Review by Jimmy Gaspero Jr.
The Blue Flame opens with an homage to Silver Age science fiction/superhero stories to introduce the reader to Sam Brausam aka The Blue Flame. Not just a fun throwback, it gives the sense that this story is going to attempt to get at something fundamental about the superheroes that have played such a large role in popular culture since, at least, the Silver Age. Sam is described as an ordinary, blue-collar Everyman, but he finds himself in strange circumstances in Outer Space, with both Sam and the reader not quite sure what is going on, which instantly helps connect the reader to Sam.
After Sam learns the reason he’s been called to this planet, the story shifts to Sam’s life on Earth. Sam is shown at work, shoveling snow, and driving what I think is a late 70’s model Mercury Comet. It’s all a bit mundane, and that’s the point. Everything shown about Sam on Earth reinforces the idea that he doesn’t have superpowers, he’s not a billionaire, he wasn’t gifted with godly power jewelry.
This issue also introduces the Night Brigade, a team of Sam’s fellow vigilantes. None appear to have superpowers and it’s reminiscent of Watchmen, except the Night Brigade all feel like decent people. The personal relationships among the Night Brigade are not perfect, but are genuine. Christopher Cantwell’s dialogue quickly endears the Night Brigade to the reader. The mundane side of vigilantism continues as various members of the Night Brigade discuss testifying at a trial and how they will afford to repair their damaged truck. There’s such a sense of camaraderie, respect, and light-hearted humor that later events are a massive tonal shift.
The design of Sam’s suit and logo, along with The Blue Flame logo (by Tim Daniel) is incredible. The Blue Flame suit and helmet are sleek, but functional. I was reminded a little of The Rocketeer and The Great Machine from Ex Machina, but with a strong Mega Man influence.
Adam Gorham’s artwork is stunning in the opening cosmic sequence, but no less remarkable later on as he employs inventive panel layouts and inset panels that keep the story visually interesting. Kurt Michael Russell colors everything so beautifully. The colors, especially for the Night Brigade, are bright and vibrant without being brash or too bold. The cold grayish white of a snowy day, the yellowy green of working in a boiler room with artificial light, the cool blue of the evening. Sam’s life looks like a happy one.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is an exceptional letterer. His font choices fit the story so well and are never stagnant as can be seen when Sam sings while he shovels or how he conveys the quickened speech of the radio DJ. Another interesting technique is the irregularly shaped speech bubbles he uses for the aliens in the opening sequence.
For Vault Comics’ first foray into superhero stories, this is a compelling narrative that has set up some very interesting questions combining an Everyman vigilante with a cosmic dilemma. It’s an incredible creative team and if it isn’t yet on your pull list, it should be.
The Blue Flame #1 is available in all good comic stores and digital storefronts May 26th.