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Blackest Night to Brightest Day: What a Long Strange Trip

Tomorrow will see the release of Brightest Day #24, the final issue in the year-long saga.  However, if you really think about it this story began with Blackest Night.  Firestorm fans have their fingers crossed that our hero will exit Brightest Day ready to start a new life of adventure with Ronnie and Jason working together as the Nuclear Man.  Today we’ll look at Firestorm’s long journey to reach this point.  Be sure to hang around to the end as today we’re featuring a blog crossover event!

BACKGROUND

To better understand Firestorm’s role in Blackest Night and Brightest Day, you have to look back a bit further. In Identity Crisis #5 (December 2004), Ronnie Raymond was killed by the Shadow Thief.  It wasn’t a glorious death, it was a simple on-the-job accident.   In Firestorm vol 3 #1 (July 2004), the Firestorm matrix crashed down on Jason Rusch transforming him into the new Firestorm.   While Ronnie’s death and Jason becoming Firestorm happened out of order from the reader’s perspective, it was straightened out within the pages of the comics after a few months.

Jason had a rotating cast of partners join him within the Firestorm matrix; most notably: his best friend Mick Wong, Professor Martin Stein, Firehawk, and his girlfriend Gehenna.  Jason Rusch’s monthly Firestorm series was canceled with issue #35 (June 2007). Jason and Gehenna continued together as Firestorm and eventually joined the JLA in Justice League of America vol 4 #15 (January 2008).  They operated with the team through Justice League of America vol 4 #37 (released September 2009).

SPOILER WARNING – This post contains SPOILERS for Blackest Night #1-8 and Brightest Day #1-23.  You’ve been warned!

BLACKEST NIGHT #0 (released May 2009) through #8 (released April 2010)

Blackest Night was written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Ivan Reis.  Firestorm’s involvement with Blackest Night pre-dated the series itself by months.  In September 2008, Geoff Johns publicly announced that Ronnie Raymond would be a Black Lantern in Blackest Night.  This got the Firestorm fan community buzzing!  It was a long wait for us match-heads until Blackest Night finally hit the stands.

At the beginning of the Blackest Night storyline, Jason and Gehenna visited the grave of Ronnie Raymond with Professor Martin Stein.

Blackest Night #0 - Ronnie Raymond's grave

Next up we saw Jason and Gehenna struggle as they discussed their relationship.  Gehenna wanted to get married one day and start a family with Jason.  Jason wanted that as well, but at the time he was more concerned with finishing college. It didn’t make it any easier that Gehenna could read his mind when they were merged as Firestorm.  She could sense what Jason was really feeling, regardless of what he said or didn’t say out loud.

While at the Hall of Justice, Firestorm (Jason and Gehenna) and other heroes were ambushed by a collection of Black Lanterns.

Blackest Night #3 Firestorm cover

Firestorm vs Black Lantern Firestorm from Blackest Night #3

One particular Black Lantern was a representation of Ronnie Raymond as Firestorm.  This Black Lantern Firestorm managed to forcibly remove Gehenna from the Firestorm matrix. The Black Lantern then forced Jason to bond with him and watch in horror as he transformed Gen into table salt.

Blackest Night #3 - Firestorm vs Black Lantern Firestorm

Blackest Night #3 - Firestorm vs Black Lantern Firestorm

This was an incredibly gruesome scene that resonated with most readers, whether they were a fan of Firestorm or not.   Jason remained trapped in the Black Lantern Firestorm matrix, struggling to free himself.  At the end of Blackest Night, Nekron is destroyed and the White Lantern resurrected twelve deceased heroes and villains.  Ronnie Raymond was among those resurrected.  Apparently with resurrection also come new costumes.  Who knew!?!?

Firestorm Blackest Night #8

Firestorm - Blackest Night #8 - Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch

Ronnie didn’t seem to have any memories of events that took place after his death in Identity Crisis, this included his post-death appearances in Firestorm vol 3 and the Black Lantern’s actions in Blackest Night.  Meanwhile, Jason blamed Ronnie for Gehenna’s death.

