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Trimming the Collection: Ash (vol. 1)

Ash vol. 1 (Trade collecting #1–5)
by Joe Quesada & Jimmy Palmiotti

I can’t recall if it was Azrael or The Ray where I first saw the dazzling art of Joe Quesada, back when he was just an artist, but I do know that I liked it. It sizzled with energy and a style created perfectly for the comic book. It was different, a little unusual, but detailed and dynamic, and he could tell a story. I looked out for his stuff thereafter, and was excited at being able to get this collection of his co-creator-owned series.

The central idea is a good one: a firefighter superhero. I don’t think it’s been done before (or since), and seemed an obvious idea when you think about it. However, the strength of the central concept seems to be handled in a strange way, with Ash being a, well, I’m not sure; an alien? A robot? Lifeforce suit? The juxtaposition of the surreal Ash with the real-world horror of people who risk their lives fighting fires doesn’t work, seeming bizarre and uncomfortable. Especially when Ashley has to vomit fire in order to become Ash.

The story seems to involve Ashley becoming Ash, with deviations along the way to include other characters that deflect from the central one. The story lacks clarity, confusing the narrative with so many other people – the Brides, Covenant, the Actor, Gabriel – in just five issues that you just want them to slow down and tell the main story.

There are some nice asides, like the appearance of Clark Kent and Lois Lane on the television news, but there is a touch of the artist-proving-he-is-a-writer, with the excess of quotes by famous writers (Dickens, Elliot, Shelley) to justify superheroics. Quesada employs an overly fussy style here, with an excess of flaming lines surrounding Ash whenever he moves, and bizarre extreme close-ups in double-page spreads (well, it was the ’90s after all) and there are quite a few of them. It’s a case of too much too soon, with everything thrown into the pot without letting any flavours come through. I applaud the efforts of Joe & Jimmy in creating their own company for their own story, which has led to so much, but Ash didn’t set my world on fire (apologies for the terrible pun).

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