Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: Joy Ride
Written by: Dan Jolley
Penciled by: Chris Batista
Inked by: Dan Green
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: Phil Balsman
Associate Editor: Steve Wacker
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics
The new Firestorm series has been a little uneven thus far. Dan Jolley has done a great job establishing Jason Rusch, the new man behind Firestorm, but there has been precious-little explanation of circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the old Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond. Six months into the “new” series, and we finally get explanations, by way of Identity Crisis #5 (which also shipped this week), that are elaborated on in Firestorm #6.
Instead of forcing Dan Jolley to avoid the topic for five issues, this would have been a much better month to launch Firestorm. It’s more likely new readers would sample a first issue tied into Identity Crisis, rather than the sixth issue. The built-in promotion of Firestorm launching from the hottest title of the year, would have guaranteed inflated debut sales, and perhaps a larger base that stuck around. Alas, it’s another missed opportunity from DC.
Considering that both titles shipped the same week, it seems clear that Dan Jolley had to tread water, while waiting for the “shock” of Ronnie Raymond dying. The idea of Ronnie dying in Identity Crisis was a good one, but Brad Meltzer doesn’t seem to have a love for the character. Ronnie’s demise is definitely heroic, certainly tragic, but also brief. His entire appearance in the issue is three pages, and thus, bereft of any emotional impact. Meltze’s work on Identity Crisis has been quite good, but the entire series gets a notch-lower grade from me for its poor handling of Firestorm.
Meltze’s failings, though, are dealt with in a powerful way by Dan Jolley. We begin this month with a flashback of Ronnie’s death, which turns out to be a dream that Jason’s having. The “dream” is quite clearly narrated by Ronnie Raymond, so it appears there are some interesting developments regarding Ronnie in Firestorm‘s future. How soon”¦we’ll just have to wait and see.
The rest of the issue continues to build up the character of Jason Rusch. Jolley has focused a lot of energy on the effect becoming Firestorm has had on Jason’s life. Jason is seventeen years old and unready for the duty of being a superhero. Jason’s the product of a difficult upbringing with a father that skirts the edge of abuse, and he’s a teen that’s borderline out-of-control. Couple Jason’s emotionally erratic life with becoming an established superhero with JLA membership, access to unbelievable places, and instant recognition wherever he goes, and you can see that trouble’s ahead.
Jolley peppers the issue with some outstanding character-building moments. Most superheroes in comics build up their alter ego, Jason’s was prefabricated! The biggest influence on Jason’s superhero persona seems to be his bullying father. On top of the bullying, Jason’s willing to use his powers for his own gain. He cavorts with porn stars, and seems content to do for himself. The new Firestorm isn’t an anti-hero, but he’s not a hero either. Firestorm is a wild card in the DC Universe, and different from everyone else out there. He’s a brat-teenager, capable of just about anythingÃ¢â‚¬â€good, bad, or indifferent.
Last month was the final work by ChrisCross, the “regular” penciler at launch. Cross did fantastic stuff with Marvel’s Captain Marvel and he was equally successful here. Unfortunately some weird circumstance pulled him away too fast.
Still, this month, the art’s up to the task, as the fill-in, Chris Batista, is even better than Cross. Batista rocked when he worked on Legion, and he does some fine work on Firestorm. The dream sequence featuring Ronnie Raymond’s demise was as good, if not better than Rags Morales’ interpretation of the scene in Identity Crisis. The rest of the book turns out quite well, also. Unfortunately, this will be Batista’s only go-round. Next month, Liam Sharp joins the party for a month, and then we finally get a new regular penciler, Jamal Igle.
The first six months of Firestorm have been dogged by a slow-reveal of the end of the previous Firestorm, and artistic uncertainty. At first, the rather gritty tone was off-putting, but the feel has grown on me the past couple of months. More importantly, we finally have some answers about Ronnie Raymond, and it feels like we’re moving forward.
The solicitations for January 2005 came out this past week, and we’re promised our first look at an old Firestorm rogue, Killer Frost. Add that to the potential integration of Ronnie Raymond into the book, and Firestorm appears ready to kick into high-gear.