The fourth volume of Fathom takes place after what is termed the twenty-three minute war, where Aspen stopped those of the deep from destroying the surface world. It finds humanity struggling to come to terms with the fact that there is a race of beings, more than one actually, who share the planet with them and the fact that the first encounter that was made was one of violence. To that effect, while many are wary and want nothing to do with the Blue or the Black, some have found it beneficial to come to know those who live beneath the oceans and thus try to work together to further both science and relations between the people. Heading out to the Sahara desert, Aspen and some friends go on a scientific expedition deep to the center of the Earth to find that there is another ocean there and that even there, men are up to no good. Of course, trouble ensues as people try and play genetics and Aspen must take care of business once again.
Where the last three volumes, and various other series, felt important to the ongoing world of Aspen, the Blue, the Black and so on, this story felt like a regular adventure that any superhero title might sport. It was not a book with a larger than life crisis and it was not one that would see the world end and because of that, it was actually a little refreshing to see the series step back and take a breath. That is not to say that there was not a lot of action or mystery, because there was and it was not like Aspen was not in any danger because there was definitely a few times where she could have lost her life, but in all, this was not for the fate of the planet as we know it and that in itself made the series enjoyable.
Written by Scott Lobdell and later on by David Wohl, the book introduces us to some new supporting characters who do not play an overly large part in the book but an integral one at the least. What is nice to see is that Aspen’s world keeps getting bigger and the writers of the various series are not content to simply rest on their laurels and on what has come before. Should these characters make a return to the book in a later volume, at least Colin for one, it would be a good thing, but a little more characterization next time would also be nice to see. That is perhaps one of the only faults this book can lay claim to is that you do not really have any invested interest in these new characters and so if they should have died or what have you, you would care very little. The same thing can be said of the villains though they were at least fleshed out a little bit more.
Alex Konat’s pencils are good and he really gives the book a distinct feel, different from all of the previous volumes but it was also a little strange to see Aspen drawn in an unfamiliar style. If anyone has a house style, it is Aspen Comics, but with this volume at least, it is nice to see them giving artists a shot that might be similar, but offer something different from the norm.
While this volume was not the greatest out of all the books to have been released with our heroine, it at least did something new with her and that was to tone down the all-or-nothing aspects of the title. Here, we got to see Aspen just doing her thing, going on an adventure filled with intrigue and a little tension and stopping the bad guy of the week. The Blue and the Black were missed of course, but you know that they are going to return in a future series so there is nothing to worry about there and the same can be said of all the regular players who have been introduced up until now. A good story, some good art and a lot of new situations and people make the fourth volume of Fathom a solid and entertaining read.