Joe Casey is reinvigorating the world of super heroics. The longtime writer who has penned many great comic book adventures wants to push heroes in a new direction. To do that he has paired with three artists with styles that take the genre in a new direction. In Dark Horse Comics’ “Catalyst Comix” #1, Casey works with Dan McDaid, Paul Maybury, Ulises Farinas, and colorist Brad Simpson craft an alternative to the super hero comics that are abundant within the comic market.
The action begins with the end of the world. “The Ballad of Frank Wells” kicks off this anthology series and this hero who disguised himself as Titan has shed his “mask” because it no longer matters. He is the only force there to stop the world from falling into extinction. McDaid’s art on this story is such a break from the house art of the publishers that Casey is breaking from that it excites the page. It is gritty, tough and powerful.
Casey’s narrative is poetic and reads beautifully through the chaos McDaid puts on the page. The hero is humanity’s last line of defense. The shock, surprise, and desperation on the face of Frank Wells comes across as he relentlessly fights back against the alien invaders. McDaid’s artistic narrative matches the beauty of Casey’s words making you feel that with these moments everything is changing.
As Frank Wells battles to save what little there is left of New York, Casey explores more of this world through two back up features. The first is a story of Amazing Grace the heroine of Golden City featuring Maybury’s art; this is a more sci-fi story than the disaster reel of the opening tale. The story is told through captions creating a cerebral read that shows the big dreams of Grace come to life. Maybury’s artwork steals the show as it takes you to the brink of oblivion while still holding onto the humanity of Grace as she makes her effort to halt the catastrophic events occurring on Earth.
Farinas draws the third story in the book, “The Agents of Change.” Farinas captures the energy and power of the previous two stories but does it more subtlety, through design and intricate detail on the pages. These gigantic hulking men are byproducts of an age where heroes were idolized receiving attention, but they weren’t needed creating a loss of direction for each. They became lazy without their various causes. Now they are trying to be organized all over again. This story poses the question, the world was on the brink of annihilation and these men did nothing, what is it going to take to get them moving? It’s an interesting difference from the “laying it all on the table” attitude of the first two stories.
Tying all the stories together are the beautiful colors of Simpson. The artwork changes with each story but the soft palette of Simpson has a unifying effect on them so you feel that even though they look different they are occurring within the same reality.
Casey wants to shake up the world of comic books and he is off to a rousing start with “Catalyst Comix” #1. Dark Horse’s own brand of heroes that got their start in the “Comics Greatest World” series of the 1990s are reinvigorated here. The artwork by the artists brings new life to these heroes by breaking away from the tropes that superheroes have been existed in for the past 75 years. Each artist in this opening issue is dramatically different from the other but still manage to keep each piece within the same world.