Welcome to Catalyst Report, a monthly column that will be examining and the discussing the world of Catalyst Prime, a shared superhero universe created by Lion Forge Studios. Debuting on Free-Comic Book Day in May with “The Event” one-shot, Lion Forge is making a steady roll out of their universe. It is an ambitious project, with a wide variety of creators bringing their touches in the months to come. We’ll be right there, taking a look at this world as it expands.
Today, we will be looking at the issues of May and June 2017: Catalyst Prime: The Event”, ”Noble” #1-2 and ”Accell” #1. Naturally, there will be spoilers throughout.
”Catalyst Prime: The Event”
Written by Christopher Priest & Joseph P. Illidge
Illustrated by Marco Turini & Will Rosado
Colored by Jessica Kholinne
Lettered by Andworld Design
The origin of the Catalyst Prime superhero universe is revealed, as five astronauts take on a suicide mission to save the Earth from an asteroid collision, leading to the rise of superpowered beings.
A Taste of Things to Come
Being that it is a Christopher Priest comic, “The Event” is sectioned off into “chapters” with a use of white subtitle on black background panel (not a criticism. I like that) and the first glimpse of the universe is a look for things to come. A young man that can move fast, hinting at the coming “Accell”. A woman pointing a gun at a mysterious man, foreshadowing “Noble”. Two people, one who can fly and another with super strength, being attacked by a group of mysterious individuals, previewing “Superb”. It’s an effective cold opening that gets us to want to know more.
We leave these scenes to head into the real meat of the issue: back one year ago to “The Event”. When a group of astronauts try to stop an asteroid from destroying the world, only for a cosmic event causing great change in the world. But just as important as that event is the people we are introduced to. The first person is also the one that is probably going to be the one with the most impact to come as the comic line launches: Lorena Payan, head of the Foresight Corporation, whose advanced tech first detected Icarus 2, the friendly asteroid coming to give Earth a big ol’ apocalyptic hug.
Lorena is the character that we simultaneously learn the most about in this issue and know nothing about. We see a multitude of sides of her, being introduced on a school bus trying to instruct a boy on a math problem. We learn that she built the school for these kids and promised she’d ride along with them every day. We also see a playful, but serious side to her when she sneaks up on some of her employees talking about her when she arrives at her lab.
So, she seems to be someone generally wanting to do good and just from these first scenes, that seems the case. We’re going to talk about Lorena again before finishing this annotation, but I wanted to address this scene. Yes, it’s an exposition dump on her, but I have to commend the artists creating the dichotomy between the words of philanthropy with an image that can communicate both benevolent and sinisterness with the whole “world in the palm of my hands” imagery.
Meeting the Crew
It’s not just the founder of the Project that we meet, but the astronauts taking part in this mission as well. A dramatis personae at the beginning gives us all the information about them, as well as the books down the line some of them will be showing up in. We have David Powell, an aerospace engineer. Major Alistair Meath, Air Marshall with the Royal Air Force. Commander Evan Chess, U.S. Navy officer, and veteran in spaceflight with NASA. Jamila Parks, an astronautical engineer and employee of Atitarn aerospace company, Atisat. Finally, Valentina Resnick-Baker, Foresight Corp. liaison and materials scientist.
Nothing major to add here. It is just a lovely, almost ethereal, image. Kudos to the art team.
What’s the Last Thing You’ll Think About Before You Die?
As they are approaching, we get a glimpse into each of the astronaut’s minds of some of their last moments on Earth before the mission, which gives some insight into their personalities. Powell’s love for his wife, Meath’s loyalty to his country, Baker’s mental resolve, and so on. Like the issue as a whole, it is brief windows into these characters, but enough to give establishment of them and a little tether of emotional resonance.
It’s time. The astronauts managed to destroy Icarus 2… or so we think. Thousands upon thousands of shards are heading for Earth, and there’s no stopping them. Chess is gone and it’s only the beginning, as the world will never be the same.
And we return full circle back during the immediate aftermath of the event back with Lorena as one of her chief scientists (who, if you read that exposition text deeper, was her mentor in university) discovers a truth: Icarus 2 was never going to impact the Earth. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t supposed to know that as Lorena slits up his throat.
This brings us back to Lorena, who is the most interesting character in this universe so far. We see the full dichotomy of this woman in two snippets of a scene. The first is, of course, silencing a man and having his body disposed of with brutal efficiency and reading a thank you note from the young boy at the beginning of the comic. It shows a woman who wishes to make the world a better place, but at the same time is not above doing horrible things for it. Someone you can’t classify as a hero, not at all, but a villain? Again, a hard classification.
But without a doubt, a character to watch as we continue.
Written by Brandon Thomas
Pencils & Inks by Roger Robinson
Colors by Juan Fernandez
Letters by Saida Temofonte
Issue #1: Catalyst Prime has begun! One year after “The Event,” missing astronaut David Powell has resurfaced! With dangerous new abilities and no memory of the man he once was. While desperately trying to regain his identity David quickly finds himself a man on the run from shadowy forces as well as his forgotten past. From writer Brandon Thomas (Horizon, Civil War II: Choosing Sides), artist Roger Robinson (Batman: Gotham Knights, Solo Avengers), and colorist Juan Fernandez.
Issue #2: The global manhunt for Earth’s fugitive superhero—David Powell—continues! On the run from Foresight Industries, David’s fractured memories continue to plague him. The kaleidoscope of flashbacks conjures ghosts from the past and shadows of possibilities, while his telekinetic power grows stronger. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman tracks David. She’s armed, dangerous, and one step behind him. Friend? Foe? Find out in Noble #2.
