to you by those swimmingly talented folks Ed McGuinness, Cam Smith, and Richard and Tanya Horie! Our cover shows exactly what happens in this issue — Metropolis is flooded and attacked by a giant green monster with a million teeth. McGuinness has a fun, big, bombastic style that perfectly represents all that was awesome about the early 2000s. But perhaps the most terrifying thing about this cover is the small logo of Lex Luthor's bid for presidency. Turns out, DC was just 16 years early in their presidential prediction. Oh, sorry, that's actually an insult to Lex Luthor. :)

Our story kind of begins in the middle of the action, but editor's notes help catch us up fairly quickly. Apparently Aquaman has accused Lex Luthor of committing heinous crimes against Atlantis and has extradited the presidential candidate against his will to make him stand trial in his underwater kingdom. Superman, naturally is opposed to any violation of human rights, even for a known super villain, so he tries to stop this. But the Atlanteans are prepared. Tempest, of the Titans, has flooded Metropolis to keep the Man of Steel away.

Superman gently knocks out Tempest, saying both he and Aquaman will have a lot to answer for. He starts to combat the flooding by knocking down an under-construction Lexcorp building to act as a dam. Superman then gets a helping hand from most of Young Justice — Red Tornado, Robin, Superboy, Impulse and Wonder Girl.


I'm not exactly sure what Impulse was trying to do, but he somehow caused the Super-Cycle to tip upside down. Red Tornado apologetically explains to Superman that the kids were watching TV when their show was interrupted with a report of the flooding so they decided to come help. Noting the streets are now filled with shark-infested waters, Impulse jokes that he gets blamed for leaving the water running. Superman asks Impulse and Red Tornado to help him battle the water, and for the rest to rescue the civilians. Superboy takes on the sharks, while Robin and Wonder Girl load people up into the Super-Cycle and take them to the tops of dry buildings. Suddenly, they spot the giant green monster we saw on the cover. So Robin decides to allow the monster to swallow him and Wonder Girl on the Super-Cycle, with Superboy pulling on the cycle's tow cable from the outside.

Meanwhile, Superman explains to Red Tornado and Impulse that there are several large hydraulic pumps throughout the city that they need to unbury and start manually. So the three of them spin around to create a large vortex that pushes the water away from the turbines. They quickly get the pumps uncovered and working again, and the water level begins to reduce dramatically. Superman pulls Impulse out of the swell of water by the seat of his pants, and Bart spits a small fish out of his mouth.

Superman then spots the others' in the middle of their odd plan to get rid of the monster — a plan that now involves Robin throwing a bunch of smoke bombs around in the monster's mouth for some reason. Superman decides to not even ask, and he helps Superboy grab the tow cable and pull the beast off the Daily Planet building and out to the ocean. (I swear the Daily Planet building gets destroyed more than any other structure in the DC Universe.) Once the monster is over the open water, it opens its mouth, freeing Robin and Wonder Girl. Superman thanks Young Justice for their help, and he takes off for Atlantis to see what's going on between Luthor and Aquaman.


I always love it when Young Justice randomly shows up in other people's books to help out. I'm always confused, though, when a couple of members of the team are missing. I guess you could say this was before Empress joined the team, but where's Secret? She easily could have been here, too. Anyway, Young Justice is always a lot of fun, adding a bit of levity to an otherwise very serious and tense situation. However, I do have to admit that Robin's "plan" completely perplexed me. If he wanted to drag the monster away, why didn't he have Wonder Girl out pulling the cable with Superboy? And why didn't he have the Super-Cycle using its engines or lasers or something to help out? His smoke bombs didn't seem to accomplish anything. Perhaps a few more lines of dialogue would have helped. Or perhaps this was just a failing in the art. I love the styles of both McGuinness and Pelletier, but I found almost all the action sequences in this issue a bit confusing.

The Metropolis Mailbag doesn't have any letters that mention Impulse or Young Justice, so let's jump straight to the new ads:

Before victory comes humility. Tekken Tag Tournament, Ridge Racer V and MotoGP for PlayStation 2.

Anime on DVD for less than $20. Armitage III, Battle Athletes, Dragon Ball Z and Tenchi Muyo.

Great for rock climbing. Rice Krispies Treats Double Chocolate Chunk.

Next time, we'll see how the whole team is doing out in space in Young Justice #26.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

JLA Secret Files & Origins #3


Blame

D. Curtis Johnson • Writer
Pablo Raimondi • Penciller
Claude St. Aubin & David Meijis • Inkers
Tom McCraw • Colorist
John Costanza • Letterer
Tony Bedard • Editor

Cover art by Dave Ross & Dan Adkins
All color separations by Digital Chameleon

Our cover shows Batman looming ominously over the newly reduced roster of the JLA — Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Flash. This matches the theme of the stories inside well, as the JLA recently learned that Batman had been keeping secret contingency plans against his fellow teammates, and these plans had been stolen and used against them.

Like all other Secret Files & Origins issues, this comic is comprised of one big story, several shorter stories, and a bunch of profile pages. There's a brief look back at the history of the JLA, but everything else deals with the current status of the team moving forward. Of interesting note, one of the side stories is drawn by Ethan Van Sciver, who might have done this during one of his breaks on Impulse. Speaking of Impulse, he actually makes two brief appearances in this issue.

The main story details how Batman began to create his countermeasure files on each member of the JLA, and how Talia al Ghul stole these plans. But, perhaps of most interest, we get to see what these plans actually contained. We only care about Impulse and the Flash, so let's just skip to that part.

In a flashback, we see that Batman began working on a vibra-bullet to stop a speedster shortly after Barry Allen died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Alfred was uncomfortable with this, but Batman notes that Wally is now taking over the Flash's mantle and both Johnny Quick and Jay Garrick could get back in the game someday, so there is still a need to have a way to take down speedsters. To Batman's defense, he does explain that he's only doing this in case of mind controllers, body swappers, Amazo clones or other such events.


Subject: Flash

The vibrational characteristics of Wally's superspeed at full strength are very nearly the same as Barry's. The countermeasures I devised for Barry should continue to suffice. They may also have application against other speedsters, if this vibrational pattern set is common.

Addendum: Recent developments hint at some sort of unified "Speed Force," which would explain the similarities between the various speedsters I've observed. More data on the phenomenon will have to be gathered.

I believe these vibrational characteristics can be mimicked, which suggests that countervibrational artifacts could be created which could not be vibrated through safely. Active countermeasure barrier materials could be used to create an inescapable cell, for example.

Even more interesting are the possibilities suggested by introducing these countermeasures directly into Wally's central nervous system. Seems like a good general-purpose incapacitation with, hopefully, no permanent side effects.

And that's all we see of Impulse in the main story. Of interesting note, the story is called "Blame" because Talia asks herself who's to blame for this tragedy. Is it her dad, Ra's al Ghul for telling her to steal the plans? Is it Batman, who made the plans in the first place? Or is it the JLA, who put so much trust into Batman?

Lost Pages

Mark Waid Writer
Steve Scott Penciller
Mark Propst Inker
John Costanza Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist

This short story begins with Flash visiting Nightwing at Titans Headquarters. Wally tells Dick that it was Superman who cast the deciding vote to kick Batman out of the League. Wally voted to keep Batman in, but he admits he made that vote against his better judgment. He explains to Dick that the while the Titans have always felt like a family, the JLA is a diverse group with a lot of major differences. And because of these differences, its necessary for them to trust one another implicitly. Nightwing angrily says he's trusted Batman with his life since he was 8, and Wally notes that it's worked out well for him, but now Nightwing's teammates on the Titans are wondering just how much information Batman trusted him with. If Batman kept anti-JLA files, did he also keep anti-Titans files?

This same question is being tossed around in Young Justice, who are battling Team Turmoil at the moment. Superboy asks Wonder Girl if Robin has anti-Young Justice files, but Cassie doesn't think this could be true. Impulse then tries to vibrate one of the villains into a wall, and Robin tells him not to, since his powers don't work that way. Bart repeatedly asks Robin how he knows this.


