Thursday, July 9, 2020

Fire Power Volume 1 Prelude Review

Written By: Robert Kirkman
Art By: Chris Samnee, Matt Wilson
Letters By: Rus Wooton
Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: July 1, 2020

Review by: Jason Colby

Not many creators would introduce a brand new series, one set in a brand new world with brand new characters, in a 150-page “Prelude” OGN with a monthly series already loaded and ready to go.  But Robert Kirkman (THE WALKING DEAD, INVINCIBLE) isn’t most creators. He has his own Skybound imprint (under Image) and he’s not afraid to use it.  In fact, the #1 issue was originally going to be an FCBD offering.  Alas, that’s not happening now.  (Damn you 2020!)  But the Image OGN is available now at comic shops, Comixology, and even Hoopla in advance of the monthly starting up in August. 

We meet our protagonist - soon revealed to be one Owen Johnson, an orphan -  in a 10-page silent sequence as he struggles through snow-clogged mountain peaks. Co-creator Chris Samnee does particularly fine work here evoking the beauty and danger of the environment as well as Owen’s determination to press on.  The colors, by Matt Wilson, are limited to an icy palette until Owen happens - or is he led? - into a vibrant, Oz-like secret mountaintop paradise.

It is here - in the Temple of the Flaming Fist - that we learn more about Owen, and about the rest of the karate-wielding, possibly-magical characters who fill out this book’s cast.  Chief among these is Master Wei Lun, who is a bit like if Mister Miyagi and Splinter had an elderly childid who loved modern electronics and vintage Air Jordans.  Yes, this is a martial-arts book.  If Kirkman’s first meeting with Samnee didn’t feature the phrase “it’s like IRON FIST meets AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER”, I’d be very surprised.  We get crazy-named karate moves (“Wailing Scorpion Strike!” “Patient Serpent Sweep!”) and talk of a Chosen One who can activate the titular and long-lost Fire Power of the Temple’s legendary founder to karate-up actual fireballs. (If you can read this bit of the story without yelling “HADOUKEN!” out loud, then, well, you’re probably younger than me and should stay the hell off my lawn.) 

This may sound like trope-central, but Kirkman parcels out enough fresh twists and half-revealed mysteries about Owen’s birth parents to keep us engrossed in the journey even as we recognize familiar signposts along the way.  Not every twist works - for instance, there’s a semi-romantic subplot that feels extraneous (but may turn out to be important in the ongoing?). But most do, and the world itself feels lived in and worth exploring.  The ending sets up a changed status quo that has me, at least, eager to see where this story might go next.

Bits and Pieces:

At ten bucks, there is a pretty steep barrier to entry.  And it’s not the most original story on the shelf of your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop this month.  But for that price you get more content than in a typical TPB, a self-contained story composed by a true modern master, and first-rate punching, kicking, and basketball-dunking (really) action.  And if your library offers access to Hoopla, then there’s really no reason not to give this a shot.


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