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.


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:

Geography just got interesting. Game Boy Color.

Scooby-Doo! Expandable Card Game.

NesQuik. It's what gearheads guzzle.

I tawt I'd take a twip. New books based on the direct-to-video movie, Tweety's High-Flying Adventure.

This fall, Saturday kicks into high gear on Kids' WB! Men in Black, Pokémon, Jackie Chan Adventures, The Zeta Project, Static Shock, Batman Beyond and Max Steel.

Hershel the Cow is missing. Look for Hershel in the special Hershey's Syrup bottle. And if you hear her moo, you'll win a VIP trip for four to Hershey, PA.

The hottest album in Townsville! The Powerpuff Girls: Heroes & Villains.

Take a musical twip with Tweety. Tweety's High-Flying Adventure soundtrack.

Find new marshmallow mummies here. Marshmallow Blasted Froot Loops.

Guess what's inside. Pop-Tarts with Pokémon figures inside. They only had three options — Poliwrath, Charmander and Chansey. Kind of an odd selection. But I still got them all, anyway.

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

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