Impulse #34 (February, 1998)
“The Devonian Age”
Writer – William Messner-Loebs
Pencils – Craig Rousseau
Inks – Barbara Kaalberg
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos
Colors – Tom McCraw
Editor – Paul Kupperberg
Cover Price: $1.95
It’s the Second Day of Christmas on Infinite Earths… and, wouldja lookit what we’ve got here! Bart Allen frantically rocking around the Christmas Tree opening gifts… looks like we’re in for a treat today!
You’d think that… right?
We open, and it’s excitement right out of the gate! Impulse and Max Mercury are… setting up Max’s new Fax Machine. Try and contain yourselves, I dare ya! When the going gets too tough (which is to say, too boring) Bart rushes off to school. Later that afternoon, he’s helping Mr. Sheridan hang up a banner for the New Year’s Dance… which, I mean… shouldn’t be nearly as involved as they’re making it seem here… it’s like a, two… maybe four thumbtack job at most. Sheridan’s using a chair to reach where he wants the banner hung, which is evidently a “non-approved appliance” per the rules of the school.
We get some pretty lame physical comedy here, as Sheridan is spooked off the seat, but before he hits the ground, Bart zips a bunch of chairs in place. Nobody can quite figure out what just happened… but before they can ask any questions, Bart’s whisked away by Max Mercury… who’d already received his first fax!
Turns out, there’s some weird goings-on at Area 52 the Speedsters need to look into. I dunno about you all, but this kinda thing really makes me feel like it’s Christmas! Upon arrival at Area 52, the fellas are faced with some goofs in hazmat suits. Bart doesn’t wait for Max to concoct a plan… and just charges in. The hazmatters then pop outta sight, leading to Bart crashing right into Max, kayoing the both’a dem!
They wake up a little later only to find themselves trapped in a dome. It can only be… Brainiac! Well, no… it’s actually Dr. Julian Tremain, the Master of Time and Space! Yeah, him… in the flesh! Okay, okay… this is the first of this fella’s two appearances.
Bart informs the Doc that, duh, he can vibrate out of the dome anytime he pleases… and that’s exactly what he does… which, as it turns out, is exactly what Tremain was hoping for! Bart charges… and as his Speed Forceyness kicks in, the Doc’s assistant blasts him with a beam! The four fellas vanish!
We pick back up with Bart and Max… in the Devonian Age! Shockingly this is not an age where everyone is named “Devon” (though, that would be a good guess)… it’s actually a time period that started 419.2 Million Years back (give or take)… and ran until 358.9 Million Years ago (again, give or take). It’s considered to be a link between lobe-finned fish and early amphibians and is named after Devon, England where rocks from this era were initially studied. Learn something new every day!
Bart thinks this is pretty cool… and decides he might wanna run amok for a bit, seeing the entire world before man set foot on it and what-not. Max nyoinks him back by the collar, and tells him to cool his jets. After all, even stepping on a single grasshopper could have effects that change the very fabric of human existence.
Bart is cool with staying put, and as Max continues to pontificate, he crafts a crude fishing rod to catch some supper. Max, of course, flips out at this notion. Which leads to Bart’s next question… are they just supposed to starve to death? Max considers the options… and realizes that could be just as bad for the future of the world and humanity… their corpses would release bacteria that could be detrimental to the ecosystem… seems they’re in a lose-lose situation here!
While they mull it over, the scent of roasting fish interrupts their trains of thought. Turns out, Dr. Tremain and his assistant have no such qualms over mucking about in the ecosystem… they’ve started a fire, and they’re dining on fish! Bart and Max figure… heck, the fish are already dead, and the fire’s already lit… might as well dig in!
Tremain informs the Speedsters that he never thought up a way home… and is totally cool with the idea that he’ll just be the first ever ruler of the world. Seems like something to hang your hat on, I guess. The only way out of this, it would seem, is if something happened in the past that stopped future-Tremain from concocting the plan to go back in time in the first place! Bart swats at a mosquito… and wouldn’tcha know it, we’re suddenly back in the present!
But… it’s a very different present! Instead of hanging a banner for the New Year’s Dance, Mr. Whatshisface is hanging a banner in honor of World President For-Life Tremain!
The rules of the school are fact more strict… but not terribly interesting. We wrap up with Bart walking outside, only to find Max Mercury locked up in the stocks… looks like their actions in the past are haunting them in the present!
Dunno about you guys, but that made me feel like Christmas! Arright, arright… that’s not the first “Christmas book” we’ve discussed that forgot to include Christmas. You can take a look at last year’s discussion of The Spirit #13 (2008) for something similar… a really neat Holiday-themed cover, with no holly-jolly to be had on the inside. If you really wanna see Impulse himself celebrate (in a not-so-hot story), you can take a look at the discussion on Impulse #45 (1999) from two-years back.
So yeah, as a Christmas story… this issue fails. As a non-Christmas story… iiiiiiiit’s still not great shakes. I can get down with “Butterfly Effect” stories, and time-travel can always be a bit interesting… but this just didn’t do it for me. I mean, if you’re playing with time-travel and you’ve got a Christmas cover… you’d almost expect Impulse to witness the first Christmas or something. Ehh, whattayagonnado?
This book often tries using “physical” comedy as it’s hook… but, the set-ups are just so hokey and contrived here. Early on with Sheridan hanging the banner was pretty lame… and the result, with them all just sitting in chairs that weren’t there a second ago… feels a little too Bugs Bunny for me… and, where Bugs could get away with it, a kid trying to keep a secret identity really can’t.
Worth noting, the Speedsters head to Area 52, an obvious play on Area 51… but, I mean, DC does have that odd fetish with the number “52”… we’ve seen signs of it even pre-Flashpoint (and pre-Fifty-Two)… makes me wonder if one day, someone might try and connect all of the off-handed mentions of the number into a meta-story. Hmm… think I’ll file that in my “
good bad ideas” pile.
Overall… yeah, this one’s a “pass”. I’d say if you come across it in a quarter-bin, it might be worth it for the cover. Sadly, there’s not much more to recommend other than that.
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