Outside of that very unfortunate event from Marvel, Rick Remender is on fire right now. He is writing some of the biggest and most popular titles in comics at the moment: All-New Captain America, Deadly Class, Uncanny Avengers and Black Science for instance. However, last year, he launched another popular comic by the name of Low, with former Hinterkind cover artist, Greg Tocchini. With the trade collection coming soon, we can have a better look at the comic with a bunch of it to consume at once. Is it good?
Low Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope (Image Comics)
Sometime in the far far far far (add six more fars to that) future, the world has gone to shit. I mean, more than usual standard science fiction story. The sun is expanding and the surface is no longer viable to live on, so humanity went to live underwater in these domes. However, after who knows how many generations, most of the domes are gone and one of the last remaining ones, a city called Salas, is slowly running out of usable air. There’s also this family of adventurers called the Caine Family who, one day, suffer a huge loss where the father dies and both daughters are kidnapped. This leaves the mother, Stel, all alone except for her son, Marik. Then a probe appears on the surface of the planet 10 years later and it may have come back to Earth to say there is an inhabitable planet, thus giving Stel motivation to find it.
Low Vol. 1 is a lot of things and all of these things as a whole add up to a rather disappointing, weak first collection. There are things to certainly like about the comic and some points that are pretty good in general (such as Stel herself), but the comic suffers from a lot of problems that truly prevent the comic from becoming all it can be. So overall, let’s break this down and explain why Low is rather… low.
Looks like someone is getting very dramatic with the narration.
Story-wise, it’s a very big mixed bag. The whole family tragedy opening and setup is pretty standard fare, with little really being changed up that much. It’s executed well enough and feels effective, but the plot angle and motivation is done to death. The entire time you read the first issue and it builds up such a happy family, you constantly think to yourself: “Okay, who’s going to die first?” Then the remaining issues focus on Stel and Marik in the future and going on this journey together (or at least a leg of it so far), which is better. There are some twists here and there that do feel interesting to a certain degree, though they can be predictable (The moment I saw that pirate guy with that young lady, I instantly knew she was one of the missing daughters) and also feel rather rushed.
That’s honestly one of the greatest enemies this comic has: its very uneven pacing. It can be very slow and methodical, really doing some potentially good world building and character development in one issue. However the next issue will be incredibly fast and just speed through some plot points and characterization or even just glance over big things between scenes and issues. I mean, the time skip between #4 and #5 was just awful. It ends with the characters being captured and then the next immediately begins with four months later with one of the characters becoming this big badass who is super confident in himself! Where the hell did that come from? The jump just missed so much potential and good development for the character and plot that it feels jarring, especially since you don’t end up knowing what people are talking about.
The character work is a mixed bag as well I find. The best character in the book is Stel, since she has a very optimistic outlook on life and is someone you can really feel for. Even if the family tragedy storyline has been done a lot, it really makes you sympathize for the mom. You want her to make it out of things and you want for her to succeed, even after the world has just beaten down on her so much. She really doesn’t undergo any character development in the actual comic, still the same where she started and where she ends, but she is still pretty good regardless.
Holy crap, her boobs grew like 5 cup sizes between panels judging by that cleavage!
Her son Marik is possibly the biggest missed opportunity in the entire book unfortunately. All the big moments in his life, the stuff that changes him as a human being and develops his character… all happen off screen or is told to us. Him losing confidence in himself and becoming this lost soul after his sisters disappear and father die? No need to see that! Marik becoming this total badass and fighting this coliseum-like arena? We’re all told this and don’t really get to see outside of this one battle. Well, you could say, he could still develop and we could still see him grow more as a character in the next volume. Actually no. He dies in the end of the volume, rather abruptly I might say, and since we really didn’t get much of him that wasn’t told or narrated to us, it’s hard to feel anything about it.
As for the rest of the characters, there’s nothing here. The big villain for the volume is honestly forgettable and just standard fare, with nothing truly memorable or unique about him. There’s Tajo, the only daughter we see in the present, who gets a pretty good moment in the final issue. However, she’s mind controlled for most of the volume and then she quickly leaves at the end of the collection. So, we don’t know if we’ll be seeing more of her or not anytime soon. Besides those two, there’s no one else in this book to get attach to or care about
The writing is nothing special either. The story structure and flow are fine for the most part, but there are a couple of awkward scene transitions or jumps between locations at points. The characterization is fine here, but there’s not much in the way of a supporting cast. The comic likes introducing these ideas, new concepts, and situations to help build their world up better, but the comic most of the time just abandons or does nothing with these things. The dialogue is often hard to read, feeling very awkward and unnatural a lot of the time. It makes sense given that we are now in the far future, but it makes the book hard to read at points. The narration doesn’t fare better, which is either overly melodramatic or engaging in a lot of purple prose that’s just kind of eye-rolling. The ending for the volume is just rather abrupt and feels artificially depressing, like the events that happened don’t feel like they would have naturally happened in any way. Considering Remender is usually a better writer, this is rather unfortunate.
I can’t tell. Is she wearing skin colored pants?
The artwork is the biggest problem and also double-edged sword the comic has going for it. Greg Tocchini’s artwork has different kind of style to it, which looks good when it comes to putting together some eye catching imagery or covers. The underwater scenes, sea creatures, and some of the futuristic technology looks amazing at points; the scene where Sel and Marik swim through the ocean is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a great combination of pencils and paint-like coloring that make you see why Tocchini would be a great choice to draw this series…
…on the other hand though, the artwork is awful when it comes to telling a narrative. The layouts are hard to follow, the colors are muddy at points, objects and people are hard to distinguish or tell apart from one another, and sometimes you have to reread some scenes to truly get what you were just looking at. Then there are the people themselves, who look terrible at points. The facial reactions feel limited and don’t do a great job expressing emotion, the body physiques can look awful and inhuman, and limbs bend oddly or don’t even look attached to a person’s body. It makes the book an honestly frustrating experience at points and really doesn’t make for a good experience.
Is It Good?
Low Vol. 1 is a big disappointment overall. There are elements of this story that are good and it has a really enjoyable main character, but everything else is just so lackluster. The writing needs work, most of the characters are not developed, and the artwork is more of a hindrance than an asset. At this point in time, I cannot recommend Low at all and recommend you just pass this over.