When Robin angrily exclaims, "I just know!" Superboy and Wonder Girl exchange a worried look. Oracle is also worried, and she tells Batman that both the Titans and Young Justice are now suspicious of Nightwing and Robin. But Batman refuses to say he's sorry or not sorry from this fallout, and he hangs up on Oracle. She then sends a video of that conversation to Superman, who is also pretty broken up by this whole situation.


And that's it for Impulse's involvement in this issue. This was an interesting first look into what will be an ongoing point of contention for all characters associated with the "Bat family." I think overall, it's a really good ethical debate. Was Batman right to keep these files on his teammates? Was the JLA right to kick Batman off the team? And the beauty here is there's no right or wrong answer. It's all relative.

I am glad that Mark Waid got to write Impulse again, even it was for only a couple of panels. However, it seems like he hasn't been paying attention to the evolution of Bart's powers. In the pages of Young Justice, Bart was able to vibrate himself and his teammates through the floor of a building. And Robin was one of those teammates, so he should know that Impulse is fully capable of vibrating a bad guy into a wall. I get what Waid was going for here, but he should have chosen a different ability for Robin to harp on.

Naturally, there aren't any letters to the editor, so let's check out the new ads:

Gotham Girls and Lobo. Awesome animation with an interactive twist. Check out the wild webisodes, only at warnerbros.com.

What will the real fruit juice inspire you to ponder? Starburst.

A DC subscription ad, showing you could get 12 issues of The Flash for $19.95.

You could win instantly a trip to WWF WrestleMania through Cornnuts.

Introducing new Sour Skittles.

Greenday Warning: The new album.

And you thought you were good at raising a little Hell. Spawn world broadcast premiere on TBS.

Next time, Impulse and Young Justice will make another quick cameo in Superman #163.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

JLA: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes #2


Writers: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman
Penciller: Mike McKone
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Letterer: Bob Lappan
Colorist and Separator: David Stewart

Cover Penciller: Mike McKone
Cover Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover Color: David Stewart
Logo Design: Todd Klein

Our cover shows our "heroes" floating menacingly above the ruins of a city. I find this slightly odd, since not all of these characters are able to fly, but I guess the general attitude of this image is in line with the story inside. One thing to note, though, is Bart's boots are red on the cover, but inside, his costume is one solid yellow piece from head to foot — kind of like little kids' pajamas. I also find this discrepancy odd, since David Stewart colored both the cover and the inside pages. For what it's worth, though, I like the red boots a lot better.

Our story picks up where we left off last time, with Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane having discovered the secret hideout of the Kryptic Order, just as Bart Allen is welcomed to the team. While Wayne and Lane sneak around the shadows, the "heroes" show Bart around, promising to get him a costume like Wally's before too long, but in the meantime, they present him with an invisibility device. Wonder Woman and Superman explain that the device is made of Amazonium, and comes from Wonder Woman's old invisible jet, which they broke down and put into these individual devices so the Kryptic Order can operate without being seen. Bart's first thoughts involve using this device to peek on pretty girls in the showers, but Wonder Woman tells the teen right out that this technology is for such activities.

Bruce and Lois then sneak away, but they pass through a trophy room and discover a Batman suit with a label saying it belonged to Bruce's dad, Thomas Wayne. Bruce heads to a hospital/nursing home of some kind to visit his old friend, Alfred Pennyworth, who appears quite sickly and nearly senile. Bruce asks him about his dad's connection to the bat suit, and Alfred whispers the truth in his ear. Lois publishes a story about her discovery, but she decides to keep Bruce out of it.

We then cut to Bart's first night on patrol with Green Lantern and Flash. (They never say if he's Kid Flash or Impulse. In fact, they only call him Bart, so that's what I'll call him.) Bart quickly grows bored, and to pass the time, Wally and Kyle tell Bart how some of them use their powers to make a little money on the side.


Kyle admits that Superman and a few of the others are opposed to this idea, so they conveniently forget to tell them about their side activities. The message to Bart is he can make a real killing if he's willing to keep his mouth shut. They eventually spot some criminals, and Flash quickly knocks them out by running around them and depriving them of oxygen. Bart thinks that was pretty cool, and he asks if it's like this every night. Wally hopes he'll be able to show Bart something a little more interesting soon, and Kyle says these guys aren't worth sending to the Phantom Zone, which opens up a whole new topic of discussion.

Bart gets pretty shaken up by all this, feeling that stealing money and exiling people to the Phantom Zone is wrong. In addition to the typical stresses of a teenager, Bart now has his mind occupied with trying to figure out a way to get out of the Kryptic Order. When he comes home one night, he's so lost in his thoughts that he doesn't even hear his parents trying to talk to him for several minutes, and they both fear their son is on drugs.

Bruce and Lois continue to work toward taking down the secret society of superheroes, and Bruce even quits his job at the FBI to focus full time on this mystery. Later, a meeting at the Kryptic Order becomes incredibly tense when Superman discovers that Green Lantern caused the Hong Kong market crash to line his pockets. During the course of their argument, Wonder Woman reveals that she has also been stealing money for years and lying to the team by saying it came from the Amazons. Despite this, Wonder Woman still stands with Superman's stance of keeping the team secret. The war of words heats up, and soon we have Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl and Metamorpho on one side, with Green Lantern, Flash, Atom and Plastic Man on the other. Both Superman and Green Lantern put a lot of pressure on Bart to join their side, but Bart realizes this isn't good and he doesn't want any part of it. So he runs away.

At Kyle's urging, Wally takes off after Bart, but he's unable to find him. Bart heads to Paris first, and sends an email to his mom, saying he won't be home for dinner. But it's unclear exactly how many dinners Bart missed, as we later see Bart on a cruise ship and later in George Washington's nose on Mount Rushmore. The teen realizes he needs help or he'll eventually be caught and sent to the Phantom Zone.

Bruce visits Arkham Asylum and has the Riddler help him in his investigation. He later steals an invisibility device and special goggles that allow him to see invisible people. Green Lantern, Atom and Plastic Man are shocked when a devastating hurricane in Florida wipes out their entire portfolio. They're also upset that Wally hasn't found Bart yet, and Plastic Man begins to wonder how their stock market activity is any different from the criminals they fight. But Green Lantern is mostly upset with his hunch feeling that Superman caused the hurricane.

Bart then visits his dad at the police lab, where Barry berates him for going missing and worrying his mother. As Barry threatens to ground Bart until he's 40, Bart starts to think the Phantom Zone isn't looking too bad. But he stops himself from thinking that way and he tells his dad that he's in big trouble right now and really needs his help. Barry looks at his son for a moment, then realizes he's serious, so he takes the rest of the afternoon off to find out what's going on with Bart. That night, Bruce puts on his dad's old Batman suit and begins practicing jumping around on the rooftops of Metropolis.

The next day, Superman is suddenly attacked by Green Lantern while doing a quick patrol during his lunch hour. Green Lantern is joined by Plastic Man, Atom and Flash, and since everybody is invisible, all the passersby on the street have no idea why things suddenly start breaking and getting smashed. Superman calls in his allies to help, and soon we have a full-fledged fight on our hands in the middle of the street. Wonder Woman tells Metamorpho to take on Plastic Man and Hawkgirl to handle the Atom, while she battles the Flash. Wally starts by throwing a bunch of rocks at Diana, which she manages to block with her wrist bands. Wally apologizes, saying he's made his bed, even if he's not going to sleep well in it.

Meanwhile, Bart is telling his dad about everything at a restaurant when the TV reports on "poltergeists" in Metropolis. Bart instantly recognizes this as the Kryptic Order, and he tells his dad he has to go there to stop Green Lantern from killing everybody. Barry reluctantly agrees, and Bart gives him a piggyback to the scene of the battle. Bruce, now officially Batman, has also joined the battle, using a device to negate the effects of everyone's invisibility discs.

