THE BLUE FLAME #1/ Script by CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL/ Art by ADAM GORHAM/ Colors by KURT MICHAEL RUSSELL/ Letters by HASSAN OTSMANE-ELHAOUI/ Published by VAULT COMICS
The Blue Flame #1 did something not many comics manage these days. It surprised me.
Based on the variant covers for this first issue, I presumed I would be reading a space opera superhero book. Green Lantern fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. Certainly the first few pages encouraged this impression, with a bombastic opening segment set in deep space with talk of unexplored sectors and first encounters.
Things shift gears after the first eight pages as we are transported back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a day in the life of Sam Brausam – union HVAC Repairman and, in secret, the Blue Flame and part of the city’s local superhero team, the Night Brigade. At this point, the book becomes a tale of blue collar superheroes who don’t have the backing of a billionaire playboy. Instead, they have a rented clubhouse with spotty Wi-Fi and the backing of a party girl turned superhero with two maxed-out credit cards that daddy hasn’t discovered yet. The tonal shift is like opening up a classic John Broome comic and suddenly finding a lost Dan Slott penned Great Lakes Avengers story in the middle of it.
Instead of giving us an origin , Christopher Cantwell throws the reader into Sam’s Life with little explanation, showing rather than telling us who Sam is. He’s a pretty likeable guy, it turns out – hard working, idealistic but still lacking in confidence and seeing himself beneath the teammate who wants to pursue a romantic relationship with him, even though random people cheer him as he passes them in traffic. While this might be disorienting to some readers, the continual changes only drew me further into the many plotlines. Even the seeming non-sequitur involving a young couple, totally unconnected to the narrative, discussing their pregnancy and the effect it will have on their relationship.
The artwork subtly shifts with the story, further adding to the entrancing effect. Adam Gorham is a true talent, capable of depicting alien landscapes and the mundanity of a Milwaukee basement with equal ease. The color art by Kurt Michael Russell and the lettering of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou are equally impressive.
While the continual shifts in story and setting may turn off those readers hoping for a more traditional superhero origin, I found The Blue Flame #1 to be a fascinating and unique introduction to the kind of hero I wish we saw more of these days. With solid artwork backing its narrative, this is one to watch.