REVIEW: ‘FirePower’, Volume 1 – “Prelude”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Firepower Volume 1: “Prelude”, written by Robert Kirkman, illustrated by Chris Samnee, colored by Matt Wilson and lettered by Rus Wooton, is published by Image Comics underneath their Skybound imprint. Owen Johnson travels to the Temple of the Flaming Fist to learn an ancient martial art that ignites the air surrounding its user, which then can be used as a weapon. During the course of his training, he faces competition from a fellow student, finds romance with other, and deals with the truth surrounding his late parents.

Kirkman has made a career out of writing stories that upend certain tropes in genre fare. Both Invincible and Stealth managed to overturn or take a realistic look at several longstanding tropes in the superhero genre; Firepower does the same with the martial arts genre. Master Wei Lun, the elderly master of the Fire Fist, is actually a rather savvy old man, carrying an iPhone with him and listening to Radiohead. There’s a basketball court where trainees play pickup games. But most importantly, Owen himself is a subversion of the usual protagonist of martial arts films.

Most characters in martial arts films and stories are often either a Caucasian man searching for some form of purpose, or discover that they are destined to save the world from an ancient evil. Owen belongs to neither category; he is Asian-American and although he is trying to find his place in the world, he is not the subject of an ancient prophecy. And although he is extremely gifted, he has his struggles with fitting in, namely with fellow student Ling Zan who he has a crush on.

Samnee continues to be one of the best artists in the business. His characters move with a fluid, almost animated grace, particularly in the fight scenes. Sound effects blend almost effortlessly into the background; one panel has Owen crunching on a mouthful of uncooked rice, the “CRUNCH” outlined in black in an otherwise white panel. From the tremors around Owen’s body and the way his face scrunches up, it feels like the audience can actually hear the crunch.

Perhaps the most striking sequence in the book is contained in the first eleven pages, which showcase Owen’s journey to the Temple of the Flaming Fist. Told entirely without words, it still manages to convey a wealth of information in the panels. Owen’s determination is shown as he nearly topples over from hunger, but still trudges on. The sense of longing he feels is also present, as he builds a fire and stares at a picture of his late parents, the fire flicking in his downcast eyes. Paired with Wilson’s minimalist colors, this makes for a compelling scene.

Firepower Volume 1: “Prelude”  unites two of the top creators in comics for an amazing tribute to classic martial arts films. It was a bold move for Kirkman and Samnee to release the first story as a graphic novel, but one that will no doubt pay off and get fellow readers to check out the ongoing series.

Firepower Volume 1: “Prelude” will be available April 29th wherever comics.

FirePower Volume 1
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TL;DR

Firepower Volume 1: “Prelude”  unites two of the top creators in comics for an amazing tribute to classic martial arts films. It was a bold move for Kirkman and Samnee to release the first story as a graphic novel, but one that will no doubt pay off and get fellow readers to check out the ongoing series.