Monday, May 1, 2017

Impulse #72

The Return of Lucius Keller Part 2

Todd Dezago Writer
Carlo Barberi Penciller
Juan Vlasco Inker
Janice Chiang Letterer
Tom McCraw Colorist
Digital Chameleon Separations
Joey Cavalieri Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

This issue's cover: Bart's worst day, captured in time by Ethan Van Sciver and Wayne Faucher. I always associate covers like this with the Bronze Age, whether or not comic historians would agree with my assessment. In any case, DC comics, particularly the Flash, have a long history of these type of melodramatic covers. There's a time and a place for them, and I believe when used sparingly they can be effective. Such is the case here. Carol has always been Bart's friend, but lately, there have been rumblings that she might be a bit more than that. So to take her away just as these feelings are beginning to develop truly makes for "Bart's worst day."

Our story picks right up where last issue left off, with Bart struggling to have a serious conversation with Carol. He tells her how Jeff Weber is a slime ball, who's been seeing Kristin Donovan behind Carol's back. And Bart believes that Carol deserves to be with someone who'll treat her better. Thankfully, Carol is open to Bart's words, and she begins to realize what he's having a hard time saying. She asks Bart who he has in mind, and her speech bubbles come out in the shape of hearts. As Bart embarrassedly stammers, Carol takes his hands and pulls him in for their first, real, romantic kiss.

But before their lips officially touch, Bart's hit in the head with a puff of pink gas. He falls down in a daze, as Carol is grabbed from behind by a masked female figure and pulled into a portal of bright light (essentially what we see on the cover, except Bart's not in his Impulse costume and the colors are different). Carol screams for Bart's help, but he's unable to fight off the effects of the knockout gas. He gets his costume out of his ring, but immediately collapses and can only helplessly watch as the screaming Carol disappears from view. Once the portal dissipates, Bart succumbs to the gas.

Meanwhile, several blocks away, Max has discovered the old Topeka Tattler, detailing Lucius Keller's fatal accident. Max quickly confirms that Helen is not in the house, meaning that his old nemesis has somehow found his way to the 21st century and is after the people Max cares about. This also means that Bart is a potential victim. So Max rushes out the door and slams right into Bart, whose hyper-metabolism has mostly rid him of the knockout gas, although he's still a bit woozy.

Bart tells Max that Carol's been kidnapped, and Max tells Bart that Helen's been kidnapped, too. Once Bart fully recovers, the two speedsters take off to find Keller and rescue Helen and Carol. Max tells Bart the story of Lucius Keller, how he was a brilliant scientist in the late 19th century, who accidentally killed his wife and daughter in a failed experiment involving a rocket-powered locomotive. Keller blamed Max for this tragedy, and when he couldn't kill Max himself, he began killing everyone Max had saved in his course as a superhero.

Max and Impulse then arrive at Keller's secret hideout in New Mexico, and Max tells Impulse to stay hidden outside, acting as their ace-in-the-hole, as he goes in to confront Keller personally. Keller has been waiting for Max, and he freezes his nemesis in place by showing a video of Helen tied up to a bunch of explosives and showing that he has his hand on the detonator. Max agrees to stay still, while Impulse surreptitiously vibrates through the walls to look for Helen and Carol.

Feeling he has the upper hand, Keller begins to gloat, boasting of how he managed to follow Max through time and to his joy discovered he now has a wife and son (mistaking Helen's and Bart's relationship to Max). But Keller has done his homework, knowing that Max's "son" is named Bartholomew and also has super speed, which likely means he's nearby. So Keller amplifies his threat, saying that if he presses the detonator, he'll not only be killing Helen, but also destroying the nearby town of Clayton. And the only way to prevent this tragedy, Keller says, is for Max to submit to his execution to atone for the lives he "so callously ignored."

Impulse stood still a bit too long during Keller's speech, perhaps getting too worked up by the whole situation. Unfortunately, this leads to his capture by a large, squid-like robot. Luckily, Impulse is able to vibrate free from its grasp, but now he's exposed. Keller reminds Max not to move as Bart battles the robot, but Max does advise him to keep vibrating through the machine's tentacles. Bart successfully accomplishes this, but isn't able to make any real progress in the fight until Max tells him to go into the robot's head, recalling their previous battle against Keller's other giant robot. However, Keller was counting on Bart doing exactly that.

Impulse crashes into the squid's head, only to find Helen tied up to about a thousand sticks of dynamite. He frantically tells this to Max, who immediately surrenders to Keller. Bart warns Max not to give in, reminding him of his own words that Keller is insane. Keller mocks Bart's impudence, wondering if all 21st century children refer to their parents by their first names. He tells Impulse that he'll disable the detonator for Helen and will allow Bart to take his "mother" back home. But Keller warns Bart that if he tries to return to save his "father," then he'll decimate Clayton, New Mexico.

As Bart unties Helen, Keller decides to rub some salt in Max's wound by telling him that his "wife" was dressed so immodestly because she was apparently off to meet a "gentleman caller." Max finally tells Keller that he's mistaken and that Helen is actually his daughter. Seeing how this news has thrown Keller off his game, Max digs a little deeper, suggesting that Helen looks how Keller's daughter might have looked had she lived.

