Friday, May 26, 2017

Impulse #75

Dark Tomorrow Part Three

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

This issue's cover is the last for the team of Ethan Van Sciver and Wayne Faucher. And I've got to say, I'm pretty disappointed in this cover. Van Sciver has had some of the best covers for Impulse, but this one just feels lazy. Yes, Impulse is blasted by a big energy beam in this issue, but that doesn't mean we should only see the outline of him. It is possible to draw Impulse glowing with energy and still show the details of his body, particularly his face. And I know it's possible, because Carlo Barberi drew it that way in the book. So, I'm sad to see that Van Sciver officially stepped away from the book on his most disappointing cover. But we're not quite done with Van Sciver — he'll eventually return to this blog through his work on the Flash.

Our story picks up right where last issue left off, with our lovable, teenage Bart Allen, and his older, darker future self together on a space station set to launch several satellites to bathe the Earth in the Hyper-Ray. Protecting these satellites, though, are three massively tall and strong mindless Hyper-Guard soldiers. Adult Bart tells teenage Bart to stick close to him until they develop a strategy, to which teenage Bart wonders if that adult is really a future version of himself. Nevertheless, the teenager does listen to the adult, and they both begin the fight by vibrating through the monsters' attacks. Teenage Bart eventually goads two of the guards into attacking each other, then he tries to get the third to destroy the satellites for him. But Bart gets a little careless and has to be rescued by his adult self.

Adult Bart begins to understand why Wally West had such a hard time with him, then he tells teenage Bart to take out the satellites, while he deals with the final "chabbo." So teenage Bart gets to work, but before he takes out the final ray gun, he notices the shocking violence his future self is displaying.   Adult Bart seems to be taking out all his frustrations on this guard, continuing to savagely beat the monster even after he's down. Teenage Bart grabs his arm and pleads with him to not become a killer. Adult Bart realizes his younger self is right, saying these dark times have turned him into a brutal hero. Teenage Bart then notices the final ray gun has powered up and is about to go off. He rushes toward it to stop it, but he's too late.

Teenage Bart takes the full brunt of the Hyper-Ray, becoming enveloped in a purple energy. As Bart screams out in pain, dozens of golden images of him emerge from his body, appearing to be made of pure energy. When the Hyper-Ray stops, Bart immediately passes out. He wakes up a few moments later on the space ship, and he immediately says he needs to help Max. But adult Bart calms him down, explaining that his quick metabolism has healed his injuries, but they still need to scan him to see if there's any side effects from the Hyper-Ray.

But teenage Bart changes the subject to ask one of the many nagging questions from this adventure: Why didn't adult Bart just go back in time to save Max and Helen in the first place? Adult Bart says he tried to do just that, but for some reason was unable to. He speculates that there are some events in history that simply cannot be changed. He tells his younger self that the history records indicate that after Lucius Keller was arrested, he stole a policeman's gun and fired off a series of shots at point blank range. Max caught all those bullets, but Keller somehow managed to get the gun to Helen's head and shoot her before Max could react. This froze Max in a state of shock, which enabled Keller to kill him, as well.

Teenage Bart excitedly points out that time must have changed by now since the Hyper-Rays were destroyed, and now Carol doesn't have to be "shifted through time or anything now." But both Carols explain that Thawne still has access to her research, and they have merely delayed his plans. Thawne overhears this and begins laughing, revealing that he had a second space station that has already bombarded the southern hemisphere with the Hyper-Ray. Teenage Bart begins to panic, and as he does, a couple more yellow energy versions of himself come out his body and run off.

Fran Russell then turns on the TVs, showing horrific news reports of millions of people going mad with the burst of super speed they can't control, causing massive destruction and death. Both Carols weep at the sight of this, not wanting to be responsible for the loss of so many lives. Teenage Carol then bravely steps forward, saying she will stop this. Teenage Bart tries to talk her out of it, and even adult Carol says she doesn't need to do this, but teenage Carol's mind is set. She tells Eric Russell she wants to go, and he prepares things for her trip through time.

Shortly, a depressed teenage Bart is sitting alone in the dark, when teenage Carol joins him. Bart immediately tells her how crazy her decision is — trying to change something that hasn't even happened yet when they can just go home. Bart asks what he's supposed to tell Carol's brother or their friends when he gets back, but Carol shushes him by placing her hand over his mouth. She admits that she never thought anything would make her happier than just being Bart's friend, and she didn't know if he'd ever feel for her the way she feels for him. Carol then surprises Bart with a big, romantic kiss. Bart quickly recovers, and the two teens kiss and kiss and kiss.

