There are certain conventions in superhero comics that have followed a pattern. First, they showed up in comics over and over again throughout the years. Second, they became so ubiquitous that they became a cliche and readers started groaning every time they appeared. Exhibit A is, of course, the two heroes or groups of heroes meeting for the first time and then getting into a fight over a mistake before teaming up and becoming friends. In the case of “The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” #17, when Dan Jurgens and Ray McCarthy trot out that old chestnut, it’s with such a lack of logic that it makes you start to think the series is running out the clock until cancellation.
As it is, “The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” #17 comes across as tidying up some loose ends rather than anything that’s looking forward. Little plot details from earlier issues of “The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” are addressed; Mount Rushmore gets its old visages back, Ronnie’s forged homework resurfaces and Firestorm tries to restore S.T.A.R. Labs. It’s not a forward-moving comic by any stretch of the imagination, instead hitting points that have cropped up in the past few months.
The closest “The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” #17 comes towards something new is the meeting between Firestorm and several members of the Teen Titans, but even that ultimately fails in that regard. The encounter doesn’t put any of the characters in a new position by the time the dust settles, and the fight between Firestorm and the Titans feels more like a page-filler than something exciting. Poor Solstice comes across particularly bad here; perhaps Jurgens simply wasn’t familiar with the relatively new character, but she’s little more than a bit of exposition and generic female character merged into one here instead of the distinctive voice we see in her own title. That’s frustrating, because Jurgens can write better than this, but his run on “The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” is rapidly feeling like someone who was told to come on board to keep it afloat only long enough for a replacement to be commissioned. This is nothing we haven’t seen before, and quite frankly a little better at that.
Jurgens, McCarthy and Karl Kesel’s art in “The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” #17 is just average. It’s not bad but there’s nothing that really stands out aside from being able to handle drawing Solstice’s form (something that few besides Brett Booth have handled well in the past year and a half). There’s a sameness to a lot of characters here, though, if they aren’t in costume. Look at Kid Flash’s head (especially his hair) in the first two panels of page six, then go to page eight and look at Ronnie. Aside from a varsity jacket and a different hair color, they look almost identical. There’s no energy, no spark to these pages.
“The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man” is a title that’s coming to an end shortly, and if #17 is any indication, it’s a title that is ready for retirement. With so many creators coming on and off the title over the past year and a half, the only thing that’s seemed particularly clear is that a particularly engaging comic starring Firestorm is harder to make than one might think. Until someone can come up with that comic, though, I think Firestorm is best suited to guest-starring in other people’s titles.