Comic Bento has sent me a few Aspen book by now. And, as it happens, I haven’t really liked any of them. Nice art for the most part, but ultimately so-so (at best) stories haven’t exactly made my day when it comes to the entire Aspen line.
Will Fathom Blue change that?
To be fair, this is the most coherent Aspen trade Comic Bento has sent me to date. It’s also the best Aspen trade they’ve sent me. That’s actually damning it with faint praise. As near as I can make out, there’s a war going on (maybe) between the surface-dwelling humans and the Blues, aquatic human lookalikes who have varying degrees of superpowers. Based off concepts from late Aspen founder Michael Turner, the idea is unscrupulous Admiral James Maylander has captured five such Blues and forced them to go out and capture other Blues hiding among the human population. The five are Jet (the wiseass), Julie (the lawyer), Cal (the big guy, possibly also the dumb guy), Aman (the smart one, also looks like a kid), and Elia (the Elite).
See, this is an Aspen book, so the most powerful member, the one that all the others look wimpy to by comparison, must be a female that will probably be dressed in a skimpy or skintight outfit. On the one hand, kudos for Aspen putting female characters at the forefront all the time. On the other, if they weren’t all drawn to look like sexy young things, it might mean they had something in mind beyond an indiscriminate male audience that cares more for hot women doing stuff than good stories.
But this was the best Aspen book I’ve seen so far, and the thing that kept it from being merely “meh” is the simple fact that there didn’t seem to be any good guys here. Maylander is obviously up to no good, but many of the Blues aren’t exactly above massacring humans either. This nameless team of five is stuck between bad people on all sides. Maybe if I knew more about the background of this setting it would help, but there wasn’t anyone to really root for as a reader. Heck, Cal and Julie barely do anything, Jet’s obnoxious, and Aman isn’t much better there since he’s smarter than the others and seems to know it, never a likable trait in a fictional character. As for Elia, as the powerful one, she’s just the one with the special destiny we learn about on the last few pages. Vince Hernandez’s script rises above most Aspen books, but I still haven’t seen anything from the company that would make me want to read more, and the art looks like the sort of art that always appears in these books. Seven out of ten unexplained motives.
NEXT BOOK: You’d think about two books with sexy pin-up type girls as major characters that I’d be discouraged by Dynamite’s Legends of Red Sonja since Red Sonja’s standard wardrobe appears to be a chainmail bikini. But this trade looks to be an anthology, and all the writers are women, many of them among the top working in comics today like Gail Simone and Kelly Sue DeConnick That raises my hopes quite a bit.