Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Adam Gorham
Colorist: Kurt Michael Russell
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A new-age superhero comic featuring two distinct versions of the same character facing consequences of their life choices.
Think Green Lantern meets Ex Machina.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The Blue Flame is a cosmic hero. The Blue Flame is also a blue-collar HVAC repairman who fights crime as a DIY vigilante on the streets of Milwaukee. Both of these identities hold untold secrets about the man named Sam Brausam, but neither tell the whole truth.
Between intergalactic trials and routine boiler maintenance, The Blue Flame dances between the otherworldy and the mundane to reveal a world that has no solid footing, and no idea as to what comes next. But whatever is beyond the horizon, the Blue Flame has it covered.
Cantwell keeps everything moving at a solid clip, with good enough dialogue not to distract.
Gorham’s art is genuinely fantastic, really selling the cosmic and the mundane. The characters are ablaze with emotion and movement, and though there isn’t a particularly action-packed scene, everything has an energy about it that feels alive.
Russell’s colors are superb, making the lines either pop with sci-fi energy or melt into the real-world settings. Honestly, the intricate balance of color might just be the highlight of the book.
Otsmane-Elhaou’s letters are inoffensive and don’t distract from the story itself outside of the opening page, but we’ll get to that.
The cosmic sections have a great Green Lantern vibe that any classic superhero fan could at the very least appreciate. It’s nothing new, mind you, but it’s a comfortable way to open up a brand-new, independent superhero story where the rules aren’t exactly laid bare.
The blue-collar segments are refreshing for a superhero narrative. Too often we have heroes in the city either doing white-collar work or coasting on familial fortunes. It’s nice to see a Midwest side to the classic story.
The character interactions of the Flame’s vigilante group, the Night Brigade, are genuinely nice to see. It’s fun to see friends having trouble deciding on what pizza to order rather than just co-workers deliberating the next mission.
The design behind the entire book is pretty neat. The costumes, the aliens, even the logo are sleek, eye-catching, and easily digestible.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Even after twenty-six pages, The Blue Flame still isn’t sure about what it wants to be. The haphazard nature of the narrative is, on the surface, intriguing, but there isn’t enough connective tissue outside of the main character to really pull someone in.
The narrative lettering on the opening page, while nostalgic fun, isn’t the most pleasing on the eyes. The different fonts, sizes, and typesets are an eyesore and it’s a wonder that anyone can read it correctly on a first pass.
Though character interactions are mostly pleasant to read, the actual characters themselves are about as deep as a plastic kiddie pool. No one has a distinct personality, nor is anyone so interesting you need to find out more.
The abrupt use of strong language is jarring in the real-world segments. While a fine demarcation between realities, this book has nothing about it that begs to be anything harder than a standard superhero comic
There is honestly nothing about this hero or this world that demands you pay attention. The distinguished competition puts out this same exact fare month in and month out. This would sit nicely next to the latest issue of Green Lantern and not feel out of place. There isn’t anything special about this world, at least not yet.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Honestly, unless you’re a Cantwell fan from his Halt and Catch Fire fame or, God forbid, his recent run on Iron Man, I’m not sure you should.
This book is disjointed, unsure, and directionless, something a first issue should never strive to be. The main conceit of the book, that this cosmic hero is also a mundane everyman, could be cool. But there is no indication that they’re actually the same person outside of being the Blue Flame. Are they alternate dimensions? Timelines? Non-sequential narratives? There’s no way to know because the connective tissue is so thin.
All of this could be mitigated if the characters had any sort of actual character to hold onto. But, as it stands, they’re all just blank slates you know are meant to be extrapolated upon in future issues. I couldn’t tell you who The Feat actually is because he only has seven lines across four pages. Hell, I couldn’t even tell you who the Blue Flame is because the book doesn’t want you to know yet. This works when the world is interesting enough for you to come back and see how these characters interact with it, but there isn’t nearly enough in these pages that beg you to come back and learn more about this world and who lives within.
The saving grace of the entire book is the stellar art team. The line art, the colors, the body language, the life in these pictures is genuinely great to see, and I wish there was a better story for them to bring to life to really exercise the obvious talent on the page.
But, at the end of the day, The Blue Flame isn’t a terrible comic. It isn’t even a bad one. It’s fine enough and you won’t feel guilty after reading, if only because it’s familiar. But it does commit the greatest sin a story can make: it’s just kinda there. It’s not even the kind of book you can muster the energy to be mad about. While, personally, I’d rather read something that’s offensively bad and makes me feel something, if you have some extra time to check this one out, I can’t fault you for checking it out.
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