Them's Fightin' Words, Joe Casey.

In the absence of the dulcet tones of Mssrs. Jeff and Graeme... It should go without saying that all that follows is my opinion.

So, quietly and without much advance hullabaloo Dark Horse Comics made its entry…or rather its re-entry…into the world of Superheroics with Catalyst Comix #1




There’s a lot to recommend this book.  There’s a lot to recommend this series, really.   But, as with all things...a caveat.



First, if you’re a fan of offbeat capes and unique delivery systems this book may be for you.  The story starts by spinning out the various circumstances of the principal characters at the time of a major crisis.  It’s a cool set-up.

Second, if you’re in the mood for that trademark Casey dialogue (Snappy, knowing, and biting all the right brassy reference points) this book may be to your taste.

Third, all the art here makes some really bold style choices.  The list of influences is long enough to go up one arm and down the other.  Scioli / Kirby is all over Frank Wells.  Er, FRANK WELLS!  I see a fair amount Ross Campbell waiting in the wings of Amazing Grace.  The Change Agents benefit from an odd marriage of Sylvan Migdal’s Curvy and Geoff Darrow of all things.  Also, it should be noted there may be many - MANY - more influences here.  I am a stupid neophyte, not Frank Santoro.


amazing grace



A quick aside:  As all contributors are given credits as ART it’s hard to tell whether Brad Simpson colors the whole thing.  He is the sole credited colorist and could be the standout player for bringing such a diverse sensibility and individuality to all three chapters.  But, since it’s a little unclear, I hesitate to take credit for the color choices away from the individual artists.  It’s a really nice component of the book.  Especially worthy of note is the Change Agents chapter.  The colors there really set that section apart.

But then…there’s this.  And, from this point, for me, what was a nice exercise in genre bending becomes something else.




Whoa.  As the title says, Them’s Fightin’ Words.

So, by this, you’re led to believe that Casey’s taking some bold stance.  Some US VS. THEM classic bully wrestling storyline.  DAMN THE MAN and all that shit.

Except he’s using existing IP.


And, really, the US VS THEM manifesto should be retired.  If I could give this venture one bit of advice it would be to ditch the shrill “NO!  WE’RE DIFFERENT!  WE’RE RUSHING THE GATES!” mentality.  It’s passé in 2013.  We’ve played that game out.  Walking Dead, The Image re-emergence, SAGA, Vaughn and Martin’s Private Eye…

That game’s over.

There is no US VS THEM.

There’s only US.  Start pitching this series as what “WE” do at Dark Horse.  This is how “WE” chart the course.  As long as you’re hung up on showing “The Mainstream” they’re outdated you’re playing by their rules.

But, therein lies the problem.  You’re using THEIR methods.

This comic is riding generic names like Titan and Amazing Grace because it’s easier to do that than create your own thing.  DH Publisher Mike Richardson said yes to this because Dark Horse OWNS THE COPYRIGHTS.  He was one of the original creators!  So, you know, go ahead and show me how not mainstream you are by doing the ONE THING mainstream comics are reviled for more than any other ONE THING amongst the comics going Secret Society.   Don’t blame me when I ask if Barbara Kesel, Randy Stradley, Jerry Prosser, and Chris Warner are getting their royalty checks off of this “bold new line in the sand.”  When people ask Brandon Graham what he’s doing working on Prophet when he doesn’t own it he smiles because he’s in on the joke.  He’s taking money for work and not trying to pass it off as anything more than that.  It’s a check and he’s never pretended anything different.  NEVER.

Dark Horse and Joe Casey in particular are pretending to kick down the door of Superhero books but decades on from the ownership disasters of Miracleman and Zenith no lessons have been learned.  Kirby, who Casey so openly apes in the Frank Wells chapter, might SPIN knowing that this is being put forward as CHANGE and DIFFERENT.

A talented car crash of artists is pouring their work into a corporate funnel and this is the new version of “line drawing?”  This is the bold new stance?

It’s a good comic with lots to recommend it but please…don’t tell me it’s one thing – pretend to me it’s new ground – when it’s plainly more of the same.  Let it be what it actually is, the Dark Horse Corporate Super Hero Line.

Don’t tell me you’re re-inventing the wheel when it's the same old grist stone that's made a fine powder out of creators for the length, breadth, and depth of the industry.