It's Keller who has now frozen with fear and uncertainty, and Impulse and Helen stick around to listen to the rest of Max's verbal beat-down. Max points out that Keller must have truly gone mad to have created a time machine, yet not use it to go back in time to save his loved ones from the disaster. Lucius Keller had never considered this, and the weight of this idea causes him to fall to his knees and drop the detonator. Max quickly tells Bart to grab the detonator, while he grabs Keller. The villain doesn't bother putting up a fight, only able to moan about the loss of his wife and daughter. Bart notices that the detonator doesn't appear to be hooked up to anything, but then he realizes something much more crucial — Carol is nowhere to be found.

Bart runs all around the cave, but can't find her. He angrily grabs Keller by the scruff and demands to know where Carol is, but Keller doesn't know who he's talking about. Max promises Bart they'll find Carol as soon as they take Keller to Arkham Asylum and dismantle the time machine before it falls into the wrong hands. But Bart has another idea. Before anyone can stop him, he hops into Keller's time machine, saying, "I'm sorry, Max!! I don't have time!! I hafta go back! I've got to find Carol!! I ... I ... love ... her ..."

Well, here it is. Bart has finally admitted he loves Carol. We've been building to this a long time, so it doesn't feel rushed or forced. But in a small way, I do find this development somewhat bittersweet. Part of the appeal of Impulse to me was that he was a kid, not a teenager dealing with angst and love triangles. But I guess even ageless comic book characters do need to starting growing up a bit — after all, Impulse has been 14 years old for about six years now. So on a whole, I support this storyline with Carol.

Slightly more problematic for me, though, is the storyline of Lucius Keller. How did he know that Max traveled forward in time to the 21st century? From his point of view, Keller was successfully killing all the people Max had saved, until Max suddenly disappeared one day. Shouldn't he have assumed that he drove Max into retirement? Instead, he somehow correctly deduced that Max retreated to more than 100 years in the future. Also, if Max knew where Keller secret hideout was all this time, why didn't he destroy it back in 1896? Keller was using his advanced technology to kill dozens of people, so it seems like Max should have caved in that hideout to cut off the source of Keller's power. Ideally, I think Keller should have left a note with the old newspaper, telling Max where he could find him. Because that was what he ultimately wanted. So yeah, the concept of Keller might have been interesting, but the execution was just a bit too sloppy for me.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Joey Cavaleri urging readers to send in their thoughts on the new art team of Carlo Barberi and Juan Vlasco. He also mentions a Mexican volcano that delayed the delivery of some of his pages (I'm not sure if this led to a pushback of an issue's publication date).

Andy Oliver, of Essex, England, admits he hadn't been reading Impulse for a while, but after picking up the DC Direct figures of Max Mercury and Impulse (guess I need to grab those), he decided to check out Impulse #67. Even though it was the conclusion of a long-running storyline, Andy still found it accessible and entertaining. The party reminded him of a Flash story that had the Rogues throwing a party for Captain Cold, and he was especially glad to see Woozy Winks included. He liked the conversation between Martian Manhunter and Kyle Rayner, and, most importantly, loved the interaction between Max and Bart. Andy points out that those two have come a long way since Impulse #1.

Carlos R. Hall, of Jacksonville, Fla., suggests recruiting Rob Liefeld to do Impulse and a Silver Age Atom/Hawkman miniseries. (I'm personally glad this never happened, because I loathe Liefeld's artwork.) Carlos also asks for Wally West to be reunited with Bart Allen (thank you!) and for mini-busts of the original three members of Young Justice.

Tobias Christopher throws out an idea of Impulse having a little brother who is even more impatient than Bart.

Andy Barclay also likes this idea, saying it'd be a great Elseworlds story. Cavalieri mentions that Ethan Van Sciver recently had an idea that's "not dissimilar" to that.

Michael Bregman, of Gan-Yavne, Israel, points out that the real story of Impulse #69 wasn't Green Lantern, Adam Strange and Impulse fighting a big monster, but rather the development of Bart's character. Michael called it heartbreaking to see Impulse on this guilt trip, and he praises him for going out of his way to save the sea creatures. He liked how Green Lantern apparently saw too much of himself in Impulse, allowing the story to create some fun tension between the two of them, yet still do justice to the two characters. Michael is also happy that Van Sciver is still doing the covers. Now for the new ads:

And you think you friends are weird! The Little Vampire.

Justice takes wing! JSA: The Return of Hawkman by David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns.

Hey, kids! Comics talks about Legion Lost and Green Lantern: Dragon Lord.

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Aladdin: Nasira's Revenge for PlayStation.

Two great talents. One immortal hero. Wonder Woman by George PĂ©rez and Phil Jimenez.

Eat it from the inside out. Eggo Waf-fulls.

Cheese-a-mite! Cheese Nips.

Next time, we head into June 2001, the third-straight month where Impulse only appeared in his own title and Young Justice. So that means we'll be reviewing Young Justice #32.

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