Review by Ian Keogh
The past Owen Johnson thought he’d left behind has caught up with him in a life-changing way. Thankfully he retains the martial arts skills learned fifteen years earlier, including how to form fireballs from energy drawn from the air, a skill usefully inherited by his daughter. However, his problems include the school he believed well-intentioned actually being evil, the girlfriend he believed dead actually still alive, and the dragon he believed a myth now terrorising cities under the control of a maniac. Oh yes, and the villain controls snakes, themselves able to control people they latch onto, so that’s something Owen should avoid at all costs. Doh!
Flaming Fist is a martial arts extravaganza, with the modern day family drama slipping into the background. That’s been a seemingly unique combination in any form of fiction, and it’s elevated by Chris Samnee’s astonishing art. The sample spread showing the dragon devastating a city is one of several found in this volume. Samnee emphasises the scale of the dragon over some magnificent pages, and the extra time taken to include the small detailed reaction panels is appreciated. In writing some of these scenes Robert Kirkman makes the nice point about humanity considering current weapons the peak of invincibility, when there’s not much can be done to take out a dragon the size of a village.
Whereas volumes until Scorched Earth have kept the conflicts relatively small scale in remote areas, Flaming Fist takes the action global as Kirkman uses the Seven Samurai plot of gathering heroes to fight the impossible. The downside is that many are just cannon fodder and we’ve not come to care about them, but devoting the space to ensure we do would defeat the primary purpose of a rocket-paced page-turner. More so than any other volume to date this features pages of martial arts action, impeccably choreographed by Samnee, although the similarities to Iron Fist are now greater than ever.
The set-up over previous volumes might have raised expectations of this being the finale, but instead it’s an immensely thrilling battle in an ongoing war leaving much still to be resolved, including the bombshell Kirkman drops at the end. Kirkman and Samnee have taken breaks between story arcs as Fire Power rolls out, and the break between this and the next arc is the longest to date. Don’t look for the next trade until early 2024.