(w) Ron Marz (a) Siya Oum (c) Peter Steigerwald
Twenty years ago, the top selling title on the market was not Batman or Spider-man or even Spawn. It was a brand new, creator-owned title from Image’s partner studio, Top Cow. The book was Fathom #1, written and illustrated by rising superstar artist Michael Turner. Turner had risen to fame thanks to his work co-creating Witchblade, as well as contributing to Tomb Raider, both top sellers in the late 1990s. After leaving Witchblade, the book bounced around before settling into the capable hands of writer Ron Marz. Joined with an array of talented artists, Marz would go on to pen a defining version of the character, bringing in new readers along the way. With that in mind, it is fitting that Turner’s wholly original creation, Fathom, be put into Marz’s hands for a new generation of readers.
Marz is joined by artist Siya Oum, who continues the Turner tradition of crafting beautiful looking people to place within wonderfully crafted settings. However, Oum begins this outing with a rough couple pages. The linework is a little rushed and sloppy. However, she soon settles into a groove that carries through to the end. Her handling of the series’ lead protagonist, Aspen Matthews, is exceptional. Turner’s original incarnation was a bold, agile, and tough-as-nails heroine, and Oum proudly continues that tradition.
We are introduced to Aspen when a government contact comes to inform her of her brother’s abduction, and that she’s to stay put as she’s too important of an asset to the U.S. government. Being referred to as an “asset” does not sit well with her, and transitions into her explaining who she is and her background. While in the hands of a less capable writer, Marz is an industry veteran, delivering what is essentially an exposition dump in an organic manner. It works wonderfully with Oum’s visuals, as she crafts a beautiful double-page splash full of characters and moments from previous volumes of Fathom.
Oum, with help from colorist Peter Steigerwald, redefines Aspen’s look. No longer does look like a supermodel with an impressive tan, but a individual of Pacific islander heritage. However, this appears to be the only thing of significance to occur in this issue. While the conflict is set up, and Aspen gets a memorable introduction, there isn’t a lot for readers to chew on (or reviewers to comment on). The issue gives the series a promising start, though it is lacking in substance.
If history repeats itself, the flagship title of Aspen MLT will experience a creative renaissance under this creative team. Similar to when he took over Witchblade, Ron Marz has made Fathom updated and accessible to new audiences while being respectful to the years of established canon. The artwork by Oum, though imperfect, is impressive nonetheless. If this first issue is anything to go by, Fathom is a winner.