As is the tradition, the opening credits page contains a recap to get you up to date. The text is a little cramped, but you get a great survey of the series. It’s more than enough for the uninitiated, in fact after reading it you feel like you could confidently jump into any issue of Fathom anywhere. It’s wonderful, but probably overkill, especially considering where we are in the story when the book begins.
Issue #5 jumps right into the action. As Aspen had been out exploring outside of the Bathysphere, unnamed and unknown attackers descend upon their watery haven. Shethal thinks quickly and activates a protective bubble for herself and the Sheik. As the heavily armored assailants are attaching and preparing to set off a sonic charge, she manages to jettison herself and her employer covertly in a pair of escape tubes, leaving the others behind. Judith and Dr. Woreth are left stunned into unconsciousness, and at the mercy of the mystery intruders. They package up their bounty and head with them in tow to “The Church,” a prominent location in the issue. Sethal learns all this by hacking the soldiers’ radio frequency, but soon finds that her escape was not as covert as she thought.
Despite the aggressiveness of the troops’ actions, Dr. Woreth is rather well treated when he awakens in the Church’s facility. He’s surrounded by astounding technology, his bed even fluidly morphs into an alien looking but very functional wheelchair. Its locomotion is directed by his thoughts. After being assured by his handler Sana that his companions are quite safe, he agrees to follow her for a tour of the facility, and this where we get to big reveal.
The Japanese government has gotten their hands on leftover substances from a forcibly abandoned Blue technology experiment, and has since used them to build a massive oil rig. This sounds mundane at first, but this isn’t just any oil rig. Their facility has allowed them to tap into the largest source of the coveted fuel ever, and has the potential to be a huge game changer and power shifter in this universe. Unfortunately Dr. Woreth finds out more than just that, in the last panels of story he sees that he is indeed being held captive. Sana’s posture as it’s revealed almost seems to indicate remorse, more so than when Sethal abandoned her companions. Sethal’s expression wasn’t exuberant, but it seemed to say, “What else do you expect me to do?”
Getting into art now, the color palette for the issue is really selective, and somewhat muted, yet the colors are still vibrant. That and the soft features on many of the characters make for some very pleasant pages to look at. The alien technology was a real treat. On the surface it’s so glassy and hard, but its sheerness exposes something very organic and sticky looking. It’s a great visual contrast.
Personally I’m a big fan of anything that takes place underwater, it’s a big part of Fathom’s appeal to me and thus far it hasn’t failed to deliver. Both covers deliver the sweet goods too, Aspen Matthews is one of the most stunning characters in comics, and I have yet to see an image of her that doesn’t entice. Aspen Comics has put together a fine product here, thanks to the writing of Scott Lobdell and David Wohl, the pencils of Alex Konat and Cory Smith, Beth Sotelo’s colors and the lettering of Josh Reed.