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WHttDCnU? – Fury of Firestorm: God Particle

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It’s duo pitted against duo in a fiery showdown here on WHttDCnU? As our team of Wasusa and the Keeper step up to the plate with magic and seasoned scepticism at the ready, the Nuclear Men of Firestorm, Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond turn on the flames of dramatic-change-to-a-team-up-scenario, opting for two Firestorms as opposed to the Firestorm of yesteryear’s universe of two heroes merged as one.

Who will prevail? Will it be Ultima Society’s pair of Logicstorms, or will they be transmuted into entertained saly by the Firestorms? Find out now, on:

Whatever Happened to the DC New Universe?

– QueenQeeko

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

keeper-rIstanbul. 95 degrees Fahrenheit, 92% humidity. A team of four operatives torture a man while his family cowers, the mother, her son and daughter being watched by one of the operatives. The obvious leader reveals that the son know something about ‘a simple thing, about the size of a football.’ Despite its size, this thing has something to do with terrorism and, according to the son, would be capable of killing the operatives if he did have it. In order to be sure he’s not lying, they slit his father’s throat, and once they have his contact, kill the whole family, and burn down the block as a cover-up.

Meanwhile, in Walton Mills, Pennsylvania, Ronnie Raymond is practising. Star Quarterback for his team, already being scouted by at least one college, he’s your typical jock. And Jason Rusch, argumentative, School paper jockey and black, doesn’t like jocks. But if he has to interview Raymond for the school paper, he will. Ronnie’s forgetfulness and attitude get under Jason’s skin, and after only a single question, they butt heads. The interview ends without a single question answered. Both characters go home to their respective single parent families, revealing to the viewer that each has more in common than they know.

Meanwhile, our ‘terrorist hunter’ team visit the CERN facility housing the Large Hadron Collider. There they torture a doctor who worked on ‘the Firestorm Protocol’, four magnetic bottles which contain the power to transmute matter. Having found the location of the last bottle, the team contacts their superior, who tells them to ‘end this, and make it so no one comes looking’ while looking at images of five people, surrounded by fire and with a simple symbol on their chest.

The next evening at Walton Mills High School sees Jason arguing with his editor and unknowing love interest, Tonya. His piece against Ronnie Raymond was inflammatory, and he printed the paper without Tonya’s go ahead. Ronnie enters the office, angry and ready to fight, but both are interrupted when the hunter team arrives and begins killing everyone in the school.

It turns out that Jason was in contact with Martin Stein, who developed the Firestorm Protocols, and is in possession of the final bottle. But, as he cracks the bottle open, the power bonds with both him and Ronnie, transforming both of them into Firestorms. Ronnie understandably freaks out, and in the ensuing argument, the two combine to form Fury.

Fury seems to be controlled by someone other than Ronnie or Jason, albeit someone with enough knowledge to protect Tonya while taking out the operatives, destroying their car and almost killing two of them before taking Tonya and leaving. Finally identifying themselves as dog team, the operatives contact their superior, a masked woman referred to as Z. She dispatches the Hyena Team and tells Dog to go to ground. They blow the school and do just that.

Jason and Ronnie separate under a bridge, Jason explaining more about the powers and situation. Whoever, covers the tracks of Dog team is very good, somehow managing to plant evidence of the three teens involvement in domestic terrorism, even down to multiple heavy arms in Ronnie’s closet.

The teens sleep is interrupted by the arrival of Hyena team, so named because the drugs they take to heighten their abilities make them giggle. Both teens transform into Firestorms and take them on, Ronnie utilising blasts of fire while Jason relies on transmuting the teams guns. Hyena team requests reinforcements as Tonya is hurt attempting to help the Firestorms…

Ms Z, now revealed as Director Candace Zither, activates Helix, her former husband Roger and the first to attempt integration with the Firestorm Protocols. The attempt shattered Roger’s mind, along with giving him super strength, teleportation and a resistance to radioactive fire. His skin is also radioactive, which is responsible for Candace’s mask, as it’s revealed that he killed their children and burned her while delusional. Candace also reveals that Firestorm was developed as an alternative to increasing defence budgets. Each country would have a Firestorm, capable of Mutually Assured Destruction, before asking Helix to kill the teenagers, referring to them as terrorists.

