Despite what you might think from its title, this is not a licensed comic following the exploits of a search engine-based superhero. Although, there is a crash in it. (Zing?) No, John Kirby: Firefox #1 follows the story of what appears to be a sentient life force, which has crashed to earth after fleeing an interstellar despot named Omega Doma, who would steal its fiery powers for her own. Seeking a host to replace its former, battle-damaged one, Firefox finds its new human tether in the form of small-time Oregon farmer, John Kirby. So imbued beyond his control, John is immediately thrust into the oft-nasty business of punching apart space robots and shooting cosmic flame from his fingernails. It all ends as you might expect, with our hero in peril, trapped in the watery confines of a cliffhanger.
Right. So, the first thing you should know when coming to John Kirby: Firefox #1, if you can’t already tell from the cover, is that this is not a book that employs much in the way of high sentence or visually intricate storytelling. Nor is it some kind of deconstructionist superhero narrative. This right here is straight-up revelry in the traditional innocence of superhero comics.
The experience of reading Firefox is the same you’d get coming across some forgotten comic from the 1950s. It’s blunt-force adventure comics, with over-the-top theatrics, exposition and dialogue and the excessive sound effects to match! As the name also implies, the specter of Jack Kirby haunts these pages in a loving homage which goes beyond just the title, its use of pseudo-Kirby crackle, or the fact that Firefox’s superpower is called the “fourth wave” (a thinly-veiled reference to the Fourth World).
In general, this thing drips with Kirby love, from the simplicity of character motivation to the flare of heroic repartee (though distinctly lacking Kirby’s more poetic flourishes), to the vague grandioseness of its story design. And for what it is, John Kirby: Firefox #1 is an entirely enjoyable superhero comic book experience. It’s like reading the equivalent of a B-movie, but without any hint of irony, and just the celebration of storytelling from a simpler time. It even has a Comics Code Authority badge for god’s sake!
As such, this will definitely not be for everybody, and I’m sure some folks will dismiss it as amateurish. But make no mistake, this is a competently-produced book. Sure, Montgomery’s pacing is stilted and his writing leans heavily on some (intentionally?) naff exposition, with events that come out of nowhere and are explained away capriciously. But the overall charm in this book is, to me, absolutely inescapable.
And yes, some of the artwork feels barren and muddled, the most dire of which comes early in the issue. But even Melton, who covers pages 1-10, turns in some impressive work. That Mech-Hunter E2 bot for example? Fucking sick! Meanwhile, Rivera, who covers the back half of the pages, may seem a bit rough around the edges, but he definitely shows shades of Kirby (of course), but also a significant helping of Dave Gibbons and even a dash or two of Mike Allred.
In terms of character design, I have no idea what Firefox is going for in that costume, but I also don’t care. Sure, there’s nothing visually evocative of a fire... or a fox... or a firefox, but like the story, it’s simple, unfettered and pretty classic. Although, that cover is a bit unfortunate.
Still, if you’re looking for just over 20 pages of pure, ridiculously innocent superhero fun, you’ve come to the right place in the (admittedly poorly-named) John Kirby: Firefox #1. It may be inconsistent in art, simple in story and boast a price point that’s damn near astronomical for what it is, but I’d still recommend picking this up for a nice superhero throwback book.
John Kirby: Firefox #1 Writer/Colorist/Letterer: Warren Montgomery Artist: Lee Melton, Luis “Lururinu” Rivera Publisher: Will Lill Comics Release Date: 3/2/16 Price: $3.99/$0.99 Format: Print/Digital Website