Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: High School Confidential
Written by: Dan Jolley
Pencilled by: Jamal Igle
Inked by: Rob Stull & Lary Stucker
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: DC Comics
I dislike discussing “spoilers” in my review, but in attempting to review this issue I found that there was really no way to fairly and interestingly do that without discussing a large spoiler concerning the resolution of the Ronnie/Jason relationship. So, if you don’t want that spoiled, please avert thine eyes and move on to a different review.
Still here? Alright then, let’s get to it.
So Ronnie Raymond, THE Firestorm to thousands of comic fans, joined the light perpetual again, for the second time in twelve months, in this issue. I know that is a rather blunt way to put it, but…well that’s what happened. He was brought back to life three months ago (albeit in a manner without a body of his own) and then set away again.
The apparent goal of bringing Ronnie back was for the purpose of educating Jason and making him a “true” hero, not a loose cannon. So, in order to evaluate Ronnie’s return, we need to answer whether or not he was successful in this endeavor. I would respond in a single word on this matter: no.
First off, it requires us to believe that Jason was a loose cannon in the first place. Beyond an issue that involved adult film stars and harassing a cop, there is very little to indicate that Jason was out of control at all. Especially considering how “sobered up” he was by that experience and the recent kidnapping/torture of he and his father. In fact, if anything, the biggest example of out of control behavior happened when the duo was sharing the Firestorm body and facing off against Multiplex. And even that moment, I would argue, was questionable as Jason seemed to do wrong out of ignorance not maliciousness. The only reason I identify that incident at all was the nature of the dialogue.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we buy into Jason as a burgeoning danger for the moment. How does Jason, in control of Firestorm at that time, defeat Cliff Carmichael? By frying all the circuitry in his brain, causing blood to rush out his ears! Now, apparently, Cliff is okay, but isn’t this much more dangerous to Cliff than destroying one of Multiplex’s doubles was to that villain? If we are talking a judicious use of powers, I would argue that brain surgery by a minor certainly does not fit the bill.
Thus, we are left asking ourselves why bother with Ronnie at all. From a storytelling aspect, he seemed to fail in his role. His return got longtime fans excited about his possible full return to Firestorm-ing around or at least fulfilling the Martin Stein role and to pull that away again seems unnecessarily mean. His death, while less sudden than his initial passing in Identity Crisis is just as lacking in gravitas and does not even serve to illustrate the sudden violence of combat as it did in ID Crisis. I’m glad to have Jason flying solo again as it is nice to have one legacy hero (beyond the Flash) retaining his role as being front and center (see Green Lantern and Green Arrow for two legacy heroes who have lost that status in favor of their Silver Age counterparts), but I do find myself questioning how bringing back Ronnie for such a short time serves anyone’s best interests. It ultimately leaves longtime fans agitated all over again and fans of Jason just sat through three issues that seemed to go out of the way to show that Ronnie was better. It’s a no-win situation.
I have focused an awful lot of attention on this question in the review and other aspects have not been spoken off. However, Ronnie’s “final” (as “final” as these things are in comic book land) passing is easily the most significant event that occurs in these pages. While other aspects ran well (it is still Dan Jolley writing after all) especially the silent overhead shot of Jason speaking to Ronnie’s parents, my disappointment in the how Ronnie’s temporary resurrection was handled dominates my opinion of the book. It’s a sad, sour note for Jolley to depart from a character that he created.