WIth Tonya wounded, Jason goes beserk, transmuting uniforms and earth into hands, serpents and barbed wire. The revelation by the Hyena team leader that Stein sold the secrets of Firestorm to America’s bitterest enemies stops him long enough for Hyena team to withdraw, and for Jason to realise the severity of Tonya’s wound.

Helix arrives, the two Firestorms appearing as Nazi’s to his vision, and as he attacks them he begins spouting signposting, patriotic, propaganda. With no other option, Ronnie makes Jason angry enough for them to reform Fury, who kills Helix in short order.

The next issue begins in Quark, with an arms dealer selling the knowledge of the Firestorm Protocols to the highest bidder. With this technology, Qurac will have power equal to the nuclear weapons of its enemies, and with men willing to act as suicide bombers, death can only be a few days away.

The arms dealers satisfaction at selling their weapons is interrupted by a Firestorm-like person, calling himself Pozhar. In an attempt to defeat him, the arms dealer reveals he has used the protocols on himself, before Pozhar reveals that manufactured protocols are rife with engineered traps, which he uses to steal the dealers power before killing him.

Ronnie and Jason learn that their families are being held in a final bid to capture them. While Jason takes Tonya to a hospital, Ronnie tracks the hostage takers to a hotel near train tracks. Realising that the hostage takers were baiting him into a trap, Ronnie interrupted by a helicopter bringing down the entire hotel, before a voice assure him that his family is safe…

Jason, meanwhile, is concerned about Tonya, who is in a critical condition. He transmutes the bullet out of her head, but is then found by ZIthertech. The have employed Jason’s father, and moved the father and Ronnie’s mother into the planned community for Zithertech employees. They wish to cooperate with the Firestorms, and claim no responsibility for the teams sent to kill them. Both Ronnie and Jason are suspicious, but are willing to cooperate for now.

Their time comes soon, with Zither finding an attack by a rogue Firestorm on a concert. They tell both Firestorms that this would be for show, a hostage situation to show power. But, while both Firestorms cooperate together to take out the guards and distract the rogue Firestorm, they are unable to stop the rogue from suiciding, exploding and taking out the entire stadium, people and all.

Protected from the blast, both Firestorms are shocked and horrified by what has occurred, before being interrupted in their mourning by Pozhar. Earlier, Pozhar had been told that Russia was cutting his funding, believing that his results are not worth the cost and wishing for a return to conventional weaponry. Believing the Firestorms to have helped the suicide bomber, Pozhar attacks, turning off Ronnie’s power and musing on the supposed extremism of the grieving Ronnie, who believes Pozhar to be another Rogue.

Jason’s contrite attitude, along with the sense that Jason and Ronnie’s powers are legitimate convinces Pozhar that they were not responsible for the mass killing. But when Ronnie announces his intention to follow and track Pozhar, Jason disagrees. The ensuing argument is the final straw, as both split up, Ronnie blasting off while Jason stays behind.

WHTTDCNU-art

wasusa-lSimple, consistent, comicy. The base art itself is pretty solid. Good use of colour, gradient, and framing to make the world feel like it could be there. Right up until you notice the shadows. These shadows, they’re either non existant or remind me of the polygon shadows from early 90’s games, where the shadow was there to show it was a shadow, but missing most of the detail that would match it to the body it’s attached to. Sometimes, they’re just forgotten as being a thing all together, though my favourite example would have to be on the very last page of the first arc, where they’ve decided that giving each soldier a small shadow for each of their boots would suffice.

The one thing I will give the art is that it effectively uses the space available to it. The panels while usually busy with detail never feel cluttered, and I never found myself wondering which way I was supposed to read next when the sizing changed – the art properly controlled the flow of the eye towards the next step. As something which has been sorely lacking for some of the other comics it warrants praise.

keeper-rYildiray Cinar is the artist behind the first volume of The Fury of Firestorm – The Nuclear Men, and his artistry is on display here. Firestorm has dark, thick lines and slightly washed out colours. The result is something with an almost painted look, large areas of colour that blend well into each other.

However, in comparison to Catwoman, the lines are hard and angular. It gives the art an edge to it that Catwoman was missing, and when combined with the effective and well thought out colour design, the result is an interesting dichotomy.

