The Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man: God Particle, though Simone leaves after this volume to be replaced by Joe Harris, and then the whole team leaves after the second volume to be replaced by Dan Jurgens.
In this way, it's hard to get too attached to what Simone and Van Sciver present here, though it's certainly an ambitious relaunch of the Firestorm mythos. At its best, Firestorm offers some interesting political intrigue and two affecting, realistic protagonists; the plot, unfortunately, stalls at times, and Cinar's good art is not always well-served here.
[Review contains spoilers]
The first best thing about Simone and Van Sciver's Firestorm is the believable interactions between heroes Jason Rusch, who's black, and Ronnie Raymond, who's white. From the outset, the writers make this the boys' chief difference, even more so than that Jason is a "brain" and Ronnie is a "jock." Jason chides Ronnie for the lack of key black football players on their high school team, Ronnie acts as though he doesn't "see" race, and later, Jason regrets his misplaced anger while Ronnie wonders at his family's own unspoken biases.
The boys inevitably become grudging allies, but the writers preserve their young outspokenness and naïve idealism throughout. When the two pray together over a tragedy at the end, it demonstrates a perfect understanding of these characters as different from Superman or Batman, or even the Teen Titans.
The second best thing about Firestorm is the idea that, in this relaunched continuity, Professor Martin Stein created "Firestorm protocols," one for each country, that would bring about world peace through mutually-assured destruction. Filtering this real-world issue through a superhero lens is brilliant itself, but the writers also demonstrate its considerable story utility -- not just that "official" Firestorms fight one another, but that Firestorms go rogue and that Firestorm technology is stolen or cobbled together to create monstrocities. "Our" Firestorm's fight with the American Firestorm Helix, or the Russian Firestorm Pozhar battle with a renegade Middle Eastern Firestorm, are both great new uses for this long-time character.
God Particle, however, is largely bogged-down in fantastical superhero tropes, when a stronger "real world" direction might have served the title better. Like every other DC New 52 title, Firestorm has its own rogue military-science group, Zithertech, and the Firestorms' first foes are the bland assassins the Hyenas. "Secret organizations" like SHADE and Checkmate work in Frankenstein and OMAC because the absurdness of these groups match the absurdness of the characters; even Teen Titans has a certain flashiness that sells a organization actually called NOWHERE. But against Firestorm's science and politics, Zithertech seems one-note, an uninspiring challenge for these interesting heroes.
This extends to Firestorm's fifth chapter, in which Jason and Ronnie begin working for Zithertech. Ronnie believes Zithertech's false altruism completely, while Jason still has doubts, but yet both go to diffuse a rogue Firestorm holding a whole concert arena hostage, believing it to be a test and a publicity stunt. The reader already knows the boys are in danger, and it stretches all credibility that Jason and Ronnie can't figure it out, too. The ensuing tragedy is gripping, to be sure, but the latter issues feel like the writers specifically moving the Firestorms to a certain place without the sufficient logic to get them there.
Also as with many other DC New 52 titles, artist Yildiray Cinar has a stellar first issue, but the quality of the art comes and goes from there. Cinar, who drew a couple fantastic collections of Legion of Super-Heroes, uses a lighter-inked style here that looks at times like colored pencils, and emphasizes especially the flames and wide stretches of color in the Firestorms uniforms. The inks get heavier in the second chapter, however, with "Kirby dots" in some of the flames almost blacking out their light; long-time inker Norm Rapmund doesn't hurt Cinar's pencils in the end, but the art loses the earlier ethereal quality and simply looks like an "average" comic. Hearkening back to the realism this Firestorm seems to need, perhaps Van Sciver's stark angles might have been more appropriate for this title than Cinar's round lines, more suited to the space-age Legion.
Firestorm is an interesting choice for the DC New 52; this is a character who's struggled to hold a title of late, but in truth Firestorm ought be one of DC's "iconic" staples, given his inclusion in the Super Friends cartoon and the Justice League. With this title's rotating creative teams, it would appear Firestorm is still struggling, and probably what's needed is this character's inclusion in the new Justice League or Justice League of America. That Dan Jurgens will ultimately take over this title suggests such a move, given Jurgens's own work on superhero-y titles like Superman, Justice League, and Booster Gold. A more superhero-y take on Firestorm, however, would unfortunately seem incompatible with the title's current "world politics" aesthetic, and it remains to be seen just what Firestorm turns in to.
With all of this, again, it's tough for the audience to hang their hat on what they read here. The Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man: God Particle makes a good case for the New 52 character, if it does not necessarily use the Firestorms spectacularly; hopefully some creator can build on that toward a viable series.
[Includes original covers; sketches and penciled pages by Yildiray Cinar]
Later in the week, our review of the New 52 Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 1. Fan the flame!