That is a mouthful of a title — and one that’s apparently confusing even to the indicia writer, since that pluralizes “Firestorm.” But the length of the title also allows writers Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver to lay everything out on the table right from the start. The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men is exactly what it says on the cover — as opposed to, say, a book entitled All-Star Western that’s set in a city on the east coast.
In any case, this might be the hardest reboot of them all, changing almost everything about Firestorm except for the puffy sleeves. Ronnie Raymond is a star quarterback; Jason Rusch is a boy genius on the high school newspaper. They don’t get along. The setup is similar to Firestorm’s origin in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where Ronnie was a coach at Jason’s school. Here, it’s a jock/nerd rivalry, and Simone and Van Sciver do a good job making Ronnie more sympathetic and Jason more obviously arrogant than one might expect in a fairly nerd-dominated genre.
Wrapped around the high school melodrama is a conspiracy story, following the sadistic agents of a shady organization as they slaughter their way through scientists and prodigies, trying to track down the fruits of the late Prof. Martin Stein’s research. Ultimately, only one of the Firestorm Protocol devices remains to be found, leading the science assassins to Ronnie and Jason’s high school. After some supporting cast members get shot to death, Jason activates the Firestorm Protocol device, which transforms him and Ronnie into the familiar flame-haired heroes. They fight, then merge together into the wisecracking nuclear hulk called Fury.
It’s a compelling start to things, and one that offers a lot of different angles, styles, and sources of drama — from typical high school teen hero shenanigans to this larger worldwide conspiracy and hints of previous Firestorms. More than a lot of first issues in the New 52, this feels like the jumping-off point for a long series, with lots of plot threads and themes to follow up on.
On the artistic front, Yildray Cinar’s pencilwork is nice and dynamic, though it lacks any real distinctive stylistic hook. Still, the scenes are staged well (with the exception of one slightly-hard-to-follow bit toward the beginning), the action is clear, and the characters are all clearly distinguished. It’s a shame about the largely monochromatic Firestorm costumes, because they really could use a little more color variation, but Cinar makes them look a good deal better than they do on the cover.
I’m not entirely sure how I end up attracted to the science fiction books, because it’s not entirely intentional, but again, I’m not complaining. There’s a stark contrast between the sci-fi technobabble in this book and Mister Terrific. It’s not that the science here is more valid; the explanation for how Firestorm can transmute elements is based in part on changing the flavor of quarks, which wouldn’t do a whole lot of good if you wanted to make lead into gold. Only two types of quarks (up and down) make up normal matter; changing them would only allow you to change protons into neutrons or vice versa, while transmutation suggests the ability to add or remove protons and neutrons from atoms in bulk — the necessary process to change one element to another.
In other words, like Mister Terrific, the science language is complete gobbledygook. And yet, it works better here for two reasons: first, there’s not a detailed explanation, just a few disjointed phrases uttered by a tortured scientist. While the things he mentions — gauge boson decay inhibition and quark flavor changes — don’t seem like they’d add up to transmutation, enough is left to the imagination that it doesn’t seem completely implausible. The second reason is far simpler: the functions of bosons and quarks are the realm of pretty advanced, cutting-edge physics, while Mister Terrific’s electromagnetism flub was the province of a high school science class.
Overall, I enjoyed The Fury of Firestorm. The book is packed with interesting stuff that’s likely to get follow-up treatment over the course of the series, and I’m curious enough to see where it all goes.
Pull List Verdict: KEEP IT
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more