Current Reviews


Firestorm #1

Posted: Friday, May 7, 2004
By: Olivia Woodward

Writer: Dan Jolley
Artist: ChrisCross (p), John Dell (i)

Publisher: DC

Jason Rusch is an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. He's got an abusive father and has just lost his job, depriving him of the money needed to pay college tuition. In a desperate attempt to get some cash, Jason takes a courier job for a local hoodlum. But circumstances soon become extraordinary. While delivering his package, a bizarre phenomenon alters everything.

In the midst of a criminal transaction gone bad, Jason's ordinary world changes. Ordinary guys don't have flames emanating from the top of their head.

"I hate to say it, but I've got to send you home."

This issue is an exploration of character via the framework of an origin story. Jolley goes to great lengths to establish Jason's character, offering up a few scenes where the reader can come to an understanding that he's a basically good guy, with simple aspirations and a few ordinary problems. The dialogue is colorful and rounds out the sense that this is a realistic character.

Plot management is totally in the service of character depiction, making for a subdued read. We start the story going through a series of mundane events that lead to Jason's eventual transformation into Firestorm; he effectively lose his job, he stresses over tuition payments, he struggles with the decision to get involved in a criminal activity, and he gets pushed around by his father. Each event pounds home the everyday conflicts of Jason's life and his normal responses to them.

Set in Detroit, mood of the story is commonplace. Thematically, there are some interesting elements here, mainly in the exploration of "being incomplete." On one level, Jason is an inadequate person, bowing submissively to domination, whether it's to his father or just to the unlucky circumstance of his life. He needs to find within himself the power to stand up against these hardships and triumph over the insufficiency that they represent.

On a deeper level, the concept of "merger" or "gestalt," the joining of two individuals into a single physical entity, has been a thematic element to the Firestorm character since its creation, involving the interesting dynamic of "driver/back-seat driver" in the actual narrative. "Who's in control" is the thematic bond between Jason's story and the Firestorm tradition.

The art is gorgeous, from solid composition to engaging colors. However, the plot doesn't lend itself to exciting visuals. The art is focused on establishing a routine setting, with an abundance of minutia to enforce the verisimilitude of the story. Though of exceptional quality, the art is wasted on lackluster images.

"Yeah, you better run."

This is my first significant exposure to the character of Firestorm. I'm unimpressed. Isn't Firestorm supposed to be a vastly powerful entity capable of transforming matter on a molecular level? Isn't Firestorm supposed to be a character with internal conflicts created through the friction of diverse personalities forced into a shared existence? Isn't Firestorm the type of character that can delve into deep conceptual science fiction narratives? I'm not seeing any of this brought into focus here. Is this an unfair criticism raised by expectations of past narratives? I don't think so. The title is "Firestorm," which indicates a tradition that comprises certain story elements. These elements are eschewed in this issue.

Well, let's evaluate this issue for what it is and not what it used to be. The story presented is dull and mundane. It doesn't inspire my imagination or compel my prolonged interest. I can admire Jolley's expert crafting of a perfectly humdrum character and its boring conflicts. However, this is an academic enjoyment. I can go into any bookstore and run my hand along the shelves of the mainstream fiction section, and hit countless books with a protagonist like Jason; he's an overused staple of contemporary urban drama.

I have no informed opinions about the former Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond, but was he such a weak character that the bland and mundane Jason Rusch is a significant improvement? If so, I can well understand why Firestorm has remained in the basement of B-grade heroes for over twenty-five years. Unfortunately, unless Jolley brings us some serious incentives to get behind Jason, I'm not seeing any improvement.

I'm an art enthusiast, so I'll get the next issue in hopes that we'll get some actions scenes for ChrisCross and John Dell to deliver on the visual pyrotechnics. As regards the storyline, it's not of interest to me. I don't recommend this issue.

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