Image Comics Pick of the Week: Fire Power #1 Reviewed

Photo Courtesy of Image Comics

Robert Kirkman is known for taking high concept ideas and getting down to the emotional nitty gritty of his characters. He has tackled zombies, superheroes, secret agents, and is now turning his attention to kung-fu. Fire Power #1 is perhaps the perfect example of Kirkman’s tendency to take an exciting concept and really make you connect with the characters, rather than placing them in a non-stop barrage of exciting scenarios (for better or worse). While this technically may be the first issue of Kirkman’s newest series, there was a prelude graphic novel that set the stage for this new story. While it might not necessarily be required to understand what is happening in Fire Power #1, it is certainly recommended to fully grasp the characters, their motivations and the sense of overall pacing for the story.

Fire Power #1 opens 15 years after the events of the prelude, Owen Johnson has returned from his time learning kung-fu under the guidance of Master Wei Lun, an anything but stereotypical teacher clad in classic Jordan sneakers headphones. While the idea of the ancient temple with the master on top of the snowy mountain may be a classic idea in the kung-fu genre, Kirkman characterizes Wei Lun enough to earn it. Owen spent his time with Wei Lun learning the ways of The Flaming Fist or in simpler terms, shooting fireballs out of his hands. Owen is the first student that is able to manifest the fireballs in recent memory. But that’s the prelude (which again, I highly recommend reading, not only to understand Fire Power #1, but also just because it’s a great read), and this is now. Owen has settled down and started a family, leaving his past life behind. That is until a fellow student comes back with a message and request for Owen that will bring his past back with a bang.

Photo Courtesy of Image Comics

Unfortunately for Fire Power #1, it does not serve on it’s own as the best jumping on point for new readers. The issue is a mostly quiet one, reintroducing us to Owen and his new life. Most of the issue centers around a cookout Owen is having with his wife, two kids, and their extended family and friends. All of this is quite entertaining, and gorgeously drawn and colored (Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson respectively are on the top of their games), but not that exciting if you haven’t already read the prelude. The prelude contains frequent action, whether it be from training scenes or an all-out-war that ends the narrative, so coming off of that the reset and refocus of issue #1 is fine, but taken as its own standalone series kick-off it falls a bit flat. Thankfully, Fire Power #2 also released this week, and the set-up in issue #1 more than pays off in #2. 

As Kirkman often does, Fire Power grounds a fantastical idea with interesting and dynamic characters. For Kirkman’s kung-fu story, he pulls the heaviest influence from the likes of Street Fighter and Dragon Ball Z, and mixes it up with a dash of classic films like The Karate Kid. Kirkman is essentially showing what it would really be like if people had these video-game-like martial arts powers, and in that way Fire Power succeeds. Kirkman certainly appears to have another fiery hit on his hands. 

- Neil Hazel