NEW 52 REVIEW: The Fury Of Firestorm #1

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Or – “Most People Forget About His First Series…”

For those keeping track, Firestorm dates back to 1978, and DC’s disastrous expansion of their publishing line right at the point where a combination of recession, paper shortages and nationwide storms made it even LESS profitable to be in the business of distributing paper pamphlets.  He’s been revamped, relaunched, murdered at least once, merged, rebuilt and redefined so many times since then that this first issue can’t HELP but be a step in the right direction, even if it’s another Grifter.  Given the creative pedigree involved, though, it would be 2/3 of the way to impossible for this book to be that bad.

THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1
Co-Plotters: Ethan Van Sciver & Gail Simone
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Rachel Gluckstein
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Fury of Firestorm:  Ronnie Raymond, way back in the day, was a low-level jock, tormented by bully Cliff Carmichael, who became accidentally bonded at the particle level to Martin Stein, a genius-level physics professor.  Together, they were Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!  Then, the “DC Implosion” happened, and only Gerry Conway’s writing duties on Justice League of America kept Firestorm from going the way of the Odd Man.  Some years later, after Ronnie and the Professor were separated, Jason Rusch somehow became part of a Firestorm Matrix of his own, and eventually both Jason and Ronnie bonded together into a Firestorm composite being who has hung around the edges of the DC Universe for about four crossovers now.  Of course, all of that has gone by the wayside, as this is an all-new 52 DCU.  Now, let’s see how the story plays out THIS time…

WE START WITH JACK BAUER…

The first four pages of this issue were a really tough read for me, as we open with a family being tortured for information by a group of black-suit wearing paramilitary types, led by a smooth-talking jerk.  There’s a tough moment where it seems to be going for the “endanger a kid” trope, but it turns out to be… much, much worse.  Adding to my discomfort, the paramilitary schmucks joke with one another as they leave the scene of the crime, all the while discussing how burning the entire CITY BLOCK will make it look more like the work of terrorists.  Cut to “Walton Mills High School,” where we meet school quarterback and golden boy Ronnie Raymond on the playing field, and see him being interviewed by the quiet, thoughtful Jason Rusch.  It’s a pretty confrontational scene, actually, as Jason carries anger and resentment with him, and the two clash over issues of race.  I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised how well this potentially inflammatory moment plays out, with both Jason and Ronnie seeming very teenage, and neither being played as more “right” than the other, at least in my reading.

…AND END WITH A COUPLE OF SHOCKS.

While the teenage protagonists wrestle with their consciences (and, not coincidentally, introduce us to Ronnie’s mom and Jason’s dad, both of whom are substantially similar, in my recollection, to their pre-relaunch states), we return to the jerkass soldiers of fortune, and learn that their leader is none other than Ronnie’s old nemesis Cliff Carmichael.  More torture ensues, Martin Stein is name-checked, and it becomes clear that they’re looking for something called a “magnetic bottle.”  There’s also a pretty spectacular page wherein we see that even though this is the first issue, there may have been previous Firestorms in this reality, none of which look like the ones we saw in the old one.  The art is pretty good, and the entire issue is done in a primarily orange palette, helping to bring home the whole “fire” motif, right down to Ronnie’s yellow-on-red caption boxes and Jason’s red-on-yellow ones.  The issue ends with the revelation that Jason has the missing magnetic bottle, and in an attempt to keep from getting murdered, transforms himself into FIRESTORM!  And also, for some reason, Ronnie into another FIRESTORM!  And they both have the puffy sleeves! HOORAY!  The two ‘Storms end up fighting each other, but as the issue ends, it seems that they merge into one horrible, monstrous nuclear being, who calls himself Fury.

THE VERDICT:  Hmmm…

So, the best part about this issue is that it’s legitimately a first issue, and it sets up our characters well.  The bad part is that the last portion of the story kind of goes bananas, what with Jason secretly being the beneficiary of Martin Stein’s last weapon, and then Ronnie attacks Jason, and there are some real clarity issues in the last few pages of the art.  Upon my first reading, I wasn’t actually sure that Fury was a composite of both Firestorms (and, honestly, there’s still reasonable doubt.)  That said, there’s more potential in the characters of these two high school kids, and I swear there must be a Black Ops Secret Agent Warehouse somewhere in the new DCU to keep these roving bands of mercenaries in business.  All in all, it’s a little disappointing how conventional this issue is, especially with Gail handing primary writing duties, but the art is good enough, if inconsistent.  The building blocks of something really new seem to be present in Fury of Firestorm #1, but this issue hasn’t quite put it all together yet, earning a good-but-not-yet-phenomenal 3 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Where do all these evil soldiers-of-fortune come from?  Did the DCU equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D. collapse recently or something?