Between-arc appearances of Impulse:

FLASH #101, "Going The Distance" w: Waid, a: Jimenez/Marzan. === Wally (along with the rest of the "cyclone rangers") helps rebuild the extensive Kobra-damage to Keystone City and reflects on the changes in himself and his life. Max asks if he's still concerned about losing his humanity, and cautions him about the price he may have to pay for his accomplishment.

Bart rebuilds a wall at super-speed, not realizing that mortar has to set between the layers of brick. It collapses on him, but he's saved by a blinding blur which he starts to yell at - but the blur is Jesse Quick, who asks him if she looks that much like "Puppeteer West". Cue Wally's arrival; they both give him the cold shoulder and Wally has a heart-to-heart with each. Or tries to, but he can't even address Bart without lecturing. (Wally admits their worst problem to himself: "He's brash, he's reckless, he's impatient, he's irresponsible...he's just exactly me.")

They agree the mentoring thing isn't working, and Wally goes looking for Iris --who's already planning to take her leave. No, not back to the future; she has no way to get there. But she's afraid to stick around and possibly let slip something about the future that'll change their history, so she's just going, well, away. It's Iris who tells Wally that Max Mercury has already agreed to take Bart under his wing. [So she had already noticed Wally and Bart weren't working out a sound teaching relationship. Iris doesn't miss much.] --She plans to write.

FLASH #105, "Through a Glass Darkly" w: Waid/Friedman, a: Lim/Stegbauer.== Bart and Linda track down Mary (Emelia) Anders, the woman Mirror Master is obsessed with. She's imprisoned herself in an environment with no reflective surfaces whatever, since he can get to her if she's ever mirrored in anything, but Bart inadvertantly fouls that by cleaning the road grit off his goggles. Bingo: Mirror Master is where Bart was, and Bart's trapped in the Mirror Dimension with Wally. Wally's ticked off that Bart took Linda along with him to Anders' house. Flash and Impulse set about kicking the zillions of mirrors to powder and find the one that's a portal out, arriving in time to keep Master from beating the daylights out of the woman he professes to love. As the cops drag the ranting Master away, great dialogue:

Wally - "Speaking of which...when I get my hands around Impulse's neck, I want to tell him that dragging you into this..."
Linda: "Actually, it was my idea to come along."
Wally: " ...was a fine, fine idea. *koff*"


And now the next major arc:

FLASH #108, "Dead Heat, First Lap: Flatfooted" w: Waid, a: Jimenez/Marzan. ==One year ago: a stormy night; a temple on a sheer, inaccessible mountain. Robed acolytes wait tensely for the moment as the dome is opened; one races forward and makes himself a target; lightning strikes, and over the charcoaled form stands a powerful, swirling-haired, madly laughing figure. The acolytes draw back aghast.

We open on a set of vignettes showing our speedsters - Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick, and the Kapitalist Kouriers - suddenly losing their speed. Jay drops a vase and can't catch it in time to save it from shattering; Jesse, charging a mugger, expected to easily pass his bullets and instead takes one in the shoulder; Cassiopeia, running up the side of a building, falls to his death.

Meanwhile, Wally and Linda are having lunch in the park, not a care on earth except their terror of discussing the possibility of marriage (a very funny scene), when suddenly ninjas attack. ("Thank God," thinks Wally.=) No one else sees the assailants - they're moving as fast as Wally himself.

He defeats them; they all split except the one he knocked cold; and that's when he spots Jay and Jesse. They've got a bone to pick with him. They suspect him - angry Jesse, in fact, all but accuses him - of "mainlining" the Speed Force, pulling all the available energy to himself and cutting everyone else off. Wally, confused and distressed, denies any knowledge of such an ability, but Jay mildly points out that Wally has changed since he touched the Force directly...and Wally learns that one speedster, poor Cassio, has already died.

Iris West Allen arranges to meet Johnny Quick in a diner and there tells him he must accept the reality of the Speed Force - a life is on the line. Johnny, still the skeptic of the crew, says he'll look after the others, but wants no part of this hoodoo about the Force. His power is within himself, unlocked by his mathematical formula, which has never failed him. But as he sets off to leave, it does.

In the park, Jay, Wally and Jesse are still discussing the situation. Wally interrogates the captured ninja, who spills the beans. He was sent by "Savitar, the Lord of Speed. It is he who has stripped the unworthy of their swiftness... transferring it instead into Thunderbolts Agents like myself... agents ordered by Savitar to eliminate all True Students of the Lightning." (Pretty eloquent, considering Wally's dangling him off a skyscraper by one foot as he speaks.) The informer pays an awful price: he's supermetabolized, aging to death and crumbling to dust in an instant.

Wally returns to the ground and passes on his words to Jay and Jesse. Linda has already called Max and Bart's house, but there's no answer. [This is where Jesse learns that Bart's in training with Max; Wally adds that Max volunteered for the job. I suspect Iris' persuasion may have had a hand in it.]
--Jay says they must go to Manchester and talk with Max - if anyone knows who this "Savitar" is and what he wants, it'll be the old grandmaster sensei of speed.

