Last weekend at WonderCon, Jeph Loeb commented that it
should only be appropriate for a character named Firestorm
to generate a firestorm of controversy. Indeed, for months
writer Jolley, and by extension the guy who hired him, Dan
DiDio, have endured a lot of fan criticism. Not that these
critical fans have necessarily been numerous enough to keep
the previous incarnation of Firestorm in print, but they
have made it seem like sacrilege that anybody would dare
tweak the basic formula for The Nuclear Man.
However, they seem to forget that Firestorm has been tweaked
before. For a while during the days before Vertigo, writer
John Ostrander and artist Tom Mandrake put him in a black
and red costume and called him a nuclear elemental. Worse,
the Ron Raymond/Professor Stein matrix was split in half.
Returning Firestorm to the puffy-sleeved guy in the yellow
suit seemed more an afterthought or trademark reminder than
a serious effort to get back to his roots.
Besides, having the guy be an alcoholic supermodel named
RonRay didnít do wonders for the characterís reputation,
and that was the last time anybody had tried to do anything
about Firestormís personal life. Maybe weíd all just be
better off pretending Extreme Justice never happened.
See? Changing his secret identity doesnít seem like such
a bad idea after all.
So pretend weíve never encountered Firestorm before. The
character before us in this revival seems like a decent
kid. Jason Rusch is just a young man trying to do the right
thing in circumstances that are less than ideal. Working
hard to save enough for college, he hits a stumbling block
when his embittered unemployed father hits him. His solution
may not be the wisest, but itís believable for a kid who
feels overwhelmed by an unfortunate chain of circumstances.
And thatís before he gains control over inorganic molecules.
Writer Jolley has built a solid character, and a solid
story around him. Gifting Jason with the power of Firestorm
just gilds the lily; it doesnít happen until the last few
pages. Instead, thereís a good story, a small story, of
one man trying to keep it together that would be an interesting
read even without the superheroics. Of course, without the
superheroics you might not buy it.
DiDio described this as a book that artist ChrisCross
(Captain Marvel) feels is the one that will catapult
him into the big time. It may very well be. This artist
has a good feel for little moments and real people. At the
same time, he certainly knows how to make a dramatic transformation
happen. The sequence where Jason ends up in the wrong place
at the wrong time carries the reader through with kinetic
excitement, rushing headlong into its cliffhanger.
That may be the biggest gripe with this book. In todayís
market, itís hard to want to commit to a new superhero title
without much of a taste of whatís going on with the overall
mystery. Itís clear that Jason getting the Firestorm matrix
(for lack of a better phrase at this moment) and messing
up his assignment for a loan shark are coincidences. So,
weíve got a big mystery with no clues and very little action
to at least hold the attention of easily distracted readers.