Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Fury of Firestorm #17 review

In a week which sees Batman Incorporated #8 get all the publicity, I'm taking a moment to salute Firestorm, the Little Comic That Couldn't. Couldn't find enough readers to survive the latest culling of DC's New 52 line. And that's a shame, because despite being on its third creative team in 18 months, this one is working. Writer Dan Jurgens and penciller, er, Dan Jurgens have found a creative synergy not unlike that of our heroes Jason and Ronnie, who combine bodies and personalities to form the Nuclear Man.

This issue they're intent on undoing some of the damage caused by recent attacks on them, not simply because they're being blamed, but because it's the right thing to do. It's great to see our heroes discover that Firestorm's power has limitations linked to the specific task and their own knowledge of how things work. I'd be happy with an entire issue of do-gooding, along with the soft soap operatics Jurgens does so well, but this is a traditional superhero book, so you gotta have a gimmick battle.

Step forward Red Robin, who persuades fellow Teen Titans Kid Flash and Solstice to pay Firestorm a visit, on the offchance that he's one of the corrupted young super-folk working for shady organisation NOWHERE. The Titans show up at a branch of STAR Labs the boys want to fix, and immediately attack and accuse. The unnecessary fight scene makes the Titans look as inadequate as heroes as Red Robin is rash - isn't Tim Drake meant to be some kind of boy genius? Here he is, provoking an incredibly powerful metahuman based purely on circumstantial evidence, when he could just try talking to him.

A conversation eventually occurs and the four heroes wind up on friendly terms, but the fight scene weakens the issue. I get that forced fights are an old and beloved superhero comics tradition, but the credibility-straining is just too much. Adding to the head-scratchiness is Robin saying (claiming?) that he knew all along that Firestorm was at STAR Labs to do good ... so why the attack?

Earlier in the issue there's a moment when Ronnie - in the Firestorm driving seat while Jason advises from a headspace - shows that he's developing the maturity to try talking his way out of problems, rather than embracing a fight or flight reponse. And towards the end, as Ronnie, he makes a decision which could cost him - again, because it's the right thing to do. Either the time he's being forced to spend with brainiac Jason is making hothead jock Ronnie a more rounded person, or the dangerous powers he wields are encouraging him to think before acting. Whatever the case, it's good to see a protagonist mature before our eyes (Red Robin might wish to take notes).

And hopefully, Jason will get equal spotlight time before series end - I'd like to see him in charge of Firestorm on alternate missions, for one thing.

Jurgens' pencils are stellar, crisply composed, always taking the reader's eye where it needs to be, while ensuring there's plenty of interest around the edges. And inkers Ray McCarthy and Karl Kesel, and colourist Hi-Fi Designs complete the visual feast, drawing us into a sharply rendered, enticingly bright world of excitement. While the fight with the Titans is too contrived by half, this terrifically composed, completed and coloured splash pretty much makes it all worthwhile.

Even the lettering of Travis Lanham is a treat, with Ronnie and Jason's speech bubbles having contrasting, complementary tones.

If the generally grim tone of the New 52 has you missing traditional, but entertainingly well-crafted, comics, with unambiguously, non-'edgy' heroes, sample the Jurgens run of Firestorm which began with #13. The bad news is, it's a limited engagement - the good news is, it's a ruddy good read for not much moolah.

20 comments:

  1. man jurgens is getting a raw deal now, this is his second book getting cancelled what next a news 1st issu of booster gold then gets cancelled, this sucks so much, at least firestorm is going to appear on justice league ps booster gold will return this year maybe on all star westrn first

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    1. I do hope Dan has another assignment lined up, he's a proper talent!

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    2. maybe he'll get a booster gold book, from what i could tell that book was doing well financially or maybe he could be doing a guardians of the globe series

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  2. Thanks for the review Martin. I liked Jurgen on Booster Gold, JLI and his caretaker run on Superman. I didn't check him out in Firestorm because I've never cared much for the character (remember how DC pushed him when he was on one of the reincarnations of the Super-Friends cartoon?), but I hope Jurgens will be writing something for DC in the future.

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    1. Lovely sentiments, cheers Mr Whiskas!

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  3. Like you, I'll be sorry to see this one go. Good, clean superheroics about doing the right thing. There aren't a lot of those anymore. I'm afraid the the previous team made everyone flee and not enough people picked it up again when Jurgens took over, expecting more of the same flawed concept.

    The fact that he's in the Justice League now doesn't help me because I can't stand that book.

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    1. I've found recent issues of JL better than the first, oh, 15 or so. But I still want BIlly Batson to fall down a hole.

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  4. with vibe and the green team you may have some good old fashion heroics with drama no trace of artificial angst, i mean i like dark and dram but i love balance try super dinosaur it's a bit bumpy in it's first issue but trust me it is a gem of my pull list next to wolverine and the x-men. it's got action, drama, suspense, vile villains, heroic heroes and real sense of family, plus what book can you get in this market has dinosaurs shooting lases at each other, chek it out guys i assure it is great

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    1. Super-Dinosaur eh, I shall take a look!

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    2. the first 2 trades are out and are cheap, i assure you mart it will fill the void of superman family adventures ps could you do a review of vol 1 if you chose to get it that would be much appreciated thank you

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    3. Martin, I'd second that you take a look at Super-Dinosaur, it's one of the few comics that is still kid-friendly but it's also not bad for adults imho.

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    4. Thank you mr whiskas, hey who is your favourite dino man, mine are doomtroden, painklysuarus and terror dactyl

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    5. I like terror dactyl as well and Tricerachops. He's not a dino man but I like the Exile too.

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    6. i stand corrected mart the first 3 trades of super dinosaur are out and are cheap

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  5. Yeah, I'm going to miss Firestorm as well. You can't beat Jurgens for good, solid superhero stories and some cracking, unpretentious artwork.

    I really hope he gets another gig and soon.

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    1. Hmm, where would he be a good fit? Maybe an all-ages Batman book?

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    2. With the recent death of Damian, does such a book exist?!

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    3. DC could create it, Gary - not something that looks as 'young' as the excellent Johnny DC books, but something classic, in line with the licensed products art, with self-contained storylines contained well-structured plots, mystery, soap and humour.

      Is that an ask, these days?

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    4. hawkeye or super dinosaur are the only ones i can think of also daredevil and maybe indestructible hulk

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