Green Lantern hits Superman with a big kick and sends the Kryptonian flying right toward Lois. Bart arrives in just the nick of time (now wearing his costume) and he saves the reporter. He stops to make sure she's alright, then he confronts Green Lantern, saying this has to stop now. Kyle says he doesn't think so, and Barry yells at him to stay away from his son. Wally also tells Kyle to back off, but Green Lantern ignores him. He knocks out Barry, then prepares to kill Bart. But Wally steps in front of the blast and dies protecting Bart.

Hawkgirl then kills the Atom by stepping on him, and Metamorpho enters Plastic Man's body. Superman notices their fighting has caused a building to begin to collapse, so he tries to stop it from crushing all the people on the street. Green Lantern, injured by a gunshot from the police, is taken down by Batman, who breaks his arm, knocks him out and leaves him on a pile of rubble. Clark successfully saves everyone from the collapsing building, but the strain of the battle is too much for him, and he dies in Lois' arms, telling her he's long admired her from afar.

Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman quietly slip away in the commotion, with Diana regretting that she never told Clark she loves him. Plastic Man dumps Metamorpho out in the sewers, since Metamorpho thinks that's the only place for a freak like himself. Bart cradles Wally's dead body, and Barry stands over his son, sadly telling him that Wally is dead. But Barry does refer to Bart as a hero — perhaps the only good thing to come from this horrific event.

Later, Bruce and Lois officially become a couple, and while out fighting crime one night, Batman rescues a black teenage girl named Robin. Selina Kyle reads about Batman in the Daily Planet and decides to turn to a life of crime as Catwoman to get some attention. Barry gives Bart a yellow Volkswagen Beetle to show him how proud he is of his actions in Metropolis. Bart gives him a hug and thanks his dad for coming through when he really needed him.

We end with Bart meeting Bruce in the Kryptic Order's now abandoned headquarters. Bart is now wearing a red costume to keep Wally's dream alive, and he hopes that he and Batman can work together to keep alive the dreams of Superman and Thomas Wayne. Their first action is to open up the Phantom Zone.


Well, that happened. Just like with the first part of this story, there's just way too much stuff going on here. In addition to everything I went through, there was the ongoing subplot of Martian Manhunter leading a peaceful life in the Phantom Zone. And that had absolutely no bearing on this issue. It potentially did set up a third part of this story that never came. As such, those pages wasted valuable real estate that could have been spent further developing Batman or Bart. Since those are the two heroes left standing at the end, they should have been the main focus of this story. But there was too much going on, and I never fully understood why anybody was doing anything. Suddenly they were fighting in the streets and dying, and the next thing I knew, Bart and Batman were trying to restart this team of superheroes. But why?

I did like how Bart was the conscience of the Kryptic Order, refusing to become involved in their bewildering politics. (I mean, if Wonder Woman was also stealing money, then why was she still on Superman's side in the fight?) I also liked how Bart was able to be reconciled with his father, but I still find it an extremely odd choice to put Barry Allen in this story but not make him the Flash. At the end, though, I didn't understand why Bart and Batman wanted to honor the memories of Wally and Superman. Wally was stealing money right along with half of the Kryptic Order, and Superman personally sent hundreds of people to the Phantom Zone without giving them a fair trial. Yeah, Wally did save Bart's life at the end, and Superman did catch that building, but those disasters wouldn't have happened in the first place if they hadn't been engaging in unethical activity for so long.

I just don't know what to make of this ending, which in turn effects how I feel about the story as a whole. There were a lot of interesting ideas here, for sure, but after reading it all, I can't help but ask, "What was the point?" It almost felt like the writers were too focused on world building and setting up future stories to focus on this single story. And in the end, we were left with a disjointed, forgettable story.

Next time, we'll take a very quick look at JLA Secret Files & Origins #3.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Impulse #66


Deathrace — Mercury Falling: The Conclusion!

Writer – Todd Dezago
Pencils – Ethan Van Sciver
Inks – Barbara Kaalberg
Letters – Janice Chiang
Colors – Jason Scott Jones
Separations – Jamison
Editor – L.A. Williams
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

Ethan Van Sciver, Wayne Faucher, and Patrick Martin brought you this month's cover and seven years' bad luck. It might be unlucky, but it sure is an awesome cover. In front of the haunting sight of Max's skeleton, Impulse and Inertia battle their mirror images. Van Sciver did an excellent job of portraying the ferocity in Inertia's eyes, and the emotion in Impulse's. And, most importantly, this cover promises to deliver the showdown we've waited months for.

Our story picks up right where we left off last issue, with the real Impulse arriving in Dr. Morlo's lab just moments after Inertia has taken Max Mercury to the Speed Force. Helen Claiborne and Carol Bucklen, who discovered that Inertia was impersonating Bart for the past few weeks, also arrived just a bit too late to prevent this tragedy.


Morlo is naturally confused by this, so Bart quickly explains that when he went into the mudbug's dimension, Inertia knocked him out and placed him in a virtual reality prison while he took Bart's place here. Morlo realizes that this explains Bart's sudden change in behavior, and Carol confirms all this, saying she found Inertia's hair dye and journal, which revealed his plan to kill Max at the Speed Force.

We then cut to Inertia and Max making their way to the Speed Force. Max takes the time to praise Impulse once again for the dedication he's shown over the past few weeks, and he reminisces of the day Wally West put Bart in his care and their fight against Savitar and his ninjas. Max says they make a good team and a good family, since Impulse has become the son he's never had. Inertia continues to run stoically during this speech, but his face begins to reveal his anger when Max says, "I love you, Bart."

Back in Morlo's lab, Bart tries to immediately go to the Speed Force to save Max, but Morlo stops him, explaining that Inertia was only able to make that trip after weeks of training. If Bart tries to go there now, he could be lost to the winds of time or torn to shreds. Morlo pulls out a handy chart to illustrate the three aspects of the Speed Force — a portal, or access tunnel; a speed storm; and finally, the Force itself. Morlo says the storm is the most dangerous part of the journey, as it requires complete control of your vibrational frequencies to traverse it. But Bart insists he has to try, and he says he knows he can do it. While he sets up Morlo's equipment, the doctor picks up the phone and tries to contact Wally West.

Meanwhile, Inertia and Max approach the speed storm, and Max notices the look of anger on the boy's face. He asks what's wrong, and Inertia explodes, shouting, "Stop calling me that!!! I'm not him!! I'm not Bart!!" Inertia tosses Max down at the edge of the storm, saying that Max never loved him, only Bart. Thad says he's sick of Bart and is going to kill him. Max is shocked by this revelation, and he struggles to ask what's going on. Thad angrily explains that he accomplished this with his incredible genius. Unlike Bart, Thad says he's focused, efficient, superior and exactly what Bart Allen would be if he were perfect in every way. Thad says he's lived his whole life for this day, spending years of planning and positioning, a little hair coloring, and his special ring with a sharp prick.

Inertia's first encounter with Bart was merely a reconnaissance mission to help him gain a measure of Bart's abilities and use his ring to inject Bart with a nano-virus. The virus, a microscopic device of Thad's own invention, traveled through Bart's body, mapping its every detail — a process that made Bart really sick that one day. Thad continued to watch and prepare from the future, researching Impulse's history to find the perfect event to ambush and replace him, which was Bart's fight with the mudbug. Then, with Inertia's genetic information realigned to avoid detection by scanners, along with his great acting skills, Thaddeus Thawne became Bart Allen.

Inertia admits to Max that he even began to like Bart's life, and he almost decided that he wouldn't kill Max after all. But Thad says he was stupid to let those emotions almost ruin his plan of completely destroying Bart. He puts on his green Inertia uniform, and boasts of how he was able to accomplish so much more than Bart. But before he kills Max, the old man smiles at the clone and asks him to consider what he actually did accomplish. Inertia pauses for just a moment, while Max explains that when Inertia immersed himself into the role of Impulse, he actually became a great hero. Max asks Thad if it felt good to help people, be respected, admired, and to have friends and family that care about him and love him. Max tells Thad that he has changed, and he could be proud of him. He's come so far already, it'd be easy to now cast aside his plots and schemes, and have a good, happy life.