BRIGHTEST DAY #0 (released April 2010) through #23 (released April 2011)

Brightest Day was written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi.  The Firestorm related sections were penciled by Scott Clark and inked by Dave Beaty.  For the resurrected characters, Blackest Night led directly into Brightest DayBrightest Day began for Firestorm fans at Gehenna’s funeral.  Jason still blamed Ronnie for the death of Gehenna, while Ronnie was acting like an apathetic frat boy.

Brightest Day #0 - Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch

Brightest Day #0 - Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch

Brightest Day #0 - Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch

Jason and Ronnie found themselves stuck together as Firestorm.  Ronnie controlled the body, while Jason served as the telepathic adviser.  Neither Ronnie nor Jason was happy with this situation.  Jason was used to being in control of Firestorm and Ronnie just wanted his life back to normal.  Professor Martin Stein and Ray Palmer, the Atom, stepped forward to help our young heroes.

Brightest Day Firestorm

Brightest Day #2 Professor Stein

Ronnie and Jason eventually separated back into their own bodies.  Jason threw himself into his studies, while Ronnie drowned his sorrows in alcohol.  Their grief and frustration were understandable.  The love of Jason’s life had been murdered and he was forced to play a role in the act.  Additionally, Jason felt his control over Firestorm had been ripped away from him.  Meanwhile, Ronnie was coping with the fact that he’d died and someone replaced him as Firestorm.  Additionally, Ronnie remembered the actions of the Black Lantern Firestorm, making Ronnie question whether he truly was responsible for killing Gehenna.

In an effort to save a life, Jason and Ronnie reformed Firestorm.  Needless to say they didn’t work very well together.  Around this time they became aware of a third malignant presence within the Firestorm matrix.  Ronnie and Jason began to understand they were in this dangerous situation together and began to cooperate.

Unexpectedly, the White Lantern assigned Firestorm a mission.  This resulted in Ronnie and Jason switching control positions within the Firestorm body – Jason now controlled the body while Ronnie was the telepathic adviser.  The White Lantern wanted Ronnie and Jason to learn from each other so they’d be prepared to save the White Lantern from the Black Lantern Firestorm.

Brightest Day #7 - White Lantern Firestorm

Soon after the Professor dropped some real bombshells on Jason and Ronnie.  You can read all about it by clicking here, but I’ll do my best to quickly sum it up.   The Professor explained the Firestorm Matrix is the spark that preceded The Big Bang. Yes, THE spark that triggered The Big Bang, the creation of the universe.  Also, the combination of Ronnie and Jason together as Firestorm is highly unstable. Whenever they argue and get agitated, they risk accidentally triggering a new Big Bang.  If they argue, they could destroy the universe.  That’s quite an incentive to play nice.

Brighest Day #10 Firestorm

Brightest Day #10 Professor Martin Stein

Immediately following these revelations, the third malignant presence within the Firestorm matrix decided to make an appearance.   The Black Lantern Firestorm emerged from the matrix, literally ripping Firestorm apart.  This separated Ronnie and Jason and knocked them both unconscious.  This was a shocker as all the Black Lanterns were thought destroyed in the conclusion of Blackest Night.  The Black Lantern Firestorm rechristened himself, Deathstorm.  Deathstorm then forced Professor Stein to bond with him.

According to Brightest Day writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi, Deathstorm represents the dark and hardcore comic book characters from the 1990s.  That explains his attitude, dialogue, and some of his appearance.

Brightest Day #10 - Deathstorm is coming


Brightest Day #11 Deathstorm

Brightest Day #11 - Deathstorm

Brightest Day #11 Deathstorm

While the appearance of Deathstorm and the subsequent kidnapping of Professor Stein were horrific, it did help clear the air between Jason and Ronnie.  Here was concrete evidence that Deathstorm was responsible for Gehenna’s death and not Ronnie.  With that, the biggest emotional barrier between Jason and Ronnie was lifted.  Ronnie and Jason quickly reformed Firestorm to combat Deathstorm, once again with Ronnie in the driver’s seat and Jason as his co-pilot.

