Meltdown #1 (Image Comics)

A hero on the verge of burning out–literally–takes center stage in this well-crafted debut issue. The cover to Meltdown #1 by Chris Bachalo. Click thumbnail for a larger image. 

48 pgs FC;$5.99

(W: David B. Schwartz; A: Sean Wang)

 

Meltdown comes as a nice surprise. It's premise–a hero on the verge of burning out, literally–isn't entirely original, but it is an intriguing setup. Tack on some quality storytelling and fantastic art and it's a satisfying read. The hero of the story is Cal, short for Caliente, who sometimes goes by "Flare," too, when he's wearing tights. As you might suspect, he's got fire-based powers, and they're killing him. This first half of a two-part miniseries starts off with Cal as he's looking death in the face. Then, through first person narrative, he flashes back through time, from his birth in Venezuela up to the present day and an all-out arch nemesis rumble.

 

Sean Wang's art hits a cartoony note in a flashback from Meltdown #1. Click for a larger image.In between, its shown how he moved to the States, fell for a girl, played pro baseball, then lost it all as he transformed into the hot-tempered superhero that he never wanted to be. Now with days to live, he's trying to tie up his loose ends and make good for the rough life he's lived. Of course, that includes finishing off his nemesis, Maelstrom.

 

Anyone who has read comics in the past twenty years will find it to be somewhat familiar territory, but writer David B. Schwartz still succeeds in making you really like Cal and feel for this new character after only 48 pages. Unfortunately, the other characters feel a little flat. Its length may hinder it. Would five or six issues have given the writer enough room to tell a deeper story, without rushing through the hero origin clichés? Or maybe by using the clichés, he's taking advantage of what we know to quickly establish the character and move on to the meat of the story. Either way, Scwartz tells an impressive story for the format, and he'll probably be moving on to bigger things soon.

 

Things heat up in this interior art from Sean Wang. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Where the book shines most is in the art from Sean Wang, the talented creator of the series The Runners. Here, he shows a wide range and flexibility in his style, so much so that a reader might have to double-check the credits to see if there were 2 or 3 different pencillers. Cal's childhood is drawn with crisp, thin lines and bright colors; it's a little cartoony but well detailed, similar to Invincible or even Seth Fisher's work on Fantastic Four Big In Japan. Then on the other end, in scenes when Cal's older and jaded, the art reciprocates with a more realistic look that's gritty and heavier on the ink. Very nice. Better yet, the change is gradual as Cal gets older, always reflecting the age and temperament of the hero.

 

Meltdown is a well-crafted little tale that might not strike with every reader, but should be a surefire hit with the cape fans.

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