Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Man #13 review

Yep, that's Nuclear MAN, singular. Writer/artist Dan Jurgens comes on board and it's no more Jason Firestorm and Ronnie Firestorm, no more two heroes merging into anger monster Fury. It's just the Firestorm, with Ronnie in the driving seat and Jason as back-seat driver.

That's not to say Ronnie gets to be star attraction, as Jason is very much the equal partner, on hand to discuss strategy and supply the chemistry knowledge to affect molecular changes. And cajole and nag too, because that makes for fun reading. But vitally, there's none of the outright hostility of earlier issues - the teenagers have found common ground, realising that they have to work together to survive. And they may not admit it out loud, but each seems to be enjoying spending time with someone they'd once have crossed the street to avoid.

The threats this time come from a shady organisation gathering information on Firestorm, headed by all-purpose Army creep General Eiling. First there's a robot, Dataxen, that adapts to resist the hero's powers of transformation. Then there's a trio of meta-villains, Black Star, Relay and Skull Crusher, who are also kitted up to give the Nuclear Man a hard time.

The soap comes via Ronnie's mother Joanne and Jason's dad Al, who find that they have more in common than superhero sons, and Jason's girlfriend Tonya, as she lends Ronnie a helping hand. What's more, sharing headspace means Ronnie and Jason get to talk domestic stuff alongside the tactics (click on image to enlarge).
And on the final page, there's the return of a DC hero not seen since, oh, last month.

There's nothing radical here but there is a highly enjoyable story introducing the comic's new status quo amid high-octane superhero action. Veteran Jurgens uses his supportng cast to bring new readers up to speed and wisely eschews any mention of the international Firestorms who previously bogged down this book. So it's goodbye wannabe Green Lantern Corps, and hello to the pure Firestorm concept. Done right, Firestorm doesn't need to dance to anyone else's tune, because the character created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom in the Seventies has his own storytelling engine - jock and brain combine to fight crime.

Jurgens concentrates on the relationship between Jason and Ronnie and how it makes them a particular kind of hero. The extremely unlikable kids of earlier issues are gone, replaced by a pair who aren't perfect, aren't best pals, but likewise aren't irredeemable arses. He gets the basics right immediately, freeing himself to take Firestorm places he's not been before.
The introduction of the three human baddies is a little clunky, with lots of awkward namechecking, but I'll take clarity over 'cleverness' anytime.

As for Jurgens the artist, it's the usual clean, solid work that it's very easy to take for granted. But Jurgens has mastered his craft and it shows on every page, with the civvies sequences being every bit as interesting as the action moments. Ray McCarthy inks and embellishes, ensuring the work looks suitably sharp before Hi-Fi applies the vibrant colours. As has been known to happen in a DC New 52 book, there's a gory killing, but Jurgens' panel design and Hi-Fi's hues ameliorate overt nastiness. Travis Lanham letters, turning in a good, clean job and giving Ronnie and Jason distinctively shaded balloons and fonts.

If you've been put off Firestorm by unpleasant characters and a muddied concept, try this issue - it's back to the Firestorm of old, without ever feeling tired.

13 comments:

  1. Seconded. This is really back-to-basics Firestorm stuff, which seems to me is really what the title needed after a foundering first year. I gave this a try, and I'm very glad I did.

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  2. I'll give this a shot. I've always enjoyed Jurgens' work, and his Firestorm looks good.

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    1. If you get a chance, let us know what you reckon, Reno.

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    2. It was a nice, solid superhero adventure, exactly what Jurgens is good at. I was just confused by one thing, though. I always thought that the floating head of Martin Stein before was just a visual device that the artists use to give him form, but here it seems that Jason is actually a disembodied head floating outside Firestorm's body, albeit only Ronnie can see and hear him. Did it seem like this to you, too?

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    3. Hmm, it never struck me, I'll have to go back and check Reno - that would be so amazingly nuts.

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  3. Earlier today, when I was reading the issue, I tweeted the exact same thing about the above panel. I chuckled at the old school name checking, because it just doesn't fit in with today's comics, but it's a small quibble in an otherwise solid "first" issue.

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    1. Do you think we may be great minds?

      I like Captain Ahole, found by clicking on your name!

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    2. Thanks for the kind words, Martin, and I don't think I'm a great mind, perhaps a decent one?

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  4. I totally agree! It was a solid superhero comic in the traditional sense. Really enjoyed it and can't wait for more!

    The Irredeemable Shag
    http://firestormfan.com

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    1. Thanks for the link, I'm off there the noo!

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  5. Oh, Mart, are you supposing that the figure in the last panel is Captain Atom? That actually hadn't occurred to me, but it makes sense, what with him guest-starring in an upcoming issue. I'd assumed it was Martin Stein, and I was wondering why he was so buff and shirtless!

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