In the wake of such controversies as Marvel‘s VP of Marketing making broad statements against diversity and Warner Bros./DC not properly marketing the female-lead Wonder Woman movie, the comic industry is in dire need for something fresh and original. So, the introduction this Wednesday to Lion Forge‘s new Catalyst Prime universe couldn’t have came at a better time for someone like myself.
We’ve had a lot of bloat in our superhero comics lately and low stakes scenarios that play out exactly as expected. But, judging from the two issues releasing this week (Catalyst Prime: The Event[Free Comic Book Day] and Noble #1), it looks like we’re about to receive a new universe of high-stakes action with mature, intense characters in a more realistic world that is not unlike our own. That includes casts that are full of women and people of color on display who are scientists, astronauts and innovators striving to improve or save our world. And while full info in regards to these original characters have yet to be revealed, their personalities show we’re in for stories based on adults who are handling these situations with the maturity it requires.
The premiere book of the franchise, Catalyst Prime: The Event[Free Comic Book Day], serves as a strong set-up and introduction for the characters we’ll see introduced throughout the year. The star of the book being Lorena Payan, an Elon Musk-esque scientist who has taken her family’s aerospace company and focused it on creating advancements to stop an asteroid from colliding into Earth and causing an extinction event. While on the ground, she has formed a team of six scientists willing to give their all(literally) to dedicate themselves to their mission and prevent what is now referred to as “The Event”.
The writing for this is mature in it’s dialogue and complex in it’s structure, which you would expect from the great(s) Christopher Priest (coming hot off of his monthly Deathstroke run and bringing his format with him) and Joseph Phillip Illidge. The illustrators for this dark tone was chosen excellently in Marco Turini and Will Rosado. The surprising intro(that required me to reread this issue twice) that takes place one year after the bulk of the story, is portrayed with a realistic, detailed and grim art style that makes it’s environments feel as real as the science being portrayed. And the sense of foreboding from the intro carries well after finishing the issue and leaves you with many questions that will make you want the next issue immediately.
Meanwhile, Noble #1 dips it’s foot into more familiar superhero territory, as it further explores one of the character’s journey a year after The Event. Writer, Brandon Thomas, takes an interesting( and very fun) route of showing us the first scenes of superpowered action in the franchise. With the character David Powell heavily changed from The Event, he finds himself pursued in Argentina with a large array of psychic powers to defend himself. While the action is kinetic, well-illustrated and exciting (thanks to Roger Robinson), what particularly makes this story unique is the reaction of the mercenary pursuers to catching Powell. The character has maintained the status of a hero, even to the mercenaries, and it as a fun degree of honor and respect in the interactions during the battle.
With a strong start that shows this franchise can be both fun and intelligent, I look forward to the next few months of new books being released by Catalyst Prime. And fortunately, it doesn’t need to find a place in the superhero landscape. It’s created it’s own.
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