Thursday, April 12, 2012

New 52 in Review - The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Men

Why is this series first?  Because it was on the top of the pile that I randomly decided to start with.  Possible spoliers below.  You've been warned.
My interest in Firestorm began with the Superfriends cartoon.  I really liked the younger characters, and an episode was better for me if it included Robin, Cyborg, or Firestorm (but not the Wonder Twins; they were just never as cool).  Firestorm was cool because he wasn’t just an energetic kid with really cool powers, but he had another side, or rather another person who helped to balance him out and be the voice of reason.  This two man team was interesting.  It was like the sidekick and the hero in one.

When I got back into comics Firestorm no longer had his own series and in fact had at some point died and been replaced by a new version.  I didn’t really see much of the new Firestorm until Blackest Night.  I liked that he was in many ways different from the old version.  I liked that while Ronnie needed Professor Stein to help him use his transmutation powers, Jason studied really hard so as to make the most of the power himself (and I am a super nerd, so powers that you can improve by studying appeal to me).  Even though I hadn’t know the characters very long I was quite effected by the death of Gehenna, and the back and forth between the newly not dead Firestorm and his replacement was interesting.  I have not finished Brightest Day to see how all of that turned out, but that storyline was one of the main reasons I picked up Brightest Day in the first place. 

So now we have the new series and everything is different.  Ronnie and Jason start off as normal high school kids who end up thrown together and both become Firestorm, this time with separate bodies, although they can combine into some sort of monster thing called Fury.  Gone is the interesting dynamic with the powers of two normal people in one superhero.  Another thing that seems to have vanished is the need for scientific knowledge to be able to manipulate the powers. 

I could be wrong about that though, because very little was explained in the first seven issues, despite the fact that they had a great excuse for exposition as Ronnie has no idea what is going on and Jason seems to be rather in the know.  My only clue about the powers comes from a battle they have with the Russian Firestorm who mentions something about "first level powers".  I suppose that since Jason and Ronnie both became Firestorm from a bottle that maybe was only supposed to make one person Firestorm that the powers were spilt somehow, with neither receiving the full set.  Maybe Ronnie only got the energy blasts and Jason ended up with the transmutation powers.  But this is all conjecture on my part.  As I said, it’s never really explained.  And I'm sorry, but if I'm a kid with super powers I gonna ask questions to the guy who claims is super smart about how the heck they work. They should have discussed this.  So either they both have the powers and Jason is just being a dick and not telling Ronnie how to use them at all or the powers are split which means that killer blue lady from the first issue should have some part of their power set too. 

And speaking of killing, it really seemed like there was a lot of death in this series.  I mean the first issue starts off, not with our heroes, but with some mysterious soldier terrorist dudes torturing and killing a family for information.  They later do the same thing to a scientist then casually mow down some teachers and students at a school.  And later in the series a stadium of 2,000 people are killed by a suicide bomber with hacked Firestorm powers.  I get that the comic wants to show that the powers these boys posses are dangerous, they are nuclear based after all, but the destruction of the stadium just left me kinda cold.  I appreciate that the event did have significant impact on the main characters and wasn’t simply forgotten about on the next page, but it still didn’t quite feel like enough to me.  It was a shocking event for very little reason other than to have a shocking event and have our characters fail.  And while Ronnie wasn’t killed, he was tortured and had an arm cut off (an injury I am biased against as a sign of poor comics).

The other thing that bothered me is that I never really felt connected to these characters.  The comic started with an origin story with the characters gaining their powers in the first issue.  This didn’t give much time to establish not one, but two main characters, their families, and a love interest, along with a shadowy evil organization.  This bothers me the most with Jason.  I feel like the comic did a lot of telling me how smart Jason was, but it never really showed me that he was as smart as they kept telling me he was.  He wasn’t especially strategic and without the explanation of the science behind the powers, he’s just kinda doing magic. 

I also really don’t understand the motivations of Zithertech.  First they were like kill them at all costs.  And then, for no readily explained reason they were like, “Hey, want a job?”  I have no idea why they suddenly don’t want them dead.  They easily could have just gassed them in their sleep, but instead they are putting on this elaborate ruse and I just can’t think of a good reason why.  Also, there was that whole business with the killers from the beginning, one of whom may have powers and another of whom totally wants these guys dead for nearly killing his girl.  They’ve just been kinda sidelined and not mentioned now.  I’m sure they will make a comeback in some big dramatic way, but I would rather we were dealing with that now rather than leaving us scratching our heads and wondering where those characters ended up.

There was some cute dialogue ("I burned the lake down.  How the hell do you burn a lake down?" for one).  I liked the art, but really didn’t like what I assume is the fill in artist that took over in issue 7 (it wasn't bad art, I just personally hate when characters look different than they did in previous issues).  I kinda liked the Hyenas, with their abilities enhanced by drugs that make them efficient although giggly killers.  But all in all it was not the comic I was hoping it would be.  The characters aren’t the ones I previously enjoyed.  The powers haven’t been explained enough to keep me interested.  I just don’t care enough, even though I wanted to. 

So yeah, chances are very good that I will be dropping this one.  I had far more to say about this than I thought I would, but I don't anticipate them all being this long...

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