Written by: Chris Cantwell
Art by: Adam Gorham
Colouring by: Kurt Michael Russell
Letters by: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Vault

“The Blue Flame is a cosmic hero. The Blue Flame is a DIY vigilante that fights crime on the streets of Milwaukee.” Those are the first two sentences from the blurb of The Blue Flame #1, going by that alone I think it’s fair to say that The Blue Flame is a man of many truths. We’re introduced to the character twice in the issue. Firstly as a space-faring cosmic adventurer, about to come face to face with an alien council intending to put the human race on trial, with him as our sole representative. Then we’re introduced to Sam Brausam, boiler repairman by day, street level Milwaukee vigilante by night, about to make a PR appearance alongside the rest of the Night Brigade.

Confused? I’m fairly sure you’re meant to be. I get the feeling that The Blue Flame is going to be that kind of book, you know the ones, the superhero stories that have you scratching your head for a bunch of issues before hitting you with all the explanations at exactly the point you need them. There have been a few in recent years, perhaps most notably Tom King’s Mister Miracle series, but there’s no shortage of them before that thanks to writers like that Grant Morrison bloke we all spend a few months being a massive fan of. So what sets The Blue Flame apart?

Well for me it’s the intrigue of trying to tell that kind of story, the mind boggling, reality warping tale, but without the ties to a larger comic book universe. There’s just something about it not being a fresh take on an established hero that makes the whole idea more interesting. Severing those ties to something bigger than the story being told just creates so much more potential, and removes that editorial supervision we’re so used to seeing. Chris Cantwell has the freedom to do whatever he wants with this series, all the while drawing on recognisable influences.

Chris Cantwell’s writing in this issue is as great as ever. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles I’m a fan of his work, in particular his two Dark Horse series’ Everything and She Could Fly and that gives me a great amount of faith in The Blue Flame. He’s a creator that can go in some very strange directions, all the while keep you on the edge of your seat. In just a few short sequences this issue establishes both versions of Sam Brausam and the other members of the Night Brigade.

Equally Adam Gorham’s artwork is superb in every part of this issue, although I’ve stumbled across some of his work due to that massive TMNT read through I’m doing, and his past work for Valiant. I was still surprised by the opening pages of this issue. The breathtaking spacescapes we first see are absolutely stunning and together with the more classic feeling superhero pages later in the issue really show the scope of Gorham’s range as an artist.

As always I have to praise Kurt Michael Russell’s colouring; from start to finish he takes what is already great artwork to another level. There’s a muted realism to the colours when we’re on Earth, even when every character is in full superhero garb, which in comparison to the aforementioned cosmic settings shows just as much skill as Gorham’s skills as an artist.

Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering is also on point here, in particular his work on the opening narration boxes feels wonderfully old school while maintaining a great unique styling.

If my calculations are correct, there’s fourteen variant covers for this issue…which is insane, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t all worth checking out. There’s such a good selection of artists who’ve worked on them, and a good few homages to books that are clearly influences on the series too.

Alright, so I’ve praised every part of the creative team and I think it goes without saying that I think this is an expertly crafted first issue. However, while I can’t say for certain which direction The Blue Flame will take as a series, my initial suspicions do mean that I’m inclined to say that this is a book that might not necessarily be for everyone. The mind bending, complicated superhero tale is something that I know plenty of people don’t have time for, and I can completely understand that. But if it is your kind of thing, I think this is a series that you’re going to want to take a look at.

Five Night Brigade members out of Five.

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