Thad actually considers this. He slowly asks, "Do ... do you really think I could ... ?" Max immediately says, "Of course! You've already taken the first steps! You're already halfway there! You can do it ... and we can help you ... !" Unfortunately, Thad takes offense at the word "we." He grabs Max by the scruff and shouts about how Max meant "Bart" by saying "we." Thad takes this to mean that Max intends to humiliate Thad by making his sworn enemy, Bart, his tutor. Thad tosses Max aside, saying he was ignorant to believe Max's lie that he could fit in. Thad renews his vow to kill Bart. Inertia's ring is also a tracking device, and it tells him that Bart is about to show up right behind him, so Inertia turns and lands a nasty punch on Bart's head the instant he arrives.

Inertia says he doesn't know how Impulse got here, but he says he's glad to see him so he can now kill two birds with one Speed Force. Thad pummels Bart with another thousand punches before he can recover from the first punch. Then Thad pulls off him, saying before he'll kill Bart, he'll make him suffer by watching his mentor be torn limb from limb by the speed storm. Bart courageously tackles Thad, and, with tears in his eyes, says he's not going to kill anyone. This surprises Thad, but he prepares for a fight, while trying to reassert his superiority over Bart once again. But while the two young speedsters duke it out in an intense, emotional battle, Max desperately tries to keep himself from being pulled in to the speed storm.

Impulse does his best in the fight, but Inertia was right. He is stronger and smarter than Bart, and he pummels our poor hero before ultimately ending up on top of him right next to the struggling Max. Bart reaches out and grabs Max's hand, which infuriates Thad. He slaps Bart, saying, "Hey, Stupid ... !? Stay with me here — I'm about to decapitate you ... and all you can think about is that old man?!?!" Max also warns Bart, but Bart refuses to let go of his hand. Inertia prepares to strike the final blow, but he stops to ask Bart one more time why he's doing this.

Bloodied, beaten and broken, Bart's eyes grow wide as he realizes that Thad doesn't understand the concept of love. He simply explains to Thad that he loves Max, which means he's willing to die for him or with him. Bart asks Thad if he's ever felt that way about someone or if anyone's ever felt that way about him. Thad slowly gets off Bart and begins to walk away, softly saying, "No ..." As he watches Bart gather himself up and pull Max closer to him, Thad realizes that his life, dedicated to a centuries-old hatred, passed down through the Thawne line of Cobalt Blue and Reverse-Flash, is empty. Thad realizes he will never have what Bart has, will never know their approval, their pride, their love. His anger roils and churns away inside him, his hatred becomes personal, condemning the "family" he had that condemned him to this sad and solitary, single-minded existence. Inertia shouts, "You lied to me! LIED to me! I hate you!! I hate you allllllll —" And he runs away.

Bart tries to stop Thad, but he can't without letting go of Max. So he turns his attention to Max, saying he has to get him to the Speed Force. Max tells Bart he can't do it since he didn't have the training to handle the speed storm. Max says it'll kill them both, so he urges Bart to leave and save himself. But Bart insists he can do it. He says he's already done a lot of things they thought he couldn't just by getting here. So Bart ignores Max's protests, picks him, puts him over his shoulders, and enters the speed storm, quietly saying he hopes he can do this.

The storm tears at Bart, trying to rip Max from his grip, but Bart holds on. He pushes through wave after wave of incredible force, until he finally reaches the Speed Force — a giant glowing ball surrounded by colorful lightning. Max, who's spent decades trying to reach the Speed Force, is overwhelmed by its beauty and Bart's incredible accomplishment of taking him there. Bart simply says he knew he could do it because he loves him. Max holds Bart's hand as he enters the Speed Force, and the two speedsters are surrounded by cheerful, glorious lightning. After a brief moment, Bart realizes the hand he's holding is no longer frail and shriveled. He asks Max if it worked, and a tall, muscular Max Mercury, looking better than ever, emerges.

As Max and Bart share their most tender embrace, we are shown a quote from Iris allen's "The Life Story of the Flash": "The speedsters draw their energy from an extra dimensional field that lies beyond the speed of light. Neither cognizant nor sentient, it nonetheless serves as a Valhalla to speedsters past, hosting their spirits and using their powers wisely, apparently passing it to those it deems worthy." Today Max Mercury was deemed worthy. And more. He was given back his life by the very force he lives by, that very force that he thought had abandoned him. It never had. It is a wonderful day. A glorious day. A day of accomplishments ... all around.


Wow.

I'm not saying this lightly, but I genuinely think that this is the highest point of the Impulse series. This story is the culmination of everything that's happened in Impulse before this. And the remaining 23 issues will have some great parts, nothing will compare to the impact of this storyline. Dezago and Van Sciver gave us a powerful story full of emotion and intrigue that raised the bar of Impulse storytelling.

When Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn wrote The Life Story of the Flash, they threw in a quick line about Impulse having an evil twin. Todd Dezago gave life to this idea, presenting us with Inertia, who is much more than your run-of-the-mill evil clone. Inertia is a complex, sympathetic character. He was created as a result of a family feud and raised in isolation and hatred for the sole purpose of causing destruction and mayhem. But when it came time for him to actually kill his rivals, he couldn't  do it. He had experienced a little bit of the love Bart enjoys, and was overcome with the knowledge that he never had and never could have that love. As emotional as it was to watch Bart be so willing to die for Max, and their wonderful moment of rejoicing when Max is healed, my heart broke for poor Thad. And Ethan Van Sciver deserves so much credit for this emotion. He perfectly captured the grief, pain, anger and wonder on Thad's and Bart's faces.

William Messner-Loebs had Max Mercury get shot, which Dezago used as a catalyst to tell the story of Max growing weaker and losing his powers. Messner-Loebs also created Dr. Morlo, an old mad scientist, who really wasn't THAT evil, and perfectly positioned to provide the scientific background for an undertaking such as this. The Speed Force has always been incredibly vague, but I really loved how Morlo laid it out in a simple diagram. The speed storm that could hurl you into a different part of the time stream perfectly explains Max's "time jumping" during the earlier days of his career. He was called to the Speed Force, but turned away from it, and was thrown into the near future by the storm. When he tried to get to the speed force again, he couldn't make it through the storm and was flung further into the future. This story didn't explicitly make this point, but it was there. Everything connects so well — I love it!

There are just a couple of little things I wish this story would have shown: Impulse coming back from Inertia's lab, and then getting to the Speed Force. The second one is pretty easy. Bart obviously used Morlo's treadmill, but it still would have been nice to see Morlo fail to contact Wally West, and maybe he, Carol and Helen fail to prevent Bart from taking off into that portal. Bart getting back from Inertia's lab is a bit trickier. While it is conceivable that he simply could have run fast enough to go back in time and come home, it seems more likely that he would have needed to use a time/teleportation hoop like Inertia had previously used. I mean, we don't even know when or where Inertia's lab is. But those are minor details in an otherwise wonderful story. And I'm not using any hyperbole by saying this truly is Impulse at its best.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Bill D. Vader saying Impulse has gone from being a book he'd never read to one of his favorites. He says Mercury Falling is off to a good start, and that Todd Dezago is one of the few writers who can take a serious story about Max and instill some humor into it without taking away from the drama. Bill also calls Ethan Van Sciver superb, praising him for all the detailed visuals in Morlo's lab.

Lt. Jarrod "J-Bone" Alberich, of Pope Air Force Base, N.C., likes the developing relationship between Max and Bart. He does, however, find Morlo's "reformed" status to be a bit suspicious.

Joanne Nott, of Lorain, Ohio, says Impulse #62 is one of the best Impulse stories she's read in a long time. She likes Bart's development into a more competent hero, and says his expressions were right on the money.

Dragonfire remarkably put together all the clues and shared them on the Impulse Message Boards before anyone else. He first quotes The Life Story of the Flash's line about Bart's dark twin. Then he points out how when "Bart" came out of the dimensional gate, he looked surprised and irritated when Max hugged him. Dragonfire says it was suspicious that Bart wouldn't hug Max here, when he did hug him just a few pages earlier. The next clue was when Max told "Bart" not to say anything to Helen, and it almost seemed like "Bart" didn't know what he was talking about. And the final clue came when Bart's dog growled at him, since this was the same dog that licked his face on Christmas morning. All this led Dragonfire to the correct conclusion that the "Bart" that emerged from that portal is not our Bart.

