52 Catch Up is a series devoted to looking at issues from DC’s New 52 and seeing how they’re faring now that they’re underway, why they’re worth reading (or not), and places we hope they will go in time.
Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond were ordinary high school students until Jason took possession of a weapon known as Firestorm. When Firestorm infects both Jason and Ronnie, they have to leave their lives behind and face what they have become: weapons.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Previously on The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men: Covering Issues #1-#7
The Fury of Firestorm opens up in Istanbul, where a group of armed men and women are searching for a device known as a magnetic bottle, a potentially dangerous weapon created by one Dr. Stein. The group, led by a man named Clifford Carmichael, is ruthless, willing to torture and kill children and innocents alike to accomplish their mission.
Meanwhile, in Walton Mills, PA, two high school students, Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, are having a dispute. Ronnie is the quarterback for the football team and Jason is a reporter for the school newspaper. Jason implies that Ronnie is a racist and publishes it in the school newspaper. Before the two boys can finish duking it out, Carmichael and his troops enter the school, killing staff and student alike. Jason rushes to his locker and reveals he was given one of Dr. Stein’s magnetic bottles, which he activates. The blast transforms Jason and Ronnie into something more than human, Firestorms, beings with the power to manipulate and destroy matter. When the two boys get mad at one another, they fuse into a being known as Fury, driving Carmichael and his wounded troops away.
Zithertech, a U.S. organization behind the attempted cover up, dispatches a group of drug-powered commandos known as the Hyenas to deal with the rogue Firestorms. As backup, Director Zither sends her husband Helix, who was mutated and driven insane when he was made the first Firestorm experiment. Relying on Fury, the boys are able to defeat both the Hyenas and Helix, but not without casualties. Tonya, Jason’s crush and the editor for the school newspaper, is injured after attempting to save them from the Hyenas. Jason rushes her to a hospital while Ronnie checks in on their parents, who have been taken in by Zither. It turns out, Zither is not interested in killing Jason and Ronnie, but hiring them as the U.S.’ Firestorms.
Meanwhile, Russian scientist Mikhail Arkadin, otherwise known as Pozhar, is dispatching illegally created Firestorms in the Middle East when he learns of two illegally created Firestorms in the U.S. Ronnie and Jason agree to work with Zither and are given their first mission: to stop an illegal Quarac Firestorm at a concert. But, the boys arrive too late, and the renegade Firestorm turns out to be a suicide bomber and goes nuclear, taking out the whole stadium and killing thousands. Frustrated, the two boys start to turn on one another when Pozhar takes them off guard, soundly defeating them, but he is unwilling to kill them since they are just teens. Ronnie gets frustrated following the battle and gives chase to Pozhar, but Ronnie is shot down in the Middle East and experimented upon before Pozhar doubles back and saves him. Meanwhile, Jason returns to Zither, taking the brunt of the diplomatic nightmare that has transpired with the stadium explosion and Ronnie’s departure.
Drama: Firestorm is pretty angst heavy at times but it’s also fun. Many of the characters narrate their thoughts and especially with Jason and Ronnie in the same panels this can lead to a lot of great moments for the reader. The fact that the two protagonists have to dislike each other in order to create Fury has kept the tension on the surface, where the two boys can’t get along for more than an issue before something manages to drive them apart.
Legion of Firestorms: Once the full powerset of the Firestorms was introduced, I was concerned. What sort of foes can you have as a danger to someone who can go nuclear or transform materials at the subatomic level? The answer, is you put them up against others like them. There is a whole cast of Firestorms besides Ronnie and Jason, representing a lot of different nations and interests. Seeing these different Firestorms in action and having a large cast has been one of the highlights of the series.
Lost Opportunities: As cool as the focus on the Firestorms has been, there has also been a lot of lost opportunities. Carmichael and his squad disappeared off the map, along with their teammate who was affected by the same blast that empowered Ronnie and Jason, and possible endowed with superpowers of her own. The same goes for the Hyenas, the pack of drug-powered super commandos, who seems like they would be immensely satisfying foes when up against heroes closer to their own power level.
New Formula: Issue #7 was a bit of a let down. Gail Simone left the project and Yildiray Cinar stepped out on art for the issue, leaving Joe Harris’ okay writing and Ethan van Sciver on art. While I liked van Sciver’s cover art, his art in Issue #7 was disappointing. Characters are really out of proportion, Zither, in particular, looks like her weight fluctuates by about 50 lbs. from panel to panel, and the facial expressions of all of the characters involve a lot of eye squinting and open mouths, which is so ridiculous to be constantly distracting.
U.S. vs. Russia Round 2: Besides the Middle East’s illegal experiments, the two nations with fully-functional Firestorms are Russia and the United States. The original purpose of the project was to create a weapon so powerful to replace nuclear deterrents, but a new arms race has already begun with Russia worried that the U.S. has two Firestorms where Russia only has one.
Fury: When Ronnie and Jason combine into Fury, a whole other being is in control. It still hasn’t been explained what went wrong that Ronnie and Jason each possessing only part of an ordinary Firestorm’s power, or why they are able to meld into Fury. Also, the boys have mentioned more than once that it feels like they have a third person inside Fury with them.
True Face of Zithertech: Already in motion as of Issue #7, a lot more facts are being revealed about Zithertech and their role in the Firestorm project, but there’s still a lot of potential here between their commissioning of agents like Carmichael or the Hyenas or the fact that Zither’s husband was the first Firestorm experiment.