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The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Men #0

Review by Paul Bowler

So far DC’s Zero Month has given us some intriguing prequel stories, offering an insight into the formative years of The New 52. The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Men #0 has taken a different approach, using the opportunity provided by Zero Month to act as fitting coda for the current storyline, whilst paving the way for a band new beginning for Firestorm.

A year ago High School students Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch were attacked by terrorists and transformed in a freak accident by Professor Martin Stein’s Firestorm Protocols, the powers of Firestorm was divided between them, with physics student Jason acquiring the ability to transmute matter, while the football team’s star quarterback Ronnie became able to throw nuclear bolts of flaming energy.  Together the two Firestorm’s were able to merge into one giant being, Fury, but found this ferocious creature almost impossible to control. Ronnie and Jason where then taken in by Zithertech, the mysterious company responsible for enforcing the Firestorm Protocols, but after being unable to settle their differences Ronnie decided to leave – and was quickly captured and tortured before falling under the corrupting influence of the Russian Firestorm Pozhar.

Professor Stein’s Firestorm Protocols have also been adapted and sold to other governments around the world, allowing them to create their own Firestorms. Terrorist organizations have also stolen the technology to spawn Rogue Firestoms from the protocols, using them as the living weapons of mass destruction. Pozhar is secretly behind the Rogue threat; the Russian Firestorm tricks Ronnie to take control of his powers – forcing them to become the monstrous Scorn. Armed with the uncompromised formula created by the disembodied conciseness of Professor Stein, Jason races to rescue Ronnie – teaming up with his fellow Firestorm’s, Firehawk, Hurricane, and Rakshasi for a long and terrifying battle with Scorn. During the conflict, the Firestorm Protocols are rescinded by the Director of Zithertech, stripping the global network of Firestorms of their tremendous powers and killing them in the process – all except Ronnie and Jason. In a last ditch attempt to save his friend, Jason prepares to uses the canister of uncompromised Firestorm Protocols, and with Firehawk’s help, they destroy Pozhar, sacrificing their own powers in the process.

Firestorm #0 opens with Jason and Ronnie as they adjust to having a normal life back in High School. Ronnie is enjoying his newfound freedom, spending time with his friends, while hoping to forget his life as a superhero so he will be able to commit to a college football program. Jason, on the other hand, is beginning to miss the powers he once had, but when a science experiment has some unexpected results, he realizes the Firestorm Protocols might not be dormant after all. When Jason tells Ronnie that he thinks their powers could be returning, Ronnie wants nothing more to do with his life as Firestorm, and tells Jason he should forget about it and do the same.

But their lives as Firestorm are far from over. When the High Schools football game is attacked by the Zitherteck prototype Helix – who they believed to be dead – Ronnie and Jason are suddenly and inexplicably transformed into a merged Firestorm! It seems that Ronnie is now the physical aspect of Firestorm while Jason has become an ethereal part of his mind – providing his scientific advice and transmutation skills telepathically – leaving Ronnie to harness the raw power of their combined Firestorm Protocols.

Helix has been drawn to the football game by Ronnie and Jason’s latent energy signatures, but he didn’t expect to see them merge and become a new Firestorm. Still reeling from his sudden transformation into Firestorm, Ronnie is quickly overpowered by the lumbering Helix. Trapped in Helix’s deadly stranglehold, Jason quickly helps formulate a plan – transmuting the Nitrogen and Oxygen in the air, along with other trace element, to form a solid sphere around Helix that cuts off his oxygen supply and quickly shrinks and deconstructs the behemoth. Firestorm then flies into orbit where Helix’s atomised remains explode, sending the newly whole and complete Firestorm cashing back to Earth. Ronnie and Jason later regain consciousness on a hillside, having reverted back to their individual human forms. Together they realize that the Firestorm Protocols are now their shared responsibility; and that their lives are once again inexorably entwined as Firestorm The Nuclear Man.

Firestorm returned in September 2011 as part of The New 52 reboot of the DC Universe, co-written by Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver. Unfortunately Gail Simone left the title only a few months later, she was then replaced by Joe Harris, but not long after his appointment Van Sciver also left Firestorm. These creative changes in the writing team didn’t initially help the title achieve a real sense of consistency, at least until Harris began to draw together the various storylines that had already been established to form a more coherent plot, one which would steer the title towards a thrilling finale that involved the entire global network of Firestorms.

Yildiray Cinar‘s artwork on Firestorm has also been outstanding, creating a distinctive look for Ronnie and Jason as Firestorm, each with their own unique abilities, as well as the colourful supporting cast of international Firestorm operatives from around the world. Firestorm is a real powerhouse of a character, and has some tremendous abilities. Yildiray Cinar’s art has really captured the furious essence of his nuclear powers, and at times Firestorm almost seems to explode from the page!

This Zero issue of Firestorm sees Joe Harris and Yildiray Cinar at the end of their run on Firestorm, with a story that throws Ronnie and Jason together again as Firestorm – literally this time – to restore the original concept of Firestorm which will be familiar to long term fans of the character. Joe Harris confidently helps usher in this new direction for Firestorm, making this a perfect jumping on point for new readers as well as enticing people back who didn’t enjoy the initial direction the series took. Firestorm #0 also allows Yildiray Cinar the chance to realize a new and more definitive version of the Firestorm costume, melding the red and gold outfits that Ronnie and Jason have worn into one that more closely resembles the original Firestorm costume.

The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Men will be taking a whole new direction this October when Dan Jurgens takes over as the new writer / artist for the series. Jurgens was involved last year with The New 52’s reboot of Green Arrow and Justice League International, issue #13 of Firestorm will effectively relaunch the series, beginning a new chapter set in the everyday High School lives of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch  as they learn to work together again as Firestorm. We can expect to see plenty old and new villains for Firestorm to deal with, as well as a guest appearance from Captain Atom.

Editors Rachel Gluckstern and Ricky Purden join Dan Jurgens, along with inker Ray McCarthy and colourist Brian Miller as part of the new direction that will spin out from the pages of the excellent Firestorm #0, and with the exciting new chapter about to begin in Firestorm #13, there has never been a better time to revisit the adventures of Firestorm The Nuclear Man.