Image Comics is kicking off a new series this week called Undertow. I have absolutely no idea what it is about in any shape or form, having done no research, read no interview, paid no attention to any press release; I’m going in totally blind. However, this allows me to view this series with fresh eyes not effected by hype to give it an unbiased view. All I ask from this comic is simple: Is it good?
Undertow #1 (Image Comics)
This one is hard to explain. It’s apparently the distant past when humans were more primitive and Atlantis exists, housing a race of people with gills with advanced technology. Atlantis is apparently a fascist state from what the characters said (we never see this explicitly, it’s only inferred) and some got sick of it and moved to dry land in a flying submarine city vehicle of sorts called The Deliverer. They are there and… things happen. To be honest, the solicit for the issue does a better job at explaining this comic than the actual comic.
Come with me if you want to live.
Undertow is a comic that has a lot of big and creative ideas that unfortunately suffocate the actual plot. The comic is constantly introducing new ideas, concepts, themes, relationships between the characters, and politics at the reader but it doesn’t allow for them to actually take them all in or grasp them. It’s very overwhelming. Yes, I can understand that with a new universe that a writer has to lay down the groundwork so that audience can have an understanding of the world. However, the writer is attempting to do too much in a short amount of time to the point where the comic ends up feeling both slow and exhausting after a while.
Steve Orlando’s writing is alright otherwise. Dialogue is fine at some points, but boring and stiff at others (it stands out more when they are explaining things). Characters have some characterization to them, but they aren’t really all memorable and due to the artwork (plus with a lot of names being tossed around), one could lose track of who is who and there really isn’t much to care about them either way. The pacing is fast and quick during the opening, which could have honestly been skipped and nothing would have been lost, but the rest of the comic is very slow in trying to explain its universe. Like I said, the comic has creativity and the solicit information shows some potential with the series; however, it’s a weak opening that may bore the audience rather than pull them in.
Artyom Trakhanov’s artwork is really not my taste, but looks interesting. The designs and creativity in the drawings are interesting, the color schemes can be pretty (or very dull in some panels), the action is okay, and story flows decently for the most part. The artwork is muddy, murky, and the layouts are rather boring, but it’s probably fine for people who like this style and could fit the book. One thing that stood out to me in some parts was the lettering though. For some reason, inner narration has no text boxes and is in the comic itself. This can be problematic because sometimes the lettering may blur together with the background or with other letters or be even easy to miss at points (I almost didn’t see when the comic tried to indicate that one part of the story took place at a different time period). Some parts of it are readable mind you, but it’s a weird choice that really doesn’t work a lot of the time.
With font like this, I had to move closer to the screen to read my copy.
Is It Good?
Undertow #1 shows potential and is creative, but fell flat for its first issue. It overloads the audience with so much information constantly, the writing is weak in other places, and the artwork is an acquired taste. This may not be the book for me admittedly, but will most likely appeal to someone else. However, even knowing that, I cannot really recommend the book from what I read.