Michael Bregman, of Gan-Yavne, Israel, commented on the development of Max and Bart's relationship, saying they now are more like father and son than anything else. Michael says it's this relationship that makes Mercury Falling such a touching story. He also likes Helen's new boyfriend, Matt, and points out something I missed — Matt wears a hearing aid.

Jeff Carter is happy to see Dezago and Van Sciver back, saying he enjoys their issues even more than the Mark Waid-Humberto Ramos issues. Now for the new ads:

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Next time, we'll enter the final month of 2000, first by finishing the Elseworlds tale, The Secret Society of Super-Heroes.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Young Justice #25


Gold Standard

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Penciller
Lary Stucker Inker
Jason Wright Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separations
Ken Lopez Letterer
Maureen McTigue Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

This month's quarter cover in space is by Todd, Lary and the colors of WildStorm FX. This is a really fun cover. And, yes, this really is our heroes out in space — not a virtual reality, not a dream. They do go clear up, out of our solar system, and Impulse is naturally the most excited to get out there and experience it, while it's up to Superboy and Wonder Girl to make sure he doesn't get too far away. One interesting note is that Impulse and Superboy's space suits pretty much looks like their normal uniforms, but with gloves and helmets added. Wonder Girl gets a complete redesign, though, which I guess is necessary, since her current uniform is just a jacket over a belly shirt.

Our story picks up in the Australian Summer Olympics, on the day of the big archery event. But before we get to that, Cissie shares a tender moment with her mother. Bonnie is devastated that Cissie believed even for a moment that she would have attacked her teammate, Tina Thomas. Bonnie explains that she'd never hurt a teammate, nor would she do anything to take out Cissie's competition because she has so much confidence in her. With tears in her eyes, Bonnie says, "Nothing can stop you from being the best. Not even me." The mother and daughter hug it out, and Bonnie tells Cissie that her mother also drove her nuts. They then head to the archery field, where the kids of Young Justice are already waiting for them in the stands.


Once again, our heroes are able to secure some great seats, but this time they're stuck in front of some rowdy Zandia fans. Kon and Bart are ready to "pop" the jerks, but Robin lectures them on the freedom of speech and tells them to leave those guys alone. But one of them soon spills his drink all over Robin, blames him for it, and tells Robin to buy him a new drink. So Robin gives Kon and Bart permission, who quickly and gleefully take on the Zandians. I'm not sure how much damage Kon actually did without his powers or Cadmus gear, but Bart ended the fight by using his super speed to take the three guys under the bleachers and tie them up with their big "Zandia Rules" banner.

Cissie and her deaf teammate, Natalie, line up to represent America with Tina sidelined with her broken arm. Their biggest competition is the three archers from Zandia, Merlyn, Turk and Tigress. Merlyn and Cissie engage in some pre-competition trash talk, and Bonnie vows to watch the Zandians like a hawk.

While waiting for the match to begin, our heroes' conversation turns toward Empress, with Bart bringing up the theory that Cissie is Empress. Cassie admits she's thought the same thing, but Robin thinks it's unlikely. Not only does Empress have powers Cissie didn't have, but her body language is completely different. Robin also tells his teammates that they shouldn't stress over Empress' secret identity since she's been only a help, not a threat. Besides, trying to learn who she is would involve a complicated, lengthy investigation of compiling a list of all potential suspects and slowly eliminating people from that list. Suddenly, they hear a voice saying, "Well, well ... let's sit here, Empress — next to our little friends."

Everyone turns to see Agent Donald Fite speaking to his daughter, Anita. And everyone — even Bart — immediately realizes this means Anita is Empress. Fite explains that he's always called his daughter Empress since she was so bossy as a baby. He tells Young Justice that he's glad everything worked out for their blonde friend, and he leaves to go to the bathroom. Anita covers her face in embarrassment and says she'll kill her father while all our heroes stare at her.

We then cut to Salvador Dali Elementary School, where Red Tornado and his wife, Kathy Sutton, are meeting with the principal, Mrs. Marshank. Kathy is still in a wheelchair after her adopted daughter, Traya, was brainwashed into pushing her out the window of their high-rise apartment building, but Kathy hopes to be back on her in a couple of months. Unfortunately, Mrs. Marshank is reporting that Traya has been acting up in school. Red and Kathy assume this is because of that horrible incident with the Hugga-Tuggee-Thugees, but the principal says there's another reason behind Traya's behavior. She gave the girl an intelligence test, and when she shows the results to her parents, Red Tornado says these scores would make even Brainiac green with envy. Mrs. Marshank says that Traya is embarrassed by her genius, and mostly bored with school. She says that while Traya is welcome to stay if she likes, this school isn't equipped with a program to suit her needs. Marshank suggests they look for a private school that would offer her a scholarship.

Back in Australia, our heroes have surrounded Anita and are working out all the pieces. Cassie realizes that her weapons were in her bag. And Robin theorizes that Anita's dad in unaware of her secret identity. Anita begs them not to tell her dad, saying he'll kill her. Bart says he thought Anita was going to kill her dad, and she says it'll be a double homicide. Cassie thanks Anita for saving her in the woods, and Kon thanks her for bailing him out just yesterday. Anita tries to thank them and tell them she's a big fan of Young Justice, but she mixes up all her words. And before anyone can ask her any more questions, the archery competition finally begins.

Cissie gets off to a great start, but Bonnie is worried about Merlyn, believing it'll take her daughter a few years to catch up to the villain's level. As Bonnie lights another cigarette, she scans the crowd and spots a suspicious woman holding an umbrella, even though there's not a cloud in the sky. Bonnie quickly realizes that the woman is the villain Huntress, and she's aiming her spear-gun umbrella right at Cissie. Pulling out her old skills as the original Miss Arrowette, Bonnie hurtles her lighter at Huntress, which ignites her hair and sends the spear right into Merlyn's arm.

Huntress runs out onto the field with her hair on fire, and Bonnie puts it out with a big Gatorade bucket. Security quickly takes Huntress and her daughter, Tigress, away, while Tigress (aka Artemis) yells at her mother for cheating for her. (This Artemis, combined with some characteristics from Cissie, was the Artemis from the Young Justice animated series.) Merlyn is taken off on a stretcher, and he yells at Huntress for poisoning her arrow. Cassie is shocked that she's actually cheering on Cissie's mom, Kon says she's still got it, and Bart excitedly says they don't even know what "it" is. Fite returns from the bathroom, wondering what he just missed. Bonnie shares one more tender moment with Cissie, telling her that even though she's a rotten mother, there are worse ones around. And, long story short, Cissie ends up winning the gold medal. Natalie takes silver, and Zandia's Turk settles for bronze.

We then take a bit of a break in the narrative. Everyone goes home, Superboy gets his powers back, Empress officially joins the team, and Impulse is replaced with Inertia, although nobody notices. (Todd Nauck is always very good at drawing Impulse with his ring on. In this issue, Bart was wearing his ring while at Australia. But after this break, Impulse does not have the ring on his finger.) Even though the old cave at Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, should be up and running now, Young Justice seems to have made the abandoned resort in the Catskills Mountains their new permanent headquarters. And our story picks up again with Doiby Dickles coming to the resort to get some alone time, not realizing that this was the same spot that started the whole Sins of Youth event.

Superboy, back in his usual uniform, and Impulse are the first to greet Doiby, followed quickly by the rest of the team. They're all happy to see him, but Doiby says he was looking to get away from "supertypes" and adventures so he wouldn't be reminded of his princess on the planet Myrg. Superboy says Old Justice or the JSA should be happy to reunite Doiby with his lost love, but Doiby doesn't want to bother them. Secret enthusiastically offers their help, Impulse instantly supports this idea, and Superboy cheers at the prospect of a road trip. Anita thinks it'd be exciting to go to another planet, and when Superboy asks Robin, he tries to say, "Okay, hold it!" But Impulse hears him say, "Okay," and he takes that as permission granted. Robin stops him, explaining that the Super-Cycle, which has apparently been acting weird lately, can't take them to Myrg since it can't travel faster than light speed. Doiby agrees, saying they need a proper space ship for this voyage.

