I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
It wasn't a perfect read for me, as I noticed at least one plot hole, and Lobdell took over for the second story arc in this collection. I knew I'd read some of his stuff, and wasn't a huge fan, so I knew this might not bode well, but David Wohl started co-writing and then just taking over writing duties and I started enjoying the story more.
I'm going to break down this between the story arcs, volumes three and four of Fathom itself. First of all, I kind of appreciate this breakdown: by choosing to reboot with each volume, Aspen makes it slightly easier to keep track of the separation of storylines. I'm usually not fans of multiple reboots, but I think that's because they aren't done with this type of consideration. When Marvel does it, it's to make more sales with number ones, and to coincide with events. Aspen - the comic book company - may be counting on the boost of sales from number one, but instead of forcing their stories to start and end with events, they know they want to tell a story that is a certain amount of issues, and plan on their volumes being those amount of issues. (By the way, Fathom is the name of four series. In the comic book world, if there is a recurring series/series that is rebooted with a new number one, but the same exact title as the previous series, volume one is the first series, volume two is the second. If the creators move on with the series, the volume distinction can be less useful. Aspen uses new writers and artists with each new volume of Fathom, making it easy to tell which volume someone is talking about, too.)
The first story arc is just excellent, adding to the political strife, and adding a bit to Aspen's life - family wise and friend and human life wise. Also, Garza's illustrations are just stunning. While The Blue try to make peace with humanity by revealing themselves, Aspen discovers she's been lied to about her brother, and that he's still a captive - and where he is. She has the choice of going after Killian, the man who manipulated her when it came to Finn's past, or to save Finn himself. There's no hesitation: as angry as she is at Killian, she's got her brother's best interest at heart, and that will have to remain her top priority.
I didn't find Killian's change of heart completely believable, but rolled with it, partly because I find this world so engaging, and partly because it caused some interesting friction narratively speaking. Still, it seemed far too quick given that he'd shown no indication of changing before then, and his regrets about his first child and how she grew up seemed to come out of the blue since he'd approved of how she came up right up until he found out about his other child.
Still, there was so much consideration given to diplomacy and how hard it was, even when people were making the right decisions, that Killian didn't distract me for long.
The fourth volume, and the second story arc for me, worked less well. While it did deal with ramifications from previous volumes, going far back to the first as well as dealing with volumes two and three, it wasn't quite as balanced or well thought out as the third volume. For example, Lobdell had a couple instances where he could have dealt with the blowback from humanity finding out about The Blue - and instead he had one tame panel of protest. The complexity that was in volume three seemed to simply disappear, so I was unsurprised when Aspen found herself dealing with the death of a man she was responsible for back when she first met Killian and there was one, brief panel dealing with her guilt. It was, again, glossed over, and I felt unsatisfied. This was mitigated by Wohl co-writing and then taking over writing duties, and the moral conflicts felt a bit more fleshed out, but I found myself wishing he'd written from the beginning. And yes, Lobdell isn't a terrible writer, and I can see the appeal in his style, even if it doesn't appeal to me most times. (Sometimes I want something easy, but most times I like my fiction with a shade of gray or two.)
Still Alex Konat, the illustrated, pretty much saved this for me. Stylized art that was drawn with a sure hand, I found myself unsure of what I felt at first, and quickly won over by the charm in his illustrations. I found them lovelier and lovelier the more I read, in fact, and I was quite happy to have him replace Garza in this volume.
Overall, incredibly pleased. I can't wait to see what happens next in these collections!