Finished Ink Art: Ray McCarthy
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Firestorm is one of my all-time favorite characters. I followed his entire run in the 1980’s, despite the persona changes and I even embraced Jason Rusch’s version from a few years ago. Although I liked Jason (and it was great opportunity to change the face under the mask), I detested that they had killed Ronnie (for a time) in the process. Even worse was the knowledge that someone had turned Ronnie into a drunk prior to his joining Busiek and Grummett’s fantastic Power Company series. It seems like creators hold the big guns (Batman and Superman) sacrosanct, but have no trouble performing character assignations on long established second-generation heroes like Firestorm and Marvel’s Nova. (That topic could be a whole other post.) So, I was intrigued about the New 52 version of Firestorm, but the characters I saw were barely recognizable to me and I stayed far, far away. I think the biggest turn-off was seeing Ronnie and Jason fighting each other, which I feared was possibly racially motivated (I could be mistaken about that), when previously Ronnie’s legacy to Jason was akin to Barry Allen’s legacy to Wally (in a dead hero you have to live up to kind of way). This week Dan Jurgens took over the creative reigns on the title and I actually bought the issue.
The issue was pretty decent. I can’t rave about how awesome it was, because it was your normal standard super-hero fare with Jurgens' traditional style storytelling, which I happen to enjoy and think is perfectly suited for this title. However, while not setting the world on “fire”, it did accomplish the goal of reestablishing a legitimate version of the character. There is no longer a separate Jason Firestorm and Ronnie Firestorm or a bizarre combined monster (Fury) Firestorm. There’s only one Firestorm where Ronnie takes the physical form and Jason does the Martin Stein floating head thing. This compliments their personal life as well since Ronnie is the Physics-ly challenged high school quarterback and Jason is the scholastic brain. The two appear to be friends (YEA!) and genuinely enjoy their super-heroics.
At the beginning of the issue we meet Ronnie’s single mother and Jason’s single father. Both know of their sons’ extra-curricular activities and both are miffed that the boys are missing parent-teacher conferences. Now, this is where I have to quibble a bit. It’s a PARENT-teacher conference. Since when do the kids have to be in attendance for these things (unless it was deliberately scheduled for specific after-school help)? Another thing is that these two forty-somethings, which seem destined to become romantically involved, look to be more in their thirties. Hey Dan, throw some lines on their faces and a little gravity settling in the mid-sections! They can still be drawn attractively! I actually like their interaction and think that this is a promising plot development that will really impact the boys. I just hope we don’t get any accidental bedroom scenes (like Peter finding Aunt May in an intimate situation with Jonah’s father). The relationship should proceed slowly and naturally. It doesn’t have to be “shocking”.
Most of the issue consists of Firestorm fighting some giant robot dude, named DataXen. Despite the question on the cover, we don’t really learn the secret behind him, other than that Firestorm can’t seem to transmutate his armor directly and he has specifically engaged our flame-brain hero to test and monitor his abilities. After turning DataXen’s missiles into Coke cans, the two head back to school, where we’re introduced to Jason’s Asian (just highlighting the diversity here) girlfriend Tonya and Ronnie’s football coach, appropriately named after Firestorm creator Gerry Conway. If Ronnie doesn’t get a B on his history paper due the next day, then he won’t be allowed to play in the Homecoming Game (reminds me of some of the conversations we have with my high school son, only it’s for English papers). Tonya offers to help Ronnie with the paper, which of course bothers Jason. Could a love triangle be developing?
After an overly gruesome death scene of a STAR labs guard (Geoff Johns would be proud) by a trio of new never-before-seen super-villains, the two seniors (I think) join up again to investigate, leaving Tonya to cheat for Ronnie by writing his paper (an interesting ethical dilemma for a high school storyline). Firestorm ends up getting captured at the end of the issue with promises of revelations about the shadowy mastermind next issue.
It’s funny, the more I delved into the issue, the more I liked it. Now, if they would only bring back the shoulder-fins on the costume!
GRADE B: Dan Jurgens plays to his strengths and gives us the first recognizable Firestorm since The New 52! It’s a fun, straight-up old-school super hero adventure with lots of interesting sub-plots and a perfect starting point for new readers and old fans!