Cut to Savitar's mountain temple - it was of course he who arrived with the lightning bolt on page three. He's interrogating a figure which hangs in chains, bleeding. You knew I'd return someday, rages Savitar, and you deliberately let others into the circle of speed, diluted the pool. Now I have ranks to winnow... We see the man he's beating is Max Mercury. Savitar would like to kill Max, but he can't - it was Max who showed him the face of God, and he doesn't take that lightly. Knuckles dripping with Max's blood, he turns to a flunky and says, "You kill him."

Wally is racing to Manchester with Linda in his arms and Jay and a seething Jesse literally in tow, lending them his speed (Wally's now able to accelerate objects and other people by extending his own physical field, a trick he discovered possible back in #101). Is Bart really in danger? Maybe his secret identity has kept Savitar's ninjas from finding him...



IMPULSE #9, "Running in the Family" w: Waid, a:Ramos/Faucher. [Not actually a chapter of "Dead Heat" but all relevant, so I'm including it here.] Max has been gone for three days, and Bart finds that after that long, even total indulgence in sugary cereal and video games gets boring. Seems Max just disappeared without a word (I suppose Savitar's creeps didn't exactly give him time to write a note).

Bart goes looking for him, but instead finds a super-speed girl in a blue-and-white uniform - and she speaks Interlac. Meet Jenni Ognats, a/k/a XS of the Legion, Bart's time-stranded 30th century cousin. Lost, she came looking for family. Can Bart help her get home? Max could, he says, but I don't know where he is...

In Savitar's temple; the monks ordered to kill Max take off his chains, and Max seizes the chance to make his escape.

Back home, Bart finds something for Jenni to wear and sort-of teaches her English at the library, where she cheerily rattles to Helen (Max's daughter, but she doesn't know that yet) all about the Legion and nearly blows Bart's secret as well. Bart, losing his temper, races off, and has a run-in with bikers from which Jenni saves him using her flight ring. The kids race home - Bart, expecting to win by vibrating thru the door while she has to open it, is instead pasted to its outside as they too lose their speed. And as they blink and realize, in blur the ninjas...

XS and Impulse near the finish line of their race home.


FLASH #109, "Dead Heat, Second Lap: A Swiftly Tilting Planet" w: Waid, a: Jimenez/Marzan. ==Flash and the others arrive just as the ninjas corner XS and Impulse. Wally makes short work of them, and all watch in horror as these ninjas, too, crumble to powder. Wally and Co. learn that Max has been missing for days and surmise it's Savitar's work. So NOW where do they go for answers?

Impulse suggests they ransack Max's personal papers (he's been dying for an excuse=) and at superspeed they do so. Max's diary is found - it's in Korean of all things, but Linda conveniently knows the language, and while she translates, Wally and Jenni meet and talk about Barry Allen.

Linda then reads the journal aloud. Savitar, Max learned, was a third-world fighter pilot in the early Cold War, testing an experimental supersonic jet. [Its number, amusingly, was 666.] He pushed it past the limit and the jet was lanced through with a weird, frightening energy. When he came to, he was thousands of miles away, the plane was toast, and he was unscathed - seized by the Speed Field. --Note that "Speed Field" and "Speed Force" seem to be interchangeable terms.

(Wally: "Whoa. Come on. That's an awfully unlikely origin, isn't it?"
Linda: "Says the boy who was struck by electrified chemicals and ripped off Barry's origin.")

Speed had saved his life - it became his religion and he its high priest. He took the name Savitar from the Hindu god of motion, who motivates all living things, and his obsession with plumbing its secrets became insanity.

Jay Garrick (Flash I) had retired and Barry Allen (Flash II) wasn't yet in the speed business, so Savitar's only contemporaries were eternal unbeliever Johnny Quick and confirmed mystic Max Mercury - who, as expected, disagreed on the seriousness of his threat. Both might have died in the pitched battle against the fanatic, had not Max taken him on a chase to "the edge of light" - the border of the Speed Field, which Savitar desperately wanted to enter. Savitar didn't know, as Max did, that if anything altered his path for an instant, he'd recoil off the forcefield and be thrown into the timestream -- and thus Max disposed of him. Then. But Max knew that Savitar would regroup and turn up again, and planned to prepare for him by gathering forces of his own.

Thus ends the journal. Did Max ally himself with our family of speedsters in preparation for this moment, then? Is that why he agreed to take on Bart's guardianship and training? And why did he never mention any of this to anyone? (Typical Max, mutters Jesse...)

--A startled Bart spots a red-gashed blue hand reaching through the door --cripes, it's Max, cut to ribbons and trailing a river of blood. Savitar has sadistically carved a map to his castle on Mercury's chest with the note "See you soon." Max manages to say that Savitar can't drain Wally's speed, as he's too closely tied to the Speed Field, but will stop at nothing to kill him and have the Field - and direct communion with what he considers to be the Divine - all to himself.

