Group Review: Catalyst Comix #1

Catalyst Comix has been teased for quite some time now with writer Joe Casey promising that it’s unlike any other superhero comic, so how does it stack up? Especially considering that Casey has two other superhero titles on the market right now. Well, each of the writers/reviews of Comic Bastards is going to give the book a score of either: Buy, Borrow or Pass and then give you their thoughts on the title. Before that, let’s get the gist of the book from Dark Horse: Straight from the glory of Comics' Greatest World, Frank "Titan" Wells, Amazing Grace and the Agents of Change are back, baby! But you've never seen them like this! Superhero comics get a back-alley facelift as these very different champions confront cosmic threats and personal demons—and it all starts at the end of the world as we know it!

Ed: Buy

Joe Casey is a veteran writer of the superhero genre and when he’s on form he is capable of producing some highly entertaining fare and I’m always impressed by his efforts to try new things within the genre, even when they don’t come off as well as hoped. I’m pleased to say that in Catalyst Comix #1 we are getting the best of Casey, an excellent concept of having three strips following different types of superhero within a shared world (each taking turns to be the main feature of every month’s issue). The compressed storytelling imposed by this format seems to suit Casey, forcing his writing to be snappy and direct while allowing him to cram as many cool ideas into the issue as possible.

The art is no less impressive, with each of the strips drawn by very distinct styles of artist. There’s the crazy psychedelia of Paul Maybury's work in ‘Amazing Grace’, the riotously grim action by Dan McDaid in ‘The Ballad of Frank Wells’ and the smooth grit-pop stylings of Ulises Farinas in ‘Agents of Change’, giving the stories their own individual tone and making this new series a unique experience for readers.

If you're a fan of superhero comics and you're looking to try something new then you've come to the right place. Catalyst Comix #1 is all cathartic killer and no boring filler, with 28 story pages for $2.99 to boot. I’m a sucker for anthology format comics and I liked this issue so much I’m putting on my LCS pull list. If Casey and his collaborators can maintain this level of fun and fast paced excitement then it would be no exaggeration to suggest that Catalyst Comix may prove to be the most enjoyable original creation the writer has produced in years.

Catalyst Comix #1 Cover

Steve: Borrow

Joe Casey has been really hit or miss for me recently, and that’s no more apparent than in Catalyst Comix, which sees three separate but unequal stories based around one theme: the apocalypse. I loved its inaugural story about the self-doubting American Icon known both as the hero Titan and the man Frank Wells. He fits so well as a sort of innocent superhero of another age trapped within the more life-threatening peril and debilitating self-psychoanalysis of the 21st Century. It was great to see him grappling not only with giant monsters, but with his own knee-shattering fear, unbreakable though his body may be. A lot of his emotive output is heavy-handed, but in a way it feels calculated. The second story featuring daredevil damsel Amazing Grace, however, may be an interesting little sci-fi aside, but it is way too expository to feel anything other than plodding.

The book gets back on track in its third offering, which again approaches the subject of “impotent omnipotence” by introducing a string of down-and-out heroes who suffer from overpowered irrelevance, and their strident efforts to come together and “be” something again. I’ll be interested to see if this develops and congeals into the unorthodox team book of its namesake, but for now, its anthology format makes it easy enough to digest. I’m giving it a Borrow for now only because I think this will work much better in trade, when you can see all of its divergent elements crash together at once.

Samantha: Pass

I never read Agents of Change back in the day, so I can only judge this comic by its face value. I have to say I was bored with the results. There is a lot of narrating. It left a sour taste of milk in my mouth. I found myself unattached to every main character. Although I like the three stories put into one I just couldn’t connect. Also, I found myself trying to connect all three stories and they seem so far anyway from each other. In each one the world is ending. That is about the only similarity I could see.

The art is way different in each issue, so maybe that is why I couldn’t join them as a team. Frank Well’s comic had some solid art. The colors were bright and the art was crisp. Agent of Change and Amazing Grace were too cartoony for me. We never even got a clear shot of Grace. And Agent of Change is Mr. T.

I just was overwhelmed with the narrator and he read too arrogant. I would pass on this comic. Maybe I missing something since I don’t know the previous comic but I’d rather not find out.

Carl: Buy

Story one from this Dark Horse collection (for a mere $2.99) opens with a Frank Wells story.  What a way to open this issue!  Wells fights a Lovecraftian monster bringing destruction to planet Earth.  The last line of hope for humanity, Wells fights with brute force while the president resorts to prayer.  This first story had a great story, a riveting fight, and a conclusion that left me wanting to read the next issue right now.  I would say buy this comic for this story alone—but there are two more in the book.

The second story takes a more SF angle with its look at a young space explorer.  She runs afoul of an entity in deep space.  That entity, Nibiru, happens to be the same monster attacking Earth in the first story.  I found this a very interesting way running a continuous thread through the book.

The last tale has an “Agent Coulson recruiting the Avengers” feel to it as Elvis Warmaker gets tapped to be a part of something bigger than his guns.

Overall, Catalyst Comix opened strong.  The creators captured a momentum right at the start, and that made the overall comic a fun read.

Sergio: Pass

Maybe I didn't do my homework on the series or I just didn't buy into the hype that Dark Horse was trying to create around Catalyst Comix but it really wasn't my cu of tea. Are the three stories supposed to eventually intertwine or are they their own separate story lines? I get that they all center on the latest end of times prediction but I just didn't get it.  The art work was shotty in my opinion, with the exception of the last story, I spent too much time trying to figure out what I was looking at rather than using the art as a part of telling the story.  I'm sure that plenty of you will enjoy whatever the hell is going on and maybe I will get more into it as the story or stories for that matter develop as a big picture but as for now it will have to be a pass in my book.

Connor: Buy

Anthologies can sometimes be pretty cool, offering you a few short stories and so we as a reader can get more exposure of a genre or world being taken care by a writer or writers. Although the weakness can be if only one story stands out and the others fail, luckily with this issue that isn't the case. I found all three stories to be entertaining and well rounded out. Check it out.

Dustin: Buy

There were parts of this issue that I really enjoyed. The return of thought bubbles was great, but with it came an over use of narration. In the first third of the story that follows Titan, I was captivated by his narration. His self-doubt and fear of death was refreshingly simple of the genre. He had feelings and regrets that were real, but at the end of the day he did what he needed to do.

The second story was interesting, but mostly because I wanted to see what happened to Grace after her crash. Again the narration was overkill and I never once read what her robot ship said since the lettering was annoying, but it didn’t harm the story in my opinion. The third story had killer art and while it was kind of one big pissing contest there was something very cool about it. I’m curious about the character and want to follow his story more.

It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a fun read that takes chances unlike any other superhero comic. Casey delivered that much for sure. There is something comforting about this story, which is weird to say. It’s not that it’s familiar, just that it’s strange and weird without pushing into unfamiliar territory.

Score: 4 Buys, 2 Passes and a Borrow

Writer: Joe Casey

Artists: Dan McDaid, Ulises Farinas and Paul Maybury

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Price: $2.99

Release Date: 7/3/13