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All New Fathom #1 [Review]

all_new_fathom_0001All New Fathom Part 1 of 8

Writer: Blake Northcott
Pencils: Marco Renna
Digital Inks: Mark Roslan
Colors: John Starr
Letters: Zen
Editors: Vince Hernandez, Gabe Carrasco
Design & Production: Mark Roslan, Peter Steigerwald, Gabe Carrasco
Cover: Marco Renna, John Starr
Cover Date: February 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

I don’t usually go for comics like this. I’m not a fan of these scantily-clad female leads, running around in bathing suits and–from the outside looking in–seeming to be more flash than substance. But, having followed the writer on social media for a number of years, I’d decided when it was announced that she’d be writing a new iteration of the series, I’d at least check it out…all the more as a female such character in this case being written BY a female, and not just another book to be lumped together, written by a guy about some visual/eye candy.

I then managed to forget the thing was due out this week, until–via social media–I saw her post about it being out, which brought it back to my attention…and I was ok with paying out $3.99 for the issue, as it’s at least NOT DC or Marvel and all that.

So what did I wind up with, for that $3.99?

For one thing, I felt like this was a lengthy read. I did not feel like I just turned a couple pages and was at some to-be-continued or like the issue was too short.

I had no idea what to expect, really…having never (That I can recall) read an entire issue of Fathom or Soulfire or such. The opening page puts us right into the heart of the action, as our heroine–Aspen–is mega-uppercut-punched out of the ocean into the coastal city and does battle with the guy doing the punching. While she fights him–and his mysterious weapon, trying to keep any civilians from being killed–we learn that the narration is from AFTER the battle (so she won), telling her friend about the fight. Finally, she reveals what she’s learned about the mysterious weapon that had been used against her, and how that plays into stuff going forward.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the cover, as I’m not really familiar with even the title character, let alone any supporting cast (new OR long-since-established). The main cover’s not bad, but seems rather generic to me (as opposed to indicating the battle that took place in the issue).

Visually, the issue felt like what I would expect from "an Aspen book" even if I can’t quite quantify what that is, exactly…except that I suppose this looks like it belongs with or fits right in with prior books from the publisher, and so does not look like an oddball or out of place piece that happens to be published by Aspen. The characters all look quite believable, and as much as is possible for a woman basically in a bathing suit, I felt like the issue avoided unnecessary or overly-gratuitous imagery…I didn’t feel "dirty" paging through the issue! I was also reminded a bit of Witchblade, and will be interested to see how coincidental (or not, or far off) that works out to be in coming issues.

Story-wise, I enjoyed how down-to-earth this felt. I figured as a #1 issue, new series and new story, this would feel like just some opening chapter, and just throw a bunch of introductory stuff at me and leave me not really knowing what the heck was going on. However, I found that I got a complete story, really, even as stuff is thrown wide open for subsequent issues! We’re introduced to the title character, her situation, others involved with her, a bit about her background/where she comes from, while seeing the character in action and interacting with her friend. There’s a healthy dose of real-world commentary…particularly in "seeing" how the character is reacted to across various media.

Ultimately, I just enjoyed this issue, and I’m quite glad that I bought it. I checked it out solely based on the writer, and I’m left with an honest interest in getting the next issue to see how things play out.

While it by no means gets into over a decade of "history" with the title character and such, this is still an excellent jumping on point, and one of the stronger, most complete and worthwhile first issues I’ve read in quite awhile.

If you’re a fan of Blake Northcott‘s writing, or Aspen (the character), or the publisher or such, I suspect this will be a fitting bit of enjoyment as well. I’m looking forward to the next issue, and seeing how stuff advances and continues to play out!

Ultimate Comics X #1 [Review]

His Father’s Son

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Arthur Adams
Colorist: Aspen MLT’s Peter Steigerwald
Digital Inks: Aspen MLT’s Mark Roslan
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comic Craft’s Albert Deschesne
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Sana Amanat
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Cover: Art Adams
Published by: Marvel Comics

Okay…so, I can hardly remember the last time I read an Ultimate comic. After reading from issue #3, I let Ultimate Spider-Man go around issue 80 when I gave in on the realization that the stories just weren’t being written for the single-issue format, and I wasn’t enjoying the pacing for the price per issue. I’m pretty sure I gave up on The Ultimates before that due to lateness, and I don’t recall sticking with Ultimates 2 more than a couple issues. All the hype over Ultimatum and the Ultimate Comics relaunch didn’t pull me in. I read Ultimate Iron Man 2 when I scored the hardback for the $6.

