Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Year in Review: 2000

I was 13 years old in 2000, which meant that I was at that age where everything and everyone was stupid. In all fairness, though, there wasn't a whole lot for me to like about 2000. My beloved Utah Jazz had begun to fall apart, and overall, it turned out to be a pretty weak year in the movies and television. If only I knew about Impulse comics back then! Then I would have had something to enjoy!

The highest grossing film of 2000 was Mission: Impossible II, which I still haven't seen because I've never been interested by those movies. Second on the list was Gladiator, which also won Oscars for best picture and actor (Russell Crowe). I didn't see this one till years later, because 13-year-olds really shouldn't be watching rated-R films ... or at least that's how it was back then. But yeah, I did like that when I finally got around to seeing it. Other big hits included Cast Away (great), Disney's experimental, but lackluster Dinosaur and the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas (kinda weird, but mostly OK). My favorite Disney film of the year was actually The Emperor's New Groove, an unexpectedly funny and fresh movie. But I guess it doesn't technically count as a "hit" of the year.

In the world of superheroes, though, 2000 did experience a major breakthrough with X-Men. For the first time in more than a decade, we had a serious, realistic portrayal of comic book superheroes in a major blockbuster. Well, a modest blockbuster, it didn't quite earn $300 million. But it still was a very exciting time. The old X-Men cartoons were re-run on TV, and my friend recorded them all to watch over and over again, while we poured over every piece of concept art and leaked news from the burgeoning internet. Nowadays, looking back at it, you might say this first X-Men movie is dumb, even disappointing. But it laid the groundwork for a very successful franchise that is still going today. Even 17 years later, we're going to get another film with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. And most importantly, X-Men opened the door for this glorious explosion of superhero movies — a door we thought had been slammed shut by Batman & Robin.

Another interesting development in 2000 was the fact that Impulse very nearly became an actual cartoon character. Somewhere around this time (or in 2001), Bruce Timm and company began working on ideas for a new cartoon show featuring the Justice League. Aiming to stick to the kid-friendly mandate of the Kids' WB! network, they proposed a lineup of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl along with three teenage sidekicks, Robin, a female Cyborg and Impulse. Well, things kind of died with Kid's WB! (and that network subsequently died on its own), so DC turned to Cartoon Network, which apparently accepted the show based off just one phone call. Not feeling pressured to appease to little kids anymore, Bruce Timm dropped out Robin and the girl Cyborg, and replaced Impulse with the adult Flash. Although the end result was fantastic, I'm left wondering what this show would have been like with Impulse on it. Thankfully, we do have a very small glimpse of that possibility. During the planning and pitching stage, Timm threw together a very quick and rough test video to show the proposed team in action. It turned out they didn't need to show this to any network executives, but the video has survived on the internet. So I present to you, the first animated Impulse! You'll see him run, and trip Solomon Grundy, and ... that's about it.

Moving on to more concrete news, 2000 was probably the biggest year Impulse ever had or ever will have in the world of comic books. In addition to his usual cameos throughout the DC Universe, Impulse took part in the biggest Young Justice event ever, Sins of Youth. And if that wasn't enough, Impulse's own series delivered the amazing, explosive Mercury Falling storyline. Impulse also helped Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn close out their run on The Flash, and was a major character in a two-part Elseworlds story. Between the writing, art and overall influence, Impulse was at the pinnacle of his career in 2000.

Best Issue: Impulse #66

As incredibly amazing as Sins of Youth was, there really wasn't a defining Impulse moment in that story. The Impulse/Kid Flash issue was fun and all, but it didn't have nearly the same impact as Mercury Falling. Impulse #66 was the climax of a story that was the culmination of the entire Impulse mythology. Go all the way back to the very beginning, when Iris rescued Bart from the evil 30th century government. That was when Inertia was created. Now connect that to the early stories of the Speed Force and Max Mercury's relationship with it. Add in the more recent stories of Max being injured, mix it with the classic Allen-Thawne feud, and you end up with the ultimate Impulse story. This issue let Bart unquestionably be the hero all by himself, demonstrating great courage and love to rescue his father figure from a very real danger. And what really set this story apart was the insight we got into Inertia. He became more than your generic evil clone, developing into a nuanced, sympathetic character. Issue #66 was incredibly emotional, and not just for the Bart-Max relationship.

