Monday, September 26, 2016

Impulse #29 (1997)


Impulse #29 (September, 1997)
"Conflict Resolutions"
Writer - William Messner-Loebs
Penciller - Craig Rousseau
Inker - Barbara Kaalsberg
Letterer - Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist - Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor - Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor - Paul Kupperberg
Cover Price: $1.75

Over these past several months I've reviewed a good bunch of DC Comics... as such, the room in which I keep my longboxes currently looks as though it was hit by a tornado.  It's almost to the point where I can't fit the entirety of my body in there... and I'm not that huge'a dude.  I try to fit in a few minutes a day where I begin undertaking the ever-growing endeavor of "putting crap away".

I said all of that so I may say this... I wish my library room was cleaner a few months back when Reggie and I were discussing the Comics Code Authority (for five-weeks straight!) on our Weird Comics History Podcast... because I definitely would have reviewed this book then!  Not that it has much anything to do the Code, Kefauver, or Wertham... but, it does have a rather striking cover, no?

Well, today I put in my 5-10 minutes of tidy time, and came across this one.  Figure better late than never... it's always a good time with Impulse... right?

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We open with Bart Allen's history teacher Mr. Snodgrass giving a lecture on something related to the Revolutionary War... I like that the word balloon drags out each and every word, as though it's taking several seconds to say.  I dig that because, hell... we've all been there... but also, ya gotta figure this is how the fastest boy on Earth would receive a boring lecture.  Veeeeerrrrrry sllllloooow.


As he pontificates, Bart's thoughts wander to a recent argument he had with his guardian, Max Mercury over entering the MegaDemon video game contest.  Max feels it would be unethical for Bart to compete against fellow gamers who happen to not be gifted with super speed.  His flashback is interrupted by Snodgrass, who asks Bart to elaborate on the conflict between Benjamin Franklin and his natural son.  Taken aback, Bart suggests the root of the conflict was Ben not letting his boy play MegaDemon!  This does not go over well with Snoddy.


We shift scenes to the Mercury home where he is struggling to repair the television set.  His newfound daughter, Helen enters and begins lecturing Max on how he dealt with poor Bart.  The chat becomes contentious, and Helen winds up walking out after making a passive-aggressive comment.  Max sits and stews for a bit, however is soon interrupted by the daily mail call.  Among the envelopes, one stands out... and appears to shock our silver-haired speedster.


We rejoin Bart as he's walking home from school with his probably-gonna-be love interest Carol, and douchey pal Preston.  Due to his outburst in class, Bart's gotta deliver some bad news to Max... there's another "attitude conference" on the horizon.  As they chat, a... latex truck from, and I'm not kidding... Vandalay Industries goes careening by, driving directly toward a tree.


Carol grabs Preston by the face so Bart can get into his Impulse duds... so, I guess she already knows... and he runs off to stop the truck.  He stands before it and waves, trying to create wind to bring the rig to a stop... and either he does, or the driver hits the brakes at just the right time.  A goon in a ski mask hops out and aims his gun at our boy.


Suddenly three more goons appear from the truck... all packing heat.  They begin just rat-at-atting away in Impulse's general direction.  This is when Impulse works best... in the split second before the bullets make contact he is able to logically plan his next few steps... and consider all the potential alternatives.  He decides that if he wants to keep everybody safe, he must catch every single bullet... and then throw them deep into the ground.


This turns out to be not his finest idea... everyone's still alive, so I guess it wasn't his worst one either.  Carol yells out to distract the goons, and almost gets blown away for her trouble.  Preston dives to push her out of the way.  Impulse sees that his friends are endangered, and he gets pretty ticked off.  He beats down all the goons, including their Joe Dirt-looking driver.  Turns out they were toxic waste dumpers posing as a potential George Costanza employer.


As the dust clears, Bart Allen returns to his friends claiming to have called the police.  We see that Preston's arm was grazed by a bullet... and he just won't shut up about having been shot.  He's quite proud... as I guess one would be.  Bart's not impressed, however... all he can think of is just how close his friends were to being killed real good.


The police arrive and Preston and Carol remain to answer some questions.  Bart splits off and heads home, all the while hoping that maybe somehow Max won't be in when he gets there.  As luck would have it... Max ain't there!  Helen says it's as though he disappeared... but to where?  We are... [to be continued...]