“Noble” is going to be following David Powell, but it’s not just his story, as we are introduced more to his wife, Astrid. The first scenes take place just after the event with her and her son waiting for news about him just after The Event only to learn of terrible news. What sticks out with this scene is the lettering. Making some of the doctor’s dialogue distorted and crossed out was an effective way of showing Astrid’s grief. When we learn of bad news, it’s like the world shatters and distorts, with only some of the pieces making their way in. Good stuff.
A Shining Light
The tagline for this series is “When you have the power to change things, but no memory of who you are, the only thing left to be in this world… is Noble”. A good line that sums up the basic premise of the series as well as being a creed. Doing good, even when pushed back and down. In the case of Mr. Powell, being on the run from a group of mercenaries and not knowing why. Combining with a scene like this, a beacon of light makes for some nice imagery.Continued below
The Memories Come Back
One of the things I gave credit to in my original review of “Noble” #1, but an aspect of this issue I enjoyed was the flashes of memories that David would get start very distorted and blurry, but as the issue progresses, the art team makes them firmer until we finally get this image of the memories punching through.
The end of “Noble” #1 really did sell me on the series, having Astrid being the one in charge of the mercenaries trying to get her husband. It leaves us with a lot of tantalizing questions. What’s her deal? How’d she get these mercenaries? Is there a bigger game at play? Is it really all just about finding her husband? For as basic an introduction the first issue was, it is a good cliffhanger.
Art is a Lovely Thing, Isn’t It?
A lovely bit of visual storytelling involved here at the start of “Noble” #2. Without words, it tells you that this man died in unfortunate circumstances, was some kind of soldier or hero and had clear loved ones, with the doctor looking at a photograph. Good job to Robinson and Fernandez on this page.
A Game of Identities
The series has been very keen on hammering the theme of identity in with these first two issues. The aforementioned tagline, memory loss, as well as the personas David has been using to get around. The last issue had Mr. Powell under the alias of Julian Brass, an auto mechanic Here, is using the identity of Michael Burnett, a building superintendent. Hopefully, these changing identities can also serve as a vehicle for David to show off a variety of skills non-super related.
For Some Reason, I Don’t Think We Should Trust Him
Like the premiere issue, “Noble” #2 provides us with something tantalizing to get us to come back next month, that in the form of Dr. Demarcus Mayes, who had been the coroner for David before he returned to life. It turns out there is much more to the Doctor than was first shown, which again riddles us with questions: Who is he? What’re his goals? Is he working for someone else? Is he smug as this image insinuates? Wait. That last one is probably true. Anyways, “Noble” as a series is gaining speed real quick introducing a cast of interesting characters. Speaking of “gaining speed”…
Written by Joey Casey
Penciled by Damion Scott
Inked by Robert Campanella
Colored by Sigmund Torre
Lettered by Janice Chiang
Daniel DosSantos is a young man living at the speed of life. After gaining powers from exposure to an extraterrestrial object, DosSantos became the rapid action superhero called Accell, the first of a new public kind of self-appointed crime fighter. Unfortunately, there are consequences to moving faster than sound. Accell is about to learn that danger exists on the flipside of having superpowers and will have to grow up quickly to survive.
A Nice Change of Tone
Whereas “Noble” has the feel more of action-thriller, “Accell” has a bit more down-to-earth, and light-heartedness and a good chunk of that go to the art team on it. Mr. Dos Santos’ adventures are brought to us by Damion Scott, Robert Campanella and Sigmund Torre and it is a much more cartoonish set of artwork, the city of Los Angeles is much brighter than the scenes in its brother title.
But it’s not all fun and games, as we see. I do appreciate Casey going this route, that moving at such velocities can do some serious damage to the body, even when Daniel himself says he doesn’t feel the pain when running. It is a bit mitigated by the rapid healing he shows in the hospital, but it is nice seeing such aspects taken into consideration.
A Hero’s Loved Ones Knowing His Identity?!
Okay, I’m not going to do this comparison often, but one of the things that frustrate me about “The Flash” over at DC is his loved ones still not knowing about his identity. I am really grateful to see the opposite here. Now, it’s up in the air right now about Daniel and Monica, but it is nice for the drama to be because of realistic things, like fear of commitment, not “fear of my loved ones knowing my secret!!” It’s a good change of pace from other superhero fares.
In comparison to “Noble” again, the design of Barrage goes to show the tone of this series. Whereas David’s is more minimalist, Barrage’s design is full bombastic superheroics (or in Barrage’s case, Supervillainics) The absurd proportions of the man, the overly large bullets he’s wrapped in. The gauntlets which look like something out of Warhammer 40,000. The design shows this book knows what it wants to be, and is willing to commit to it.
Okay, There Is Some Pathos Here
I said that this story is a lighter affair than “Noble” and that is true, but it does go a way to have a heart in other ways. While this cliffhanger isn’t as dramatic as the others series, this has more of a thematic resonance. Daniel is twenty, unsure of himself, what he wants to be and how he wants to be it. He’s practically killing himself on a daily basis to try and make sure the world is a better place and to try and make sense of his life. It is a very relatable time in life, speaking as a twenty-*mumble mumble mumble* year old man. If anything, Daniel is a more realized character at least conceptually than David right now is, but there’s still time all around.
And that’s that. Tune in next month where we’ll look at ”Noble” #3, ”Accell” #2 & ”Superb” #1.