With the rangers' powers all stripped, only Flash can go to the battle; he and "someone I have total faith in." And that's Jesse Quick - who's used to flying as a fighting skill, so can use XS's Legion flight ring (and Max's samurai sword). Dropping Max in the hospital on the way, they're off.

Comment: Wally shows more empathy and tact in asking Jenni to surrender her flight ring than he'd ever shown his cousin Bart, in my humble opinion. Maybe he's learning something about dealing with younger heroes out of all this.

IMPULSE #10, "Dead Heat, Second Lap: Disaffected Youth" --[Shouldn't that lap be Third?...] w: Waid, a: Ramos/Foucher.
==Bart has a bad day at school. --Heck, Bart has a bad day, period, as he tries to deal with the first 24 hours of his life in which he doesn't have super-speed. "It was like running on lightning...now it's like walking through wet laundry." Late for class, reflexes shot, so drained that he can't even finish signing his name before the bell...you have to pity the kid. He's spared detention because the principal knows the "uncle" Bart lives with is in the hospital, but he still has to get through the rest of the day...

Cut to Max's bedside, where Jay, Linda, Jenni and Iris keep watch. Jenni worries about Bart, the only one of the clan to be born super-fast, now forced to move in a slow world. Jay can hardly believe that Max, "the master of speed," could be blindsided and cut down this way - how was it that he didn't sense the presence of Savitar? --Johnny Quick arrives and is briefed re: Savitar's return. He reluctantly confesses that he's had to reconsider his disbelief in the Speed Force, since Savitar's cutting of their connection to it has also rendered his spoken formula - which he had believed independent of Max's mumbo-jumbo - useless.
"Maybe...maybe Max was right all these years..." Johnny gruffly concedes.
The presumed-comatose Max surprises all: "No...kidding..."

A silent Bart gets decked by a flying dodge-ball he didn't see coming, stumbles through the ten-lap penalty, sleepwalks through a collision in the cafeteria... Carol (his best friend/not-quite-girlfriend) learns where Max is and leaps to Bart's defense when bullies dump him off his chair. The bullies sneer that that can't be Bart's problem - he's never cared about anyone or anything at all. Last straw. Teeth bared, Bart scrambles to his feet; claws his way through the tangle of kids and chairs; and bolts out of the cafeteria in tears, with his first spoken word of the episode --"Maaax!"

Away from the building and into the woods --where he's run down by dirtbikers. Knee skinned, clothes torn, he limps off.

Back to Max's hospital room - he's explaining how he's using stored speed energy to metabolize his injuries when -- uh-oh -- enter a pack of Savitar's speed ninjas. Luckily, like many villains, they waste time showing off and bragging, giving Max the chance to pass some of his stored speed to Johnny.
(Great exchange here: JQ: "I - I can feel it! 3X2(9YZ)--"
Max: "John? Shut up.")
Johnny is making sushi of the ninjas (and nurses are banging on the door) when suddenly the familiar crackle of lightning surrounds all our speedsters, wherever they are, including Bart on his long trudge home. Do they have their power back? Yup. And everyone dives into the fight, which in close quarters soon proves no advantage. (Bart, meanwhile, is blazing toward the hospital at top speed.) While the fight spins to one side of the room one ninja gets clear and sets his sword across Max's throat, cackling that they're all too far away to stop him, and as he draws blood it looks as if he's right - until Bart sails through the window feet-first, knocks the ninja sprawling and tornadoes him. The Speed Ninja begs for Savitar's (nonexistent) mercy, but BAM - empty robe, pile of dust.

Max sits up and unhooks himself from the nasal tube, thanking Johnny Q. for the surge of speed energy that recharged him. No, says Johnny smiling, I can't take credit for that: that was courtesy of Max's other student, "the one who believed in you all along."

"Ah," says Max.
Bart: " 'Ah'? 'AH'? I barreled in just in time to save your long, thin neck...and all I get is 'AH' ?"
Max (smiling this time!) "Ah." (--and this time Bart beams.)

OK, this must mean Wally and Jesse did something to derail Savitar (Johnny hits the roof on learning that his daughter went toe-to-toe with the menace, but Max calms him down) and it's time we got back into the fight. Max asks Jenni to stay with Iris and Linda in case of danger, and the four cut and run (leaving the two reporters and Jenni to come up with a creative explanation of the shambles they leave behind)

Comment: --Before getting to the big action finish, we've got a nice little character study of Impulse here, dealing with the big question: if all your life you've been able to think and move at superhuman speed, effortlessly, easy as breathing, how do you feel when, suddenly, you can't? As far as our little rockethead is concerned, you feel awful, that's how: dull, clumsy, apathetic, brain and body packed in wet sand. [I'm battling a viral infection this week, so I empathize.] Ramos gets the blue ribbon this time for his expressive art: these slumped, expressionless poses are just right. And that moment when, at the bottom of his misery, Bart calls Max's name says volumes - he may gripe and argue, but Max is pretty much all he's got, and the solitude and the chance of losing him have the kid just plain scared. Fine stuff.


...quick! run to Part 2.