I’m talking specifically about Cinar’s use of colour to create clear, delineated allegiances. The Firestorms, as well as their allies are almost always dressed in bright, simple colours, while almost all enemies are either dressed in washed out colours, or shown in dark, lowly lit environments. It serves as a visual shorthand to denote heroes and villains, and is an old trick, albeit one I look upon fondly.

For example, Pozhar, who has fairly noble goals, is dressed in bright, metallic armour. Helix? An old gas mask and grey rubber. Despite the fact that both of them have flaming heads, these differences are both apparent and useful.

That’s not to say that the art is without its faults, however. The layout is fine, simple enough, but without any particular originality. It functions well enough, and I can’t find any fault with it. The true failing of the art comes in the form.

Quite simply, more often then not, characters are posed in a way that makes no sense, or in a way that suggests movement without any indication that they are moving. The first noticeable incident is during football practise, where Ronnie is being tackled. Neither tackling player has any lines indicating movement, and the general position of their arms and legs doesn’t make sense. They look more like shoulder charges, and Ronnie’s position means that he’s guaranteed to have a spinal injury when he lands.

WHTTDCNU-writing

wasusa-lIt’s a product of its time, I guess. Released while all the hype about the higgs boson, CERN, the LHC, and the potential for creating a black hole was at its peak, it’s latched onto it for the key as to how firestorm works. And while theoretical Physics isn’t really my thing, I do know that it’s not going to cause… well whatever this is. It also plays into the Jocks vs Nerds mentality, and throws in a “The real world order and government is money & powerful corporations” for good measure. Oh, and casual mention of racial divide, because let’s throw that in there too.

Ultimately, the plot is just weak. Some kid with appropriate genetic markers is somehow found by some supersmart guy who then dies, but not before he’s given a tube which can transform him. He just happens to activate it next to a jock, who happens to also have the appropriate genetic markers so they both transform. They then proceed to bicker with each other and the corporation because… well because. Then they’re not, because money. Also Russian superfirestorm, and various other things.

I’ll just ignore the powers that they use, then immediately forget when they’d be useful later. That’s the smallest of the issues with the writing.

keeper-rNow this is a story, all about how, my life got flipped, turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became Firestorm turnin’ guns into air.

I’m so sorry.

Okay, so it’s not as nice as that, but Firestorm’s story is actually a fairly effective premise. With the existence of superheroes, every country would be looking for protection, and who has better infrastructure to develop research this than companies. Not only that, but a hero with even middling power is a marketable commodity, It makes sense that a company would try to develop such a thing, and that, when they find a power like Firestorm’s, they’d attempt to protect it.

In fact, that’s one of the things I like about Firestorm’s story. Contrary to the ‘dark’ stories of Voodoo or Deathstroke, this is actually a fairly mature topic: the rise of neoliberalism, the privatisation of armies or beings of great power, and the lengths that people go to protect secrets. There’s an undercurrent theme of corporate greed underwriting the story, with our antagonists: a large corporation that’s willing to hire mercenaries to do violent, reprehensible acts in the pursuit of power.

But they continually justify themselves with the threat of Terrorism, and to be fair, terrorists armed with Firestorm’s powers are terrifying, symbols capable of wiping out entire cities with little hope of stopping them. Does this make them right? No, and Firestorm goes out of its way to point that out.

That being said, there’s problems with it. The most obvious problem is the lack of payoff: our antagonists are scumbags, a corporation hiding behind mercenaries and attempting to kill the new Firestorms, and they simply suffer no comeuppance. There’s no payoff or payback for the blowing up of a school, the framing of our heroes or the hiring of murderers.

A lot of this stems from the fact that this is only half a story. This first volume is a lot of setup with no payoff, like Marvels Agents of SHIELD, whose first season was seen as fairly weak until the payoff in Episode 16. Will this pay off in a satisfying way? I can’t say. Regardless, there’s little satisfactory conclusion by the end of this.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

wasusa-lHa.

Hahahaha.

