Sunday, July 23, 2017

Year in Review: 2001

I turned 14 in 2001, the same age Bart Allen made his debut at. (Well, technically he first arrived as a 12-year-old, but he quickly became 14 while Flash was chasing him.) Coming off a rough and angry 2000 as a moody 13-year-old, I grew a bit more calm and confident as I aged. And most significantly, 2001 saw the debut of two massive film series that would shape my teenage years.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's if you're one of those weird people who think a philosopher is someone who casts magic spells) was the highest grossing film of the year with an outstanding $975 million. Right behind it was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. And like I said, those two franchises (combined with Star Wars) determined everything I did for the next few years, from the annual tradition of watching the movie, to reading the books, to playing the games. They were everywhere and they were wonderful. I also really enjoyed the third and fourth highest grossing movies, Monsters, Inc. and Shrek. A Beautiful Mind dominated the Academy Awards, winning four Oscars. Sadly, there weren't any superhero films this year, but we did have the Justice League animated series on TV.

Of course, we can't talk about 2001 without mentioning 9/11. I remember my mom telling me an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center while I was putting in my contacts. I watched the second plane hit, then had to catch the bus to school. At school, all the teachers had been in an early morning meeting and didn't believe us at first. But we convinced them this really happened, and then we all spent the rest of the day, every class, just watching TV. When I got home from school, my scout master asked us all to put up flags around the neighborhood. A little boy asked me why we were doing that, and I could say was that a lot of people died today.

Everyone became a bit more somber after that. Even DC Comics, which coincidentally spent the preceding summer on a massive crossover focusing on the enormous costs of war. If DC was heading in a more serious direction before September 11, then that tragedy only amplified that trend, slowly pushing out the light and silly books of Impulse and Young Justice. And that's not to say it was just grumpy old editors and writers wanting to move in a more mature direction — the sales numbers backed this up. Impulse and Young Justice had a loyal, but dwindling fan base.

If 2000 was the climax of Impulse, then 2001 was the start of his decline. Bart randomly got a new power, which felt like a forced editorial mandate until it was used effectively during Our Worlds at War. Bart did start to grow up a little bit, even developing a romantic relationship with longtime friend Carol. But as soon as that happened, Carol was taken away from Bart due to ... rather convoluted reasons. Impulse did have some great moments in Young Justice this year, goofing off a lot with Superboy and putting his spaceship, The Max, to good use. But then Bart quit the team and quit being Impulse altogether at the end of the year. And sadly, Impulse didn't make any appearances in The Flash in 2001, making it the first year he didn't show up at least once in the series he debuted in. (Thanks, Geoff Johns!)

Best Issue: Young Justice #31

Young Justice wins this award for the first time, thanks in part to a rather weak showing from the main Impulse series. Nothing really stood out there from the Lucius Keller arc, Dark Tomorrow or Our Worlds at War. There were strong, significant moments in those stories, but no single issue stood out in the way Young Justice #31 did. This silent issue showcased the fun Impulse-Superboy relationship, gave us great insight into Impulse's thought process, and displayed the excellent storytelling abilities of Peter David and Todd Nauck. It was the funniest, most perfect Impulse story of the year. By far.

Best Writer: Peter David

This is David's first award, mostly thanks to Young Justice #31. But he did give us a solid year of Young Justice, as well, taking us from the imaginative baseball game on Myrg through the emotional aftermath of Our Worlds at War. And even when Impulse was barely involved in some issues, David still found a way to give Bart the best lines — from his discussion of eating with dead people, to him hypnotizing Lobo. Sadly, another reason David won this award was because Todd Dezago had a really disappointing year. I realize he wasn't too keen about having Bart kiss Carol, nor did he want to give Bart new powers. But I think he could have done a better job with those mandates. At least find a more plausible reason for Carol to be removed from Bart's life. Perhaps Dezago needed editor L.A. Williams to help sort these things out.

Best Artist: Todd Nauck

This is Nauck's second award, after having churned out another mind-blowing amount of high-quality work. He didn't miss a single issue of Young Justice this year, and even found time for the extra-long Our Worlds at War special. His detail, facial expressions, action scenes and comedic timing all work together to make Young Justice a beautiful treat each and every issue. Newcomer Carlo Barberi did give Nauck a run for his money, though, having made a surprisingly strong debut after Ethan Van Sciver's departure. But Barberi still had a few rough patches this year. And besides, have you seen how amazing Young Justice #31 is?

Best Supporting Character: Carol Bucklen

I really wanted to give this award to Superboy. Not only did he and Impulse have tons of fun together, but Superboy was by far the most affected by Bart's accident on Apokolips. But at the end of the day, this award belongs to Bart's first girlfriend. It really was sweet to watch Bart gradually realize he had feelings for Carol and was becoming jealous when she was with other boys. And it really was courageous of Carol to make the heart-breaking decision to leave her boyfriend to save the world. I do wish that part made more sense, but it still was sad, nonetheless.

Best Villain: President Thawne

I struggled with this one. When Inertia's not around, there just doesn't seem to be anybody to give Impulse a proper challenge. True, Bart was practically killed this year, but who killed him? It was a Parademon that had exploded into a fireball after Granny Goodness detonated its self-destruct belt. But she didn't do that to kill Impulse — he just happened to be on Apokolips because of the big war against Imperiex and Brainiac 13. So who's to blame for Bart's death? No one, really. It was a freak accident. But even though this "death" put Bart in a coma for a few days, he was able to bounce back from that a lot quicker than the loss of Carol. And who's responsible for that? Bart's villainous grandfather, Earthgov President Thaddeus Thawne. He wins his second award by simply being pure evil. He took an invention designed to cure people of disease, and he used it to create super-speed soldiers for himself and murder a majority of Earth's population. And not only did he separate Bart from his girlfriend, but he also separated Bart from his mother for the second time.