Best Writer: Todd Dezago

Dezago earns his second-straight award, edging out Peter David, who churned out some really great stuff with Sins of Youth and Young Justice. Four-time winner Mark Waid also deserves some credit for closing out his legendary Flash run with an exciting, intriguing mystery and the long-awaited Wally West-Linda Park wedding. But Todd Dezago was the clear favorite here. He beautifully set up Mercury Falling, and then knocked it out of the park. And there really isn't much more to say about that, as I've gushed so much about that story. But if, by some way, that wasn't quite enough, Dezago also wrote the wonderful side story in Young Justice with Impulse and Secret trying to help Superboy get his powers back.

Best Artist: Ethan Van Sciver

Paul Pelletier drew a fantastic Impulse in the few Flash issues we had this year. And Impulse co-creator Mike Wieringo returned to the character with the Sins of Youth covers. But even more impressive was Todd Nauck's workhorse ability to churn out all those high quality Sins of Youth and Young Justice pages with minimal breaks. I was so impressed with Nauck's ability to draw nearly every character in the DCU — and draw them in different ages — that I came very, very close to giving him his second award here. But, ultimately, this is an Impulse blog, and I have to reward the man who made such incredible strides on this book during its biggest storyline. True, Ethan Van Sciver did take a few more breaks than I would have liked, but what he did give us in the year 2000 was unparalleled. He went all out for Mercury Falling, and it paid off. As much as I love Nauck's style, I'm not 100 percent convinced that he could have pulled off the intense emotions that Van Sciver utilized. Simply put, Mercury Falling does not work without Ethan Van Sciver.

Best Supporting Character: Max Mercury

Impulse has always had a fun relationship with Superboy and a sweet relationship with Cissie. This year, he really started working well with Secret, prompting Robin to note that Secret is starting to act more like Impulse. Bart also has maintained great friendships with Carol, Preston and all his other schoolmates, creating an ever-growing list of candidates for this award. However, Max Mercury was head and shoulders above the competition this year, winning this award for the second consecutive year and third time overall. Bart's devotion to Max was the driving force of the great storyline of this year. And everything was resolved in the most beautiful, emotional way. Max and Bart are closer than ever, and what makes this so great, is that they reached this place organically. After years of their adventures and butting heads, they came through for each other when it mattered most. If there was any doubt before, it's now gone, and we can truly say that they are in a father-son relationship.

Best Villain: Inertia

That's back-to-back wins for Thaddeus Thawne, and a complete sweep for the Mercury Falling storyline. Yeah, Sins of Youth was a lot of fun, and Klarion ... bum, bum, BUM ... the Witch Boy was a delight. But Inertia provided the most menace and the most meaning in his schemes. He took over Bart's life for several weeks, almost perfectly mimicking him. He executed his plan perfectly, and even when Bart caught up to him at the end, Thad still had the opportunity to kill Bart and Max. But he couldn't bring himself to do it. He had experienced the joys of being loved and respected. And he bitterly realized that the hateful life he had been forced into was based on lies. For this tragic and sympathetic aspect, Inertia not only is the best Impulse villain of 2000, he's the best Impulse villain of all time.

Well, 2001 is going to have its work cut out trying to match 2000. But we'll still have a lot of fun with it. Carlo Barberi will soon take over the series, delivering an art style that somehow pays homage to Humberto Ramos, Craig Rousseau and Ethan Van Sciver. David and Nauck will continue their amazing run on Young Justice, sending the expanded team on even more fun adventures in space. Impulse sadly, won't spend much time with the Flash, but he will make plenty of cameos throughout the DCU, and he will also join in the massive event of the year, Our Worlds at War. It all begins with one of those quick cameos in the very wacky World's Funnest Elseworlds tale.

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