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It's been a long while since I read an issue of Impulse.  This is one of those series I look back on fondly... from a time in DC Comics history I really enjoyed.  It's also one of those series I dreaded revisiting, because rose-colored glasses and all that.  This (along with Superboy and Robin) came when I was in my late-teens myself, and, while I wouldn't say it/they were my favorite... I did always look forward to reading it/them.  Now that I'm in my *groan* late-30's... I was afraid I may not dig these as much.

Well...

It's definitely a sillier book... and the art... man... I remember loving this style of art when I was a kid.  I still think it fits the tone of the series, and the character... but, I gotta say... I don't think it aged all that well.  Maybe my tastes changed... or maybe it just really drives home that this is a late-90's book... and it feels ever so dated.  If I had to guess, I'd say Rousseau is either working in a manga style... or a Humberto Ramos style.  Ramos, if I'm remembering correctly was the original artist on this title when it launched with Mark Waid on writing chores.  If Rousseau's doing his best Ramos impression, well... fair play then... this is very much in his style.

Keeping with the aesthetics for a bit... I love that Bart thinks in pictures.  This was something they had managed to keep up quite well during this period, even seeping into other titles like Young Justice.  That's actually one of the few things I remembered from this, and it still makes me smile when I see it more often than not.

The story is decent.  I like how Bart is looked at like he's a goof-off when in his civvies, but when he's in costume he actually forces himself to think logically... to plan things out.  Here, he had to figure out his best course of action while catching bullets.  That's not something one would expect from that dopey kid in class.  He also acts rather selflessly... which is cool.  

I remember the ongoing Max Mercury plot going on for quite awhile.  It wasn't bad or anything, it just felt very slow... which is probably appropriate given this book doesn't carry the title Max Mercury.  I do really like how the speedsters kind of took care of their own during this time period.  Throughout this series the Garricks, the Quicks, and Max Mercury all play fairly sizable roles.  Almost makes me homesick for this era.  I miss how much so many of DC's books felt like "families" back then.

While I can't say this is the best thing you'll read in a given day, I think I can safely say it won't be the worst.  Definitely worth a flip through, like so many of DC's late-90's offerings.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Teen Titans #48 (1977)


Teen Titans #48 (June, 1977)
"Daddy's Little Girl Crimefighter!"
Family Plotter - Bob Rozakis
Children of the Arts - Jose Delbo & Vince Colletta
Colorful Kid - Jerry Serpe
Cover Price: $0.35

Ya know for being such a big fan of the Teen Titans, I've never read some of these later issues from the pre-Implosion days.  Let's fix that.

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We open, presumably picking up where we left off last issue.  I don't have the previous issue, so I'm only guessing.  Robin and the Joker's Daughter are tied to a chair while JD's father, not the Joker but Two-Face paces around them.  He refuses to believe that this young lady (who looks more like an old lady... or Cesar Romero) is in fact his daughter Duela Dent.  The name "Duela" is so funny here... ol' Harv presumably named her well before he became Two-Face, right?


Duela gives her dad (and us) the quick and dirty on how she wound up where she is.  She claims that she became a hero as a way to get back at her old man.  Yeah, not sure this is somebody I want watching my back if I'm a Teen Titan.  Two-Face begins talking out of both sides of his face... one moment he's rational Harvey Dent... the next the maniacal Two-Face.  It's quite a well done scene.


Two-Face suddenly decides to leave his own fate to chance.  He claims that he is planning on bombing a location in New York and one in Gotham City.  One location has original works of art stashed away, while the other has duplicates.  If more originals survive the bombing, he will walk the straight and narrow... however, if more phonies make it... he'll fully commit to the criminal lifestyle... ay yai yai.  Anyhoo, Robin flips out and tells Dent that millions of people may die just so he can make up his mind!  Robin and Duela struggle in their chair, and are able to both knock daddy Dent back and break free.  Dent flees, however, for whatever reason mentions that his bombs are set to launch at 2:22.  Sounds like somebody wants to get caught, eh Harv?