Next time, we'll begin the year 2002, which will sadly be the final year for the Impulse comic series. But until we get there, we'll find a way to get Bart back in the Impulse outfit, return to Young Justice, and slog through a couple more crossovers. It all begins with Impulse #80.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Impulse #79

No Laughing Matter: A Max Mercury Adventure

Todd Dezago • Writer
Aluir Amancio • Guest Penciler
Walden Wong • Guest 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 is by Ed McGuinness and Jason Martin! And this is a good-looking cover. The villain is a gaseous entity, corrupted by Joker's gas, causing the giant, menacing grin. However, I do have two complaints. One, if you're going to get McGuinness to draw a cover, why not get Wieringo instead? His style is exactly the same, and he actually co-created the character. Two, Impulse is not involved in this fight. Bart never even puts on the costume in this issue. I get that every cover of Impulse should have Impulse on it, but still ... let's not completely misrepresent the story inside.

Our story begins at one of the famous prisons in the DC Universe, the Slab, where Joker gas has been pumped through the halls. All the insane, Jokerized inmates begin rioting, in the process breaking the airtight seal on one of the most secure cells. The gaseous being inside mingles with the Joker gas, realizes he is free, and begins laughing maniacally.

We then cut to Max Mercury, out on patrol at a frozen lake in Siberia. He rescues a drowning man and drops him off at a hospital, speaking fluent Russian to ensure the man will survive. Max then heads home, making sure to change into his civilian clothes before stepping inside because Helen's boyfriend, Matt Ringer, is visiting once again. Max assures Matt he's still on for their monster truck rally with the boys next weekend. Bart is in the backyard, playing with Preston and Dox, and Max is pleased to see how much happier Bart has become in the past week since giving up being Impulse.

Bart then walks with Preston back to his house, and Preston is carrying a box of musketeer costumes for some reason. Halloween is approaching, and Preston wonders what they're going to be this year, noting that they can't be the three musketeers again now that Carol's gone. Bart remembers how the three of them looked last year, spending extra time remembering Carol. Becoming lost in his memories, he barely pays attention to Preston suggesting they could go as the two musketeers if Bart's willing to put the old costume on again. When Bart hears the word costume, he thinks of his Impulse costume, and angrily tells Preston he's not going to put that costume on anymore.

Preston's shocked by Bart's outburst, and he tries to calm him down. Bart quickly apologizes, using the futuristic slang word "grife." Preston notes Bart's been using that word a lot lately and he wonders where it comes from. Bart immediately says that's how they talk in the future. He starts to tell Preston about how he and Carol went to the future, but stops himself, and says he and Carol saw a movie about the future. Preston grills Bart on which movie it was, so Bart calls it "Future Talk," saying it was boring because all they did was talk. Preston, however, is not convinced.

We return to Max Mercury, who has resumed his ritual of Speed Force meditation. But this time, instead of communing with the speedsters of the past, Max senses the release of one of his old foes, Ether. In an extended flashback scene, we learn that Ether was a lab assistant named Clarence Shearson, who was helping develop a radical method to cure cancer. The process proved too dangerous, but Clarence insisted on trying it on himself. The result gave him the ability to turn his body into a gas, but his breech in protocol got him fired from his job. In retaliation, Clarence became a villain named Ether, but he was a pretty pathetic villain. Throughout the years, Max battled Ether, always defeating him with ease. One time, Max even teamed up with Barry Allen to stop Ether, who gradually broke down physically and psychologically.

In the present, Max knew Ether would want revenge on his old research facility, and that's where he found him. The Jokerized cloud of gas is completely mad now, believing a random scientist is his old boss, who actually died a year and a half ago. Upon seeing Max, Ether tries to kill him by flooding into his body through Max's nose and mouth. But Max is able to hold his breath long enough until he finds an airtight room to expel Ether into. (During this process, Max vibrated through several walls — an ability he previously did not have. Did he gain this ability after his recent trip to the Speed Force?) Anyway, the day is saved and Max tries to tell himself that the Joker is more to blame than Ether in this case.

This issue was incredibly lame. Lackluster art combined with a lackluster story in a lackluster attempt to connect to a major crossover. I don't mind giving Max the focus, but it was done in such a boring, inconsequential manner. Who is Ether? As far as I could tell, he's an original villain created for this issue. The problem with that is when Ether becomes Jokerized, we can't tell if he's acting any differently. We have no prior experience to this character. Surely Todd Dezago could have brought back another villain we've seen previously in Impulse.

What I really would have loved to have seen is Inertia get a dose with the Joker gas here. Joey Cavalieri had been hinting that Inertia might come back and take a stab at being a hero. This would have been the issue to do it. Thad could have heard that Bart quit being Impulse and was having a hard time, and decided to try to patch things up with him. And then on his way to Manchester, he could have been exposed to the Joker gas, which would have given us a wild and silly Inertia, in direct contrast with the serious Inertia we know. That would have been an awesome issue!

Impulsive Reactions begins with Joey Cavalieri announcing he'll be attending Comic Con International: San Diego (that's what they called it back then) with Carlo Barberi and Juan Vlasco.

Kamandi 2 says he first started reading comics with Superboy #198, which featured the Legion of Super-Heroes. Fascinated with the idea of a whole "legion" of heroes, Kamandi began collecting everything DC, including Impulse.

Imp says his first comic was World Without Grown-Ups. From there, he began reading Young Justice, then finally started picking up Impulse with Impulse #54.

Disaster says he started with Impulse #3, having flipped through it in a comic shop and seeing it was different from everything else he'd read.

CoolGuy started with Impulse #1 after happening to see it in his shop, and he's been hooked on it since then.

ProfZoom also started with issue #1, having been excited to see a Flash spinoff.

DataLore has been enamored with Impulse since he first appeared in The Flash, calling him an updated Kid Flash and commentary on modern youth acting before they think.

Lethal says the Flash TV show brought him to the comic series, but he really didn't enjoy it until Mark Waid took over, making him a fan for life. He recognized Humberto Ramos' work from a couple of issues of Superboy, and was very excited for him to start the spinoff Impulse series. Lethal says issue #3 is still the best of the series.

Rick2Tails was also brought in by Ramos' art, but not until the series was in the 20s. But when he did start, he immediately had to get all the back issues.