Suddenly, a delivery truck arrives at the resort, and Impulse begins cheering that the present he asked Ali Ben Styne for has finally arrived. Robin begins to panic, as Cassie and Secret wonder who Ali Ben Styne is and what Bart could have asked for. They all head outside to see one enormous crate from Fedeus Ex Machina Shipping. Superboy opens it up, to reveal a large spaceship covered in millions of packing peanuts. Impulse jumps on top of it, shouting, "Bart Trek! I rule!!! Never surrender! Never give up!" Robin says even he can tell when fate has taken a hand, so they all load up and take off for Myrg.

Doiby acts as pilot, saying the ship has very simple controls and he knows the coordinates to Myrg like the back of his hand. Impulse sits in the co-pilot's chair, playing on a Nintendo 64. Cassie talks to Anita, asking if she knows Cissie. Anita says she doesn't, but her journey to becoming a superhero started when she witnessed Cissie taking out a criminal in a mall back in Young Justice #16. (And you can actually see Anita in the crowd if you re-read that issue.) Their conversation is interrupted when Robin begins shouting.

Doiby neglected to tell the others that Myrg has been invaded by a hostile force until they got halfway there. Robin naturally freaks out about this, since what he thought was a simple trip to outer space has now turned into a very dangerous situation. Robin explains that to fend off an entire invading race, they'd need at least one more powerhouse on the team, preferably an absolute destroying machine. Secret suddenly tells everybody that a really interesting kid just showed up outside, looking for a fight. Secret told him they might be heading into a fight right now, so she let him in through the cargo bay. Robin asks, "Is it me, or is she starting to think like Impulse?" Impulse calls this a great move and gives Suzie two thumbs up, and Superboy tells Robin it's not just him. And Secret's really interesting friend turns out to be none other than the Top Teen himself, Lobo.


This was another rock solid issue of Young Justice. I love how so many plot threads are coming together — going all the way back to issue #2! The scenes with Bonnie and Cissie were simply beautiful, resolving a conflict that began in the pages of Impulse before Young Justice even began. But while the final day in Australia was fun, I was surprised by how quickly that whole thing with Zandia was resolved. It seems like this mysterious Baron figure should have made a brief appearance here.

In other comics, it might feel like a ripoff to have Empress' identity revealed so quickly. Or for Impulse's spaceship to basically come right out of nowhere precisely in the exact moment when Young Justice wanted a spaceship. But this is a humorous series, and Peter David expertly worked in these jokes to great effect. Keeping in the tradition of Young Justice, we got an issue with nice, sweet emotional moments, great continuity building, and plenty of humor. This was also somewhat of a ground-breaking issue in that it not only put the team into outer space for the first time, but it also saw the official entrance of Empress to the team, and the unofficial entrance of Lobo.

I am most surprised and impressed with the Impulse/Inertia bit. When Superboy was replaced with Match, that was a pretty important plot line for Young Justice, so the clues for this swap were a bit more apparent. But Impulse being replaced by Inertia won't have as big an impact on Young Justice, so the clues here are going to be much more subdued. So those not reading Impulse won't even notice, and I'm fine with that. Inertia isn't trying to take down Young Justice — yet — he's just trying to impersonate Bart, and so far is doing a perfect job of it. The only clue we have here is his missing ring. It also makes sense that Inertia would know all about Bart's present from Ali Ben Styn because Inertia carefully studied every moment of Bart's life. I think the next couple of issues of Young Justice will make it a bit more apparent that Impulse is not the Bart we know and love. Ultimately, though, I do feel bad that Young Justice had to deal with two separate characters being replaced by their evil clones in the same year.

Our letters to the editor begins with Scot W. Myers, of Charleston, S.C., saying he really hopes Empress does turn out to be Cissie. He also praises Peter David for being able to work in dramatic tension — with Secret's creepiness and Robin's identity — and use it for the basis of the book's unique humor.

Robert Kowalski, of Detroit, loved the "all-new, all-different" Young Justice, and how Cissie reviewed those new members. He also speculates on other superheroes competing in the Olympics, such as Wally West in the racing events. And Robert hopes to never see Klarion or Li'l Lobo again.

Paul Tapner wrote a letter full of a bunch of "huh"s and "heh"s, I guess to show that he was laughing. He does end the letter by saying he hopes to see more of Cissie and her mom. Now for the ads:

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Up next: The shattering conclusion to Mercury Falling in Impulse #66!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

JLA: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes #1


Writers: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman
Penciller: Mike McKone
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Letterer: Bob Lappan
Colorist and Separator: David Stewart

Cover Penciller: Mike McKone
Cover Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover Color: David Stewart
Logo Design: Todd Klein

Our cover shows this Elseworlds version of the JLA in a very serious pose. Their costumes are slightly different, but they're still recognizable — Hawkgirl, Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Atom, Green Lantern, Metamorpho, Plastic Man and at the very bottom in yellow, this world's version of Bart Allen. The statue of blind justice on the side implies that this story will explore the deep themes of law and order and the role superheroes play in it.

Our imaginary, out-of-continuity story begins in 1943, with a young Clark Kent learning lessons of doing good anonymously from his parents. Skip forward to today, Clark is the aging editor of the Daily Planet, nearing retirement, and his powers are beginning to fade. Lois Lane is working at a tabloid, investigating wild stories of people being abducted by a man in a green suit. Bruce Wayne works at the FBI, and he's also investigating the reports of hundreds of people mysteriously vanishing without a trace.

We then cut to Keystone City, where we're introduced to Bart Allen. He's a bit older than the Bart we're used to, and he's living with his parents. This Bart has an earring and a rather acrimonious relationship with his parents, who are currently chewing him out for wrecking the family car. Bart's mom complains that she was pulled away from showing a house to her client, and Bart's dad complains that the repairs will cost $4,500. He accuses his son of being careless. Bart tries to explain that it wasn't his fault and it was just an accident, but his parents don't care for his tone. Bart clenches his fist, which is surrounded by lightning, but his parents don't notice. He then walks out on them in the middle of the lecture, and they're shocked to see their son is long gone when they open the door just a moment later.


Bart runs all the way out of Keystone City, worried about what his parents would do if they found out he had super speed. He visits a diner he comes to every Thursday and orders his usual, a blueberry pie. But Bart doesn't notice that while he eats, a young man with blondish/orange hair is closely observing him. (The coloring isn't particularly consistent.)

We then see Clark Kent enter a secret underground base to conduct a meeting of the Kryptic Order, comprising all the heroes we saw on the cover, minus Bart Allen. The topic for discussion once again is the debate on whether the team should go public. Green Lantern is leading the charge for this, with the Flash, Atom and Plastic Man on his side. But Wonder Woman, Metamorpho and Hawkgirl agree with Superman's longstanding mandate, so that continues to be the team's policy as long as there's a tie. Flash reports that he's located a potential new member for the team, but he doesn't know how he'll vote. In the meantime, Flash has this candidate under constant surveillance, and says he's made his first contact with him. We soon find out that this "first contact" came in the form of a letter with the haunting message, "I know what you can do." Bart is understandably freaked out to see this.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane cross paths, as they're both investigating the same mystery, and they agree to team up. We learn the Kryptic Order is able to maintain is secrecy by using technology from Wonder Woman to become invisible. And the Atom causes a financial crisis by hacking into the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Even though Bart was scared by the letter from the Flash, he follows its directions and heads to the same diner he was at earlier. There he meets Wally West, who eats Bart's hamburger, but assures the teen that he's not going to expose his secret. Instead, Wally demonstrates that he, too, has super speed. He assures Bart that he's not a freak, and he takes him on a quick "jog" to tell him all about the secret world of superheroes.

