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 well 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.

4 comments:

  1. 2001 was a huge year for me as well. I graduated high school that year, and for the first time in 18 years moved away from the home I grew up in to another state 7 hours away. I made some amazing friends that year, and even met the woman who would eventually become my wife. As far as years go, it was a major milestone for me, affecting me in ways that I haven't even realized until I really think about it. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible thoughts on this year, as well as this continued blog. As always, I look forward to more!!!

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  2. "or Philosopher's if you're one of those weird people who think a philosopher is someone who casts magic spells"

    I can't tell if that's tongue-in-cheek or completely serious...

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