"Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!" is a strange book, and I don't think there's any other way to put it. Its star, the Human Flame, was a D-grade villain that most readers had forgotten about until Grant Morrison made him the killer of the Martian Manhunter in "Final Crisis." Now, on the run after having boasted to the entire world that he'd killed one of the Justice League's mainstay members, Matthew Sturges is taking the approach of showing us just why the Human Flame isn't normally in the spotlight.
It's a perfectly reasonable tactic, the more you think about it. At the same time, it lets Sturges riff on the idea of what makes a successful super-villain. When trying to get new flame technology from Flash villain Heat Wave, the more established villain rebukes the Human Flame. "You think you can just put on a mask, pick up a gun, and suddenly become a force to be reckoned with," he says. "But it's not something you turn yourself into, Mike. It's something you just are." Sound familiar? We so often see the same idea and mentality applied to super-heroes (both legitimate and wanna-bes), the reverse was bound happen sooner or later.
As for the Human Flame himself, he's so pathetic that it's actually hard to not start wanting to cheer him on and succeed in spite of himself. He's pathetic, there's no way around it. From being attacked by snarling chihuahuas in matching outfits to being ambushed in a fireworks factory, nothing ever seems to go well. At the same time, Sturges gives him such a strong force of will to keep going in situations where others would have thrown in the towel, it makes him an increasingly interesting character. How far will he go? Even better, by putting him into a group of loser villains under the command of General Immortus, we're hopefully going to get a real show of contrast between him and the other dregs of the DC Universe.
Freddie Williams II is an artist who seems to just keep getting better. I first liked his work on "Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle" but his art has expanded a great deal since then. Here, his characters are drawn with a slick line that looks almost greasy. There's a lot of detail, like every single hair on the Human Flame's body, or individual strands of spittle coming off of a snarling dog's teeth. And, with all of the colored wires snaking in and out of the Human Flame during his "upgrade" surgery, it's hard to not be put in mind of Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X" and all of the detail put into those pages.
"Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!" isn't at all what I was expecting, but that's not a bad thing at all. I think what I appreciate the most is that the ending could go just about anywhere from here. I'm looking forward to seeing just what Sturges' ultimate goal is, and hopefully it won't disappoint.