We then see that the Kryptic Order has a habit of capturing criminals, judging them, and exiling them to a lifetime in the Phantom Zone. Meanwhile, Green Lantern is working behind the Order's back by abducting all potential super-powered individuals to conduct DNA tests on them. But after 39 subjects, he still hasn't found any new recruits. Clark Kent has a heart attack at work, and he's shocked to see that his skin has grown weak enough for the paramedics to pierce it with a needle.

One night, Bart tells his parents he wants to go to UCLA to study history. Bart's dad, Barry (we never find out his mom's name), is mad at his son for changing his plans from last week, when he said he wanted to be a pharmacist. But he coldly says Bart may have only wanted to pursue that career to acquire drugs. Bart insists he wants to study history, saying it's important to learn the mistakes of the past to stop them from happening again.

The next day, an upset Bart heads to the park and skips stones on the lake. But his stones are traveling way too fast, and one of them destroys a kid's remote control boat. Wally appears out of nowhere and gives the kid money to buy a new boat. Bart tells Wally that he had another fight with his dad, and Wally tells him that he can't change his dad, but he can change his reaction to him. Bart says things will be better once he's 2,000 miles away from his dad at college, but Wally insists that Bart's dad really does love him. Wally speaks in more depth about the Kryptic Order and he formally offers Bart a spot on the team. But he does warn him, though, that once he's in, there's no going back.

We take a quick peek inside the Phantom Zone and see that hundreds of criminals have been sent there over the past half century, including the Martian Manhunter. But J'onn J'onzz has made the prison a rather pleasant place, transforming it into a peaceful community focused on meditation and harmony.

Bart is taken to the Kryptic Order secret headquarters, and he observes the team training against a bunch of robots. Wally introduces Bart to the whole team, but while they're doing this, Bruce and Lois have made a breakthrough in their investigation and have discovered the entrance to the headquarters.


This is a pretty interesting story. It's a fairly realistic premise with layered, nuanced characters. No one is purely good or bad, and there isn't one particular threat for the heroes to deal with. This works to the story's benefit and detriment. This issue, 48 ad-free pages, is pure world building. There's no clear direction to work toward or character to focus on. Superman losing his powers and place in the world could be an interesting framing device on its own, but it's competing with the equally interesting stories of Bruce and Lois investigating the elusive superheroes and Bart Allen trying to figure out what to do with his powers and find his place in the world. And all this is confounded by the countless subplots involving Martian Manhunter, Lucious Fox, Green Lantern, the Atom, etc., etc. Ultimately, there's just too much story here. We will have a second 48-page issue to conclude this tale, but that issue will feel equally overburdened.

This version of Bart Allen is a real interesting character, and I wish his story could have been the main focus here. Bart feels like a very realistic teenager who often gets in trouble and can sometimes be a jerk, but ultimately wants to do good, yet is held back by his insecurities. I'm not exactly sure, though, why he's so scared that anyone will find out he has super speed. Nor do I know why his dad is a powerless Barry Allen. Wally has powers, and all the other superheroes seem more or less the same, so why not Barry? All in all, this Bart is not as fun as the impulsive version we're used to, but he does have potential for some thought-provoking stories.

Ultimately though, I can't say I'm a fan of this issue. While there is lots of potential present, it's too difficult to form any connections to any characters. And it's not a particularly pleasant comic to look at, either. The art is subpar, at best, failing especially in the action scenes, hair coloring, and facial recognition (many characters are impossible to distinguish when they're out of costume). This is also one of the rare times where I'll criticize the letterer. It feels like all the letters were written with a shaky hand, and it is very annoying.

Next time, we'll take a break from this disappointing Elseworlds tale and review something great — Young Justice #25.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Impulse #65


Bart's Evil Twin – Mercury Falling Part 4

A Dezago - Van Sciver - Kaalberg & Rollins - Chiang - Jones - Jamison - L.A. collabo
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Van Sciver, Faucher, and Martin raced against time and certain Death to bring you this month's cover. It is a pretty exciting cover, showing a very serious Impulse racing to save the dying Max Mercury, who is now very thin and weak. I don't mind the symbolic image of the grim reaper with a giant hourglass, but I am a bit surprised that Van Sciver didn't draw this as the Black Flash. I'm personally not a huge fan of the Black Flash, but he was seen in the last issue of Impulse, and is more or less supposed to be the symbolization of Death for speedsters, right?

Our story begins with the return of an old villain — the Glory Shredder, who has captured the Green Cigarette and is preparing to execute him right there on the street. Impulse has arrived on the scene, and he wonders if the Glory Shredder could be any more insane. The psychotic ex-military is a bit more verbose than he was when we originally met him, and he now insists on launching into long-winded, rambling speeches before ridding the world of criminal scum. Luckily, this gives Impulse more than enough time to rescue the Green Cigarette, tie him up so he doesn't get away, and dismantle Glory Shredder's gun. Glory Shredder accuses Impulse of being a criminal sympathizer, and he boasts of how he'll still be able to defeat the "commie runt" without his gun. Glory Shredder talks so long, he doesn't notice a dog peeing on his leg. Meanwhile, a crowd gathers, including some old friends we haven't seen in a long time — Jasper Pierson, Gamal, and Green Cigarette's lawyer, Gaspar.


The Glory Shredder finally attacks Impulse, who quickly removes all of the villain's armor, leaving him in just his underwear. (Even though Glory Shredder had a cybernetic hand with bombs in the fingers previously, Van Sciver drew him here with two normal, human hands.) The narrator finally reveals to us that this Impulse isn't really Bart Allen, and hasn't been for weeks now. He has grown his hair out, dyed it brown, studied Bart's habits, speech patterns, and even mastered Bart's expression of insipid innocence. But every now and then, this imposter falls out of character, and allows his true, malicious nature to come through. And this is one of those times.

Even though Glory Shredder is defeated, Thaddeus Thawne, aka Inertia, insists on pummeling him to a pulp. As he does so, he rejoices in the success of his plan. As part of the Allen-Thawne feud spanning millennia, Thad was 'gengineered' to be a far more superior clone of Bart, spliced with pure Thawne DNA. But it wasn't enough to defeat Impulse — Inertia sought to steal Bart's glory, his persona ... his life! And when Bart pushed Morlo's mudbug into an alternate dimension, Thad used this opportunity to place Bart in a virtual reality prison and replace him in the real world. Thad is pulled out his memories by Gaspar, who politely tells him that he's assaulted Glory Shredder quite enough. Thad quickly puts on his best Bart impression, and says he was just making sure the villain was down, since you never know about these big ones.

Thad continues his impression as Bart at school, where he gives a report on Pavlov's dogs and conditioned behavior. Thad is happy he has the excuse of Max's illness to account for Bart's suddenly increased focus. He's confident he's fooled everyone, but Thad doesn't seem to notice that Carol is still suspicious and oddly interested in "Bart's" hands. The time after school presents the biggest challenge for Thad, since he's had a hard time relating to Bart's friends. But he's gotten better at it these past few weeks, and now he's become bold enough to attempt some humor with Preston and Roland (who, by the way, is wearing an awesome Batman shirt).

Thad jokes that Ms. Dalrymple wears so much makeup because what's underneath is worse. Roland's not comfortable with making fun of their teacher's appearance, but Thad presses the issue, saying that when Dalrymple was a baby, her parents had to feed her with a slingshot. This gets Roland laughing, even though he knows it's unkind, but Preston begins to protest. Thad is able to get him to laugh, though, by asking, "Does the name 'Pavlov' ring a bell ... ?" Both Preston and Roland double over laughing at this, and Thad actually feels happy to be accepted by his peers. He decides that maybe Bart's friends aren't that insufferable, but once again, he fails to notice that Carol has remained silent during the entire conversation and refused to join in the laughter.

The greatest threat of Thad being exposed is the experienced speedster Max Mercury. But so far, Thad has been able to fool him, as well, thanks in large part to Max's deteriorating condition. In fact, Max is so thin and frail now, he is unable to join Impulse on patrol. So they've enlisted the help of Oracle to have Max coordinate Impulse's efforts around the world from a computer chair. After saving an elderly couple from a rampaging rhino, "Impulse" is sent to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to battle another familiar foe, White Lightning. Thad joins Robin, Wonder Girl and Secret on a random mission, and he's thrilled to see he's fooled Young Justice, as well.