Back at Titans Tower Gabriel's Horn Discotheque, the rest of the Titans are hanging about.  The hot topic of conversation is whether or not they can trust Joker's Daughter... I know I'm just the reader, but I'd vote no.  Mal Duncan tries to call his... is she his girlfriend at this point?  Karen Beecher, who we know as Bumb nobody just yet.  She is not home.  All this blibber blabber is going on while Aqualad is convalescing in a tank of water trying to get over his... Hydro-Asian Flu.  Oi.


Shortly, the receive a call from Robin.  He tells them of Two-Face's plan to "blow Gotham and New York off the map" and advises Speedy to send half the team to the Guggenheim and the other to the Gottanham.  Before the team can split, however, they are ambushed by... Bumblebee!  Hey we (don't) know her!  A battle ensues, and the Bumblebee more or less shrugs off all of the Titans' offense.  She then fires a dart (from her butt... maybe?) at Donna.  It's pretty much a stalemate until the Bee buzzes the Titans to sleep.  Not sure what the point of this scene was... but, here we are.


We rejoin Robin as he heads New York way.  He instructs Duela to remain in Gotham for the titanic reinforcements.  Only moments later he arrives at the Guggenheim where he runs up and down the halls yelling "Bomb!"... nah, he tells a couple of security guards.  Kid Flash and the Hornblower arrive... which begs the question, why put them to sleep just one page prior?  The trio runs to the roof just in time to see the missiles approach.  Wally runs in super-speed circles to stop them from falling while Mal uses his horn to blow them into the water.  It's all very convenient, eh?


Back in Gotham, Speedy and Wonder Girl meet up with Duela.  Roy mentions his trepidation over working with a "J.D."... which either means Joker's Daughter, and is very specific... or juvenile delinquent, which could be just about any kid.  They run to the roof at first, however, there are no bombs.  A lightbulb goes off over Duela's painted dome... they're dealing with Two-Face, so let's think about the opposite.  This bomb's gonna be in the basement... and wouldn'tcha know it... it is!  Duela uses her bubble pipe to blow the roof off the Gottenham, and Donna lassos the rockets into the water.


We wrap up with Two-Face being hauled off to prison.  Nobody seems to know where Joker's Daughter has ventured off to.  She suddenly emerges from the next room wearing some new duds... and wants to be called by a new name... the Harlequin.  Her looks have gone from Cesar Romero to Carol Burnett... so, I guess that's something of an upgrade.  Meanwhile, nobody remembered to refill poor Garth's tank... and so he lays dying.  Whoops!


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Silly but fun.  This is an era of Titans of which I have very little knowledge.  Characters like Mal Duncan and the Joker's Daughter are basically strangers to me.  I know Mal in his "Herald" incarnation, but as the... heh... Hornblower?  Yeah, this is all new stuff.  The Joker's Daughter caused a minor speculatory stir during DC's Villain's Month back in... I wanna say 2014.  That's really the only version of the character I've read.  This... Cesar Romero-esque take is another one that I'm just now meeting for the first time.

It's neat reading late-70's Titans as it feels like of like an embryonic take on the Wolfman/Perez era.  Dick is still very much the leader, and Speedy is still a jerk.  The story itself was pretty much just there.  Multiple bomb threats, so split the team for a bit.  No big deal.  I was surprised by the appearance of Bumblebee... as a villain!  Her showing up felt kind of shoehorned in... it doesn't really effect anything.  She puts the team to sleep... but they still get where they need to be on time.  Dunno, must've just expected something more from it.

The Joker's Daughter character... ehhh... don't dig it at all.  Granted, this is my first exposure to her, but her whole deal is pretty off-putting.  Not a fan of her design either... both as JD and the Harlequin.  Just so goofy... and she looks more like an old lady than a teenager.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with some of my favorite characters from a period in time before they were.  If you dig the Titans, this underrated era is worth your time.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Action Comics #329 (1965)


Action Comics #329 (October, 1965)
"The Ultimate Enemy!"
"Drang, the Destroyer!"
Writers - Edmond Hamilton & Leo Dorfman
Artists - Al Plastino & Jim Mooney
Cover Price: $0.12

Going way back for this one.  Over a half-century old... who says I'm stuck in the 80's... well, besides everybody.

This is just another piece of proof that you never know what you'll come across when you peruse the cheap-o bins.  Give 'em a dive, today!

