Hello, a bit of an apology to start this week. I’d written through reviews for about 4 books last night before putting a frozen quart of ice cream in my microwave like some f**king impatient goblin which somehow shut down my internet service on a page undrafted at the time. I can’t explain the science behind it, I just know the event occurred at the moment I hit the start button. So because of the backlog of interviews I need to transcribe, I’m just going to go a little depth on a book that I feel is a hell of an opening.
Note: If you’re looking for the low down on debuts from DC and Marvel check out the good work over on their respective rundowns on The Beat.
All-New Fathom #1
Story: Blake Northcott
Art: Marco Renna
Colors: John Starr
Inks: Mark Roslan
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Aspen Comics is a publisher who for much of its existence has shied away from following the trends of the big two. Last year saw Aspen cross properties which existed in separate worlds. The Aspen Universe: Revelations crossover event saw Michael Turner’s Soulfire and Fathom collide in a crisis which crescendoed into the birth of a shared Aspen universe. Now, in following with another big two move, Aspen Comics is debuting its new post Revelations #1s with the character that started it all, All-New Fathom #1, featuring a brand new creative team of debuting comics writer Blake Northcott and artist Marco Renna.
When an old enemy of Fathom’s underwater race, The Blue, emerges; it’s up to Aspen Matthews to protect surface dwellers from Snyderesque levels of collateral damage. This new enemy known as the Typhos has a vendetta which we’re set up to learn more about as the series progresses. This number one is all about setting up a blockbuster action story through the recap of Aspen Matthews day, which happens to also be a brawl.
Blake Northcott’s debut is a –drop you in the action– opening that doesn’t bog you down with ham-fisted exposition, but that isn’t even the best part. What All-New Fathom does incredibly well is nail character voice. Fathom stories are at their best when the writer has an understanding of what makes our heroine Aspen Matthews compelling. A warrior caught in a war between two worlds, a woman who is humble but not unwilling to carry the heavy flag of breaking ceilings in science and athletics. There’s more on-point character dialogue than in Fathom’s previous outings, made apparent to readers when our protagonist finds herself in disbelief that the internet would focus more on the fact that a woman is in the middle of a street wearing a bathing suit than her being one of two superpowered beings doing battle above a city. It’s a fine use of commentary on multiple levels.
Where I found most of my problems is in the art department. Which is a shock to me as I’ve always regarded Aspen Comics as a place that cultivates talent and turns adequate artists great. Allow me to begin with what I liked here. If you can’t have a master like Aspen’s Peter Steigerwald color the book, John Starr isn’t a bad choice. The FX and vibrancy make up for shortcomings while not overtaking the attention. Where the book has problems is on a single level of illustrator, Marco Renna’s pencils; specifically facial details. The artist’s layouts and planning of action shots work well. However, when it comes to the conversational parts, there are touches of uneven detail in forehead and hair sizes. While they’re small details they tend to take away from how good other shots in the book are. If you look at the below character design by Alex Konat and the lucid sketch work of Renna, it’s apparent when compared to the final product something got lost in the execution. Aspen Comics is a studio that brings artists up to an industry standard that DC and Marvel are fine with using, hopefully, that will be the case as All-New Fathom continues.
Despite shortcomings, I haven’t been this happy with a Fathom book since founder Michael Turner himself was drawing it. All-New Fathom #1 is a proper start that doesn’t hold readers hands, instead, lets them enjoy the work being unfolded before their eyes. Blake Northcott is definitively the most suited writer for this book and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
[Won] All-New Fathom #1 feels like the start of something great.