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.


  1. "But with this issue, he suddenly became a sympathetic character, and I love it!"

    And then DC ruined him (and basically insulted this entire series) with the abomination that is TFMA... *shakes head* I don't know what the writers were on there.

    "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. This wasn't so much a movie but a glorified pilot for the short-lived Buzz Lightyear cartoon."

    I actually had this on VHS! Probably either in storage or sent away now, it was a long time ago.

    1. Yeah, it's going to be a sad day when I get to those stories that take Bart and Thad in a much less compelling direction. Well, that's putting it as politely as I can. "Ruin" might be the most accurate word.

      In the meantime, though, we can still go back and relive the magic of the year 2000!