Kyle says he started reading Impulse from the beginning. He has considered dropping the book several times due to questionable art, but now he's enjoying it a lot more. Kyle does admit, however, that he's still getting more laughs from Young Justice.

DeathScythe2680 says he was brought in by Ramos' art and stayed because the series always makes him laugh. Now for the new ads:

Nautica. (For the first time in a long time, Bart and Preston were not wearing Nautica clothes!)

Prancer Returns. A USA original movie. This two-page ad comes with a very annoying and thick activity book, connected from page 4 to page 20. I'd love to rip it out, but I don't know how to do that without destroying the whole comic book.

Need a lifeline? Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Kids Edition CD-ROM.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for PlayStation, PC CD-ROM, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance.

Power Rangers Time Force for PlayStation, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance and PC CD-ROM.

Scan this barcode. Save the world. Scan Command.

Rumble Robots. Interactive fighting robots.

Now you can master the goofiest moves! Extremely Goofy Skateboarding.

The Powerpuff Girls soundtracks: The City of Soundsville and Heroes & Villains.

Cardcaptors. Songs from the hit TV series.

Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase.

Got milk? with Ronald McDonald and two kids, labeled Small, Medium and Super Size.

Well, that's it for Impulse comics with a publication date in 2001. Next time, we'll look back on the year and hand out some awards before beginning the final year of Impulse, 2002.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Young Justice #38

Stuff Happens

Peter David – Writes
Todd Nauck – Pencils
Lary Stucker – Inks
Ken Lopez – Letters
Jason Wright – Colors
Digital Chameleon – Seps
Tom Palmer, Jr. – Assistant Edits
Eddie Berganza – Edits

This is the one and only Young Justice cover not drawn by Todd Nauck (I guess he was too busy with the Our Worlds at War special). Walt Simonson gives us a "Jokerized" Superboy, with everybody barfing behind him. I don't know why they're all barfing — is he stinky? And Wonder Girl getting a spoon ready seems excessive. But one thing I do know is that actually isn't Superboy. It's his evil clone, Match, who has been "Jokerized" because this is an official tie-in of DC's next big event, Joker: Last Laugh. I find it odd that DC immediately jumped into a big Joker event just as soon as the dust settled on Our Worlds at War. Luckily, though, this issue is kind of a reluctant, minimal tie-in.

Our story begins with Bart Allen returning to the Young Justice headquarters at the Catskill resort. It's been a little while since he initially quit, but not long enough for them to repair the whole in the roof Lobo created just before they went off to the war. Robin, Empress, Secret, Wonder Girl and Cissie are all hanging out, eating pizza and junk food when Bart walks in to grab some things he forgot last time. Empress reminds everyone that she knew Bart would come back, and Wonder Girl immediately starts telling Bart that he can't just up and quit the team. Bart insists that he doesn't want to be Impulse anymore, but Cassie believes he really wants his teammates to convince him to stay, otherwise, she argues, he would have just gathered his possessions at super speed and zoomed away without anyone seeing him.

Bart simply says he's trying to get used to a new lifestyle, but Anita coldly says he's full of it. Secret scolds her for not being nice, but Anita is insulted by Bart quitting the team. She explains that she can respect Cissie's reasons for giving up being Arrowette, but with Bart, she feels being shaken by the war isn't a valid reason. Cissie asks to be left out of this conversation, and Bart says he's glad to have her support his decision. But to his shock, Cissie says she doesn't agree with Bart. She explains that she had lots of reasons for quitting, but a fear of being killed was not one of them. Cissie believes that if you're afraid of dying, then you risk being afraid of living, which is where she thinks Bart's head is right now. Bart gives Cissie a sad, painful look of betrayal, and tries to explain how it's different when you actually see yourself die. But Bart decides not to labor the point and just starts walking away.

As Bart walks Robin, he tells him he's not going to kiss him on the way out, and Cassie pleads with Robin to convince Bart to stay. Robin looks at her for a moment, then stands up and tells Bart he's leaving with him. Everyone is shocked by this — two founding members of Young Justice, including their leader, are gone, just like that. Robin explains that he was a leader that wasn't trusted, a leader tarnished with guilt by association with Batman. He says there's a lot of things in life that don't make sense right now, and this group is one of the biggest. Until he gets things sorted out, his contribution is diminished.

Cassie apologizes for what happened on Apokolips, and she urges Robin to at least wait for Superboy to show up, knowing that he'll apologize, too. Robin says it's not about that, and Cassie calls him a liar. Robin points out how odd it is to be called a liar immediately after being told he is trusted. He says the war taught him that life's too short for the kind of grief he got from Young Justice. Cassie angrily says, "Fine. Go. Get out. Quit. See if I care." And she stops Robin from saying he doesn't want there to be any hard feelings. Cissie and Empress are glaring at Robin, but Secret is openly weeping. Robin tries to approach her, but she says she's glad Spoiler will get more time with him, and sends him away. So Robin and Impulse officially quit Young Justice, leaving behind four emotionally distressed teenage girls.

The girls are so emotional, that the arrival of the Jokerized Match doesn't even faze them. Match's mind has been warped by the Joker gas, and he's much more silly than diabolical this time. In fact, he's downright harmless. Which is good for the girls, because they're so distracted, they believe Match is the real Superboy trying to pull an elaborate stunt to cheer them up. But the real Superboy is having a heart-to-heart with Supergirl on the Statue of Liberty.

Cassie calls up Red Tornado to tell him that Robin has also quit the team, and the android says he's not entirely surprised. He does point out, though, that he might have been able to forestall Robin's decision had he not been asked to keep his distance from the team to let them "recover." Regardless, Red Tornado had seen the seams of Young Justice coming apart even before the war, so he made arrangements for them to have a new leader. He didn't want to take charge of the team himself, since that could make the teens feel like they were "running back to Daddy." Instead, he asked Snapper Carr to fill this role.

