With just 20 pages in which to wrap up Firestorm’s title, writer/artist Dan Jurgens gives us six villains, one special guest hero, one new anti-hero, a big surprise and the beginning of the next chapter in the heroic career of Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond. That’s a lot to handle, but Jurgens is one of the best in the superhero business, able to juggle character and plots with enviable ease.
Or so it seems; Jurgens likely works darn hard to make everything look so easy, and for that, I thank him. I was dreading this last issue, but he infuses the book with so much joy, so many great moments, that I’m left with a big smile on my face. There’s the introduction of Major Force to DC’s new continuity, still working with the armed services but with a terrific new costume and a slightly better attitude. Slightly. There’s Firestorm getting by with a little help from his friends, and not just the super-powered ones. And then there’s this (click on image to enlarge):
I don’t know whether Jurgens misses writing Superman, but he should be writing Superman – maybe in a team-up book kept separate from pesky crossover plotlines.
Jurgens is equally adept at capturing the essential Firestorm, the hero who, even in the heart of a villains’ pile-on, can’t keep his enthusiasm for life at bay (left).
That’s Ronnie steering Firestorm, with Jason as the world’s best back-seat driver, ever ready with a suggestion to help save the day. It’s been wonderful seeing Jurgens bring Jason and Ronnie from a position of antagonism to one of friendship and partnership. I won’t spoil the big surprise of the issue, but it’ll make longtime fans happy, I’m sure. I will tell you that Superman comes with an offer for Firestorm, and it’s a lovely nod to Firestorm’s comics history.
Not that this issue is a nostalgia-fest – it’s got plenty of smart, fresh super-heroics, as Firestorm and friends face down Multiplex, the Hyena, Killer Frost, Typhoon, Black Bison and Plastique. He may have been tasked with wrapping up the book, but Jurgens, rather than sending existing characters into a corner, has brought into play pretty faithful versions of the Nuclear Man’s most famous foes.
The only thing I don’t like about this issue is that Firestorm makes a dubious moral choice, a self-serving one … I wouldn’t be surprised if Jurgens plans to address this somewhere, have it come back to bite Ronnie and Jason in the mutual bum.
That’s Jurgens the writer. Jurgens the penciller produces page after page of crystal clear, dynamic work, showing more fashionable artists how to tell a story by making every panel count. There’s not a wasted line as Jurgens gets his large cast from A to Z with pizzazz, and talented inker Norm Rapmund has his back every step of the way. Hi-Fi provides hues that range from concrete to candy, while Travis Lanham’s letters are unshowy, and effective. There’s a splash of Firestorm and Superman that is simply gorgeous – suitable, as they used to say, for framing.
I’ve no idea where Jurgens will pop up next, but I’ll be following him because he always provides a story that’s at least solidly entertaining, and often great – he never cheats with flashy surprises that don’t bear a minute’s examination, it’s ‘just’ honest, rock solid fare.
And I love Jurgens and Rapmund’s good-humoured cover – the perfect symbolic image for a final issue.
So that’s The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Man. One of the DC New 52 books I was most looking forward to, it proved a big disappointment under previous creative teams. But Jurgens, Rapmund and co came along and turned this book around, making it something of a hidden treasure; certainly DC did little – well, nothing, actually – to promote it after Jurgens arrived with #13. I’ll be following Ronnie over in the Justice League title until such time as he gets another shot at his own title.
Until then, Firestorm forever!