Fury of Firestorm in Brightest Day #11

Deathstorm transported Alvin Rusch, Jason’s dad, to the Professors laboratory and forcibly bond with him too.  His goal was to emotionally torture Ronnie and Jason which would hopefully result in a new Big Bang thus destroying the universe.  The doppelganger then retrieved the mysterious White Lantern.  Deathstorm next demonstrated that his transmutation powers were superior to Firestorm’s by transforming organic matter.  Deathstorm created a new squad of Black Lanterns based upon the recently-resurrected twelve heroes and villains.  Click the image below to enlarge.  You’ll notice the image below is an homage to the resurrection scene in Blackest Night #8.

Deathstorm's Black Lantern squad from Brightest Day #11

Deathstorm was to deliver the White Lantern to the Anti-Monitor in the Anti-Matter Universe.  Before making the delivery, Deathstorm decided to have some fun and emotionally torture Professor Stein and Alvin Rusch for a while.  What a sick freak!

Brightest Day #16 - Deathstorm

After a power-surge which they thought would trigger a new Big Bang, Firestorm was transported to the Anti-Matter Universe.  There they found the Anti-Matter trying to unlock the secrets of the White Lantern, along with Deathstorm and his Black Lanterns lackeys.  Firestorm attacked the villains hoping to free Professor Stein and Jason’s dad, and retrieve the White Lantern.   Ronnie and Jason were finally in sync as Firestorm and truly operated as a team.

Brightest Day #22

During the battle, the Anti-Monitor blasted Firestorm forcing Ronnie and Jason to split apart.  Looking to feed off strong emotions, Deathstorm intended to kill Jason the same way he killed Gehenna by turning him into salt.  Ronnie leapt in front of Jason to save him, planning to take the blast himself.  Well apparently being heroic was in the air that day because Professor Stein leapt in front of Ronnie, taking the blast himself.  The Professor was rapidly transmuted into salt, but not before sharing a few heartfelt things with Ronnie.

Brightest Day #22 - Professor Martin Stein

Brightest Day #22 - Professor Martin Stein

At this point the White Lantern decided that Firestorm had completed his mission and Ronnie Raymond was declared, “Life Returned.”  Was his life just on loan up until this point?  Does the White Lantern represent some sort of cosmic pawn shop?!?!?  The White Lantern then destroyed the Black Lanterns, returned Firestorm to Earth with the lantern itself, and returned Jason’s dad to Detroit.

Brightest Day #22 - Mission Accomplished

Shortly after returning to Earth, the White Lantern explained how it arranged for Ronnie and Jason to witness Professor Stein’s death to help them embrace being Firestorm.  Needless to say this didn’t sit well with Firestorm.  Apparently the White Lantern had been manipulating all the resurrected characters, ultimately leading to this moment.  With little warning, Firestorm was suddenly transformed into a Fire Elemental, along with Aquaman (water), Martian Manhunter (earth), and Hawkman & Hawkgirl (wind).  The elemental’s purpose is to defend the Earth from the Dark Avatar (Black Lantern Swamp Thing).  This was the White Lantern’s plan all along.

Brightest Day #23 Firestorm

Brightest Day #23 Firestorm

Brightest Day #23 Firestorm

Brightest Day #23 Firestorm

Brightest Day #23 Elementals - Firestorm, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl

Brightest Day #23 Elementals - Firestorm, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl

Brightest Day #23 Elementals - Firestorm, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl

And that takes us to the end of Brightest Day #23.  The final issue ships tomorrow to comic book stores, ending this year-long storyline. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that Blackest Night and Brightest Day have been very good for Firestorm’s popularity.  Sure ole match-head has endured serious tragedies such as the death of Gehenna and Professor Stein, but if you look from a real-world perspective Firestorm is more popular than he’s been in decades.  That’s gotta count for something and should translate into more regular adventures for our favorite Nuclear Man.