We have the Nerd, who is supersmart but shy with a stick up his ass about jocks and his mistreatment by the world and his superior intelligence. Oh, but he was chosen by his idol and then mentored and given an incredibly dangerous unstable thing. He’s Stupid enough to hide it at school, the place where he likely cops the most flak and is most likely to have his privacy invaded. He’s incredibly aware of the magical transmorgrification powers he now has in addition to standard nuke-beam-strength-powers, but manages to forget to use them when they’re most useful. Case in point: Magicks guns away, forgets that he can probably make the bullet in the girls head go away until he’s at the hospital and the doctors say “There’s a bullet in her head”.

We have the Jock, who is actually a reasonable sort of person, but still goes headfirst into every situation to punch things. Actually, I think most of the story is driven because he fails to punch them correctly the first time. He’s definitely the most rounded character, actually showing some depth of emotion, but there’s nothing to connect with there.

There’s the Russian. He’s a bro, and the most likeable character. He knew Stein, actually seems to give a damn about the world in general, not just his home country, has the power to turn off Firestorm in other people, and has a somewhat extreme if well balanced sense of justice.

Fury is a hulking rage monster which is Jock vs Nerd rage combined. He feels like discount Nuclear Hulk to be honest.

As for everyone else… they’re either idiots, or don’t feature enough to be properly developed.

keeper-rRonnie Raymond is the star Quarterback of Walton Mills. Gifted athletically, if not academically, Ronnie’s achievements on the field don’t go to his head. He sees each member of his team as a brother, and has a tendency to be impatient and impulsive. However, what he lacks in book smarts he makes up for in unorthodox thinking, often picking out key pieces of information that others overlook and utilising them to come to correct conclusions.

Jason Rusch is the opposite, an outspoken black student with harsh life experiences, a cynical and cautious nature, and a crush on his school paper editor. His studious and quiet nature belies an imaginative and capable genius, one capable of catching the eye of Martin Stein. His father stands as a driving force in his life, one who taught him to read past the face of people’s actions, who taught him to box, and who gave him his cynical nature.

I like both of them. They feel like real characters, people who have their own opinions and feelings, but who are ultimately less different than they know. My main problem is their arguments feel too mean-spirited. Instead of them bickering in ways that feels like a buddy cop film, we have two people who might genuinely despise each other. Still, the comic goes out of its way to avoid siding with either character, which is a smart decision.

Despite Jason’s statements, Ronnie isn’t a racist. He simply seems like a teen who doesn’t understand the concept of racial tension. He genuinely likes and reacts to people based on their character, rather than the colour of their skin. By the same token, Jason has good reason to distrust people, and his cynicism serves him well in the new world that he finds himself thrown into. As time goes on, I expect Jason’s caution to pay off, giving him allies or resources that the antagonists are unaware of.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

wasusa-lThere were places that Firestorm could have actually pulled in and held my interest. Back at the school, when the girl in the initial team is turned blue. We see her later, seemingly giving off waves of cold in a hospital room. I wish we’d followed that chain of events, instead of “YAAAAY PATRIOTISM! EXPLOSIONS! CONFLICT!”. The ability of Firestorms to not just change matter, but induce changes in people that could potentially give them powers would have been far more interesting.

As it is, the story is weak, held together by prayer and ignorance. The characters are stereotypes for the most part, or vacant if they’re not. The art, while good in places, isn’t nearly enough to save it for me. Not my cup of tea, even if they did zap it into existence for me.

keeper-rMuch as I like Firestorm or this book, I can’t recommend it. There’s plot holes, minor art niggles, and while its okay, it’s simply not good enough. There’s no payoff, no wow factor. I enjoy this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It’s better than Deathstroke, better than Catwoman or Voodoo. It’s still not good enough.

That being said, it’s a good concept. This isn’t a failure in basic premise, rather, it’s simply a failure to execute this premise to a higher standard, which is a shame. If the story was better, the art was a little better in form or the dialogue and characters a little less antagonistic, this would be a strong start forward. Two out of three of those would be enough.

The main issue with this book is its existence as the first of a two volume story. This is a preparation, a pilot half-series for a show that has potential. But the payoff of a good back half is reliant on how good the front half is.

If, for whatever reason, you want to own the trade of Firestorm, Buy both the 1st and 2nd volume. They’re too intertwined to function on their own merits. But, if you want my opinion, this is a good premise with mediocre execution, and much as I love it, it’s not good enough.

WHTTDCNU-comic

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