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Inside Look: Fathom #11

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With the issue that hit stands today, the second volume of Aspen MLT’s Fathom series comes to a close. Writer JT Krul stopped by to offer some comments on the ins and outs of this climactic installment—Fathom #11.

First off, a lot of hard-working people made this series as good as it is. Koi Turnbull, Jason Gorder, Don Ho, Christina Strain, David Moran, Paul Mounts, Sal Regla, and especially the big boys at Aspen:¬ Frank Mastromauro, Mark Roslan, Vince Hernandez, and extra-especially Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald.

Looking over the final issue, I am still amazed at how far Koi has come.  I mean, he was always a talented artist, but over the course of this series, he has grown by leaps and bounds, coming into his own visually and stylistically.  He is definitely on his way to becoming one of the major artists in the business.

From a story standpoint, I think I have also developed as a writer.  My typing skills have gotten crazy—god, I mean good.

With an epic maxiseries like Fathom Volume Two, the most gratifying aspect is the payoff at the end.  Each page of issue #11 carries weight with it. Aspen, Cannon, Kiani, Brande, and the rest of the characters are more than just heroes kicking ass in a big way.  They are people struggling with the harsh realities of being in a war against Admiral Maylander.  This issue is about decisions, actions, and the consequences that come with them.

Alright, enough of my chattering, let’s see some art!

Click to enlargePAGE 2-3:  Submarine splash

This was actually one of the very first images I envisioned for volume two. An enormous scene of a submarine being manhandled by Aspen like it was some kid’s toy in the bathtub.  For the entire story, Aspen has been kicked around and she can’t take it anymore.  Maylander’s been dishing most of the suffering, but Aspen finally snaps and decides to see if he can get as good as he gives.  Koi did a fantastic job on this page.  I actually was thinking of a more distant view of the submarine being pushed from the water, but Koi’s version is more stunning. It’s bursting from the page as it crumbles from Aspen’s attack.

Click to enlargePAGE 5:  Kiani punches the Naval Officer

Much of this issue deals with visceral satisfaction.  Aspen is letting loose on a grand scale.  She’s focused on ending the conflict.  Kiani on the other hand is able to itch a nagging scratch,¬ namely doling some physical punishment to the humans above that she loathes so much.  She is taking considerable enjoyment in knocking a few teeth out.  She’s just starting to realize the powers that rest inside her, but instinctively she is all about combat being up close and personal. Think about it, given her abilities, there were many ways to subdue the Naval Crewman, but Kiani prefers her fist.  It’s a major release of aggression for her.

Click to enlargePAGE 9:  Aspen prepares to lower the boom

Again, the finale of volume 2 is all about Aspen unleashing the full extent of her powers without restraint.  She wants to end this war once and for all and doesn’t hesitate to reach deep down to make it happen.  Again, Koi’s decisions for the visual layout of the page says more about what is going on than the individual panels.  Notice how Aspen is looking down upon the scene, even though she occupies the lower corner of the page.  She is in control as her hand stretches up to the sky.  The fighter jets and helicopters are dwarfed by her presence as is the Carrier and what remains of the submarine. 

And, it’s not a coincidence that Kiani is the witness watching in awe.  Since the beginning, she has refused to be impressed with anything she’s encountered.  But, she cannot hide her expression as Aspen seemingly changes the world right in front of her.

Click to enlargePAGES 10-11:  All hell breaks loose

Again, this is Aspen playing with toys in her bathtub.  The carrier and the submarine are helpless as they are bombarded by Aspen’s wrath.  In scope, we wanted to harken back to the first volume and the tremendous destructive waves created by the power of the blue sun. It’s not just a big wave, but more like chaos in liquid form.  Koi put everything he had into this page and I know it took a hell of a lot longer to draw it than it did for me to write it. 

Click to enlargePAGE 12:  Cannon stops Aspen’s assault

In just a few short panels, page 12 shows a wide emotional range as Cannon brings Aspen back from the brink of total rage.  Anger fills her eyes at the top of the page.  She’s beaten Maylander’s forces into submission, but she’s not finished yet.  No longer is she looking to protect herself or the Blue. Aspen is after revenge and retribution.  She wants to hurt Maylander like he has hurt her. Showing just why he is THE MAN in the world below, Cannon steps in to stop Aspen’s hand.  He’s been ravaged by the attack as well, but he knows when the fight is over, and when self-defense transforms into pure wrath.

A person of lesser character may have fought with Cannon, but all Aspen needs is that small moment’s pause to realize what she’s done, and grow shameful over what she almost did.  In many ways, this scene plays like the small kid in school who is always picked on by the bully.  They take it and take it and take it.  Then when they finally fight back, they beat the bully bloody and step back in shock over how the anger has fuelled them to violence. 

Click to enlargePAGE 13:  Brande and Siphon at the hydroport

A lot of volume 2 has been dedicated to developing Brande and Siphon.  At the beginning of Dawn of War, they were hotshot young warriors who thought they knew it all and liked nothing more than to bust each other’s chops. Since then, they’ve seen what conflict is all about.  And as the war between the humans escalated, they have also seen their paths veer in different directions.  Brande has stayed on the soldier’s road, just another cog in the machine. Siphon, on the other hand, has entered a new world as a council member.  No longer merely responsible for his own actions in battle, he is a leader and must make harder decisions that will decide the fate of others.

In this scene, the two friends must deal with the fact that one of them has become more vital than the other.  Nobody wants to admit that they are more important than another living being, especially when it comes to friends. But that is exactly the case here.  Both know who should go into further danger with the warhead, but Brande must be the one to say it.

Click to enlargePAGE 21: Aspen and Chance

Quiet scenes make or break a story in my mind.  Don’t get me wrong, the action is great and all, but if you don’t convey a sense of the characters and make them as real as possible, then we as readers simply won’t care. Aspen has to be more than just a smoking hot heroine (which she is!); she needs to be a woman struggling to make sense of the insanity of her existence. In many ways, this is why she’s drawn to Chance.  As a pilot, he’s had to distance himself from the effects of war (though he’s not always that successful).  With him, Aspen can discuss the bizarre and tragic aspects of her life the way a normal person might chat about a home remodelling project gone astray.

Personally, the scenes between Aspen and Chance are among my favorites of the volume and Koi never takes an easy road through a scene.  Looking at this page, you can just see that he puts just as much care and attention into it as he does with the more glamorous splashes.  But for me, these are the true “money” shots.

I’d love to show you more pages and talk about a lot more that happens, but you really need to just read the issue for yourself.  Trust me, you’ll be coming back for more because while Fathom Volume Two may be over, this is just the beginning!

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