Meanwhile, Anita goes to check on the mysterious pilot who saved them from Young Justice. It's Lobo ... sort of. Except this Lobo is small and skinny and has yellow eyes instead of red. (He will later be named Slobo, so for clarity's sake, I'll came him that now.) Since piloting Young Justice back home, Slobo has holed up in one of the resort's rooms and trashed it in a bout of self-pity and malaise.   He tells Anita that he's disgusted with his own cowardice, explaining that when the original Lobo was killed by Parademons, every drop of his blood grew into a new Lobo. This massive army of rapidly aging Lobos initially sought revenge on the Parademons, then would eventually turn on each other until only one Lobo would remain, who would grow to adulthood and become just like the original Lobo before he was turned into a kid.

But Slobo was a genetic outlier, the only non-identical clone, much smaller and weaker than the rest. Recognizing this, Slobo snuck onto Impulse's ship, The Max, found some clothes and completed the repairs. Even though he saved Young Justice, he feels like a failure since he ran away from a fight. He remembers being Lobo and laughing death in the face, but now, crippled by fear, he doesn't feel worthy of the name Lobo.

Match then launches an overly elaborate and ridiculous death trap for Wonder Girl, trying to start a gas light and trick her into striking a match to light the candles for his "romantic" dinner of uncooked spaghetti and raw meat. Cassie still thinks this is the real Superboy goofing off, so she begins yelling at him and crying at him and wondering why she even loved him. Match becomes overwhelmed with emotions and flies away. The real Superboy arrives to find Cassie crying. He follows Supergirl's advice and tells Cassie he cherishes their relationship and apologizes if he hurt her. Cassie immediately gives Kon a big hug and asks him to forget everything she said earlier and just go back to the way things were before. Kon's a bit confused by this, but he agrees. Secret, however, is still distraught. Kneeling by the Super-Cycle, she begs Robin to return, promising to not be evil if he just comes back.

I'm really sad that this issue had to be a part of the Joker: Last Laugh crossover, mainly because of the cover it gave us. The subplot with Match was rather inconsequential and the only source of humor in the story. But when two founding members quit the team, we deserve a much stronger cover. Anyway, I wasn't surprised to see Robin quitting the team, given how everyone had been treating him. And to show just how mad he is at Superboy, Robin made sure to leave while Kon was away. Poor Bart, though, was met with unexpected harshness from his friends. I get that they're emotional teenage girls, and they all briefly got their hopes up that Bart was coming back to the team, but still! They were pretty mean to him! But Bart handled it well, I thought. He could have gone into more detail about what it felt like to die vicariously, or he could have told them about how he lost his girlfriend, Carol. But that only would have made everyone even more upset than they already were.

I'm completely ambivalent about Snapper Carr coming out of nowhere to join the team for basically no reason. But I am fascinated with the concept and character of Slobo (although I wish he had a more creative name). However, for better and worse (mostly worse), we're going to be skipping a handful of issues of Young Justice now that Impulse is off the team. This makes complete sense from an in-story perspective, but from a marketing perspective, this move spells death for a character who was already suffering with low sales numbers. Impulse hasn't shown up in The Flash in more than a year, and now that he's not in Young Justice, his exposure is confined to just his own series ... where he's not Impulse anymore ... This is the beginning of the end.

Our letters to the editor begin with Jason Smith talking about Young Justice #34, which Impulse didn't appear in. He compliments the creative team of Peter David, Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker for staying together for so long and still keeping fresh. Jason also wonders where Red Tornado has been lately.

Hunion Joe simply asks for Firestorm to join the team. Eddie Berganza opens up this question to the readers: Should they bring back Impulse and Robin, or just add new members?

We only have two letters this month because of a big promo for Joker: Last Laugh tie-ins. So let's check out the new ads:

Nintendo GameCube. Born to play.

Starburst. Twelve chances to improve your aim.

Good vs. or Evil. The Mummy Returns for PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Color.

Just Very Cool. JVC DVD player with a contest to win a trip to the premier of The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand.

The action is real but the actors are not. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

The meek shall inherit the Earth but not Dominaria. Magic: The Gathering.

Every story has a beginning. Smallville. (I never watched this show, considering it "Superman for girls" and I still stand by that. But a character named Bart Allen allegedly showed up in a few episodes, so I'll try to review them when we get there.)

Boxing Fever for Game Boy Advance.

Hey, Kids! Comics! talks all about Smallville. (Seriously, why have a show about Superman where he's not Superman?)

Get digitized into an EA Sports video game! Contest through CornNuts.

Arctic Thunder for PlayStation 2.

He's your little brother. Don't do anything you wouldn't want him doing. Family. My anti-drug.

Luigi's Mansion for GameCube.

Take control. Think. Don't smoke.

You can't kill what you can't catch. Spy Hunter for PlayStation 2.

Higher weight, lower reps. CapriSun Big Pouch.

Got chocolate milk? with biker Mat Hoffman.

Next time, Bart's still out of the race as the world continues to go Joker crazy in Impulse #79.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Impulse #78

Losing the Impulse

Todd Dezago • Writer
Carlo Barberi • Penciller
Rich Faber • Guest Inker
Janice Chiang • Letterer
Tom McCraw • Colorist
Digital Chameleon • Separator
Joey Cavalieri • Editor
Impulse created by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo

This issue's cover depicts Impulse in both the attic and debasement by Carlo Barberi and Wayne Faucher! All kidding aside, this is one of the most powerful, heart-breaking covers in all of Impulse. The lighting, the tears streaming down Bart's face, Max and Helen helplessly looking on. Everything works in the saddest way. I think it's much more tragic to have a hero choose to quit than simply be defeated by a villain. And that's what we get here. Also, what really kicks this cover up a notch is all the Easter Eggs in the background. We have boxes labeled for Helen, Max and Wally (for some reason), with stick figure graffiti on Max's and Wally's boxes, presumably from Bart. And among Bart's Impulse memorabilia, we have a picture of him with Wally and another picture with what looks like Terra and Damage from Bart's old New Titans days. And, yes, Bart is wearing a Nautica shirt as usual (when will that sponsorship end?).

