3.01.2008

Graphic Novel Of The Month

Meltdown #1 & 2 (Image): This month we’re featuring an oldie, but a goodie. Meltdown was a largely unnoticed two issue mini-series running from December of ’06 to January of ’07. It started with that beautiful and moody Chris Bachalo cover and just never let up. It offered us both the high and low points spanning one man’s life, as his body is literally melting down. His flame-based powers begin to consume him, his cells decaying as his body begins to absorb energy at a faster rate than it can disperse safely.

Writer David B. Schwartz and Artist Sean Wang quickly introduce us to their costumed hero The Flare, who becomes nothing more than a footnote in the grand scheme of the world he inhabits. His only true legacy in his “story of my not-so-life” is what cannot be seen, what little he unintentionally imparts on those around him.

I appreciate how the creators gave us a real person who lived under the radar, without much fanfare. Their hero, and the telling of his tale, went largely against type. The Flare is a minority hero from Miami Beach that really aspired to be a professional baseball player, but got swept up into the superhero game. He quickly learns about the pitfalls of residing in the media eye. He learns about the public cover ups and political posturing that come with the job and are most certainly not what he expected. His relationship with his arch-nemesis Neuron is a challenging one. They fight like friends do, with pointed barbs connected to valid points. Doesn’t sound very glamorous, does it? His relationship with would-be significant other Amara lacks any sort of traditional resolution. They don’t kiss and make up, they don’t end up together like a Hollywood movie. There isn’t an emotionally tidy and clean resolution to their shared dilemma. It ends with just a lukewarm attempt, with partial closure and lingering longing, as many failed relationships realistically do.

The audience is brought along to witness the regretful, premature mid-life crisis of a hero. “I don’t have anything! I’m dying! My life is over, and I’ve just wasted it all away!” In this world, nothing worked out the way it was supposed to, not in the way our hero imagined, and he learns that life is just the thing happening to you while you’re busy planning it. The ending scenes involve a cute, if heartbreaking, conversation with random damsel in distress Sandra. As the book comes to a close, the fleeting images flash of a life lived, and you can almost hear the crescendo of music pounding in your head.

The Flare learns that a true hero is not measured by grand gestures, fantastic deeds, or lives saved, but by the simple hope he’s able to inspire in others. It’s sad that the work of such a capable creative team is frequently found in dollar bins, but presents a great opportunity for you to check out this underappreciated title. Grade A.

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