Their adult counterparts walk by this romantic scene and choose not to interrupt. The teens take a break from the kissing, and Bart asks how come they've never done that before. Carol, laughing and crying, says he's why — Bart was never ready, emotionally still a little kid for so long. Bart says he's ready now, and they kiss again. This time, they're interrupted by Meloni announcing it is time.

Back at Dr. Russell's lab, the time portal is open and ready for Carol to walk through. Bart makes one last appeal, saying Carol shouldn't go off alone. Meloni steps forward, saying she'll go with Carol and take good care of her. She gives her son a kiss on the cheek, then let's Carol give Bart one last kiss on the lips. Carol begs Bart to never forget her, saying she'll keep her drawing of Bart to always remember him. She then hands him a small purple package, asking him to wait to open it until she's gone. With that, Carol and Meloni disappear in a flash of light, leaving Bart behind to weep over being separated from his girlfriend and mother.

Unfortunately, the plan still hasn't worked. The adult versions of Bart and Carol haven't ceased to exist like they thought they would by sending Carol further into the future. Eric tries to hypothesize why this plan failed, guessing it has something to do with the inaccessibility of the time around Max's death. Teenage Bart interrupts him, saying he does feel something happening.

Back in the present, Lucius Keller has the gun pressed against Helen's head, gloating about how Max won't be able to outrun this bullet. At that moment, three and a half miles west, a portal opens up, revealing several of the yellow energy Impulses. As they race toward Max and Helen, another portal opens up, and out steps adult Bart. But one of the energy Impulses shoves him back through the portal. The energy Impulses quickly catch up to Max and Helen, disarming Keller, intercepting the bullets, rescuing Helen and tying up the villain all in a split second. The Impulses simultaneously celebrate their victory, then quickly disappear with a "pap" sound when Max tries to address them.

The Impulses reappear in the 30th century and quickly run back into Bart's body, leaving the teen and everyone around him quite confused. Bart then gets new memories, realizing that those other versions of himself saved Max and Helen. Adult Bart and Carol then begin to fade from existence, thanking him for changing the event they couldn't. Bart turns to the Russells, saying since he's changed the past, then Carol didn't need to go to the future. Sadly, Eric tells him there's no time to bring Carol back. History is reshaping itself around them, and they have to quickly get Bart back to the 21st century. And to escort him on his journey home, is Bart's grandmother, Iris Allen.

At the sight of his grandma, all the emotions of the day catch up to Bart, and he breaks down in uncontrollable sobbing. Iris puts a blanket around Bart's shoulders and leads him through the portal. They reemerge in New Mexico, right next to Max and Helen, who understandably have a lot of questions. But Iris tells them that Bart's going to need a little time alone first.

I have very mixed feelings about this issue. First, the good. Dezago gave us a very emotional issue, perfectly handling all of Bart's moods. The wonder and terror of meeting his future self, the perplexed outrage of the absurdity of this entire adventure, the thrill and trepidation of a growing romantic relationship, and the crushing sadness of being separated from loved ones. It all felt natural, thanks in large part to Barberi's solid pencils. And as I've said before, I really enjoyed the concept of sending Bart back to the 30th century to have another confrontation against his evil grandpa. And there were a couple of twists here, which did keep me on my toes a bit.

Unfortunately, I have quite a few fundamental problems with this storyline. To start with, we need to acknowledge that time travel is extremely tricky. Sometimes it's best to just keep things light and simple with time travel, but this story demands that we analyze everything carefully. So here we go:

At the beginning, we're told that Bart and Carol decided to move to the 30th century after Max and Helen get killed. There, they grow up, Helen creates the Hyper-Ray, then realizes Thawne's going to use it to kill off half the Earth's population. Bart initially tries to go back to save Max and Helen, but as we saw later, he was immediately pushed back in the time portal by one of Impulse's energy scouts. Believing that the time period around Max's death was deemed inaccessible by some cosmic power, Carol decides to travel to just a few hours before Max died to kidnap her teenage self and convince her that she needed to travel even further into the future.

