In Back Issue Babbling, we take a look at books or storylines from days gone by. Some stories are known classics, and some are lesser known. Either way, these stories are all ones that we feel are worth reading, whether they be instrumental to a long-running book’s continuity or a standalone story. Some excite, some make us think, and some just touch us individually. All of these are stories that we think are worth a comic fan’s time to check out. This week’s subject is Meltdown by Sean Wang.
I remember reading online one day a preview of a two-issue maxi-series story called Meltdown. The elevator pitch was quite intriguing to me at the time. Basically, you have a superhero that one day he learns that his powers are destroying him from within. Scratch that, you have a man. A man that happens to be a super hero, but more than anything else he is a man. The story we experience is more about a man more than as a super powered hero.
We start off with the knowledge that the Meltdown‘s main character Caliente AKA “The Flare”, is dying very soon. We learn that on page 1, in what I consider a perfect opening page to this story. This is a pretty brutal way to start the story off, but it sets the tone for how parts of the story will hit you. The issue continues on to fill us in that his very powers are doing him in.
The first issue, entitled Rage and Regret, focuses on his life up to this point. We see him react to the news of his death and respond increasingly harshly to criminals. We see how his powers have caused him struggles throughout his life. We also get glimpses into his other disappointments in life, in the world of romance and work. Through these disappointments we learn how he has been a victim to his powers and to his own mistakes. Cal hasn’t had an easy life, but his choices haven’t made things better.
As we move into the second issue, titled Reconciliation and Redemption, we see Cal start to actually confront some of his mistakes and acknowledge what they have done to other people. He connects with those he has disappointed and hurt as well as some who he has inspired and helped. In the end, he manages to deal with his past and mistakes. In the process, he realizes that while he never considered himself much of a hero, maybe his presence did bring some good to the world.
I would like to avoid spoiling anything major as I think Meltdown is best experienced with surprises. As such, I’m avoiding any details you can’t get from the preview, or from pages on Sean Wang’s own site. What I will tell you is that there are moments you will smile after Cal triumphs, and you will feel sadness at the downturns in the story. What really grabs me about this story is how relate-able the character is at times (for a guy who creates fire, that is). As I said before, we see him as a man more than we do a superhero. Part of this is because we see so much of his life through a flashback instead of just highlight reels of him fighting bad guys.
So, here is a guy who hasn’t always had the best luck with the ladies, or had success in everything he did. He had his dream job, but then lost it due to his powers. He’s never been able to conquer his nemesis. He is pretty much an underpaid second-rate hero. He didn’t even want to be a hero. He just fell into it because he couldn’t keep the job he really wanted. He is paid poorly enough that he spends evenings dining on ramen noodles.
So, even though this guy can fly and create fire, he has a lot of the same problems that affect every body. He isn’t even the best guy in the world. He has a lot of the same personal failings that you and I have. While it doesn’t make him the most like-able character on every level, it does make you understand him. And in some ways, you do want to root for him to figure his crap out because we all want to believe that we can sort out our own affairs and mistakes.
As a whole, I believe that Meltdown hits all the right notes to make you feel pain, sadness, and a little hope. It is more than worth a read. I bought it when it came out in the two-issue max-series format. I bought it again when they released a trade paperback of it a year later for the extra content. The trade paperback is definitely the way to go with this. You get the issues, sketch work, behind the scenes looks, and even a foreword from comic book famous Robert Kirkman.
Looking back on news about it at the time, it seems that it was well received by fans which is great, but I still hear almost nothing about it these days. I think this is a shame, as I still love it and most everyone I show it to enjoys it. I enjoyed it so thoroughly that it actually turned me on to Sean Wang’s other work. Seriously, go read some Runners. It is available for purchase and for free viewing on his website.
As I reread the story this week, I was reminded not only of how much I enjoyed the story, but of how much emotion it made me feel. Even ten years later, it still hits me hard in the feels. I know I’ll continue to read Meltdown through the years. The trade paperback is still easily available on Amazon or through In Stock Trades. I have no hesitation to wholeheartedly recommend either available form. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.