It's as strange, frankly, to be writing a Firestorm review as it is to be writing an Aquaman review; how far we've come that even these "forgotten heroes" now have their own trade paperbacks. Whereas Sword of Atlantis, however, was an excellent, accesible One Year Later jumping on point for the series, Firestorm, The Nuclear Man: Reborn turned out much too convoluted to grab my attention. I can tell in dribs and drabs here what's changed for the character over the missing year, but I don't feel we get enough information about Firestorm to really engage new readers in the plot.
One Year Later, Firestorm is doing temporary work for Lexcorp, preventing a nuclear reaction. He and Firehawk, his new partner in the Firestorm matrix, are attacked by soldiers of The Pupil, a former student of previous Firestorm Martin Stein. Firestorm and Firehawk much each contend with their separate lives while tied together by the Firestorm matrix; they first fight Killer Frost and Mister Freeze, and later save Stein. Stein joins the Firestorm matrix again, fixing its anomolies.
Firestorm, frankly, seems like a concept in search of a plot. I like all the elements here--Jason Rusch and Lorraine Reilly are great characters, and it's an interesting concept that they're forced to stay together despite separate lives because of the Firestorm matrix; I also enjoyed the themes of government nuclear proliferation brought by Lorraine's new Senate work. The Firestorm matrix, however, seems to ultimately amount to a lot of comic book scientific nonsense--the matrix is failing for unknown reasons in order to keep Rusch and Reilly together, it falls apart exactly when the plot needs it to, and then it's mended at the end of the story by Stein's influence, without ever an explanation of why the matrix breaks or how it's fixed.
This all takes place around fairly generic super-hero fare--Firestorm and Firehawk stop a plot by Killer Frost that has no larger series implications, and The Pupil character is immediately forgettable. There's very little here with which the Firestorm series can distinguish itself. I appreciated the Spider-Man-esque difficulty that Rusch has in balancing his super-heroic and civilian lives, but his supporting cast just isn't that interesting--new readers aren't given much reason to like his girlfriend Gehanna, and Firestorm's conflict with his dad is never explained--we have no more reason to appreciate Rusch's anger for his father than we do understanding of why he's so surprised to see his mother at the end of the trade.
I think a new, young Firestorm absolutely has a place in the DC Universe, and I like Jason Rusch, but I don't think Firestorm took enough of an advantage of the One Year Later break. Never thought I'd be saying this, but Firestorm could take a tip from Aquaman to see how it's done.
[Contains full covers.]
Thanks for reading!