The issue's all action, which makes up for Alan Kupperberg and Bill Collins's artwork. The proportions are weird, even if Kupperberg's fight choreography and panel composition are generally okay. It's a forced crossover issue, with Blue Devil passing through Pittsburgh so of course he's going to get into the middle of a fight between Firestorm and his foes.
Writers Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin do a fairly good job for the visiting Firestorm readers. There are maybe three pages of regular Blue Devil stuff going on, all of them compelling and inviting enough to try to get those visitors back for the next issue. There's a big reveal for Blue Devil too and the writers are able to make it palatable to new readers.
It's a fairly neat issue, all told; Firestorm gets almost as much to do as Blue Devil and their protracted conflict makes narrative sense.
Caught in the Firestorm; writers, Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin; penciller, Alan Kupperberg; inker, Bill Collins; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Albert DeGuzman; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.
Joe Brozowski appears to be taking over as regular penciller. He does okay; he tries real hard with expressions, which don’t tend to work out with the regular people but it’s fine with the action scenes. He’s stuck with plotting out an action scene in an arena–a bunch of giant computers on loan from the Batcave.
Conway plots some really odd action scenes in this series, really odd locations. It might be a natural side effect of having a flying superhero in stories more in the web-slinging superhero level.
For instance, this issue has lots of character development for Ronnie and his father. They finally hash it out about a number of things, like Ronnie’s problems with his bully and the father’s fiancée. Though Conway still hasn’t made her likable and he does reduce Ronnie’s girlfriend to a non-speaking prop.
It’s simultaneously too late while still ambitious.
Deadly Prelude; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Gustovich; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
It's funny, but George Tuska really brings the book around. He's just filling in, but Conway's got Multiplex (Firestorm's foe since the second issue of the original series) getting all the villains together–although Firestorm's rogues gallery doesn't have a clubhouse–to attack him. Or something.
But it's a very Flash, very Spider-Man story and Tuska just brings that fun, Silver Age vibe to the book. The art isn't great–some of he and Mike Gustovich's faces are atrocious–but it's got a lot of energy to it. They bring the same energy to the civilian storyline, with Ronnie and Martin both having problems at school. Ronnie because his stepmother-to-be is suing Firestorm and Martin because his sexy dean has the hots for him.
Conway's prudish portrayal of Martin–along with a chaste one of Ronnie and his girlfriend's relationship–is peculiar. He teases character development then doesn't deliver.
Still, the Tuska energy gets it through.
A Gathering of Hate!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, George Tuska; inker, Mike Gustovich; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
Akin and Garvey’s inks are a little better this issue. Not much, but a little. There are a lot of action sequences and most of them come off well, as does Firestorm’s trip to the sun. Martin has some theories about their powers and wants to investigate; for a moment, Firestorm feels like sci-fi and it works better for it. Conway’s engaged and imaginative.
The main story of the issue, however, just gives Kayanan an excuse to draw elaborate fight sequences in Miami. They’re fine, they’re just pointless. Ronnie and Martin get involved because they see it on TV. And Conway wastes a lot of time setting up the characters for this pointless excursion.
Well, it’s an annual so I guess it’s the special element to the issue.
The rest–Martin’s going away party at work, Ronnie’s father’s awful girlfriend–is the regular series stuff; sadly, Conway short-changes them on page time.
Sparx; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s Conway’s most ambitious issue in a long time. The first third of the issue is Firestorm versus a natural disaster–a freak tornado in Pittsburgh. Of course, Typhoon is creating the tornado to draw Firestorm out, but Firestorm doesn’t know it. Conway does a lot with the narration and the trying to use it to pace the scenes.
It doesn’t work, but it’s ambitious. Maybe if the art were better. Machlan’s inks are a mess this issue. They’re better in the superhero part, but still a mess.
The second part of the issue is Ronnie and Martin’s adventures at school. It’s just a regular day–they’re worried they can’t turn back into Firestorm but it’s barely a plot point. It’s all character development; if it weren’t for the dumb high school nemesis, it might work out.
Meanwhile, there’s the villain storyline, which Conway also handles ambitiously.
It’s decent enough.
An East Wind Blowing; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
What is it about Kayanan? Why does he never gets the right inker on Firestorm? Mike Machlan is better than the last couple guys, but still not great. For a lot of the pages, Kayanan seems to avoid a lot of close-ups because Machlan butchers the faces.
The story has Ronnie and Martin at college, with Ronnie adjusting to college freshman life and Martin's thought balloons covering his unease as a new professor. He doesn't really get a story, however. And Conway gives Ronnie too much. Between football tryouts, which Kayanan doesn't break out well, his girlfriend and his high school nemesis plotting his downfall… it's too much. What's really bad is how ineffectual the girlfriend is as a character; Conway basically reinvents her every seven issues.
The other plot–villain Typhoon's return–as awkward. Conway wants him to be both dangerous and sympathetic, but goes to far in the first direction.
Night of Tears, Sky of Sorrow; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s a thoroughly decent Crisis crossover. Firehawk and Wonder Girl are trying to find loved ones in New York and they run into all sorts of problems since New York City is split between different eras.
Akin and Garvey don’t do great on the inks but they do better than they ever have before. The people’s faces don’t look two dimensional anymore. The action stuff is good and Kayanan breaks out a very nice flying sequence.
Eventually there’s a Tomahawk guest appearance when they find themselves in colonial America Manhattan. There’s some adventure with Firehawk and Wonder Girl helping the troops against the British. Conway presents both time periods well; when they go to colonial time, it feels like they’re guesting in a Tomahawk story.
