Written by Laird Bruce Boughner
The Aspen Universe follows in DC and Marvel’s wake as they put an ending on their crossover event with Fathom, Killian, Malikai and other cast members from Aspen, Fathom and Soulfire; rebooting the entire Aspen Universe in the process. Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov (I, Vampire, Doctor Who & Ultimate Fantastic Four,) J. T. Krul (Teen Titans, Green Arrow & Highlander,) illustrated by Jordan Gunderson (Grimm Fairy Tales & Aspen,) inked by Mark Roslan (The Darkness & Witchblade) and Gabe Carrasco (Jirni & Fathom Blue.)
Shipping with 5 covers, The Aspen Universe is a mere 14 years old, having been founded in 2003 by the late, great Michael Turner. Standing in the shadow of a talent like Turner’s would be like following Kirby, Byrne or Perez. Krul and Fialkov are talented wordsmiths. Art by Gunderson and Roslan is clearly Turner-influenced, as evidenced by their usage of a clean, crisp style that seems manga-esque without being manga exactly.
The story opens with Fathom having traveled through time to an era when the Black has triumphed over life on Earth. Finding cities in ruins, Fathom takes off in search of Malikai after musing on the devastation.
Malikai is having issues of his own, betrayed to Halazeel by Grace, he is seemingly slain by the Sorcerer. Halazeel and Grace are beginning to teleport when Fathom arrives and moves into the fading mage’s sphere. Falling into a mishmash of events where she is attacked by Grace, who clearly has drank Halazeel’s Kool-Aid. Fathom takes her out with one shot, then turns to face Halazeel, taunting him with her power. The mage retorts and imprisons Fathom in a force field. Malikai appears as a being of pure energy, throwing Halazeel’s words in his face as he reclaims his stolen powers. After dispatching Halazeel, the spirit confronts Fathom, who then takes his hand declaring that this is the end before pulling a Dorothy and saying there’s no place like home.
We then pick up at the beginning of the series, with Aspen and Chance on a San Diego beach. Aspen knows someone is watching from the water. She calls them out after Chance goes in for her sweater. Cannon Hawke (of the Blue) rises from the waves and states there is a problem. Malikai and Grace also appear in what would appear to be the original restart of the series. The End?
The final page brings an answer to the question “Why do they produce the books?” For the fun of it, and Aspen Comics asks the fans to join them in the New Aspen Universe with Fathom #1 on February 8th 2017 (today!) and Soulfire on March 15th 2017. Fathom will ship with 5 alternate covers and Soulfire with 4.
I’m hoping the new universe comes with a more steady delivery of issues. It may have been purely a publication (or a distribution) problem but as much as I have enjoyed these books, I often times had holes in my collection. One can’t quibble about the art though, which has maintained a consistent feel even in light of Turner’s tragic demise at 39 from cancer. Aspen Comics has delivered comics with art that was visually appealing along with compelling plot lines; something the Big Two have forgotten about, with multiple reboots of the reboots. Aspen Comics gives comics fans what they want, as opposed to the constant endings of favorite books prompting readers to go chasing after another issue #1. Smaller publishing house such as Aspen, Image, IDW and Dynamite continue to overcome these problems.
Check out the New Aspen Universe today. I already know that I won’t be disappointed.