The Blue Flame is a new series out from Vault Comics on May 26th by creators with tons of experience. Christopher Cantwell, Adam Gorham, and Kurt Michael Russell embark on a series that mixes the realities of superherodom, the pulp science fiction discoveries of classic comics tropes, and the realities of today. The issue succeeds, not only because it’s wonderfully rendered and paced, but because it plays against and with type in such a way that feels entirely new.
The first issue introduces readers to a spacefaring hero respected and known across the galaxy, and beyond the beautifully rendered and atmospheric space scenes reads like something you might have seen in your childhood. Or maybe even made up with a false memory ala the Mandela effect. It’s here the story nestles itself in your mind, making you feel comfortable and happy, but soon after the narrative begins to peel back and show us the “real” world that can be challenging and, especially for seasoned comics readers, exciting.
There are certain tropes at work here that Cantwell and Gorham are using to play against expectations. The classic comic series Strange Adventures comes to mind, or even the modern take on the same series by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Doc Shaner, but it does so by using heroes in a more realistic and rational way. Avoiding spoilers here, but the preview pages released play off of the main chunk of the first issue in a way that makes the reader question what is really going on. Further, the cliffhanger leaves readers even more curious and by extension excited to see where the story may go from here.
The art by Gorham and Russell is exceptional. As seen in the preview, the space scenes are glorious in their weirdness. It’s like staring at heaven itself. When there is action, it’s taut and well-choreographed. In later scenes set in Wisconsin, the laid-back mid-west feel is felt through color and an easy-going vibe. I think this is the kind of comic people want more of — I can’t wait for folks to read it for themselves. Gorham’s lines are very good at capturing detail, but also not overdoing it. This adds to the more realistic elements and the casualness of the real-life scenes.
In an interview with THR, Cantwell said The Blue Flame is inspired by the sensibilities of today. “So far the 21st century has provided some truly intense and infinitely complex tragedy that I believe challenges the very idea of what it means to be human, let alone superhuman.” It’s a concept we don’t see in comics very often, in part because it’s tricky to get into the escapism business of comics while imparting complex and sometimes painful life experiences. This first issue largely succeeds at capturing the weight of the world on a group of heroes who have casually taken up being superheroes in a world that wants them. But what happens when the dangers of the real world become more present and real? Mixing these ideas with the concept of a renowned hero of cosmic proportions and you begin to ponder what that means for their identity and place. How do we view ourselves and how do others view us? These are a few ideas at work in this series.
The Blue Flame is the real deal, and a series for readers who are hungry for complex storytelling with superheroes. It takes the wonderment of John Carter and the relatability and banality of real life and crushes it into a dynamic and nimble thought-provoking first issue. It has that talk-amongst-friends vibe comics fans rarely get and the accessibility for casual or even non-comics readers. It’s the kind of comic we don’t get enough of.
Final order cutoff for The Blue Flame #1 is the first week of May.
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