Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Learning Curve Part 1
Written by: Dan Jolley
Pencilled by: Dale Eaglesham
Inked by: Wade von Grawbadger
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Steve Wacker
Publisher: DC Comics
Eleven issues ago, a new Firestorm was introduced to the DCU. His name was Jason and he had no connection to the prior Firestorm, Ronnie, until he was granted the amazing abilities of the Nuclear Man. Some people dug this new character. Others could not understand why DC would relaunch Firestorm in a solo title only to use an entirely different protagonist. If he wasn’t Ronnie, then they didn’t care or, worse, were actively angry about this new title.
Whether it was always DC’s intent to do it this way or not, Ronnie is back. He was killed by Shadow Thief during Identity Crisis, but somehow his consciousness was bonded to the fireball that gave Jason’s his abilities. In bonding with Firehawk last issue, Jason “reawakened” Ronnie and Ronnie is now the very literal voice in Jason’s head. The question is, will this be enough to satisfy fans of Ronnie or will they remain angry that he is no longer the Firestorm they remember? And by the same token, will fans of Jason’s be okay with Ronnie now sharing the spotlight or will they resent his return? This issue is the first to fully dive into this new direction for the title, but that answer remains murky.
I will say that with the return of Ronnie comes a lot of history (or baggage, if you prefer). While a two page spread does an impressive job of illuminating a wildly complicated back story that took my friendly neighborhood Ronnie fan an hour or so to fully explain to me (there were mentions of elementals and fire matrixes, of Brimstone and black hole in the sun…it was all very scary and confusing), I could have done with some information about the several “classic” Firestorm villains who show up to raise hell. In particular, there is a villain on the last page that I get the feeling should shock and/or excite me, but I have no clue who is beyond a vague feeling that he is the bookish looking kid depicted shooting Ronnie a dirty look in the background of one of the flashback panels. Thus, the moment lacks the impact it no doubt had for the more seasoned reader of Firestorm. All that being said, it does look like we are in for a seriously great supervillain rumble next issue and everyone knows I love me some supervillains.
What the script does do a good job of, regardless of that continuity, are the father/son relationships that are brought up. Jason and his father’s relationship remain fractured despite the possibility of reconciliation that the events of last issue promised. Meanwhile, the first thing on Ronnie’s list is to revisit his family home and let his dad know that he is okay…sort of. Both moments are nice character touches that ring very true.
I am admitted sucker for Eaglesham’s art, so it was great to see it show up here. It is a strong testament to his abilities that while he has a different trademark approach (particularly in his depiction of faces) than Igle’s, every character is recognizable when compared with Igle’s work last issue. It’s also great to see von Grawbadger inking the issue as I think, in addition to having a most excellent last name, that he is one of the better unsung inkers working today.