When Gregory Carter, a thirty-seven year old forklift driver for Sportmart in Wolcottville, IN who has never had a girlfriend, saw Fathom #1 on the shelf at his local comic book store, he was immediately drawn to the alluring image of lead character Aspen Matthews in a skimpy bikini on the cover. Expecting a cheesecake-filled romp with a flimsy plot that barely masks the shameless exploitation of the female form, Carter eagerly snatched up the book, purchased it, and brought it home, glancing no less than thirty times at the brown paper bag containing the comic with excitement and anticipation during the six mile trip to his basement apartment. Alone at last with the book, Carter settled down with a box of tissues and some hand lotion, prepared for some serious "quality time."
But Carter was shocked and disappointed to find that the comic wasn't at all what he was expecting.
"The book opens up with vacationing couple Francis and Stacy Coletti, scuba diving near the Great Blue Hole in Belize, which I think might be a real place. I thought maybe they were going to 'do it' underwater, which would have been cool," Carter explained, grinning. "But instead, an ominous rumbling foreshadowed a massive earthquake, which caused a giant tower of ice to spring out of the Earth and rise above the water."
"I found myself instantly drawn into the story, worried about the fate of Francis and Stacy," Carter went on, shaking his head. "I mean, come on! How am I supposed to become aroused if I'm too busy wondering what the mysterious gray cloud of underwater smoke that enveloped Francis as if it were alive could possibly be? That type of mystery is great for getting readers invested in a story, but it's not good for, you know..."
It's easy to see why Carter would have different expectations than the book delivers on. Fathom #1, a relaunch with a cover dress celebrating fifteen years of Aspen Comics, has ten official variant covers, eight of which feature Aspen Matthews in skimpy swimwear, including one by notorious cheesecake master J. Scott Campbell. One of the remaining two covers is a blank sketch variant, presumably designed so that a reader can commission a scintillating sketch of their own at a convention, and the other is solid black, presumably for those readers who prefer to picture Aspen's voluptuous, near-naked body with only their imaginations. And that doesn't even take into account the 38 retailer exclusive variants that presumably also feature Matthews in various states of scandalous undress.
But, inside, instead of the comic book equivalent of a Skinemax late night softcore porn flick, there's a well-crafted story by writer David Wohl brought to life by the gorgeous artwork from a team including penciller Alex Konat and colorist Beth Sotelo.
"The underwater scenes were breathtaking," said a visibly annoyed Carter. "I felt like I was right there, under the ocean at one of the world's most famous scuba diving locations. I've never been so pissed off."
According to Carter, the rest of the book focuses on Aspen Matthews herself, showing the character's concern for environmental issues, explaining her background as a link between the familiar human surface world and the mysterious underwater civilization known as "The Blue," and even alluding to Aspen's history of being exploited government's for her unique powers and relationship with the oceans.
Carter called Konat's figure work impressive, noting the way he used the stiff body language of Matthews to convey her unease with the proposal of the Russian Luzhin in the restaurant scene, and he also liked the detail put into the characters by the creative team, citing the tattoos of Aspen's red-headed roommate Judith as an example of the sort of thing that really gives life to the characters.
The comic ends on a cliffhanger, as some foes familiar to Aspen come spilling out of another hole in the ocean floor
"I knew nothing about Fathom or any of Aspen's comics before reading this," Carter complained. "But even without any prior knowledge of the character, I was instantly immersed in the story and even interested in picking up some back issues to learn more about Fathom. I mean, what the fuck? I didn't ask for this."
"The cover is still pretty sexy," reasoned Carter. "I like the detail that Konat put into Aspen's pubis, which is prominently featured above her very low cut bikini. And the boobs.... man, are they lifelike. I feel like, if I put my mind to it, I could motorboat this cover."
Carter shoved the cover into his face and shook his head vigorously.
"BBBbbbbrrrrbbbbttbtbbbbtbbbbtbbbbtbbbt," he said halfheartedly, before giving up.
"Honestly, my heart's not really in it," Carter admitted. "I'm more excited to learn about this threat revealed at the end of the issue, and what plan the Russians have for the underwater research facility they're building to study The Blue."
"I was also hoping that Aspen and Judith might scissor," he added, "but I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen, at least not in this story arc."
"What a disappointment," he finished, before hopping on the computer and checking out a Wikipedia article about Belize's Great Blue Hole. "Fuck, now I'm learning things!"
Fathom #1 is in stores now, and we recommend you avoid it if you're looking for cheap thrills and masturbation fodder. If you're one of those weirdos looking for a cool story that's a breath of fresh air from mainstream superhero fodder, or if you're a reader who's been interested in checking out Fathom, originally created by legendary artist Michael Turner, but didn't know where to jump on, Fathom #1 would be a great place to start.
A new direction in the FATHOM Universe begins! Michael Turner's best-selling series has reached its milestone 15-year anniversary! However, Aspen Matthews' adventure under the surface has no plans of slowing down! Following the devastating events of 'The Elite Saga', Aspen Matthews finds herself at a decisive crossroads in her life-with the memories of her past no longer weighing her down, she is finally able to set about building a new life in San Diego once more. But, being the daughter of two worlds is no easy feat-and Aspen will quickly discover the winds of change oftentimes lead directly into the perils of fate!
The ALL NEW FATHOM starts right here! Writer David Wohl, artist Alex Konat and colorist Beth Sotelo team up once again to bring you the latest adventures of Michael Turner's most beloved creation!
All New Fathom #1 is in stores on July 24th!