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We open on a splash page of Superman lying under the boot of a mysterious sword-wielding knight.  Superman has been outfought and feels as though he's a simple sword-slash away from the great hereafter.  But, before that... we watch as the crazy knight walks the streets of Metropolis while pedestrians look on.  The knight lifts a car and just starts slashing away at a bank vault.  The nearby Superman is on the case... however, finds himself no match for the walking tin-can.


The knight knocks Superman into the side of a building, causing it to nearly topple to the ground.  Superman has to support the structure with his own body... which allows the knight to get away.  He doesn't go far, however... just over to a nearby bridge, where he starts slicing and dicing the support pillars.  Once Superman is out of the "holding up a building" gig, he has to listen to some Metropolitans comment on the strength and prowess of the knight... causing the Man of Steel to feel insecure, to the point where he needs to redeem himself.  Wow... c'mon Superman, you can't expect folks to like you if you don't like yourself.


And so, Superman tracks the knight down to a train... in the desert?  The two engage in a titanic train tug of war.  It's a stalemate, and the knight shortly loses interest... instead deciding to use his sword to carve into the side of one of the cars.  Superman sees this as his opportunity to reengage... which isn't that great of an idea.  The knight literally throws him all the way back to Metropolis... where several more douchey city folk give him lip... including one Jimmy Olsen.  Superman tells Jimmy to buzz off... nice!  During Jimmy's spoo, Supes tries to use his telescopic vision to track the knight, but finds that a nearby hill is heavily lined with lead, hmm...


Not knowing where to go from here, the Man of Steel retires to the Fortress of Solitude to have a think.  He comes to the conclusion that, since the knight is equal to him in strength... he'll have to best him with his swordsmanship.  Now, this is a wacky bit... that is spoiled by the cover.  Superman returns to the streets of Metropolis holding a blade and a rainbow emblazoned shield... which is apparently the flag of Krypton.  Whodathunkit?  He, get this, challenges the knight to a duel... to the death!  This ain't is your daddy's Superman!


Finally, the knight reappears to answer Superman's challenge... while a police officer comments that "Superman's gone mad with rage!"  Now tell me, why in the hell is Superman risking life and limb for these unappreciative jerks?  Just let the knight have his way with them!  Anyhoo, Superman and the knight duel on the docks until, after Superman notices something familiar about the knight's sword, they both fall into the murky depths below.  Moments later, only the knight reemerges.


We follow the knight as he walks to it's cave hideout... in an area concealed by lead, hmm... Inside we meet the most terrifying villain yet, Jon Smatten!  He's pleased to see that his knight (who is now revealed to be a... dun dun dun... robot) killed Superman, ya see... Smatten's long hated the Man of Steel.


Flashback time!  Many years ago, when Smatten was in reform school, Superboy was able to stop him from setting off a bomb.  Years later, Smatten had a not so dissimilar run in with Superman, which landed him in jail.  While incarcerated, Smatten decided to use his nebulous scientific abilities to gather enough Green-K to make a weapon strong enough to kill Superman once and for all.  He uses his nebulous radio antennae to locate Kryptonian meteors... which lead him to a pile of metallic wreckage rather than any glowing green rocks.


Along with the wreckage is a pile of notes written in Kryptonese.  Smatten conveniently remembers that Superman conveniently gave a translation guide to Kryptonese to Metropolis University.  Using the guide, he is able to translate the notes... which brings us to a flashback within a flashback.  We watch as Jor-El and his young son meet with a man called Hab-Rull, who keeps a generator in a room encased with the super-hard Kryptium metal.  Jor-El warns him about the power of nuclear force... but Hab doesn't pay him any mind.  Obviously, there's an explosion... which sends the super-hard stuff Earthbound.  This all occurs before the destruction of Krypton, which is why it has not become Kryptonite.  You might need to read that more than once... I know I did!


We wrap up our tale with Superman revealing that it is he who is wearing the robo-knight's armor... and now he can arrest his old foe Smatten... again!  He reveals that he was the young boy from the Kryptonese notes, and he knew where Smatten was hiding out by the concentration of lead in the ground.  It's all wildly convenient, but whattayagonnado?  Superman decides to keep the Kryptium sword for safe-keeping... not sure if it ever makes another appearance.  The End.