I’m not even sure what intrigued me with this issue. The teaser ads? Perhaps in small part–after all, WHAT is there to be done with Wolverine that’s NEW? Would this be something interesting like the Mary Jane and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series? Would a book about a teenaged Logan in modern high school (thinking “Wolverine” instead of “Sparkly Vampire”) come across well?

So, despite my extreme dislike of the $3.99 cover price, I grabbed the issue–choosing the cover whose image I recognized from the teaser ad. Behind Siege #2 (which was spoiled for me via twitter prior to reading), this was near the top of my stack this week–bypassing Deadpool and even a couple Blackest Night issues.

One of the things that Marvel has done well for many years is “The ‘Previously…’ Page” at the start of their issues. This is a page that is basically prose or just non-story content that serves to get a reader up-to-speed on stuff, contextualizing the story that’s about to begin; it also serves to have the issue’s credits all in one place, so that when this page is omitted, a collected volume flows as one long work, uninterrupted by titles and credits every chapter or so.

Opening this issue, we have a series of images with seven simple sentences that serve to place this story. Context provided–whether as wholly new information, or to catch one up. I’d read The Ultimates, and Ultimate Spider-Man, followed a bit of Ultimate Fantastic Four, and even some of the Ultimate X-Men. The pictures and words tell all I need to know–and the world in this issue is apparently the same as I’d read before, but much changed by Ultimatum. The world exists, but even though I haven’t read in years, I’m not lost.

This issue’s story begins with narration from James Hudson, talking about his son–a son brought to him by an old friend years earlier. That old friend wasn’t able to raise the boy, but knew James and his wife Heather could, and so entrusted them with the child. Now a teenager, and running concurrent with the narration of how the boy came to be Hudson’s son, we see this son discovering what he is, and how his being different changes his life. Kitty Pryde–a name and character I’m somewhat familiar with from both the Ultimate comics and mainstream Marvel continuity–enters, with a classic trapping of such stories: the message from a person to their loved one, recorded shortly before dying. This child–Jimmy Hudson–is confronted with the image of his father, and the reality of who he really is. We also learn the difference in his mutant ability from that of his father.

The story, surprisingly enough as I have really not enjoyed Loeb‘s work for years–is relatively engaging. It’s not perfect, but I remained interested throughout the issue, and that’s quite the achievement in my eyes. As a long-time comic reader familiar with much of the Marvel universe in general throughout much of the last couple decades, names were familiar, but as this is not the mainstream Marvel universe, I had zero problem with the Hudsons being different than the characters I knew before this issue, and rather enjoyed the reference to how James’s codename is come about. There was also something to the realization of who the main character is that is at once obvious and yet not exactly what I expected–and any duplication of a similar character in the main Marvel books works so much better to me here.

The issue reads like an origin issue. We have the introduction of characters who are (presumably) going to be much of a supporting cast. We’re introduced to who assumably is the main character of the book. We learn where he came from, how he is seen by his family and others. We see his discovery of his identity, and what that does to him. We’re left on an ending that both provides actual conclusion to this specific single issue’s story, and yet it is clear this is by no means the end–the issue is not a one-shot.

The art isn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen, but–except for one panel that really put me in mind of Millar‘s Kick-Ass–never really took me out of the story. It’s clear what’s going on throughout the issue, even the effect as we find out Jimmy’s “other” mutant ability. Particularly with no previous issue to go on, Adams’ art actually stakes itself as definitive to me for this character, and does quite a good job of it.

Again–I despise the $3.99 price point, particularly for a mere 22-page issue. As I’d already compromised my principle (avoiding all Marvel $3.99 books) with Siege and Siege: Embedded, I allowed myself a further compromise to pick this up, since it’s a debut issue of a new series, and I was actually somewhat intrigued.

What I got was a very enjoyable issue, that really does what a first issue of any series ought to do…and it stands alone. I won’t be picking up future issues, as I refuse to pay $3.99 as a regular, ongoing price for a “standard” comic.

In and of itself, though, this was a good read, and actually mostly worth its cover price for the experience. While I don’t plan to purchase future single issues…provided the inevitable collected volume is reasonably priced, I expect I’ll have some interest in picking that up to read this story and go from there.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10

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