Once in a while, you see an art style you didn’t realise you missed until you saw it again. Blue Flame didn’t just do that for me for one style but for multiple styles. Styles that have seemingly fallen by the wayside in the world of modern aesthetics and digitally made comics.
Many moons ago I fell in love with the classic Watchmen. While I loved the art style across all the glorious pages, it was the retro Golden Age hero posters loved, particularly when featuring The Minutemen. Excitingly, the Blue Flame is a hero that fits firmly within my retro or early hero glorification aesthetic.
However, this was just the tip of the iceberg, with the rest of the compelling covers only pulling me further down The Blue Flame rabbit hole. I found myself having to remember that we are not to judge a book by its cover, particularly where we now pay £50+ for said covers in multiple.
So do we have a supernova or a nightlight with our new hero and series The Blue Flame by Vault Comics? Let’s find out.
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Publisher: Vault Comics
Author: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: Adam Gorham
Colourist: Kurt Michael Russell
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Designer: Tim Daniel
Release Date: 26th May 2021
So right off the bat, it’s worth pointing out again that I love these covers. Pictured above are Cover A, Cover B and another one of my favourites by artist Sheldon Bueckert. The use of colour and the momentum really harken back to the days of Jack Kirby, the man who in my heart created comic book space. Partnered with vibes of the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a guilty pleasure film of mine, not to mention the visual and personal appeal of the Rocketeer, this is a very solid start.
The feature character – and the man burdened with the responsibility with being Earth’s only hope – is Sam Brausam. Sam has built up the persona of The Blue Flame, Earth’s Cosmic Hero. Sam, who normally lives the blue-collar HVAC repairman life, has now been placed on trial on behalf of the whole human race. Should he be deemed unworthy, he and all of humanity will be wiped out. Issue one begins the courtroom proceedings by catching up with The Blue Flame and showing us how Sam got stuck in such a mess.
The important thing for me going into this story was the quality of art continuing through the issue, and it does. Oh boy it does. Every page is visually stimulating, contrasting normal and exotic with ease, managing to be jarring when it needs to and seamless in all the right ways. Huge props to artist Adam Gorham and colourist Kurt Michael Russell. I’d love to see more projects together from this pairing.
A few comic runs in recent history have hugely benefitted from special themes and colour palates akin to this outing. Comics such as Strayed or We Only Find Them When They’re Dead have both been space centric. In the case of The Blue Flame, you have a standout difference in focus. Here, the focus seems to be on the human insignificance in the vastness of space rather than the space itself. In doing this, and while still showing the beauty of the beyond, we have an impression of how one man’s mission effects everything – a beautiful harmony to the plot.
So, back to my Minutemen comparison. The modern superhero seemingly has every toy and gadget available to them, either built from the finest tech money can buy or from some alien alloy or other. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the days of Adam West and his Mary Poppins utility belt, but there is definitely a line. That said, I miss the everyday heroes. The people who rise up and answer the call of whatever daddy issues they have. No research and development program making them bulletproof or providing them with every gadget from bottle opener to zero gravity emitter.
Give me the hero who bare knuckle brawls and suffers their way through their sense of responsibility. While little is addressed in this issue, we know The Blue Flame is a makeshift hero using a newly utilised fuel to propel himself through the air and emit the most intense heat blasts. Furthermore, know very little about this crew here, but but we are given a clever introduction to them and their personas. Very clever indeed on the part of writer Christopher Cantwell.
The Blue Flame is a very easy to follow opener with an endless scope to expand. If you like the self-made man stories, worker by day, hero by night, then this is textbook and beyond, with an art style that that sells you on every moment and mood of every scene. It’s a story we don’t know much about yet, but which is centred on a man we can all relate to.
This is modern reading for a retro fan. No unnecessary bells and whistles, just solid comic substance. Supernova? Maybe in issues to come. Nightlight? Definitely not. For the time being, consider this the lights on the road home on a darkened night. It’s an easy read, simple guidance, and is actually leading somewhere I want to go.