Our story begins with Max filling Wally in on everything that's happened to Bart the past few weeks (since Wally no longer interacts with Bart, thanks to Geoff Johns!). Max tells Wally all about Bart's adventure to the 30th century, how he acquired his new power to create scouts, and how one of those scouts was killed on Apokolips, putting Bart into a comatose state, which lasted several days. Max was touched that while Bart recovered, he was visited by just about everyone — Jay and Joan Garrick, Red Tornado, Nightwing, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Plastic Man, Green Lantern, Dr. Midnight, Tempest, the Star-Spangled Kid, Starfire, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Big Barda, Supergirl, and Superman.

Max told Bart's Young Justice friends (Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy, Empress and Cissie) that it'll take a few weeks before Bart's back on his feet. Max then told Bart's neighborhood friends (Preston, Mike, Wade and Ayana) that Bart came down with double walking pneumonia, which Preston thought was "awesome cool." Bart returned to school the following week, and managed to catch back up fairly easily. But Max is concerned about the boy's attitude, telling Wally: "But there's something still not right; this isn't our Bart ... he's ... he's sad. And he's lost any interest he'd had in being ... a hero."

Wally suggests having Bart talk to a professional therapist, pointing out that what he suffered on Apokolips goes beyond "traumatic." Max agrees, then puts the conversation on hold so the two running speedsters can help a family change a flat tire. Max lifts up the van with a little vortex, Flash puts the new tire on, and bids the family farewell with a bad pun: "You're on your way with time to spare!" As Max and Wally run through Norfolk, Nebraska, Max tells Wally the rest of the story about Bart's adventure to the future, namely, how Carol chose to stay in a different time period, just after Bart had fallen in love with her. Wally comes screeching to a halt, shocked to hear that not only had Bart fallen in love, but that he was willing to tell Max about it. Max asks what's so weird about this, and Wally says kids don't usually tell these things to their fathers. Wally catches himself at the word "father" and tries to explain it away, but Max brushes him off, seemingly pleased with the title.

Max and Wally take off, zooming past the Norfolk County Courthouse, not realizing that one of Impulse's (few) foes is inside. White Lightning is at a hearing for her mother, and is dismayed when the judge orders her to solitary confinement without visitation until the trial, along with a bail of $200,000 due to her history of escaping custody before her trial date is set. White Lightning tries to say goodbye to her mom, but is pushed away by a guard. She begins to use her hypnotic charms on him, but her father, Detective Bramer, is there to stop her. White Lightning vows to raise the money for her mom's bail legally, remembering Impulse's advice to use her powers for good.

Back in Manchester, Alabama, Bart is quietly playing fetch with Dox in the backyard when Max asks if he wants to go on a run with him. Bart sadly says that he doesn't feel like running anymore. As he struggles to explain his emotions, Max tells him it's okay to not want to run and it's okay to not know how you feel. Max explains that Bart's been through so much these past few weeks that it's perfectly normal for him to be sad and confused, and, at the end of the day, he trusts Bart to make the right decisions. Preston then comes cover, eager to show his friend something that's guaranteed to lift his spirits — the latest issue of the After-Life Avenger, guest starring Ben Steel and his bear, Hans!

But to Preston's disappointment, this exciting comic book has no effect on Bart's mood. Bart leads Preston into his room and climbs up on his bed, apologizing for not being able to be cheered up. Preston realizes that Bart's sad about Carol, and as he talks, Bart pulls out Carol's broken heart locket. Preston then deduces that Bart actually did kiss her, but he spots a flaw in Bart's story. He said he kissed Carol right before she left with his mom, then he corrects himself and says he meant her mom, then he has to correct himself again and says he meant before she went to her grandmother's. Meanwhile, Rolly is doing the final editing on their Impulse movie. He knew they captured some footage of the real Impulse coming to save them from falling off the walkway, but he's now found something odd. In one frame, Bart is standing next to Carol, wearing his Dr. Bad costume. But in the next frame, Bart is completely gone, and the real Impulse is there in his place.

We then head to the Sheffield Savings Bank in Sheffield, Alabama, where White Lightning is trying to withdraw her trust fund. But the female teller won't let her do that without her mother's signature. Growing frustrated, White Lightning demands to see a male teller. She causes a big enough scene that the manager comes out to talk to her. Lucky for White Lightning, the manager is a male, and she uses her powers on him to get her money.

Meanwhile, Max Mercury has resumed an activity he hasn't done for a while because of Bart's troubles — probing the Speed Force through meditation. He seems to be having a conversation with Johnny Quick, telling him how much Bart has matured lately. Helen then interrupts him, saying that her boyfriend, Matt Ringer, is over, asking to talk to Max. So Max heads out to the front yard, and Matt tells him how strained his relationship is with his son, Mike. He's noticed how cool and casual Max and Bart are, and he's hoping to have an activity with the four of them so Mike could see how fathers and sons can be. Max is once again pleasantly taken aback at being called Bart's father, and he agrees to the plan. Matt eagerly explains that he wants to go to the monster truck rally in two weeks, rejoicing that this might give his son a chance to be happy. Max looks over at Bart, and agrees that kids should be happy all the time.

We then return to White Lightning, who has come to the sad realization that her depleted trust fund still isn't enough money to post her mother's bail. She watches TV in her trailer home, learning of a big concert coming to the Birmingham Coliseum, starring Holly Matchet, Leonard Schmenard and the Daniel Charlie Band. White Lightning knows she could rob the ticket box to get more than enough money for her band, but she also really wants to follow Impulse's advice to put good out and get good back.

And so, Max finds Bart once again playing fetch with Dox. As he sits down next to the teen, Bart tells him it used to be so much fun, racing around and helping everybody. But after Apokolips, and everything with Carol, it just isn't fun anymore. Bart admits that lately, being Impulse is sad. Max says he's behind Bart on this (having to clarify he means he supports him), and he explains that when he first agreed to train him, his goal was merely to teach him how to control his powers — not to be a superhero. That's what Bart became anyway, but Max points out that he doesn't have to be that anymore. It's tough enough just being a kid, and all he an Helen want is for Bart to be happy. With this encouragement, Bart finally comes out and says he wants to quit being Impulse.

