Fire Power is a new series by Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee, who are, in a word, illustrious. Set up in a prelude that AIPT’s Vishal Gullapalli said was “a very digestible and gorgeous graphic novel“, the series is here, kicking off with the first two issues at once. Considering the ability Kirkman has to write characters and Samnee’s ability to draw intense and emotional action, I’d say we’re in good hands. All that said, this book tops their best works in both fields.
This first issue is filled with both domestic bliss, and even the average bits too. It opens on Owen Johnson’s family preparing for a barbecue. He has a young son, a daughter, and a happy marriage. Soon he’s racing his daughter to the grocery store for a few last-minute things. His daughter is determined to beat him, but with a little athletic ability, he’s able to beat her. Soon, we’re privy to boring, awkward, and quite frankly boring conversations during the barbecue. And yet, every second is completely captivating.
I was seriously laughing, smiling, and enjoying every minute of the domestic life Owen endures in this book. That’s because Kirman doesn’t let us forget these awkward or mundane moments are filled with life, from the annoying stepdad and his jokes to the sweetness of a mom who loves her child. This is further interesting thanks to Owen being an adopted son to very white parents. That dynamic is interesting and fresh and doesn’t get explored often enough.
Further throwing a wrench in it all is that we know Owen is a skilled fighter with keen senses, yet lives this boring domestic life. And on top of all that, a mysterious man is questioning him in the average looking grocery store. There’s a tension in the barbecue party scene because we know there’s a secret weighing on Owen, but also there is danger lurking. Kirkman and Samnee are smart enough to hold onto this tension to the very last panel.
It’s a good thing the second issue came out at the same time, as this issue feels like it needs the second issue to really work. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t ship this as one extra-sized issue since this one is all setup and domestic-life. There is a short scene showing off Owen’s abilities, but the tension and action are held off. The second issue amps up the action, possibly too much, but read my review of issue #2 for more on that.
Similar to Mark Waid and Samnee’s Black Widow, this book is incredibly well-paced. Well-timed, repeated panels slow things down, heighten focus, and draw attention help allow beats in story to land. This is a big reason why the domestic scenes aren’t boring. Of course, there’s also the great “acting” by the characters, who feel genuine every step of the way. There’s a relaxed nature to their body language that helps keep things feeling normal, and yet we know there’s a danger hovering over Owen to make the normal feel very alarming. Samnee also manages to stuff backgrounds with the riff-raff of the party that keeps things looking and feeling natural.
The family is also well designed and natural looking. I wouldn’t be surprised if Samnee modeled the entire family off a real-life one, since their reactions to each other seems so realistic. There is an attention to details in the everyday life that show Samnee has thought a lot about how every character should be sitting or standing.
Colors by Matthew Wilson are well done, helping to draw out the dynamics of these domestic settings in interesting ways. The actual “fire power” we get to see feels impressive thanks to the dark blues used for night, helping contrast the magical nature of the power.
Letters by Rus Wooton are quite good, looking a bit more flexible and hand-drawn. So often comic book lettering looks like type, but here you can tell there’s extra effort to make the bouncy and casual dialogue feel more natural.
Fire Power is a crowning achievement of how something so simple and usually boring can be intriguing and interesting. Fire Power is poignant, funny, heartfelt, and filled with adventure, and we haven’t even gotten to the punching yet. It’s a celebration of family in the face of dangers outside the home.