Written by Brandon Thomas
Art by Roger Robinson and Juan Fernandez
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by Lion Forge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The Catalyst Prime universe officially launched last week with Noble #1, the first of eight new titles rolling out from Lion Forge’s new superhero imprint. Though this debut issue doesn’t go out of its way to upend the cape comic status quo, Noble #1 is a solid lead-in for the series at large, introducing an immediately-engaging family dynamic and maintaining the air of secrecy and subterfuge of Lion Forge’s Free Comic Book Day offering, Catalyst Prime: The Event.
Noble #1 opens with a flashback to the cataclysmic “Event” that shaped the universe of Catalyst Prime, introducing ill-fated astronaut David Powell through a flashback featuring his wife, Astrid Allen-Powell. Through Astrid’s eyes, we learn that while her husband may have saved the world, his heroic actions cost him his life - only to immediately cut to the present day, where a masked mysterious man with unusual telekinetic abilities is on the run from a band of paramilitary officers. Writer Brandon Thomas does an excellent job introducing this new world without piling on expository dialogue - each page is packed with action but not busy, and Thomas drops enough hints throughout the issue to leave readers with a firm sense of the drama and dangerous intrigue haunting even the families of the astronauts involved in the Event.
Artist Roger Robinson and colorist Juan Fernandez make the quiet moments where Astrid is informed of her husband’s fate feel fraught and truly tragic, capturing the anxious emptiness of the hospital waiting room and the shake of her hand as distant voices, detached from the ramifications of the devastating news the may have to deliver to her, discuss her husband in muffled voices. The lettering in this opening sequence is stellar, distant and difficult to read as Astrid desperately tries to eavesdrop and just as unintelligible as Astrid, consumed with grief, seems unable to process the news. Astrid serves as a framing device for the issue, opening with the loss of her husband and closing on her departure. Though Thomas, Robinson, and Fernandez book-end the issue with mirrored layouts and dialogue, Astrid is visibly a changed woman by the end of the issue, giving the impression her love for her husband and uncovering the mysteries of the mission that took him from her are as much of a driving force to Noble as the titular hero himself - Astrid’s mission seems just as central to this tale as Noble is, and that prospect was absolutely one of the highlights of the issue for me.
Despite the strength of the opening pages, later action sequences featuring Noble’s violent escape from the team assigned to capture him aren’t quite as successful, crowded with dark lines that seem intended to emphasize the force of the team’s assault but just serve to give some panels an odd texture rather than a sense of impact or speed. The spreads that work are stellar - the panels that don’t aren’t bad, but serve to make the art style seem a bit inconsistent. A page showing off Noble’s incredible physical skill with an impressive leap is exceptionally well-done, though, from the dramatic and bright-colored lettering chasing Noble’s initial ascent to the sense of perspective from the tiny little town pictures in the background to give a sense of his high-flying ability. Fernandez does an excellent job depicting glimpses of Noble’s past life as his escape efforts shake loose the memories he lost over a year ago; glimpses of his paste are fuzzy and out of focus, familiar but impossible to fully place at the same time, coming into sharp relief only when the fight reaches its heart-pounding conclusion. Overall, the fight sequences are nicely done, gruesome but not unnecessarily gory; panels will make you grimace, but won’t necessarily turn your stomach.
Noble #1 is a solid book with intriguing characters and a sense of mystery that will hook you in early. This debut issue of the Catalyst Prime world may not change the superhero game forever, but the Noble team offers a solid story with enough emotionally-charged moments to get you invested enough in Astrid and Noble to want to follow along in future issues. For those looking for new alternatives to bigger publishers’ current offerings, Noble #1 is worth checking out. Lion Forge has put together a talented team for the series, and their debut issue is a strong enough read to suggest the future title debuts should be worth a look as well.