Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1
“Step One: Make a Lot of Enemies”
Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Freddie Williams
Colors: Tanya & Richard Horie
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artist: Kako
Editor: Ian Sattler
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
I was a bit perplexed when DC Comics announced its plans to publish a bunch of Final Crisis Aftermath mini-series four months after the conclusion of Final Crisis. The publisher has essentially lost any momentum generated by the (generally) well-received final issue of Grant Morrison’s event title. It seems these Final Crisis Aftermath books should have been released in — oh, I don’t know — the aftermath of Final Crisis. Still, there were elements in the solicitation copy for some of these new limited series that piqued my interest, and one was the potential for an interesting character study of a villain, the Human Flame, in Run!. That’s why I opted to purchase this first issue, but my wallet won’t abide any more for future issues. Williams offers up a caricature rather than a character. The central figure in this story is so completely loathsome that I’m at a loss as to why anyone would be interested in learning more about him. Perhaps some depth will be found in future issues, but I won’t be around to discover them.
Months after Darkseid almost took over the hearts and minds of everyone on the planet thanks to his solution of the Anti-Life Equation, a lone figure awakens from a coma in a hospital room. No one knows who he is, but they quickly learn they don’t like him. He launches himself from the hospital bed, striking anyone who gets in his way. He’s got to run, to hide. He’s Mike Miller, better known as the Human Flame, the man whom the super-hero community blames for the death of their friend, J’Onn J’Onzz, the Martian Manhunter. But before he can run and hide, he needs to get some cash…
I’ll give artist Freddie Williams credit for one thing: he captures the desperate, hectic pace of the Human Flame’s flight from justice pretty well. The art is rather dense. There’s a lot of detail crammed into multiple panels throughout the comic book. There’s a lot of movement as well, and the reader is left with the impression of the main character’s hurried pace through the panels and from page to page. On the other hand, I really don’t care for his depiction of the main character. He’s alternatively lumpy in appearance and surprisingly powerful. It’s as though the creators can’t decide if this guy’s s dumpy slob of a man or a stocky powerhouse. The ridiculously poor fit of the shirt he wears for much of the issue is distracting rather than amusing. The story isn’t a funny one, so why Williams would opt to throw in some kind of comedic visual escapes me. It also appears that the artist has included the wrong Firestorm in this story. The last I remember, it was the African American, Jason Rusch incarnation of the character that’s still running around the DC Universe.
The strongest piece of art to be found here is on the cover. Kako’s take on the Human Flame is far more convincing, and I like how the figure contrasts against the faded, monochromatic background. I don’t that the Final Crisis Aftermath trade dress really catches the eye, though; good thing the cover art does.
The one element in the script that I appreciated was Matthew Sturges’s acknowledgement of the sillier side of the Human Flame costume. He spews flames from the nipples in his costume; that an opponent mocks him for it makes sense. Still, the writer doesn’t lose the more menacing side of the character that’s been established in this issue. That insult is met with a devastating retaliation, and that in turn gives the Human Flame some credibility as a superhuman combatant, making him seem like more than just a loser with a gimmick.
Of course, none of that is sufficient to hold my interest or win me over. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with a character — especially a villain — being depicted as a user. I can accept a protagonist with deep flaws and a poor track record in life. I don’t even need him to be striving to do good or to leave his corrupt ways behind him. But I need something that humanizes him. Sturges had a lot of potential to work with here, but there’s not even a glimmer of humanity to the Human Flame. There’s no remorse, no regret, no self-hatred. At the same time, he’s clearly not a psychopath, just a greedy, small-minded man who never thinks beyond himself. 3/10