Catians: Resurrection – Review
“When the Great Cat departed this world a thousand years ago, it left behind Relics, which grant divine powers to their users. Cats have safeguarded the Relics for millennia, until a desperate cat revives the ancient magic to save his human friend—giving rise to a blood-thirsty monster with the penultimate Relic. Worried that the disappearance of humans could mean the end of treats and back rubs, the cats of the world must choose three people, so-called Guardians, to find and protect the most powerful Relic. In return, the chosen three gain command of the elements and the ability to take feline form. But unbeknownst to the cats and their appointed heroes, other forces have been watching the Relics, too…”–From the official Catians website
Art: Luyi Bennett
Script: Cortney Cameron
Catians: Resurrection is a prologue to the epic, ambitious urban fantasy series. Cats seek human champions to fight antagonistic forces. In this chapter, alley cat Felix tries to make a champion out of Rose, a human he has grown fond of due to her continuous acts of kindness toward him and other strays. One night, a group of mobsters murder Rose’s husband and leave her for dead. Felix saves Rose’s life by granting her powers from a mystical cat tail, one of the relics of the Great Cat. Rose may take her revenge on the mobsters in exchange for taking on the role of champion. Unfortunately for them both, there may be consequences.
Reading Catians: Resurrection was an interesting experience. Judging by the cover, I thought I knew what waited for me. Reading through, I pretty much thought I knew how things were going to go down. Boy, was I wrong.
We begin with narration from Felix over a splash image of a rose, symbolizing the actual main character named Rose. Felix’s affection is so strong, he swears to protect her. If that sounds like a rather benign reason for intense devotion, do keep in mind that Felix, despite his intelligence and articulation, is still a cat. Nothing will ever win over a cat’s loyalty quite like regular servings of Kibble.
The design of the rose, the font of the lettering, and the sheer emotion in Felix’s narration has a mythic romanticism to it. It’s the kind of aesthetic I’ve witnessed in works by writers such as Vera Nazarian and Howard Pyle. It’s also that emotional intensity you get from various fantasy adventure mangas like Sailor Moon, Dragonball, etc.
Speaking of manga, the character designs are highly influenced by the medium. You have the large eyes, simplified structures and so on. Backgrounds are also simplified with buildings and rooms having no distinguishable qualities. They mostly serve to highlight the presence of characters and their relative distance from each other. If this sounds like a nice way of saying the art is generic, let me make it clear that’s not the case. While certain elements of the art are “on brand”, just as many go an extra mile.
The coloring is digital. I assume it is because of the flawless quality that’s quite common to the technology. I sometimes have a negative response to digital coloring because of its generic application in many mainstream superhero comics. In the case of Catians, it’s very soft and easy to look at instead of being an overly bright sheen. It also lends itself nicely to “emotional coloring.” I’m sure there’s a better term for it, but what I’m referring to is the way colors can be applied to invoke a certain feeling within the reader as opposed to generic realism.
This page is simplistic, but it really illustrates what I’m getting at. The descending transformation of the color from red to black gives a deep, uneasy feel of a situation going from bad to worse. And yet there are the golden cat paws. These accompanied with Felix’s narration create a nice counterbalance. Without showing so much, it gives the reader a feeling of hope even as hopelessness seems overwhelming. The artist, Luyi B., achieves this effect through simple means. It shows that you don’t need Van Gogh levels of skills to make coloring interesting, you just have to put in an honest effort.
There is also some seriously great lighting going on, such as this scene:
Another quality of the art that sticks out is the panel layouts. Sticking yet again to manga influences, certain pages include that trick where smaller, jagged panels are deployed for intense scenes. The panels zoom in on faces and other body parts, and are accompanied by speed lines to make it more dramatic. I don’t really have insight into why this is such a good artistic decision. It just looks freaking cool!
One thing that did seem odd was how the cats appeared more realistic than the humans.
Their hair and faces are more defined and detailed than the humans’. The only explanation for why could be their mythical nature. Perhaps having an uncanny contrast between the two serves the story on a thematic level.
Now that I’ve mentioned it, time to go into the story side of Catians: Resurrection. This is honestly both the most interesting and infuriating part for me. The plot is very straightforward, but with certain twists and turns. Rose is on a revenge quest against mobsters who killed her husband. Basic Punisher stuff. But then comes the cat angle which is more complicated than you would think.
The cats have a central god figure, The Great Cat, who wants them and humanity to live in harmony. To achieve this, The Great Cat sometimes grants certain humans relics, which must be given to them by a feline aid. When Rose gets her tail, some of the things she does with it include creating a tombstone, turning into a cat humanoid, and even making a person. Yeah, I have no idea how it works. It is not specified to how many relics there are, what exactly they do, or any limits to the power they wield. That seems to be info that will be brought up later in the series.
If all I described makes Catians sound like a mad plot, boy do you have no idea until you read it for yourself. All the crazy ideas going on in writer Cortney Cameron’s head are machine-gunned out through plot beats that waste no time with subtlety. There are plot holes like a moon crater, characters not as well-defined as they can be, and yet the sheer mania of it all crackles with delightful, enthusiastic creativity. It reminds me of the 60s-era Marvel comics such as The Incredible Hulk #1 where he goes from stalking a U.S. military base as a Frankenstein-esque monstrosity to being zipped away in a high-tech jet to the USSR and escaping via From Russia With Love meets the proverbial bull in a china shop.
Such nuttiness might be too much for certain readers, but it’s arguably what makes comics such a fun medium. Only in comics can you compact so many ideas into one go-round. It’s all a matter of making it as visually compelling as possible while maintaining a certain kind of narrative pace. If you got both down, you can go crazy. Catians: Resurrection achieves this balance perfectly.
Until the ending. Most of the story up to this point is a combination of urban fantasy, superhero origin story, and revenge thriller that goes together very well. The ending, however, is a bizarre cross between David Cronenberg and H.P. Lovecraft. It suddenly stops being Rose’s story and gears toward the mythology behind the cats and their larger conflict with yet to be named antagonistic force. At least that’s what I can remember. I might just be experiencing whiplash and need to reread the comic, but something about it just seems off.
It might be that while Catians is a crazy train narrative, it felt like there was still a track it stuck to. Now, it feels like the train has jumped off into a completely new track. It’s still an interesting one, I will admit. I’m gripped enough by the cat mythology in order to give future entries a chance. But, Rose’s arc seems to have been unceremoniously ditched. On the other hand, there is a strong implication that Rose could come back, so this may not be the case.
Only time will tell. The story is still in its infancy, and there is no telling where it will go from here. Waiting to see is both thrilling and trepidatious.
Catians: Resurrection is not soaring to new heights of comic literature, but it knows the kind of story it wants to tell and does so with immense creativity and beautiful art. The only issue is the twist ending, which is up to the reader to decide how to feel about. If whacko, action-packed stories with fascinating mythologies is your thing, go check it out. If nothing else, it has drawings of cats in it. Those are always a win no matter what!