In the 90s, there was Comics Greatest World, where a new breed of hero briefly bloomed in strange fields. Two decades down the road, Catalyst Comics picks up where CGW left off, and there’s still enough strangeness and charm to go around. Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Casey being Casey is intriguing.
Fascinating art styles at play.
Three stories in close quarters.
Feeling a bit lost…
CATALYST COMICS #4
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Paul Maybery/Ulises Farinas/Dan McDaid
Colorist: Brad Simpson
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Brendan Wright
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Catalyst Comics: There’s a few heroes in play here: Amazing Grace, proving that with great power comes great responsibility (and great hair.) The Agents of Change, searching for meaning and purpose. Frank Wells, the former Titan, has found power, but still seeks perspective. Three paths to heroism, but each road has its speedbumps…
THIRTY PAGES, THREE TALES…
Our first tale, featuring Amazing Grace, protector of Golden City, is a peculiar one. The art is reminiscent of early Hernandez Brothers or Rick Veitch’s work on Bratpack, giving everyone an oddly bulbous (but no unattractive appearance.) The story itself features Grace facing off with an alien invader, not in the field of battle, but in what ends up being a courtship ritual. Their “date” is rife with innuendo, as the mysterious Mr. Seaver’s unstated agenda seems to be getting Grace to be his main squeeze. Her responses are pretty refreshing to read, staying away from all the romantic “emotional woman” clichés that you expect from a quasi-romance comic, ending with a nice twist that puts it all in a new light. The Agents Of Change spend their entire tale in a nightclub, drinking and posturing, and being just a couple of turns off-plumb, with an ending that revives another of the fascinating minor concepts of CGW in a whole new (and intimidating light.)
IT’S A PSYCHO-BILLY FREAKOUT!
By the time we dip into Frank/Titan’s story, the theme of identity and confusion thereof is solidified as the focus of the issue, and it does create a slight alienation for me, the reader. Frank’s travels to find himself and redefine what a superhero does are interesting in a deconstructive sort of way, and it’s fun to see a (literally) revolutionary take on the superhero genre, but the way the issue is structured, we get Grace almost failing, followed by Agents of Change seeming inessential, wrapped up by Titan questioning the very nature of superheroism. It’s not only a pretty heavy set of themes to deal with, it gets a little bit more depressing with each story. Artistically, things are really interesting to look at, with lots of detail and neat expressions, but it’s a vaguely “primitive” art style, reminiscent of the independent comics of the 1980s, which can make things a little bit difficult to follow from panel-to-panel.
THE BOTTOM LINE: WEIRD, WILD AND ODDLY APPEALING.
All told, it’s a good book, and one that I enjoyed on an intellectual level along with enjoying it as a retro-look at the heroes of my college years. Many recent Casey projects have stalled out after a few issues, which (along with the bitter realities of comic sales in the 21st Century) has me wondering how long this book will be around, but all in all, it got the job done. Catalyst Comics #4 doesn’t have quite enough space to really cut loose with its wild concepts, but impresses on levels that the original CGW could never have achieved, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. When a book leaves you feeling melancholy about the OTHER comic book stories you’ve read, though, it’s got to be doing something right…