Of all the relaunch books, this one feels the most “re-invented” to me so far. Sure, other books tweaked things, modified backstories, hid, delayed, or ignored origins, or just kept plugging away, instituting a policy of continuity amnesia and pretending to be easily accessible books while others offered great new jumping on points. Some books didn’t even try to welcome new readers, plodding forward with hidden agendas or a (seemingly) complete lack of agenda altogether. This book transcends all of that, or at the very least steps over to the side to watch what happens with “all of that.”
Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone take the legend of Firestorm (come on, the character’s been around since 1978) and extract the core concepts -- science-based powers, uneasy alliances, and steep learning curves -- and match those up with names matchheads (Firestorm fans) are already familiar with: Ronnie Raymond, Jason Rusch, Martin Stein, even Cliff Carmichael. From there, Simone and Van Sciver push the story, adding in an underlying mystery that spans the globe and somehow ties into powers beyond comprehension.
The issue has a disturbingly uneasy opening. I don’t find much redeeming quality in the wholesale slaughter of an entire family to open any book, and found the start of this book alarming. As the story progressed, however, I realized that it was supposed to be disturbing and gut-wrenching and wasn’t violent for violence sake. The gang clad in black is out for some hidden secret, prodded along by a mysterious purple clad woman. (As a quick aside I didn’t find “the” robed woman in this issue in my two reads of it.)
The quest for the “god particle” follows a natural (as only can be natural in comics) course to America and a path intersecting with Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond -- two diametrically opposed teens from the same high school who have little respect for one another. The relationship between Ronnie and Jason is pretty close to after-school special material, but if after-school specials had the stars turning into nuclear-powered, flame-headed beings, then those shows would have been much more interesting.
Yildiray Cinar jumps into this issue with both feet, offering a stunning body of work when Firestorm is powered up. That’s only six pages of the book, but it’s an amazingly impressive six pages. Cinar’s work on the “everyday” people and scenarios around Jason and Ronnie is good, and in some areas flat-out great, but there are certainly areas for improvement. The first that comes to mind is the conversation between the two thugs when the leader asks for a knife and his second-in-command refers to the “look on your face.” Except the look was non-plussed and certainly not surprised.
I’d also like to see Cinar brush up the football scenes a bit. I can attest that drawing football gear all by itself is a challenge, but to draw it all in motion could be more time-consuming than the grind of a monthly book would allow. Still, the scenes with Jason and his dad and Ronnie and his mom are well-paced and smartly structured. This is Cinar’s first work on the book, and from what I’ve seen here -- including the cliffhanger -- this book is in fantastic hands going forward.
As a quick aside, being a big football fan, I find it interesting that Ronnie’s a high school football star. So is Vic Stone over in “Justice League.” More after-school special inspiration appears to be on tap, as only could happen in comics, or this may just be one of those apparent crossovers waiting to happen that just never really pans out.
As first issues go, this one is darn good, starting with action and plowing full speed ahead. Firestorm is my all-time favorite character, and as such, I’ve seen the character go through more than a few changes, but this one is by far the biggest change. That said, I can’t wait to see how Simone and Van Sciver continue to spin new life into the names and faces of the Firestorm story.