There’s a big narration thing from Firehawk about her embracing life as a superhero. It’s not great, but it’s serviceable. It’s a crossover after all.
A Long Night’s Journey Into Day; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
The issue is simultaneously likable and shallow. The first half has Firestorm moving the Pittsburgh and Conway introducing the new supporting cast on the book. Conway gives Martin a whole new supporting cast of colleagues and teaching assistants, while Ronnie has his cast held over. His high school girlfriend, his high school rival. The former works out but the latter feels way too forced.
Speaking of forced, the second half of the issue is the Crisis tie-in and Conway is rapidly cycling in place. Firestorm goes a little kooky because of Psycho Pirate and Harbinger has to calm him down. So what? And it’s the finish of the issue too. There’s not just no more character stuff with the supporting cast, there’s no character stuff with Firestorm.
Akin and Garvey’s inks are a little better than usual. Some of the panels are excellent; Kayanan’s composition shines.
Storm Warning; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
For the first time in a while–maybe ever–Conway dedicates over half the issue to Ronnie. He’s in trouble at school because he did too well on his final exams. He and Martin figure out it’s leakage from Martin, when they’re fused as Firestorm.
There’s also a lot of stuff with his high school classmates–an argument with his girlfriend (the teenage one, Firehawk has been absent for a while) and then a fight with his adversary. Conway seems to have forgotten he’s already done the fight with the high school antagonist, but it lets him “mature” Ronnie in a matter of scenes than to do actual character development.
Conway’s narrative construction is fine and if the art were better the issue would be a whole lot more successful. But the art’s weak. Mike Clark guest pencils; his lethargic composition gets no help from the inkers either.
Graduation Day; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Mike Clark; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
What a terrible comic. Chaykin’s handling of The Shadow reminds of someone trying to catch a hot potato; whenever he does have a hold on it, it’s not for long enough and it always leaves that all right place for an unpredictable direction.
The problem with this issue–besides the big revelations are predictable and idiotic–is the focus on the villains. Chaykin elevates villains maybe deserving of a half issue crisis to a full four issues. All the sex and drugs and violence is supposed to be enough to make up for them not having any depth, but it doesn’t. It’s not even real flash–it’s implied flash.
And Chaykin could try for flash but doesn’t. He doesn’t try with the art. After the art being The Shadow’s single exemplary factor to this point, he gives up for the last issue.
It’s not completely worthless–the art’s still more than decent–but it’s close.
Blood & Judgment, Conclusion; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
Even though Conway tries a few things, the issue doesn't work out well. He's got both Martin and Ronnie playing detective, with a transformation into Firestorm a way for them to get out of trouble. It's lazy though–turning into a superhero when the detecting gets too dangerous.
And then there's Martin's love interest for the issue. Just when she starts to make an impression, Conway exits her from the issue and returns to the lame villain, the Weasel. The reveal on him is underdone, maybe because of space, maybe because not even Conway is interested.
There's a lot of Pittsburgh landmark minutiae, which makes little sense since it's New Yorker Martin identifying it all.
The worst part is when Ronnie is talking about how his dad isn't a particularly big part of his life anymore–not that the father has ever had a significant role in the comic.
Weak art too.
Publish or Perish or the Academic Life is Killing Me!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Rafael Kayanan and Mike Chen; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
With his third of four issues, Chaykin gets around to showing what his Shadow comic is actually going to be like.
Lots of ribald talk, lots of innuendo (both verbal and visual) and not much else. There’s one good action sequence, where Chaykin’s sense of design and the toughness of the comic inform how the Shadow fights criminals. But it’s just one scene. Then Chaykin’s got a pointless montage of all the Shadow’s new contacts–he’s got a finite story he’s trying to tell but he’s also got a checklist of old Shadow references to make.
He also has way too big of a cast and sends around eighty percent of the good guy supporting cast off page because he doesn’t want to deal with them. He needs them for a line in a scene, then he disposes of them. It’s very messy and poorly designed.
But the art’s magnificent.
Blood & Judgment, Part Three; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
If it weren’t for the lousy inks from Akin and Garvey, this issue would be rather strong. It’s not wholly successful, but it does have Conway trying new things with the series. Martin gets his own adventure, far away from Ronnie; Conway isn’t entirely successful with Martin as lead–there are missteps, like an awkward pop culture reference–but he’s trying.
Conway’s also trying with Ronnie. He sends Ronnie out with his high school girlfriend (never mentioning Firehawk) and it’s nice to see an attempt at a regular scene. Sadly, the art runs a lot of the sequence.
Then there’s Ronnie’s dad and his romance. Again, bad art hurts, but so does Conway’s writing of the dad’s girlfriend. She’s a shallow witch.
Plus there’s a dumb villain called the Weasel menacing Martin. It leads to what should be great action scenes, but are instead atrocious due to the inkers’ ineptness.
Night of the Weasel; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
So after an entirely forward-looking first issue, Chaykin gets around to the flashbacks in the second. In some ways, since the Shadow isn’t the most familiar character, an origin is necessary. But Chaykin goes overboard. He feels the need to rationalize the magical city where the Shadow, back before he was the Shadow, finds himself. There’s too much confusion around the Shadow’s identity too; it’s too dense. The origin takes a whole fourth of the series and there’s got to be some stuff in there Chaykin doesn’t need.
It’d be worse if he uses it all, considering how stuffed he makes the origin. All that extra material cuts back on the composition possibilities too. There’s a nice visit to Shanghai, but the out of fuel airplane sequence is a waste of visual time. And the magical city? Chaykin’s too cynical for it.
It’s decent enough, but Chaykin handles it predictably.
Blood & Judgment, Part Two; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.