Thursday, February 9, 2012

Even With Missing Several Chapters, Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire Is A Vital, Interesting Graphic Novel!

The Good: Great artwork, Interesting characters, Decent story
The Bad: Abrupt transitions, Low sense of movement within panels, Relies heavily upon other works from the Fathom franchise.
The Basics: Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire continues the story of the Fathom undersea universe with even more characters and races and a new protagonist who is, at worst, intriguing.

Just as whenever one learns a new word, they start hearing it almost everywhere, I have a habit of encountering a new franchise, then seeing it pop up everywhere. Last month, I discovered the Fathom franchise when my library got in Fathom: The Definitive Edition, Volume 1 (reviewed here!), which I gladly reviewed. There was only one other Fathom-based book in the entire library system, Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire, so I requested that in. In between reading the first book and getting in Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire, I did my usual scouring of the internet for toys. While I went through the inventories of all sorts of toy dealers looking for Star Wars and DC Direct action figures, (as well as visiting a beloved comic book store from my childhood a hundred miles away) I kept running into Fathom action figures! Never before have I seen them in real life or online, then I read a book and BAM! they’re everywhere! Regardless of suddenly seeing them everywhere, even after reading Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire, I’m not to the point where Fathom merchandise appeals to me. Not quite yet.

Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire expands the universe of Fathom by following a new character into new settings. It is important to note that I am evaluating Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire based upon the book as a stand-alone trade paperback anthology. Following Fathom: The Definitive Edition – Volume 1, there is a second anthology I have not read. Presumably, the main conflict in that volume plays into the story of Kiani, as the book opens in the ruins of one of the undersea Kingdoms. Moveover, players like the Black – who only appear in the final chapter of the first anthology – play a major role in Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire. As a result, my initial impression was that Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire might stand up better in context than it does as a standalone book. Even so, I did find myself enjoying this book quite a bit.

Following a devastating war with the humans, the Blue are in retreat and the Black have disappeared to pursue their own agenda. Amid the ruins, a young warrior, Kiani, rises up. Having learned that the disgraced Blue rebel leader, Killian, is her biological father and that Killian is slowly manifesting himself physically again, Kiani goes on a quest to get the grey matter. The grey matter is the last part of Killian needed to reconstitute the fallen rebel and Kiani is determined to make the deaths in her life make sense by obtaining the grey matter.

Her journey takes her to the undersea realm of Aescylot, home of a pale race whose armor is lava, much the way the Blue’s is coral or ice. At Aescylot, Kiani is declared to be the goddess Kira, the prophesized one who will save this deeper realm from cold and death. There, Kira/Kiani must decide what path to follow and how important her family ties truly are to her!

Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire is a fast trade paperback anthology to read and it has a more-or-less complete story to tell. Despite heavy allusions to other books and events not in this volume, Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire is a compilation of only five comic books, so it is hardly intimidating for serious readers. Despite the allusions, there is pretty much enough from context for new readers to not feel completely lost with the references to events outside this book.

That said, Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire is far from perfect. The book seems to use many of the same character elements as the first Fathom books did with Aspen Matthews. Kiani, a young woman who happens to look absolutely stunning in a two-piece bathing suit, learns that her heritage is not quite what she thought it was and goes on an undersea adventure to reconcile her past with her present. Isn’t that pretty much what happened with Aspen Matthews?! Kiani is an interesting protagonist, though and much of the book has her learning and growing. She moves the story, so it is easy to root for this heroine; she is not simply a pawn in someone else’s machinations.

That said, there are still some problematic storytelling leaps in Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire. Writer Vince Hernandez takes Kiani on a decent journey, but there are abrupt turns in the character that seem more like a less-sophisticated anime piece than a well-conceived, adult graphic novel. This makes it problematic and feel like Hernandez wrote himself into a corner and suddenly discovered he has two pages to get Kiani where he wanted to go, so he has her shout something that seems uncharacteristic and the book tacks off in a slightly different direction.

The artwork in Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire is mostly stunning. The characters are well-drawn and the colors are universally vibrant. Despite the weird storytelling and character gaps throughout the book, Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire looks great from the first page through the end of the extensive cover gallery the book has. This is a very easy book to look at and enjoy from an artistic standpoint, though the coloring is what truly makes it work. The warriors from Aescylot have glowing lava armor that looks very cool and is clearly lava, long before that is made explicit.

For anyone looking for a fun read, Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire fits the bill. It is not great literature, but it is fun and has decent artwork. Sometimes, that is the best we can hope for. Fortunately, Fathom: Kiani – Volume 1: Blade Of Fire delivers a decent adventure that is a fun read.

For other graphic novels, please be sure to check out:
Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Fray By Joss Whedon
Cowboys And Aliens


For other book reviews, please be sure to visit my Book Review Index page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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