Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #245

Tue, February 19th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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THINKING ON IMPULSE

[Impulse #83]IMPULSE is the almost-forgotten stepchild of the DC Universe, and that's a shame.

When Mark Waid was on the book with Humberto Ramos, it had heat. Heck, it made Ramos' career. When Todd Dezago teamed up with Ethan Van Sciver for an all-too-short run on the title a couple of years ago, it got some buzz back. Then Van Sciver moved off to greener pastures, and Carlo Barberi, famed WIZARD "Draw a Cover" contest winner, moved in. His style is highly evocative of Humberto Ramos' and so seemed like a natural fit.

Yet cancellation rumors have plagued the title since, well, Mark Waid left. It's amazing the title has lasted this long, buoyed in part by a Nautica product placement deal which has worked out so well it's nearly invisible. One wonders if the plan ever kicked in… Aside from only a couple of obvious apparel choices over the past year, nothing's screamed Nautica to me. (I did, however, buy a couple of shirts at a Nautica outlet store last month. Maybe I was subconsciously driven to it by IMPULSE?)

In any case, IMPULSE #83 is now out at a store near you. The creative team remains Dezago and Barberi. As much as the book may get ignored, it's a good book for what it is. It's a perfect entry-level book for younger boys and girls. It's a DC "Ultimate Marvel" book, in that way. I think it might even skew younger than that. Typical of this comics market, though, it doesn't sell to a potential audience made up of college kids and nostalgia freaks who don't want to buy a "kiddy" book.

Dezago writes his butt off to make sure each issue is a good first issue. No writer exemplifies this attitude better in any book being published today. Each issue of IMPULSE is laden with caption boxes and exposition to give the most novice reader a fair chance to get into the book. It reminds me a bit of how Chris Claremont used captions and dialogue to reintroduce readers to the plot at hand. He had verbal shortcuts for things, and a way to use sometimes flowery prose to set a scene. Dezago uses easier language here. His narration is bouncy, like an enthusiastic adult reading a story to his young child. The dialogue reads naturally without trying to sound hip.

IMPULSE #83 is part two of a two part story, but you wouldn't know it if you came in cold. Dezago sets up everything pretty easily. (This is a good thing, since I have a bad tendency to lose track of storylines from month to month in serialized comics. I read too many to keep them all straight.) Some of the more clichd aspects of last issue have been toned down, such as the garb of the twin teenagers being used to distinguish between the good and the evil one. Of course, one might wonder how many high school age identical twins who appear to be at such great odds with one another would coordinate their wardrobe like that. But these are teenagers. They all look alike anyway, so it's not a great stretch to think of finding them in the same state of dress on any given day.

(I did get a small chuckle on one clothing-related note. From page 3: "Moments later, as Impulse streaks home – changing his clothes on the way, from Impulse costume… to everyday Bart Allen gear…" I was expecting a quick "From Nautica" tag right afterwards, but no such luck.)

One other really nice thing is the way that characters of other races are included in the title without being obvious about it. The twin girls who are featured in this storyline are both black, or Jamaican, or something. But there's never a plot point about this, and it doesn't matter. The sad thing is that the creators wouldn't be allowed to do this in daytime television animation. They would probably be told that it's too negative to have an evil character be a minority. (There's at least one story I know of where a character in a cartoon was a taxi driver who turned out to be the hero of the episode. The network didn't want the taxi driver to be a minority because it would show a minority in a lesser servile role. Never mind the fact that he's the hero of the piece and that the overwhelming majority of taxi drivers are in fact minorities…)

Bart Allen goes on to discover the truth behind the strange happenings at school, with a little help from his oh-so-cute dog. The bad gal comes to justice (in a way), and a side plot puts Max Mercury in danger. It's that last part that disturbs me the most about the issue, I think. It doesn't bother me that there's an unfinished subplot in the issue. That's actually a good thing that can bring a reader back for more next month. The thing that worries me is that we're getting another Max In Danger storyline with Helen and Bart acting all worried like all hope is lost. Haven't we been here before?

In any case, the latest issue of IMPULSE falls well in line with the rest of Todd Dezago's run, and is a title to keep in mind for your younger beginning comic readers. It's not going to impress any of your jaded older AUTHORITY fans, mind you. But it's good for what it is, and I think even adults can find a certain charm in the series so long as they keep an open mind.

ONE LINERS

If you're looking for another all-ages friendly book that is an easy entry-level read, then I also suggest ALISON DARE AND THE HEART OF THE MAIDEN, now on comic shop shelves near you.

Marvel certainly seems to be increasing their output of mutant-based titles. The new X-Factor title coming up is just further proof of that. It's another title with a unique viewpoint of the Marvel mutant phenomenon that looks to stand on its own and not cross over with other mutant titles. What a great idea. Of course, I did a whole column about it in September 1999, using the titles that existed at that point, plus a handful of my own suggestions.

From a recent CrossGen press release:

"CrossGeneration Comics, Inc. has contracted Nancy Newhouse Porter, Chair of the Entertainment & New Media Group of the law firm of Weston, Benshoof, Rochefort, Rubalcava and MacCuish, to serve as their entertainment attorney."

I do not want to be the receptionist there. Could you imagine answering the phone with that company's name a couple dozen times a day?

Can we officially strike the word "unique" from the English language now, please?!? Pretty please? I'm getting fairly sick of seeing it used to describe just about everything. You know what would be truly unique? Not using the word unique!

One other hint on usage: "Unique" means "one of a kind." Something cannot be "more unique" or, heaven help us all, "most unique."

It's been more than ten years now. Have we yet found "the next Bone"? I suppose HEROBEAR AND THE KID is the closest we came, but its production schedule has made it difficult to give it those honors.

Of course, now people walk around the San Diego Con each year looking for "the next Herobear," after its successful debut at the con a couple of years ago.

I watched GODFATHER PART II this weekend. It's a great movie, but I think the first is better. The second has a really nice (and really dark) character arc for Michael Corleone, though.

I think CHINATOWN is a better movie that deserved the Best Picture Oscar that year, but it's all a matter of taste. I can live with THE GODFATHER PART II.

Yes, it was a bank holiday in the U.S. this Monday. No, that does mean there will be any delays getting books to your comics retailer from Diamond this week.

Coming up on Friday: A review of THE ART OF NICK CARDY, and more Yet To Be Determined.

Next week: Pipeline Daily returns to celebrate Image Comics' 10th Anniversary.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 350 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.

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