I still remember reading the “Comics’ Greatest World” mini-series that introduced the characters of “Catalyst Comix,” as well as the short-lived “Catalyst: Agents of Change” series that followed. Despite the recent revivals of “Ghost” and “X” from the same line of comics, I’ll freely admit that I never would have pegged these characters being the next ones taken out of mothballs. “Catalyst Comix” #1 has a fun story structure, though, and I feel like with time, Joe Casey, Dan McDaid, Paul Maybury and Ulises Farinas could end up with a real winner.
“Catalyst Comix” #1 has three stories written by Casey; a main feature drawn by McDaid starring Frank Wells (the former Titan), plus shorter pieces with Maybury handling Amazing Grace and Farinas tackling the Agents of Change. All three are set simultaneously, showing different angles on an end-of-the-world destructive being named Nibiru on the evening of December 21, 2012. It’s a fun way to tell a story, giving one of the three pieces each month the center stage while the other two are in the supporting slots. While “Catalyst Comix” is at least initially only around for a nine-issue run, I think that’s more than enough time to turn out a fun, regular rotation to keep readers interested.
The basic plot of “Catalyst Comix” is also good; two stories about the destruction of Niburu, the third showing the other characters getting assembled in the absence of Amazing Grace. I like how Casey handles Frank Wells, whose Titan identity has since been shed but who still rises up to try and save the world. He comes across as very much the blue-collar superhero, a working-class guy who’s throwing everything he can at the enemy. And there’s something to be said for the overall “whatever” attitude of Warmaker, who seems over it all.
On the other hand, both the Frank Wells and the Amazing Grace features feel over-narrated, to the point that it’s hard to shake the phrase “purple prose” the more you read. With the Frank Wells story, it’s not until near the end that Casey’s narration starts to get a little annoying, and on some level you can try and tune it out and just stick to the art and dialogue. With the Amazing Grace story, though, there’s no such luck. It’s near-impossible to understand what’s going on without reading the narration, since that’s where all of the action takes place. It’s overwrought and just far too much; it ultimately drags the entire comic down.
The art in “Catalyst Comix” #1 is a lot of fun, though. McDaid’s art is the lion’s share this month, and it’s big and raw and powerful. The destruction that takes place is impressive, and Nibiru looks wonderfully creepy, a smoky version of a Cthulhu type creature. McDaid’s gritted-teeth expression for Frank Wells in many ways goes a long way towards helping define Frank’s personality, and I’m glad that McDaid got the first main feature right out of the gate.
Maybury’s Amazing Grace art is nice, but a lot of it by dint of its subject material is forgettable. When he’s given people to draw it makes me smile, though, with its youthful looking characters and big thick hairstyles. It’s Farinas’s art that grabs me the most, though. It’s a deceptive art style, one that at first you might think is simplistic. But as you start to examine the art, you quickly realize just how much detail Farinas packs into every single page. Individual hairs on Warmaker’s head, dozens of unique pieces of jewelry in a display case, beads of sweat on Bert’s forehead, and even the elaborate front piece of Warmaker’s armor. When we get a moment of pure destruction — wow. There’s no other way to describe it. I can’t wait for Farinas to get the main feature slot in the next month or two, and watch him really cut loose.
“Catalyst Comix” #1 has a great idea at its core, and I want to see it succeed. If the narration is toned down a little, I think it could really work. For now, it’s a release that’s buoyed by its concept and the art, but I’d like to see the rest of it click into place quickly.