Our backup feature stars the Maid of Might herself, Supergirl.  We open with her about to go on a date with a fella called Dick Malverne who picks her up at Stanhope College.  They pass the Pop Bottle Lounge where a sandwich board outside promises a show by the queen of "super magic"... Well, she had Ms. Danvers at "super"... and so, they go inside.


During the show... well, Kara's a bit of a jerk toward the magician, a woman who goes by the name Fantasta.  She damn near heckles the poor illusionist, talking down her tricks to her male companion.  Well, Fantasta doesn't dig all that, so she challenges Linda to assist in the next trick... the disappearing woman!


Linda enters the box, and finds herself whisked away to a spaceship... where she is face to face with a creepy-ass bird.  Shortly she is joined by Fantasta, who reveals that she knows Linda Lee Danvers is, in reality, Supergirl!  She continues by divulging that she is part of an organization of space-criminals from Gotha called the Circle of Evil... oooooh... and, get this... the whole "super-magic" thing was a ruse tailor made to lure Supergirl in.  That's mighty convenient, eh?


Suddenly an alarm sounds signalling that there is a water-asteroid (just go with it) nearby.  Fantasta panics, and changes course.  This causes a lightbulb to go off for Supergirl.  She decides to escape... with her captor's full blessing... only to return moments later.  She is no longer in the Milky Way galaxy... and had no choice but to rejoin her foe.  Once inside the craft, Supergirl reveals a chunk of asteroid she popped into her cape-pouch.  She squeezes the rock until water seeps out from it.  Ya see, she realized that water is Fantasta's weakness.


Supergirl starts waving her bossy finger in Fantasta's face, and describes how she figured it all out.  This causes Fantasta to... get this... use the homely bird... now identified as an "Execution Bird"... to kill herself.  Wow, that's hardcore.


Supergirl, not missing a beat, dons her wig and styles it like Fantasta's own hairdo, and puts on her captor's spare set of clothes.  With execution bird Gnomo on her shoulder, she decides to report back to the Circle of Evil in her stead.  Ay yai yai.


Soon, we meet the goofy gang whose headquarters are hidden inside a spiky asteroid.  Inside, Supergirl finds that all of her superpowers have been negated.  The Circle conducts a meeting, wherein another member commits birdie-seppuku for failing in their mission.  Supergirl decides it is now time to shed her disguise... sorta.  She reveals herself in the Supergirl get-up, but still claims to be Fantasta.  This impresses the geeks, and they decide to pit her against the greatest criminal in the cosmos... Drang!  To be Continued...


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Now here we have a couple of pretty fun stories.  One perhaps a bit more fun than the other, but I can't say I didn't at least sort of enjoy both.  Very silly Silver Age fare, not the kind of stuff I'm used to reading... let's get right to it.

I gotta say I dug the first story a bit more than the backup.  It was almost astonishingly silly.  I mean, Superman wielding a sword and rainbow shield... that's bananas.  And, come now... the menace of Jon Smatten!  How nuts was this?  This goofball held on to his disdain toward Superman since he was Superboy.  That's some Silver Age dedication!

We also get Superman performing a bit of super-photographic memory, recalling events from when he was Superbaby!  While on the subject of the Man of Steel himself... boy, was he a jerk to poor Jimmy.

The art was as good as one would figure, but I can never get used to Superman looking so old.  I'd say my Superman is, I dunno... mid-thirties?  This Superman appears to be late-forties at youngest... don't dig that too much.

Our backup story is even nuttier... the entire thing is predicated on Supergirl being lured into a magic show... because it was advertised as "super-magic".  Really?  I mean, would Wonder Woman be drawn into a preseason baseball game if it was advertised as "Wonder Baseball"?  Hell, maybe in 1965 she would!  Shoot, maybe even today, what do I know?

I was surprised that the backup ended on a cliffhanger... and what a goofy one at that!  I expected it all to be wrapped up, done in one... it's cool that they dropped a multi-part Supergirl tale in here, regardless of whether or not it's an "imaginary story".

I enjoyed this issue quite a bit... likely more for the novelty than any other kind of qualifier.  If you can get your hands on any Silver Age Superman, do yourself a favor and at least give it the ol' flip-thru.

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