An ongoing anthology series with three stories in the same universe that rotate between one main and two backups sounds like a great idea, but damn is that a lot of juggling. Joe Casey has proven he can do it with differing levels of success so far, but how is #4? Particularly keeping in mind that the focus has switched for the first time…is it good?
Catalyst Comix #4 (Dark Horse Comics)
Missed our review of the first three issues? Check out our review of #1 here, #2 there and #3 over hither.
Last issue, Amazing Grace was faced with an unknown alien identity that seemed to be a real charmer with the ladies. This issue reveals more of his ultimate goal, and Grace may not have the reserves to deal with this type of threat. Frank Wells, previously the main story, gets kicked into the shorter backup format, and continues his quest to do real good for the world. Finally the Agents of Change continue to do…stuff? This story reveals more of the characters and possibly some complications with the team itself, but generally it reads like it’s treading water at this point.
Now that we’re four issues into this series I’m, unfortunately, getting a bit impatient with the overarching goings on in this series. First off, when are these characters going to interact with one another and secondly, what is the main goal of the series? So far it’s been character development and studies in their psychoses, but beyond that it seems things roll at their own paces just because. That might be because each story is condensed — and really each story has only had about an issue when parsed out — but it’s the disconnect between stories that might be exacerbating my impatience.
That isn’t to say this issue is a total loss, it’s just more obvious when things aren’t working as well as when they have two other stories immediately abutting them. Frank Wells’ story in this issue continues to be the series’ strength, particularly because it’s an intriguing premise that only a series from Dark Horse could really provide. A superhero who takes on world hunger, dictators and true evil? Sign me up. The art is strong too, with a heavy use of inks and sketchy style. In comparison to the Amazing Grace story, things are so flighty and inventive with the art it’s hard to take it as seriously. It’s as if it’s a trip in the weird for weird’s sake, which is fine, but the balance between the two is so off it’s confusing as to why they’re together at all.
Finally, the Agents of Change storyline is completely lost on me. The characters, since there are so many, don’t get enough time to be fleshed out. It’s going at such a slow rate I’m starting to wonder if there’s any point at all other than show a superhero team with the Casey flashlight.
Artists Dan McDaid (Doctor Who), Ulises Farinas (Gamma), and Paul Maybury (Aqua Leung) continue to do an excellent job on their respective stories. I was particularly excited to see Maybury get more pages to draw Amazing Grace because his style is so fun and fluid. He doesn’t disappoint, and somehow, even though Grace is incredibly curvy, he’s capable of making her strong and not a sex object. Farinas continues to draw with a style that reminds me of Frank Quitely. Everything has a special feel to them and nothing is flat. And finally, Dan McDaid, who I’ve already mentioned, has the perfect style for the realistic story he’s trying achieve.
- All three artists are making names for themselves and should have your attention
- Interesting concepts at work with these complex characters
- These stories just aren’t coming together satisfactorily…yet
Is It Good?
It’s not fantastic (like issue #2 was) but it’s still good, mostly because the art is so strong from every artist. Joe Casey has hit some things right out of the park, but I’m growing impatient with his master plan for this series. Sure, it’s not his fault each story is condensed so much — how much story can you ring out of only a scant few pages? — but if we don’t get a bigger picture by issue #6 I might have to take a break from this series.