Written By: Mario Candelaria
Art By: Karl Slominski
Distributed By: Z2 Comics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to check out a new graphic novel about a firefighter struggling with his choices after a major, career-changing injury. Ashes, written by Mario Candelaria and illustrated by Karl Slominski, will be released on September 22, 2015 with a percentage of proceeds going to firefighter charities. I decided to check it out.
Ashes begins with Matt Terwillegar, a firefighter on the rescue team operating out of Brooklyn, New York. Terwillegar is a rising star in the New York Fire Department and his father would love it if his son would take a safer Lieutenant's spot, but Matt is all to happy raising into burning buildings to save people than to jump the fast track to headquarters like his dad.
On one particularly bad fire in an apartment building, Matt takes a fall. Lucky to be alive, Matt wakes up in the hospital only to discover that he has lost his left leg. Losing a limb is a devastating blow to anyone, but to a fireman, it's like losing his life. Though prosthetics can help people who have lost limbs do amazing things, he fears that he will never find his way back into firefighting again and, after a visit to headquarters, realizes his fears are well-conceived.
Can Matt Terwillegar find a way to get back to the job he loved so much? Can he prove his worth to the NYFD and make a difference in his field of choice?
Ashes is a black and white comic book that may never have seen the light of day had it not been for a fascination regarding firefighting, a belief in the project and a Kickstarter campaign. Having known a number of firefighters, I can definitely appreciate the storyline which not only focuses on the bravery of folks who actually run toward danger rather than away from it, but the difficulties resulting in what would normally be career ending injuries and the fortitude to rise above and succeed.
The main character of Ashes is a likable guy with a healthy sense of responsibility, decent dose of courage and a stubborn streak that helps him make it through. The storyline is believable, poignant, uplifting and inspiring. The artwork...well, I can honestly say that the people were not drawn very well, but the city - WOW! I recognized Grand Army Plaza right away. Karl Slominski has a great knack for recreating the city's most recognizable structures and tourist spots. I almost wish this graphic novel was in color. Imagine how much more dramatic the fire scenes would have been! The dialogue is great - I especially loved the references to the New York Mets and the banter between Matt and Lopez.
Ashes is a great read for anyone, but most especially for those who admire the special bravery of firefighters and the courage of those who fight to ensure that a loss of a limb is not a setback, just a hill in the road worth climbing while continuing your journey. Reading Ashes was a highly enjoyable experience and kudos go out to Mario Candelaria and Karl Slominski for being the ones to tell the story.