Review: The Catalyst (Comichaus)

The Catalyst is the latest one shot from the guys at Comichaus 32 Kills, Close and Lizard Men, and sees writer Nick Bryan and Robert Ahmad bring us a genre splicing mix of robots, multi-verses and unprovoked violence, all of which is causes by one, unfortunate individual! But is this the catalyst you need to pick it up?

Publisher: Comichaus
Writer: Nick Bryan
Artist: Robery Ahmad, David Cooper, Hassan Otsmane-Elhadu, Emily Brady, DC Hopkins,
Price: TBC from Comichaus.com


The Catalyst begins as a slice of classic crime noir, with a moody stranger monologing before entering a bar and confronting a gangster with some unwanted information. But this is no ordinary PI! No, this one is an Android and you start to notice he puts slang words in speech marks as if he is trying to play a role. When he is shot by the gangsters (only a slight spoiler there!) it isn’t the end of the story, but the start, as he is whisked back to a laboratory in a place labelled ‘Universe #0000’ and he is rebooted and sent out again to do the same somewhere else – this time in a fantasy realm with swords and heroes and dragons.

It turns out our android friend is a more like Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap (only in android form) in that he is the catalyst for actions in various stories and it is his role to set those stories in motion in various universes. In short this is an excuse for artist Robert Ahmand (Devil in Disguise, The Show), to show off his chops drawing everything from dragons to vampires to spaceships and the wild west, but also a fantastic concept for a story!

The Catalyst is a definitely odd concept but one which is brought o life by some wonderfully self-aware writing, and some truly exceptional artwork. Bryan is taking his high concept premise and not so much running with it, but sprinting off into the distance! The more you think about the whys and what of whats of what is happening, the more confused you will get. (How does the Android travel to this universes, are they real or imaginary?! Who chooses where he goes?!) But that’s OK because the journey you go on is so much fun, and so sharp and fresh that you can forgive not having a coherent back story.

Bryan pitches The Catalyst on just the right side of self aware, making the story very considered and well observed but never at the expense of the action. However, it is little touches that really make it. From the aforementioned slang in speech marks to the shift in styles as the book goes from wild west to superheroes to zombies and more. It all helps to build up our hero’s constant sense of being hard done by when he is beaten up in a very necessary manner which in turn makes the books a very enjoyable read and knowing read.

While Bryan is still relatively new on the block, we’ve been fans of Ahmad’s work since we first saw Devil in Disguise, but this is career best stuff from him here. With shades of everything from Silver Age Kirby to Chris Baldie’s Space Captain, to Bruce Timm’s Batman, or even Darwyn Cooke (praise indeed!) and his contemporary silver age style, every panel leaps off the page at you.

This is definitely helped by some wonderful colouring from David B Cooper, who uses really rich and varied colours throughout, matching the tones to the genres (sepias for the western or monochrome for the vampires) but contrasting it nicely with the stark cleanliness of Universe #0000. Cooper’s colours are helped by Ahmad’s work feeling much tighter and cleaner that it was in DiD or The Show, and it is this clean-ness and high energy which is why the Catalyst is deserving of the Darwyn Cooke and Chris Baldie comparisons.

It’s been a heck of year already for Bryan thanks to the Little Deaths of Watson Towers and Moonframe, but this is without a doubt his best work yet – and the same is true for Ahmad as well. (They even find time to put together a back up story in the book featuring some ‘brave warriors’ of on a quest, further proving their range!). Confident and super smart, with a really well designed package courtesy of Otsmane-Elhadu and Joe Stone, we are predicting this will be the catalyst that will send these creators on to the next level of their small press careers (Although we hope, their own catalyst with require slightly less violence for them to achieve their deus ex machina!)

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