Fury of the Firestorms: The Nuclear Men #1
Writers: Gail Simone & Ethan Van Sciver
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artist: Van Sciver
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
There are two main reasons this comic book is worth reading. The first, and the most obvious, is how DC and the creators on this book have shaken up the property. They’ve shown a willingness to alter Firestorm’s status quo considerably, and that’s just not something one sees in corporate super-hero comics much these days. Secondly, and more importantly, the conflict between the two main characters is compelling. Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond are opposites in almost every conceivable way, but both are well-realized, believable characters. It’s easy to see oneself not only in either one of them, but in both. There are a couple of awkward or unfortunate choices in the plotting, but overall, this is a fun super-hero concept that also feels new. And any kind of freshness of innovation in this decades-old genre is something to be excited about. While the story has something new to offer to readers, the art doesn’t. Mind you, that doesn’t mean it’s poor. Yildiray Cinar’s work tells the story clearly, but it never really comes off as much more than a standard super-hero art style.
Ronnie Raymond, the son of divorced parents, is the star quarterback of his high school football team, and while he struggles in school, his athletic ability offers him a chance at a good future. Jason Rusch, who’s being raised by his single, disabled father, can’t throw a football to save his life, but he can tell you all about the physics behind the perfect spiral while polishing an article he’s written for the school newspaper. Ronnie and Jason come from different worlds, they don’t understand each other and as a result, they don’t much like each other. That’s too bad, because they’ll soon cross paths with a team of hired killers searching for the results of a dead visionary physicist’s research, and the encounter promises to intertwine their lives (if they live much longer, that is).
Cinar’s work here reminds me of the styles of a number of comic professionals, from Tom (Men of War) Derenick, Jerry (DC Retroactive: Batman – The ’80s) Bingham and even the late inker Vince Colletta. Cinar brings a lot of energy to his comic art, and that’s a good thing for a series such as this one. But overall, his style is simply ordinary. There’s not a single panel one can point to in this comic and say, “Oh, that’s really representative of Cinar’s style.” He doesn’t really have his own look yet. Furthermore, he hasn’t quite captured the youth of the characters. Most of the central players in this story are teenagers, but they always look like adults in their mid 20s. The mercenaries that serve as the villains of the book are older, but the kids look like their peers rather than their juniors.
I have to admit I’m not wild about the cover logo. Aside from the atomic ripple effect in the “O” in “Firestorm,” it’s not a particularly dynamic or memorable masthead. The letter forms in the dominant word/element are awkwardly stylized, and there’s little sense of energy or dynamism in it. And despite what the cover logo says, the title of this new comic book isn’t The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Men. According to the indicia in the back of the issue, it’s Fury of the Firestorms: The Nuclear Men. One of them is wrong, and that means someone on the editing side of things let something slip by.
When I heard Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver would work together to write this series, I was intrigued. I know they have differing political beliefs, and if one follows them online at all, it’s clear they have different attitudes and temperaments. Simone is often quite diplomatic in her comments and is generally quite positive. Van Sciver, conversely, is more aggressive and in your face about things that are going on in the news, in his life and in the industry. the decision to put such different people together to write a comic book about two very different people struck me as a novel idea, and it’s definitely paid off. But the pair doesn’t write in broad strokes or caricatures. They’ve crafted two protagonists who have their strengths and their flaws. Their differences help to distinguish them and define them, but I was always more struck by the traits their share. While they may not look like teenagers in the art work, the decisions they make and their refusal to see beyond themselves represents their adolescence quite well.
One of my favorite aspects of the script was how Simone and Van Sciver touch upon race. Jason makes some comments that show people of color don’t have the same place in Ronnie’s life as white people do, and while Ronnie justifiably gets his back up about it, it also prompts him to look at his life and who’s in it. There’s a touching tone of regret in his voice as he talks to his mother about the issue, and I look forward to how this character arc between the two heroes will play out.
The opening scene is terribly dark and might put some readers off, given the violence and callous approach to murder that are part of the sequence. The scene is justified by the plot, and there’s a darkness to it that reminds me of the sort of thing we saw from Simone that made her Secret Six series such a strong read. Nevertheless, I was a little uncomfortable with it. Fortunately, strong, more interesting writing arises soon thereafter. I must also give the writers credit for humanizing the inhuman leader of the killing team. His horror at what happens to a member of his crew — a woman who was apparently his lover — struck me as a believable moment in the middle of a scene defined by its impossible developments.
Simone and Van Sciver have completely rebuilt the Firestorm concept while maintaining key components from previous incarnations of the property. Instead of merging two characters to make one hero, they’ve divided the power between two disparate people without eliminating the link that binds them. Even more interesting still is how an amalgam of the two characters is still a prominent element in the premise. The designs for the various Firestorm forms are sharp, and all of the changes to the concepts makes for some fun mysteries in the plot and a chance for new and longtime readers to discover something new things in this series as it progresses. 7/10
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