Bart visits the Catskills resort to tell Young Justice his decision, breaking the news in front of Red Tornado, Wonder Girl, Robin, Secret, Superboy, Cissie and Empress. Everybody is shocked by this, especially Superboy, who says that nobody quits Young Justice. Even though Cissie quit, she still hangs out with them. But Robin steps forward and says he understands how all of them must think about quitting from time to time, and how this lifestyle can sometimes be too much. Robin says sometimes they need to step away for a little while, and sometimes they need to step away for good.

And so, everybody says goodbye to Bart. Wonder Girl is the first to hug him, saying, "You take care, Speedy." Empress shakes his hand, saying she knows he'll be back. Cissie ruffles Bart's hair, saying he owes her an ice cream. Secret blows him a kiss, telling him it won't be the same without him. Red Tornado congratulates Bart on making a mature decision and says he's always welcome back should he change his mind. Finally, Superboy grasps Bart's hand and ruffles his hair, saying they're going to miss him, but they understand he has to do what he has to do. And with that, Bart walks away from Young Justice, with Empress repeating her belief that he'll be back.

Our story concludes with White Lightning giving in to temptation. With three armed teenage boys under her control, she robs the Birmingham Coliseum box office, simply saying she got tired of waiting for good stuff to come to her.

This issue was sad and quiet. Yet it flowed naturally out of the preceding stories. Bart has made a tragic decision, but an understandable one. It is going to be rough getting through the next few months without Impulse, but luckily his supporting characters are developed enough to keep things interesting. Bart's friends are beginning to piece together his secret identity, ironically right when he gives it up. Max has resumed probing the Speed Force, which will eventually lead to more storylines. Helen and Matt are progressing as a couple. And White Lightning has fully returned to a life of crime. In the meantime, poor Bart is going to have to try to find motivation to become Impulse again.

Impulsive Reactions begins with Chuck Brouillette, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., expressing appreciation for Impulse serving as the bloodline to the bridge of Barry Allen's legacy, going back to Bart whispering "Grampa" when he first saw a picture of him in World Without Grown-Ups. Chuck though Impulse #75 nicely wrapped up the Dark Tomorrow storyline. He also finds Bart's new powers of time travel fitting, considering how his grandpa's role in the DCU was to connect with the past and visit the future.

Joe Nah suggests having Bart completely give up his Impulse outfit in favor of the old yellow Kid Flash outfit. And should Bart become less impulsive after Our Worlds at War, then a name change would be in order, as well. Joey Cavalieri seems genuinely interested by this idea.

Archangel1 claims that Impulse would never in a million years wear the Kid Flash costume of his own free will, primarily because the bright yellow would make him too big a target for enemies. Archangel1 does, however, agree that it's time for a new outfit.

Tobias Christopher points out that Bart did wear yellow in the Secret Society of Super-Heroes, which he says has a pretty great ending.

Anthony O'Brien says his first issue was Impulse #9, and he fell in love with Jenni Ognats, comparing her to Disney's Little Mermaid. Anthony also fell in love with the rest of the cast and crew of the book and scooped up all the back issues. He says the first two issues of the series weren't that great, but Impulse #3 was when it found its heart.

Max Mercury II says he didn't start buying the book until Impulse #61. He was first brought in through The Flash and Young Justice, and the clincher was when he found out the writer of World Without Grown-Ups was writing Impulse.

Corndog7 says his path to Impulse actually started in Aquaman. He enjoyed Tempest and followed him to the Titans, where he grew to love the Flash and Jesse Quick. Once he started reading The Flash, he began craving more adventures with Jay Garrick and Max Mercury. Finally, he got on board with Impulse in time for the Mercury Falling arc. Now for the new ads:

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Hey, Kids! Comics! talks about the new Justice League animated series (which almost had Impulse on it).

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Next time, we'll see how Bart's hero friends really react to him quitting the team in Young Justice #38.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Superboy #92

Superboy #92

Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Heart!

Eddie Berganza & Joe Kelly Writers
Pascual Ferry Pencils
Keith Champagne Inks
Jason Wright Colors
Digital Chameleon Seps
Comicraft Letters
Mike McAvennie Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

Our cover puts Superboy in a bizarre Wonderland situation, with Granny Goodness as the Queen of Hearts, Impulse as the March Hare, and a villain named Dr. Sin as the Mad Hatter. Impulse works wonderfully as a rabbit, going back to Humberto Ramos deliberately giving the boy rabbit-like qualities. This is a fun look for him, with his hair up as rabbit ears, a pretty sharp suit on him, and a content expression on his face as he chomps down on a hot dog. But what does any of this have to do with anything? Let's find out.

Our story begins with Superboy still feeling very haunted by Our Worlds at War. He has a cute little drawing (I'm assuming he made) of Young Justice, but his consuming grief over Bart's "death" has prompted him to burn this paper. (I'm not sure where he is that has a fireplace. Perhaps the Catskills resort that's become the new YJ headquarters?)

Superboy can't get the images of the war out of his head. Being stranded on Apokolips. Watching — and smelling — a piece of Bart die. The legion of Lobos, which Kon admits would have been funny except for the fact that they all died, too (except for one, presumably). The tough task of breaking the bad news to Red Tornado. And once again, the horrified look on Impulse's face as his scout was fried alive. Superboy's drawing finishes burning, and he decides to head out.

Kon flies to Smallville to visit the Kents, worried that he'll have a nervous breakdown in front of them about Impulse still being in a coma. He talks to Ma Kent for about two seconds before Superman suddenly shows up, angrily telling Superboy that he needs to be undergoing tests at S.T.A.R. Labs to make sure he doesn't have any lingering effects from his time spent in Granny Goodness' "classroom." But Superman can barely get that order out before he starts to cry and slowly flies away. Martha tells Kon that Clark has been carrying all the burdens of the war, blaming himself for the deaths of Lois Lane's father, General Sam Lane; Wonder Woman's mother, Hippolyta; and even the accident that befell Impulse. And, perhaps worst of all, Jonathan Kent, Clark's dad, is still missing.

At Martha's encouragement, Kon tries to talk to Clark, joining on a hill overlooking the sunset. Kon starts out optimistically, saying he knows Superman will be able to find Pa Kent, but he can't keep up the cheery attitude for long. Superboy asks when is it going to stop feeling like this, and Superman says, "When you find out, let me know."

