Before reading any further here, jump over to the Phantom Stranger blog and read the excellent recap of The Fury of Firestorm #32. Then continue reading below for my editorial comments on the issue.
Great recap by Rob over at the I am the Phantom Stranger blog! Doing issue recaps is one area that I’m lousy at, so I sincerely appreciate people like Rob who have a talent for it. In fact, Rob’s recap is what inspired me to reexamine this particular issue. So on with my thoughts…
I didn’t care much for this issue when it was first published. I remember reading it back in 1985 and thinking it was something of a “throw away” story. That’s not to say I threw away the comic book, that just means I felt like the story was self-contained, wasn’t relevant to the ongoing plot, and could have been skipped without any confusion on the readers part. That’s the standard description of most guest writer/guest artist comics of that age. While I probably didn’t realize that the comic was crafted by folks other than the normal creators, there was enough of a departure that my 12 year old mind recognized the tone of the story was different for this issue.
Hindsight being 20/20, I have to reconsider my position on this particular comic. I now realize there are several elements of this issue that greatly interest me:
- The guest writer was R.J.M. Lofficier, also known as Jean-Marc Lofficier. While I didn’t realize it when I read this comic, it just so happens that Jean-Marc Lofficier wrote four of my favorite Doctor Who reference books (The Programme Guide, The Universal Databank, The Terrestrial Index, and the Nth Doctor). He’s a great writer and also a super nice guy.
- Alan Kupperberg was the guest artist on this issue. Again, I didn’t know back then, but he would go on to be the regular penciller on one of my favorite comics of all time, Blue Devil. While his style was different from the usual Firestorm artist, Rafael Kayanan, it was still quite good. I especially dig the black “Kirby Dots” in Firestorm’s hair in this issue!
- I now grasp that the Phantom Stranger is darn cool. I was pretty new to comics when this issue hit the stands, so I didn’t know the Phantom Stranger’s publication history. He was clearly an enigmatic figure, but didn’t grab my attention all that much. My mistake. I now love that this issue opens like a classic Phantom Stranger story. Very cool.
- Being fairly new to comics and Firestorm, I wasn’t familiar with the Shoe-Shine/Rockwell subplot surrounding Ronnie’s dad. As I completed my run of Firestorm, this subplot thread became one of my favorites. It’s nice to see it revisited here in this issue.
- This issue features one of the earlier struggles for control of the Firestorm matrix. This would become a reoccurring theme in later issues of Firestorm, especially Volume III. It’s interesting that a guest writer took the opportunity to explore this concept.
Overall, a good issue. I think Lofficier brought a fresh voice to the series, while Kupperberg did an excellent job on the art. Gerry Conway is still the undisputed King of the early Firestorm stories, but if you are looking for a good stand-alone issue of Firestorm (volume II), I’d recommend this issue.
Again, my thanks to Rob over at the I am the Phantom Stranger blog for inspiring this post!
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