What I want to know is how did Max die in the first place? In our timeline, since Carol kidnapped herself, Bart rushed off to find her immediately after defeating Lucius Keller, which left Max alone to try to catch the bullets and protect Helen. But if Carol hadn't been kidnapped, then Bart should have still been there and likely would have saved both Max and Helen, right? And even if Bart somehow messed up, he had Keller's time machine right there and could have made everything right. There were just too many ways this could have been avoided that Dezago failed to address.

Ultimately, the biggest weakness of this story is sheer stupidity of the plan to take Carol into the future. If adult Carol believed the death of Max was unavoidable, then she should have traveled back to a time after the death and convinced Carol that she couldn't move to the 30th century. If Carol stayed in the 21st century with her brother and sister, then she never would have been able to invent the Hyper-Ray. Amazingly, nobody brings this up. Bart gets close to it, and even brings up Carol's brother in this issue, but Carol brushes all arguments aside. And in the end, we see that this grand scheme didn't even change anything anyway, which made me glad because it was so stupid. If Dezago's end goal was to have Carol be lost through time, then he needed to find a better way to get there.

Now for the final, and most important point: Impulse's new powers. On their own, I actually don't mind these powers that much. It sort of makes sense — Impulse now has an excessive amount of Speed Force energy in him that "leaks" out in the form of these scouts. I also know there's going to be some interesting stories involving these scouts coming up soon, and I like to pretend that the Impulse of the DC One Million universe is one of these scouts that survived and evolved through time. But what concerns me is the concept of Impulse getting new powers. It's never a good sign when a minor character gets new powers or a new outfit or a new identity. This usually means that DC editorial believes the character needs some kind of gimmick to spur more sales. Icons like Superman can survive a change to blue, electric powers, but for characters like Impulse, a new power like this is essentially a death sentence. This was DC's way of saying, "If this doesn't boost your sales, then you're gone."

And I'm not just saying this on my own. Todd Dezago pretty much said as much after the series was canceled. He said he had been warned of Impulse's poor sales numbers right when he took over on issue #50. He lamented the editorial efforts to limit the amount of humor in the books, as well as requiring Dezago to have Bart and Carol kiss and to give Impulse new powers. So essentially, the two big things that came about from this storyline, were things that Dezago didn't want to do. I think he made the most of a tough situation, but I also think this lack of enthusiasm accounts for so many of my problems with this story. And, honestly, it probably would have been better to not have Bart and Carol kiss or to give Impulse new powers.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Joey Cavalieri saying he's happy to have the immediate feedback offered through the DC Message Boards. He says Todd Dezago, Ethan Van Sciver, Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins frequently check the comments there, as well.

"A Gorilla in Tights" mentions a rumor that a young speedster will die in Our Worlds at War. Apparently Johns claimed that the Flash would be safe, so "Gorilla" has narrowed the list down to Impulse, XS and Jesse Quick.

"Bart Allen" calls Dezago the best-kept secret in comics between his work on Impulse and Tellos, and he asks if Impulse co-creator Mike Wieringo could do a fill-in issue sometime.

"Impulsive Lad" admits that an Impulse cartoon is a far-fetched idea, but he would like to see Impulse used in a music video by Blink 182 or New Found Glory.

AG1082057 asks if all of Impulse's running in Alabama has a cumulative effect on the weather.

LilChica theorizes that Impulse would need to basically run the same route 24/7 to really effect the weather, which she believes is unlikely due to Bart's impulsive nature and love of video games.

Scott Redding asks Dezago who are some of his favorite teen characters he'd like to see in Impulse.

Todd Dezago answers:

Dear Scott,
Well, the great thing about editor Joey Cavalieri is that, if there's anyone we want to have appear as a guest star or whatnot in the pages of Impulse, he makes it happen. Joey's great!
As for who I'd like to see drop by from the 12-to-19 category ... ?
Well, the Young Justice gang will be showing up very shortly and will pop in a little more frequently from now on. And while she doesn't fit into our current storyline, I have a fondness for XS and would love to see her come back for a visit! I'd also like to fold Hypertime a bit to get the Tangent Flash to swing through Impulse, but, as I said, our current storyline (which we have plotted waaaay into the future ...) doesn't permit an appearance by these guys yet. But don't rule any of them out. I always try to throw in the surprises!
So now that that's said, who would you like to see ... ?

Now for the new ads:

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Next time, we'll begin the Prelude to War with Young Justice: Our Worlds at War #1.

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