Max sends Thad to deal with a tornado in Oakley, Kansas, which he quickly neutralizes with a vortex in the opposite direction. Max is shocked that Impulse came up with this solution on his own, and Thad is shocked when he's congratulated by a couple of beautiful women, thanking him for saving their farm. Thad quickly runs away from them, and Max tells him it's OK to allow himself a little "thanks" every now and then. And Thad begins to believe Max might be right. As he runs home, Thad basks in the feeling of having someone else be proud of him — something he's never felt before. The clone realizes that all of Bart's friends and family really care about him, and he feels like he could learn to enjoy being a hero and keep Bart's life. Thad even thinks that maybe, just maybe, he won't go through with his plan to kill Max at the Speed Force.

When Thad gets home, he realizes that Max and Helen have created a much more comfortable and warm environment than the featureless, warehouse-sized computer he had previously only known as his home. Thad is amazed at how Helen is able to act like a mother to Bart even though she's not related to him. And Max impresses Thad by maintaining such a positive and selfless attitude as the Speed Force is literally tearing his body apart. Even though it requires an enormous amount of effort, Max insists on getting out of his chair to give "Bart" a big hug and tell him how proud he's in him, even if Morlo's plan doesn't work. Thad is overwhelmed by this act of love, and he can barely stammer out a thanks.

Of course, Thad realizes that he was never able to fool Bart's nameless dog. But now he's finally figured out a way to make the animal act more friendly around him by constantly feeding it dog treats and trying to avoid entertaining negative thoughts and schemes in its presence. Helen suggests that he finally name the dog since he's had it since Christmas (and it's now, what, June?). So Thad dubs the dog Ivan. Max laughs at this play on Ivan the Terrible with Ivan the Terrier, but Thad says he actually chose the name in honor of the behaviorist Ivan Pavlov. "Clever, no?" Thad asks, but Helen and Max are quite perplexed to hear such words coming from Bart.

Shortly, Max and Thad throw on their uniforms and head to Morlo's to run one more test before making "the jump." Helen wishes them luck and says she'll be there in a few minutes to watch them leave. Carol, meanwhile, has been hiding in the shadows waiting for Impulse to leave. Once he's gone, she knocks on the door, and gives Helen a cover story about needing to take back a book she lent Bart. Helen lets her in, and Carol eagerly heads to Bart's room, hoping to find out why he's been acting so suspiciously lately.

In Morlo's lab, Thad passes the final test with flying colors, and Dr. Morlo begins to set things up for the jump to the Speed Force. During a break in the action, Max almost collapses, and Thad is shocked by how scared he became for Max's welfare, and he wonders if he actually cares for him. Max tells Thad again that even when they get to the Speed Force, there's no guarantee it'll be able to revive him. But he wants the boy to understand that they've still succeeded in the long term with their mentorship. Max says that he's finally become everything they were working toward, and now he looks on him like a son. Thad is thrilled to hear this kind of love being directed at him. It's everything he's been working toward! It's all his! Max loves him! But then, Max calls him Bart, and that completely kills the moment for Thad. In one instant, with that one word, Thad's villainous upbringing returns, and the look of love and admiration on his face quickly turns to one of scorn and disdain.

Back in Bart's room (decorated with posters of Superman and the Afterlife Avenger), Carol is shocked to see how neat and tidy it is. The first clue she finds is a family picture of Bart, Helen and Max. Carol realizes why Bart's hands caught her attention during school — he's not wearing his Impulse ring anymore. (In case you were wondering, like I was, Bart was wearing his Impulse ring during all the concurrent Young Justice issues. So I guess his trip to Australia happened before he was replaced by Inertia.)

We return to Morlo's lab, where the former mad scientist has set up the speed portal and he warns the speedsters that their window is only a few minutes. Max begins to have some last-second doubts, saying once again that he can't ask Bart to attempt such a dangerous task. But Thad angrily insists they have to leave now. Meanwhile, Carol finds her second clue, hair dye (chestnut brown for blond hair). This is followed by the discovery of something even more shocking — a holographic recording of Inertia detailing his plans to kill Max Mercury at the Speed Force and then obliterate all of Bart's friends and family. Carol rushes downstairs, tells Helen that Bart's really Inertia in disguise, and they rush off, hoping to stop him before it's too late.

But it is too late. With the speed portal open, Thad gets a running start on a treadmill, achieves the right vibrational frequency, and pulls Max into the portal with him. Helen and Carol come rushing in just a second later, shouting at Morlo to not let them go. But before Morlo can answer them, the real Bart Allen suddenly arrives, demanding to know where Max and Inertia are.


This was such an awesome issue! Inertia really is the perfect villain for Impulse. He fits the classic trope of an evil clone and continues the legacy of the Allen-Thawne feud. But with this issue, he suddenly became a sympathetic character, and I love it! Inertia had this incredible plan to conquer Bart Allen by completely taking over his life and systematically eliminating his friends and family. But after spending a few weeks of living in a warm and loving environment, Thaddeus has begun to doubt his life's mission of revenge and mayhem. This added level of complexity makes Inertia an even greater character than before and adds a greater degree of depth to this amazing story.

However, I did have a few nits. The return of Glory Shredder was welcome, but Dezago and Van Sciver didn't quite capture the same personality and design of the character originally introduced by William Messner-Loebs and Craig Rousseau. I guess you could make the argument that Glory Shredder already was quite unstable and is constantly going through slight personality changes as well as cybernetic upgrades. I guess. I'm also slightly torn on Van Sciver's art in this issue. His pencils were incredibly impressive as always, but here he became very ambitious with his panel layouts. There were a bunch of beautiful two-page spreads, but some of them were quite confusing. This necessitated the use of lots of little annoying arrows and editor's notes to tell you what to read next. I'm all for experimentation and spiffy-looking layouts, but that shouldn't come at a cost of readability.

Impulsive Reactions begins with L.A. Williams welcoming new colorist Jason Scott Jones, who actually started as the new official colorist last issue, but L.A. forgot to update the credits. He says it was because he was trapped in a virtual reality prison, and it was his evil clone, N.Y.C. Williams who made the mistake.

Maurice, of Brooklyn, N.Y., says he's been an art teacher for 30 years, and he considers Mshindo a true diamond in the rough, hoping he'll get more opportunities to grow to his full potential.

Daniel Placio admits he isn't a regular reader of Impulse, but he did pick up Impulse #61 for the Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. guest appearance. He liked the "Up To Speed" box at the beginning of each issue for new/casual readers like him, and he was happy to see the Gentleman Ghost.

Datalore was happy to have another untold tale from Max's past — an adventure with the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Datalore also asks for a miniseries focusing on Max Mercury.

Electric Peter Tork liked how Bart got annoyed with all the girls asking about Robin, how he inadvertently destroyed the Kid Flash sign, and the Star-Spangled Kid's scene in the gentlemen's club. Tork enjoyed the writing so much, he mistakingly assumed it was Todd Dezago. However, he was able to tell the art was not quite as good as Ethan Van Sciver's.

Sea Change was happy that issue #61 made a point to show Max sweating to illustrate how bad and shocking his condition is.

Daniel Rosenberg, of Raleigh, N.C., simply says Impulse is one of the great reasons why comics are a great hobby.

Mark Katzoff liked that the "Sidekick Swap" taught both Max and Pat to appreciate what they have. He also hopes the Gentleman Ghost shows up again in Manchester, Alabama.

Peirigill wonders if Impulse would stop being fun if he learned to focus and plan. L.A. says he might still be fun, but for those looking for a more serious speedster can check out The Flash. (Once this series ends with Impulse #89, we'll see what a more serious Bart Allen looks like.) Now for the ads:

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Next time, we'll take a quick look at an alternate version of Bart in an Elsewords story called JLA: The Secret Society of Super-Heroes Book One.