Editor's Note: Firestar #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 21.
"My New Life"
The "recap" page of this one-shot comic (one of several that Marvel is putting out to spotlight female characters as part of their "Year of the Woman" promotion) is one heck of a convoluted mixture of strange stories, showing how a minor character can bounce through an untold number of different stories over the course of a few decades, with different writers bolting all sorts of types of stories onto her until she is nearly unrecognizable. It's an exhausting mass of text, describing villainous school-based plots, team heroics, romantic relationships formed and dissolved, and medical issues like infertility and breast cancer, since lord knows a female character has to go through that sort of drama in order to be "relevant." The weight of history can be an asset in long-running shared-universe superheroics, but for characters like this that only get resurrected every few years by a creator who likes them enough to make something "important" happen in their life, it's a burden, something that adds to the morass of tangled relationships that only the most die-hard fan can keep up with.
Considering the mess that Angelica "Firestar" Jones's history comprises, it's impressive that Sean McKeever manages to build an interesting story around her, but he does just that, even using all this (or at least the less stupid parts) to humanize her. Because what is humanity, anyway, if not a "morass of tangled relationships"? McKeever's take on Firestar is that of a young woman struggling to move on after living through so many life-changing events that she can barely recognize herself anymore.
She's pursuing a master's degree in art and trying to be a superhero on the side, all while going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, and it's exhausting. But the thing that really makes her stop and take inventory of her life is when she comes in contact with an old schoolmate who is going through a nasty divorce and has developed a drinking problem. It's a relatable bit of interpersonal relationship writing, and while McKeever has to plug in some obligatory superheroics, seeing Angelica interact with the people in her life is nice; she's got the problems and issues that everyone has to face, and it's a good, human story that makes the character work better than any sort of super-angst and cosmic threatening could.
As always, it helps to have a good artist to flesh out the writing, and Emma Rios does very good work here, continuing to cement her status as a rising star. She has a nicely expressive style, full of movement (whether costumes are involved or not) and emotion. The bits of superhero action work great, with Firestar's powers manifesting as snaking tendrils of flame and crazy viewing angles being used to show her contorting herself into the crazy poses one would probably end up in when flying around and fighting bad guys. It's a unique and appealing style, full of personality. Also notably, while Firestar's costume is revealingly skin-tight, the sexualization has been dialed down, with her breasts, hips, legs, and waist actually resembling a real woman's. Apparently, it takes a female artist to draw a female character that's not ripped from some pornographic fantasy.
McKeever and Rios aren't exactly reinventing the wheel here, but they do manage to take a minor character and do something with her that seems fresh and interesting, rather than the rote stories that usually get told on the edges of superhero comics. If more of those "spandex" comics could do something like this, telling human stories about realistic characters that occasionally get into punch-ups with villains, maybe more people would read them. Like women, say. That would make this a real Year of the Woman. I wouldn't bet on it though.
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