Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Firestorm #67, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1988. Enjoy!
John Ostrander’s run on Firestorm is a wildly underrated comic, but as this issue is part of the “Millennium” crossover, it’s kind of a strange bird. One thing Ostrander has always been able to do very well is write around crossovers, so this issue mainly focuses on an internal struggle Ron Raymond, one part of Firestorm, is having with the other part of Firestorm, a Russian named Mikhail Arkadin (a good deal of Ostrander’s run deals with Cold War politics). All of this is mostly in flashback, as Firestorm stands around with the other heroes waiting for something to happen. Hence this fairly boring splash page, which nevertheless establishes some things. Ostrander’s only text is the caption box at the bottom right, which is so nondescript as to be easily missed – “They are all strangers to me.” Firestorm had been in the Justice League, so this one caption implies that this Firestorm is somehow different from the one we all know and love. It’s not a stunning revelation, but it’s a good way to get us into the textual part of the comic.
Ostrander is assisted on this issue by “J. J. Birch,” a pseudonym for Joe Brozowski, the book’s regular penciller. Brozowski used the alias because he wanted to experiment with a different style and didn’t want to alienate fans if they hated the new look. Man, the pre-Internet days were something, weren’t they? Anyway, Birch is actually slightly better than Brozowski, and this splash page is a good example of that. Brozowski goes a bit Giffen with the art, as he and De la Rosa give us thick chunks of black in the heroes’ costumes and more lithe figure work than we usually see in superhero comics. Look at how lanky Firestorm is – it’s actually pretty impressive. He stands tilted slightly backward with his fists clenched, which, combined with the caption box, makes it clear that he’s wary around these heroes. Brozowski gives him a giant plume of flame coming from his head, which goes along with the Giffen-esque idea of being slightly more abstract (Firestorm is one of those heroes who could only work in comics – can you imagine a movie where the main character has flames coming constantly out of his head?). He and Dr. Fate frame the page well, and they both move our eyes inward to where Guy and Hal are talking. Birch does a nice job with the Lanterns’ body language, too – Guy also has his fist clenched, and his pinched facial expression implies a grouch, while Hal has a ever-so-slightly-smug smile on his face and his talking with his hands, implying a more gregarious personality. Brozowski crams a lot of heroes onto this page, as he must, but he does so fairly well. Hoolihan doesn’t have much choice in the coloring because so much of the page is taken up with choices that were made prior to this issue, but she makes sure that Firestorm’s costume is nice and bright. It stands in good contrast to the gray of the Lanterns.
Weirdly enough, the “g” in the title is bigger than the other letters. I don’t know if that was Chiang’s doing or if Brozowski drew the letters in when he drew the page, but that “g” really bugs me. I have to look away!
As boring as this splash page is, I assume Ostrander just wanted to get Firestorm’s location out of the way before he gave Brozowski some good stuff to draw. That’s just the way it is sometimes!
Next: We’re back to a graphic novel! Find some others in the archives!
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