ELEMENTAL WILD SPECULATION

So Firestorm’s an elemental … again.  Considering he previously spent several years as an elemental, this should feel like old home week for him.  It’s a safe assumption that by the end of Brightest Day (or at the very least the end of Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing), these heroes will be returned to their human form.  However, since Swamp Thing looks to become a major player in the DC Universe again, wouldn’t it be interesting if some remnant of the elemental plot carried on?  What if DC decided to continue the elemental concept after Brightest Day, but instead of these mainstream heroes being the elementals, perhaps someone from their back story that has died recently could become new elementals.  For example, what if Professor Martin Stein once again becomes a fire elemental; Tempest becomes a water elemental; D’kay or Dr Erdel’s daughter becomes the earth elemental; and finally Hath-Set or Shiera’s mother becomes the air elemental.  I’m specifying recently deceased characters because that often ties into elemental creation in DC.  I know it’s a crazy idea, but I’m grasping at straws for Professor Stein to stay around. Additionally, Professor Stein reminded the readers in Brightest Day that he was once a fire elemental. Perhaps that was foreshadowing for what comes later.  Again, I know I’m really reaching but a little harmless speculation never hurt anyone.

TODAY’S CROSSOVER

To help get everyone psyched for Brightest Day #24 and to recognize each of the elementals, we’re running a blog crossover today!  First up, enjoy these Silver Age-style fun facts about the elements courtesy of Rob from THE AQUAMAN SHRINE.

Brightest Day Fun Facts: It's Elemental!

Too funny!  I love those!  Thanks, Rob!

Next, be sure to visit our blogging partners and fellow elementals today for their recaps of Brightest Day.

My thanks to my blogging buddies for participating in today’s crossover!  While I was already excited for the conclusion of Brightest Day, it’s more fun to celebrate with friends.

Support Firestorm! Fan the flame!

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5 Comments

  1. Luke says:

    The murder of Gehenna was one of the nastiest moments I have ever read in a superhero comic. The depths of depravity which Blackest Night served up might have been excessive but I think they were necessary to the story — it was a horror story after all.

    Brightest Day has been a long strange trip alright, but one which I have enjoyed. Of the “major” features of the book, Firestorm started out as the one I cared the least about. I mean, obviously the Hawks were tops. Aquaman is a classic and I think we are all waiting for the definitive take on Martian Manhunter. Even some of the lesser figures held more sway for me: Reverse-Flash, Hawk, Captain Boomerang. But as the story unfolded I found myself more and more interested in Firestorm and the relationship between these two young men. I am hopeful for a Firestorm series to fully examine this dynamic.

    Reading Brightest Day got me thinking about superheroes as characters for the first time in a long time. Thinking about more than “this guy is cool, this guy is not.” Thinking about reading the adventures of a character or characters rather than running from one world shattering war to the next. At a point in my adult life when I am reading less DC and Marvel stuff than ever before, I hope that DC takes this series and spins it into some character driven titles so that we can continue to read about Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and yes, Firestorm.

  2. liquidcross says:

    I still find it funny that Johns and Tomasi based Deathstorm’s dialogue off of “1990s characters.” The problem is, characters talked like that in the 1980s, not the 1990s. Didn’t they ever see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?

  3. Frank says:

    I really didn’t appreciate the murder of Gehenna. For me, Martin Stein is a figure from the distant past, where Gehenna represented a future for Jason and Firestorm. Instead, DC managed to refrigerate another woman and another Asian to boot. All in all though, despite my issues with the route, the destination for the Nuclear Man does indeed seem bright.

  4. Shag says:

    Thanks for the comments! While I was never the biggest fan of Gehenna, her murder was very disturbing to me. It was particularly gruesome, but by being so it was that much more effective. Powerful stuff!

    Thanks again for your feedback!
    Shag

  5. […] My thanks to Diabolu Frank for organizing today’s crossover event! If you’ve enjoyed this blog crossover, then you should check out some previous comic blog crossovers we’ve done. The first major blog crossover celebrated the gorgeous George Pérez/Alex Ross painting from the Crisis on Infinite Earths 1998 hardcover. The next major blog crossover was a celebration of the Super Powers Collection’s 25th Anniversary. Some subsequent major crossovers included: DC Challenge, Read This Too, Mayfairstivus, April Fool’s Day 2011, and Blackest Night to Brightest Day. […]

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