Fire Power #1
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Originally slated for Free Comic Book Day, the oversized issue of Fire Power #1 dropped last week alongside its original graphic novel prelude. Marking Kirkman’s first new series since the finale of The Walking Dead and Samnee’s first ongoing since Captain America in 2018, these powerhouse creators bring the heat with the debut of this dynamic and emotional kung-fu story.
Whereas the graphic novel was a swashbuckling action story set at a remote monastery, the first standalone issue of Fire Power takes a decidedly different track, as our hero Owen Johnson is now a middle-aged suburban father whose greatest cares are running out of hot dog buns for the afternoon’s barbecue and the tensions that adolescent dating inflict on both the children and parents. But as Owen’s past comes back to haunt him, the story itself feels familiar in many ways — the adopted son with a dark past and great untold powers, the protagonist who seems ill-at-ease in the domestic bliss they created, the call to return and save his past world… and the ninjas hanging out just waiting to pounce at a moment’s notice. It’s a familiar story, but Kirkman and Samnee include change up just enough elements to leave readers wondering what direction it will go in this time.
Fire Power serves as one of those examples where a line artist and colorist gel incredibly well together. While Samnee’s streamlined but expressive artwork tells the story and ensures readers know what’s going on, it’s Wilson who helps sell the mood and tone with his expressive coloring, from the quiet moments before bed to Owen nearly vaporizing his once rival with his titular Fire Power. That same dance continues with Samnee’s inkwork, which offers a strong contrast for Wilson’s warmer colors. In the night scenes, this works incredibly well in drawing the reader’s eye to the “right” spots and eliciting the desired responses. The bedroom scene with Owen and his wife Kellie, which transitions to a clandestine midnight meeting, is a superb example of this interplay between line artist and colorist.
Meanwhile, Kirkman lays the foundation throughout the issue for where he wants to take readers, all the while peeling back hints and clues as to what took place before the summer barbecue where we meet Owen Johnson and his family. He really sticks the landing in terms of painting a picture of an idyllic suburban life with a summer backyard party, which helps to create a sense of investment in Owen as a character and the life he’s built... and will no doubt see in jeopardy thanks to the various instances of ninjas who have crawled out of the past and clearly look to pull him back into his previous life as a temple guardian.
That said, if one were to level a critique at the book, one could argue that in a 40-page issue, not a lot actually happens. However, I’d say that Kirkman rightly takes his time to lay the foundation for readers with enough background information about Owen Wilson’s past and present context. Without seeing how important his family and domestic life is to him, readers might not fully appreciate the stakes involved in his eventual return to China to defend his Shaolin temple against the Scorched Earth Clan. While readers who pick up this first issue might get more out of it by reading the prequel graphic novel ahead of time, it still has enough going for it to stand alone and whet their appetites for more.
Overall, Fire Power #1 brings the goods with a tried-and-true story of an everyday person who finds his everyday existence threatened by enemies from his past life, which he will have to come out of retirement to fight. And given the storytelling firepower gathered together from the art to the writing, there’s no reason not to jump on board.