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

There’s been a little break since the last issue of The Blue Flame and to be honest, even though this is a series I’ve really enjoyed up until this point the break has affected my reading of this issue. Simply put, three months is a long time and, while I would love to re-read what’s come beforehand, I just don’t have the time right now. So I suppose it’s a good thing that The Blue Flame #5 is such a good issue in its own right.

The previous issues have set up Sam’s mission to present a case to the Consensus for humanity’s continuing existence. That’s where this issue begins, with Sam pleading his case, presenting what he thinks are the greatest achievements of the people of Earth and the reason we deserve to exist.

On the other side of The Blue Flame’s narrative we see that the Earthbound version of Sam is still struggling, self medicating with alcohol and becoming a real strain on Dee and Mateo. This leads to an ultimatum: get help or get out. It’s a heavy and emotionally charged moment and it serves to illustrate just how far apart the versions of Sam we’ve been seeing are. Dee and Mateo’s conversation leading to this point also tells us plenty about them as a couple and as characters in their own right.

There are pages in this issue that show the parallels in the two versions of Sam we see, highlighting that despite the physical and emotional differences their personalities remain the same, as do their reactions to certain situations.

As the series has progressed, we have seen Christopher Cantwell explore some interesting themes, but in this issue we see a full debate play out centred around both the good and bad that people are capable of. It’s undeniable that there’s flaws with both sides, but it’s easy to see the truth in both Sam and Yarix’s words. There’s another debate in Sam’s group therapy session and, while both scenes are worlds apart (both in discussion and location), there’s the clear reflection of a man struggling with his place in the world and the feeling that failure is all that awaits him.

I’ve said it in every review, but Adam Gorham’s art is great in this issue. There’s so much legitimate emotion in the scenes on Earth, while the panels illustrating Sam’s case to the Consensus are wonderful snapshots of some of humanity’s positives. This is also the first issue where I’ve noticed just how different the two Sams really look. I’m not sure if it’s been a slow progression, but you can really see that the Sam who’s still in Milwaukee is really the worse for wear with everything he’s been through.

Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering is superb throughout this issue, as always. I would like to point out a particular highlight towards the end of the group therapy scene. In that scene,  the bubbles and letters really reflect the heightened tensions, and the bubble that gets hidden partially behind Sam’s face is a great depiction of how the character speaking is being unsuccessful in his effort to calm things down.

I’ve gushed about this issue quite a lot, but only because it’s so damn good. The parallels between the two narratives are where the book really shines, and they allow for the creative team to dig into so many different themes at the same time. It’s just such a well structured story. Each issue brings us closer to answers about what’s really going on: is Sam daydreaming about saving the universe, or is he really in two places at once?

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