We then enter the bizarre, Wonderland dream sequence the cover advertised. It starts simple enough, with Superboy flying over Metropolis when he suddenly spots Impulse zooming by. Kon follows his friend through a graveyard, which gets wackier and wackier until he catches up with Bart, who's wearing the March Hare outfit from the cover. Bart explains his costume with, "You'dbeamazedwhatHef'spayingmodelsthesedays," before announcing he's late and takes off again.

Superboy follows Bart's path to a giant door with Steel's head as the doorknob. Supergirl shows up, offering a shrinking potion, and everybody argues about what Superboy should do, until he smashes the door down with a giant key. This throws him into the middle of the sea, where he's fished out by Hawk, Dove, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Penguin and Robin (who now has real wings). Kon's happy to see Robin, but before he can be pulled into the floating bird cage, he's swallowed by a giant King Shark.

Back in the water, Superboy swirls past Lagoon Boy and Aqualad from Sins of Youth. He washes ashore a beach occupied with beautiful women. But before he can have any fun with them, the Cheshire Cat arrives and mocks Kon for his poor introspection skills. Kon then spots Tana Moon, his deceased girlfriend, and follows her through a portal, which leads to the Guardian, Dubbilex, and the Ravers.

Kon finally catches up to Tana, who says she can't chat, since she's got to split. And she literally splits into three people — herself, Impulse and Cherub. (Cherub was one of the DNAngels we saw chasing Superboy around when he had the baby Guardian. Apparently she was a clone of Tana, mixed with some of Impulse's DNA. Don't ask me how Cadmus got their hands on Bart's DNA. Anyway, Cherub, like Tana, was killed right in front of Superboy.) Tana, Cherub and Impulse all say they're late for a very important ... dirt nap, then ask Kon if he gets the joke. Trying his hand at introspection, Kon says he realizes all three of them were hurt or worse because of him. Or it's some Freudian thing that means he secretly thinks of Impulse as a chick.

Superboy suddenly finds himself at an Unfuneral Party in his honor, thrown by Guardian, Doctor Fate, Doctor Sin, the Phantom Stranger and Serling Roquette acting as Zatanna. She hands Superboy three playing cards showing the deaths of Tana, Cherub and Impulse, and Superboy complains that he's already received the epiphany from this dream. The Cheshire Cat returns, telling Kon he still hasn't got it. To make matters more confusing, a bunch more characters randomly show up, including Granny Goodness, Kamandi, General Good, Mickey Cannon and Gorgeous Gilly, and they all start dancing and singing about how Superboy is depressed.

For a second, Kon believes he's still being tortured in Granny Goodness' "classroom," but once again the Cheshire Cat is there to pull him back on course. Frustrated that Superboy's not listening to him, the Cat unzips itself, revealing Superman inside. Superman tells Kon he needs to find the strength to accept help. Superboy's then confronted with a mirror that shows a dark version of himself, and he realizes that even though there's darkness in his future, there's still the potential for light.

Martha Kent then wakes up Kon, telling him he's been asleep for 20 hours. She says this means his body must have been trying to tell him something. Kon tries to shake off the dream, commenting that fall has come early this year.

I thought this was an excellent way to show Superboy processing the events of Our Worlds at War and his own series. This issue balanced the sad, quiet moments with some downright wacky, funny moments. And that goofy dream sequence was necessary to keep this issue from being completely weighed down in depression. I also loved how there was so much of an emphasis on Impulse. It's completely understandable that Superboy would blame himself for the accident and be haunted by not only the sight, but smell of it. Superboy also understands that even though it was just a part of Bart that died, it might as well have been all of Bart, who's now in a coma. And it was touching to see that even Superman was concerned about Impulse.

Next time, we'll see what happens to Bart in the aftermath of Our Worlds at War in Impulse #78.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Young Justice #37

War of the Words

Peter David Writer
Todd Nauck Pencils
Lary Stucker Inks
Ken Lopez Letters
Jason Wright Colors
Digital Chameleon Separations
Tom Palmer, Jr. Assistant Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

This month's "Apokolips Now" cover is by Nauck, Stucker and the the colors of Ian Hannin. This is an awesomely haunting cover. Young Justice defeated, in chains, unconscious and completely at the mercy of the imposing Granny Goodness. And the Granny looks fantastic here — one of the best versions I've seen of her. Unfortunately, her costume has a lot of yellow, red and blue on it inside this issue, which really makes her less intimidating. The muted gray colors are much better suited for her.

Our story begins with Robin being held by Parademons, forced to watch as Wonder Girl is tied to a stake over a fire pit. Robin pleads with his captors to let Cassie go, and she, in turn, begs Robin to do give the villains whatever they want, hysterically crying out that she can't die yet because she still needs to take her midterms that she crammed for. But all her crying was in vain, as Wonder Girl is completely vaporized.

Above him, Superboy blames Robin for Cassie's death, reminding him that he's only on the team because of his great mind and it was his responsibility to think of a way to save them. But Superboy has chains around his neck, wrists and ankles, and even though Robin says he'll do anything they want, the Parademons pull on the chains and rip Superboy apart, splattering Robin in Kon's blood. The Parademons finally let go of Robin, and he collapses to the ground, sobbing. Granny Goodness approaches the Boy Wonder, offering to "kiss" the hurt and make it all better. Robin immediately leaps toward Granny Goodness, but is promptly smacked down and begins to mutter how he'll kill them all somehow.

We then see that all that happened in Robin's head. He is strapped to a table with a device over his head feeding him those horrific images. Next to Robin on identical tables are Empress and Superboy, Wonder Girl and Cissie (who has also somehow been captured). Robin in real life is also muttering about killing all his enemies, and Granny Goodness marvels at the resistance of Robin and his teammates. Superboy is being tortured by reliving the death of his girlfriend, Tana, and Wonder Girl is crying out in terror for her mother.

