Badass Panels, Volume 4: Impulse #3
I'm not really going out on a limb here when I say that Watchmen is the best comic book ever printed. It's a masterpiece, and Moore and Gibbons are truly masters of the form. And as far as I'm concerned, there's no single moment in comics that will ever be as good as Rorschach's screaming defiance at the end.
But deep down, I will never like it as much as I like that time Batman threw a car battery at some dude in a junkyard.
It's a simple fact: Comics when you were a kid are always better than anything else. It's something Campbell talks about frequently, citing that for him, the Golden Age of Comics will always be the mid-80s, but since I'm a little younger than him, I find myself looking back with nostalgia at the much-maligned '90s.
Now don't get me wrong, there are a lot of bad comics in the '90s, and my nostaliga doesn't completely blind me to the fact that while I carried copies of Spider-Man's Mark of Kaine saga everywhere, it might not turn out to be the thrill-a-minute adventure I recall from when I was 13. But really, when weren't there bad comics? The pencil-scratched shadow of the Liefelds and McFarlanes of the world simply tend to overshadow the fact that there was actually a lot of good stuff: Morrison was on JLA, Ellis had StormWatch, and there was this thing called Sandman that the kids seem to like a lot. Heck, James Robinson's Starman spun out of Zero Hour, the most "90s" DC event of them all!
And then there was Mark Waid.
His run on Flash was one of the best and most consistent comics on the stands, and defined the character and his world. But Waid wasn't content to write one book about a speedster--he did two. Which brings us, in an incredibly verbose way, to the subject of tonight's Badass Panels: Impulse #3.
Bart Allen, to keep things short, is the grandson of the Silver-Age Flash, Barry Allen, who was born in the 30th century and, due to uncontrollable super-speed, was aging rapidly. To deal with that, he was raised in a virtual reality simulation, and the result of growing up inside a video game left him a little unable to comprehend the consequences of his actions. Then he came back to the present, teamed up with the Flash, and fought KOBRA! THE DEADLIEST MAN ALIVE!
And then they sent him to live in Alabama.
That poor, poor kid.
Anyway, this issue focuses on Bart's first day at school, and features the single best portrayal of a teenage super-hero dealing with High School since Peter Parker clocked Flash Thompson in a boxing match. See, Bart's the new kid, and the small-town high school heirarchy of Manchester, Alabama abhors a new kid. But with the attention span of a super-speed goldfish and no regard for anything beyond the moment, he goes through the entire school day just pissing off bullies constantly, broken down by Waid and penciller Humberto Ramos into a series of "encounters."
My personal favorite is Encounter Two, wherein Bart--with whom every single girl at Manchester High is immediately smitten--nonchalantly cuts a library studies class in full view of his classmates:
Ah, young love. Hank, of course, rats on Bart, who's busy completing his assignment by running to France and fighting a super-villain, getting back in time to hand in his paper, leaving Hank to fail the assignment. Hank does not take this well:
I love how cool Impulse plays it off in this scene, shrugging and walking off as he thinks about how he totally kicked a Minion of Kobra™ in the face. You can't confront that, Hank.
And he just keeps making more enemies as the day goes on, walking unscathed through a food fight and giving the business to a bunch of jocks who apparently forgot to Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge. And each one he cheeses off calls him out to fight at a different part of the school.
All of which leads up to one of the best school scenes in comics history: The bell rings, and Bart takes a slow lap around the school, walking past each group of high school toughs that wants to see him creamed, leading them all to the football field. Why?
"I figured we could use the room."
With the entire student body gathered to either watch or perform a serious beatdown, Bart keeps it cool, and as the groups argue about who's got first dibs on him, he busts a quick move...
...and starts a fight with the entire school.
Now that's badass.