Robert Kirkman (Creator, Writer), Chris Samnee (Creator, Artist), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Rus Wooton (Letterer), Kate Caudill (Assistant Editor), Sean Mackiewicz (Editor), Andres Juarez (Logo, Production Design), Carina Taylor (Production)
Thanks to Image Comics for the review copy!
FIREPOWER is the “hotly” anticipated new series from comics writing powerhouse Robert Kirkman and gifted artist Chris Samnee. Samnee brings a fun style that lends itself well to color and energy, while also showing the ability to convey gravity and emotions ranging from loving to “fiery” within a panel. Kirkman has similar abilities in his writing style, knowing how to handle a fun and magical story while also being able to write quiet, emotional moments with big payoffs. Some of his best issues of the Walking Dead were the quieter ones in terms of action, as the emotional and social dynamics provided much of the series’ “fire”works, in my opinion.
From the first pages of this story it is hinted that our main character Owen Johnson is on a journey of self-improvement and discovery. He is hiking through a perilous snowy mountain range, as many of the best self-improvement search-for-knowledge type journeys necessitate (Batman Begins comes to mind) if movies, TV, and literature has taught me anything. He discards a plastic bag then quickly picks it up. When all seems lost on his hike, near exhaustion, a butterfly appears, giving him hope and leading him to the stairway to his destination. When he finally reaches the top, at least two things seem clear. First, he has a bag full of his trash, showing he chose the more difficult path of continuing to haul his garbage even when exhausted. Second, the butterfly likely shows that destiny / fate is involved. These things probably foreshadow the hero he is to become and the lengths he will go to do the right thing.
It is quickly established that he has reached a temple in the mountains and that he is there to both further his knowledge of martial arts fighting techniques and to discover more about himself and his past. He is immediately fighting the weathered looking master, who is dressed like a truck stop sensei in a hat and coat, reminiscent of Stick from Daredevil. Their fight draws a crowd and has the same feel as when Neo fights Morpheus in the first Matrix movie, as he seems to pose an actual challenge. Could this newcomer be (“the one”) something special? He is bested by the weathered Master Lun, but has proven himself worthy of study at the temple.
In his time there training, many secrets that will seemingly be expanded on later are presented. There is the mystery of his parents and their connection to the group later presented as the antagonists, which also sets Owen up as more of an outsider they are more hesitant to trust now. There is the mystery of the lost art of “firepower” that draws energy from the air and all around in a force-like way and (for now) by the end of the story manifests like a Street Fighter Ryu-type fireball. There is the stone statue that is Master Shaw, the original firepower master who stood guard over the entrance until he turned to stone, ready to return one day if needed. There is the origins of the temple and their relationship with the antagonists who attack near the end (in a giant Hindenburg style balloon!) There is the guarded “dragon” room which contains a puddle of water that may respond to sound or seemingly grows powerful when sound is made.
A rich world is created with likeable characters and room for relationships and growth, including discouraged romance between Owen and another student. Then, when the main character shows that he indeed can use the lost “firepower” in a pivotal moment that simultaneously saves the day, repels the enemies, and reveals that he is destined for greater things, we are whisked ahead 15 years in time. Owen now seemingly lives in a suburban house, with a family, with no hints of the world we just became accustomed to. In a tease of things to come, he is being watched by a ninja in a tree as he secretly uses a bit of his firepower to light the grill outside to cook for the family. This tells us he is very much comfortable with and in control of his powers, and that a LOT has happened in those 15 years.
It’s a great setup for a lot of interesting stories to tell! What happened between then and now, and what will happen going forward? Is he a superhero or hiding his powers for some reason? I look forward to many flashbacks and many slow burn mysteries. I’m sure there are many relational dynamics to come, like why isn’t his partner the one he liked in the mountains, and what happens when they show up? Robert Kirkman has done an excellent job of building a rich world and was smart to release the first volume this way. His vision has been beautifully rendered by Chris Samnee as well. This is a series that has a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to where they go from here!
FIREPOWER VOLUME #1 PRELUDE is now available.