By Stuart Moore, Jamal Igle & Keith Champagne & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1219-3 (TPB)
One of the best “straight” superhero series of the last decade came and went with very little fanfare and only (thus far) this intriguing collection to mark its passage. Firestorm the Nuclear Man was created by Gerry Conway & Al Milgrom, launched in 1978 and promptly fell foul of the “DC Implosion” after five flamboyant, fun-filled issues.
High School Jock Ronnie Raymond and Nobel winning nuclear physicist Martin Stein were, due to a bizarre concatenation of circumstances, caught in an atomic blast that melded their bodies and minds into a fusion-powered being with extraordinary powers over matter and energy. Ronnie had conscious control of their consolidated body, and became an exuberant, flashy superhero, with a unique pantheon of villains all his own.
He was drafted into the Justice League of America, and eventually won a well-received back-up series in The Flash (#289 to 304) which led to his second chance; Fury of Firestorm (100 issues and five Annuals between June 1982 and August 1990) before fading into the quiet semi-obscurity of team-books and guest-shots.
In 2004 Dan Jolley & Chrisscross reinvented the character. Black Detroit kid Jason Rusch was brought back from the brink of death thanks to a blazing energy ball (the Firestorm matrix seeking a new host after the murder of its previous body – although nobody discovered that for nearly a year…). This new version of the Nuclear Man can absorb any other body into the matrix, using them as a kind of battery – or more accurately spark plug – for Jason’s powers.
After impressively establishing himself as a hero in his own right he joined Donna Troy’s Space Strike Force in the Infinite Crisis, consequently suffering hideous injuries.
Inexplicably this volume (reprinting issues #23-27 of the third Firestorm comicbook series) ignores all that back-story and begins as part of the One Year Later narrative strand. Jason can now only combine with fellow atomic hero Firehawk, and their un-combined personas cannot safely be more than a mile apart. That’s rather problematic as Jason is a student in New York and Lorraine Reilley, when not Firehawk, is a United States Senator. Jason’s teleporting girlfriend Gehennaisn’t too keen on how much time her man and that “Older Woman” spend together either…
As Firestorm they are desperately searching for Martin Stein, missing for a year and somehow connected to a plot to destroy the Earth, but their quest has also made them/him the target for some extremely dangerous people…
By trying not to give too much away I might have made this tale seem a bit daunting or confusing, but it really isn’t. This is a deliciously clever and witty adventure, providing plenty of opportunities to bring first-time fans up to speed, with likable characters, dastardly villains, an intriguing mystery, plenty of action and loads of laughs – just like the rest of the series was. It reads enchantingly and is really beautiful to look at, so I just don’t understand why newcomers’ first exposure to this material should be with the 23rd chapter and not the first…
You would have thought Firestorm’s appearances in TV animation delight the Brave and the Bold or as one of the Legends of Tomorrow would have prompted somebody to release the rest of this utterly appetising little gem in trade paperback or digital editions by now. Still it’s never too late to start agitating for change is it?
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