I love what SelfMadeHero are and what they do. Quality, under represented graphic artists, given voice and time to create exceptional and unique works. Some of these works I have adored TETRIS, ORWELL and HERMAN BY TRADE. I often couldn’t categorise why sometimes and I saw this as a positive. Dripping in unique layers of art and language, with mutations of form and texture it was like a fever dream. Genre was fluid. Less rigidly marshalled. Space and time were not simple counterpoints. Now if I would describe CATALYST say, it fits this mould. In that these works are not bound by terms of a graphic novel. But they are by terms of an anthology, (something that SelfMadeHero are exploring and expanding with a specific programme).  The central idea, is not to do with a collection of associated, thematic ideas (say horror), more it is to do with a series of topics. Fusing the stories together are topics. Dissolution, Reaction and Repercussion.

CATALYST has some high points. THE CAMERA from Shunning Ji displays clever film literacy, while also exploring the lack of intimacy with the visual tool of a camera. THE GUESSING GAME by Jason Cheung, reflects on the limits of social intimacy and memory. JUST LIKE ME by Sonia Leong (the best piece in the collection) is a witty and honest take on inspiration and participation in art. I think my nieces loved this as well, showing it connected across ages and gender. ONE SMALL THING by Dominque Duong is a blood splattered delight and then finally CONVOLUTE by Woodrow Phoenix displays an intelligent reflective logic. Adapting the visual plan into a position of plains of thought. The problem is, and this I guess is the issue with a anthology collection, is much else here is weaker, duller or plain in comparison. I don’t mean to undermine the hard and frankly, amazing work but I am less impressed by indulgence or self identification, without reflection or worse still, critical examination. I admired Pris Lemons ORBITAL DECAY but didn’t feel it gave me anything. Tyrell Osbourne also deserved respect for SAME TALL TALE, which is equal parts personal and potent but just didn’t resonant with me.

In the end, like anything, this will reward longer, more considered reading. It will also find differing readings, engaging with differing pieces. I will read it again and again, if not only to find out if the parts unknown to me now, will be revealed as I mature, like the book.


Paperback with flaps, 112 pp, £14.99 
Released: 28 October 2021

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