Granny Goodness is, however, worried about one of her prisoners, wondering if he's performing some sort of "subterfuge." One of Granny's Female Furies, Bernadeth, insists that is not the case, and she leads her to Impulse, who is not strapped to a table like the others, but is still curled up in a fetal position. Bart also has a different helmet on his head, which projects his thoughts on a screen. Bernadeth reports that Impulse just keeps seeing the same vivid image of himself dying over and over again. Granny finds this curious, as most youths have a limited awareness of their own mortality. Bernadeth asks what became of the "Cloud Girl," and Granny responds that her torment is the worst of all, as Lord Darkseid has taken a personal interest in her.

And we see that Secret's torment apparently involves being fed an enormous bowl of ice cream on a big, puffy pillow, surrounded by children's toys of Kalibak, Darkseid and Parademons. Secret gleefully dives in to this dessert, and asks her friend, "Mr. Doug Side" if he wants a bite. When Darkseid politely refuses, Secret then offers to share it with her friends. But Darkseid says her friends remain "indisposed" and he advises Secret to forget them. He tells Secret that she is above them and they resent and fear the darkness in her. Secret tentatively asks Darkseid if he's evil, and after pausing for a moment, he launches into a long, philosophical discussion on the concept of "evil."

Darkseid argues that only actions are "evil," deemed such by those who do not benefit from said actions. He tells Secret that Apokolips is not ruled through "evil," but by displays of strength that the weak lack. He references the power war has to expose true greatness in people. Darkseid reveals he knows Young Justice came to Apokolips to rescue Steel, but he says Steel is now gone, as has the rest of the war, but that doesn't mean Secret can't still benefit from it. He offers to take her under his wing to unlock her true potential, promising to never lie to her.

So Secret decides to test this promise. She asks him to answer directly, without the philosophy, if he is evil. Again, Darkseid pauses for a moment, but this time, he simply answers, "Yes." Secret then asks if she is evil, and Darkseid says, "Yes." Secret considers this for a moment, growing dark and angry before she ultimately turns on Darkseid in a full display of strength, shouting at him, calling him a liar. Darkseid does not tolerate this for one second, immediately blasting Secret with his Omega Beams, pushing her out the window and into a fire pit below. Darkseid watches her fall, and in disgust, simply says, "Kids."

We return to Granny Goodness' lab, where she has ordered to increase the emotional charge on the teens, who are still valiantly resisting the images. Amidst reports of an approaching, disorderly army that sometimes turns on itself, we take a look inside Empress' head. Anita sees her father being burned at a stake. With his dying breath, Donald Fite curses his daughter, which makes her so angry she decides to teach her father a lesson. In her "dream," Empress teleports to fight her father, but in real life, she also teleports out of her restraints — much to the surprise of Granny Goodness.

Empress is immediately attacked by Mad Harriet, but she's able to direct the Fury's attack to destroy Robin's bindings. Once Robin's free, he spots Granny Goodness and lunges toward her, shouting that he's going to kill her. The rest of the Furies pull Robin off their leader, but by doing so, they neglected Empress, who freed the rest of her teammates. An enraged Superboy and Wonder Girl join the fight against the Female Furies, while Cissie finds Impulse.

Everybody heads outside, with Wonder Girl carrying the comatose Impulse in her arms, and they run into Secret. Robin says they need to get out of here, but Superboy says they can't leave without Steel. Secret says Steel is gone, but she won't say how she learned that. Our heroes begin running through the streets, but soon come to a dead end and are surrounded by Granny Goodness, her Female Furies and an army of Parademons.

In an homage to Queen, the Furies mock Young Justice for having "fear on your face" and say "you're a big disgrace!" But somebody says, "We're gonna smear you bastiches all over the place!!" They all look up and see an army of teenage Lobos, wearing only pieces of Parademon armor, banging on the ground and shouting, "We will, we will, frag you! Frag you!" The Lobos swarm the villains, giving our heroes the chance to escape. Miraculously, they spot Impulse's ship hovering above them. So they all fly up to The Max, where the mysterious pilot explains that all those Lobos came from the dead Lobo's spattered drops of blood. And after they're done "fraggin' those losers," they'll probably turn on each other until there's only one left, who should be an adult by the time that happens, based on the speed the Lobos are aging. But while our heroes get to see this mysterious pilot, we won't see him until next issue.

As I said before, this issue really needed to be included with the official Our Worlds at War storyline. Even though this issue takes place after Apokolips had left Earth's orbit following the defeat of Imperiex and Brainiac 13, the war didn't end for Young Justice until they got home, and I consider this issue an essential part of the story as a whole. I'm also a little bummed that we never saw how Superboy's team got captured, but I guess we can reason that they were too distraught by Impulse's death experience to put up any kind of a fight. And poor Impulse! Forced to relive his death over and over again. We still don't know exactly how this new power works, but one thing we can say for sure is that killing one of his scouts is not a good idea.

On a whole, this was a powerful issue. Each member of Young Justice was pushed to the breaking point, especially Robin. We've never seen him lose control like this, and it was pretty unnerving. We also deepened Secret's struggles with her identity and ended with the extraordinary image of an army of Lobos (slightly weakened by the "We Will Rock You" joke). Suffice it to say, this is a major turning point for Young Justice. From here on out, everything's going to be different.

Our letters to the editor begins with Ben Winkler saying he started Young Justice with issue #5, drawn in by Robin and Superboy. He quickly found a new favorite in Impulse and now has his complete series. Ben asks to ditch Lobo, bring back Arrowette and keep the same creative team.

Augie de Blieck Jr., of North Haledon, N.J., liked the more laid-back feel with Young Justice #33. Not a lot of fighting, just teenagers having issues and talking their way through them. Augie especially loved the Impulse-Superboy conversation, calling it laugh-out-loud funny and reminiscent of a Marx Brothers routine.

Javier Ruiz, of Odessa, Texas, a 30-year-old with more than 2,000 comics in his collection, was thrilled to see somebody named Javier in the book. But he also loved the Impulse-Superboy conversation, saying he laughed so hard that he had to put the book down for a bit. Now for the new ads:

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Next time, we'll see how Impulse's accident weighs on his good friend in Superboy #92.