Robert Kirkman spent a very long time writing his own superhero universe in a book that was incredibly popular and is still slated for an adaptation. Chris Samnee spent a lot of time himself drawing Marvel’s superheroes on some very acclaimed runs that he was unquestionably a major force behind. So it’s very safe to say that Fire Power, their first major comic together, was incredibly exciting for a lot of people as soon as it was announced.
Even more exciting was the surprise announcement that an OGN volume 1 would release just days before the first issue of the ongoing to get audiences properly hooked right away and waste very little time going through the origin story. I wasn’t able to share this excitement, though — the premise was clearly a riff on Marvel’s Iron Fist, a property with a white savior trope baked in, being done by yet more white creators. I was very wary of this book falling into the same pitfalls and tiring tropes as Iron Fist.
But after getting to read the OGN in its entirety and seeing what they were doing for myself, I have to give Kirkman, Samnee, Matt Wilson, and everyone else working on the book a lot of credit — not only do they deftly avoid nearly every frustrating trope they could have slipped into, they’ve made a book that’s really good.
Now, this book does have its fair share of tropes. Pretty much nothing that happens in it is properly surprising, but that’s by design. This isn’t intended to be the big, mind-blowing story that knocks everyone’s socks off — it’s the origin. It’s the story of how Owen Johnson learned of his heritage and how he became the wielder of the Fire Fist power.
If you’re reading this and thinking you have to have seen this story before, you probably have. Kirkman doesn’t shy away from the clear influences that led to this story, rather he chooses to point them out in ways that make it clear that at the very least this story isn’t copying any of them — it’s leading into something different. The epilogue of the book makes this incredibly clear. This first volume of the series creates a fairly standard base upon which the creators can tell a much wider range of stories.
Really, though, the highlight of Fire Power has to be Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson’s artwork. The first ten or so pages of the OGN are entirely wordless and leave all the storytelling to the artwork. It’s done so powerfully that when the first line of dialogue hit the page I was honestly taken out of the book a little bit. The colors fuse with the line work to create this incredible atmosphere on every page — the frigid mountains, the lush temple, the foreboding lair of the dragon.
Every location in the book feels unique and striking in its own way. But it’s not just an atmosphere that’s conveyed — what’s a book about learning martial arts without tight fight choreography and a firm grasp of sequential storytelling? This book is further proof that Chris Samnee is one of the best artists in the business, and is honestly worth reading for his art alone if nothing else interests you.
I’m very glad I gave Fire Power a chance despite some early misgivings, because Kirkman and Samnee have crafted something with a lot of potential. There are so many directions this story can go, and I can definitely say that I’m eagerly awaiting the next piece of this story.
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