Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini return to the story of Stel after making a brief foray into the chilly world of Second City in Low #8. Stel finds herself struggling with her own belief in hope as her new crew faces internal struggles of their own. Will she be able to find the inner hope that has driven her thus far or will she fall prey to despair and the creatures that lurk in the depths? Is it good?
Low #8 (Image Comics)
Low #8 begins with what appears to be the introduction of a larger antagonist for Stel. Remender and Tocchini depict a birthing ritual for some kind of insect royalty. Tocchini captures the sheer horror of the scene as the sacrifice’s blood slowly drips from their wrist and larvae crawl out of its mouth. Remender’s script enhances Tocchini’s horrific images. It speaks of superiority and a sense of speciesism and an utter lack of regard for the sacrifice. The scene also hints the antagonist may be what lays in wait for Stel once she reaches the surface. The insects speak of “those who will rule the burning heavens.” This is emphasized with newcomer colorist Dave McCaig’s color pallet of oranges, yellows, and reds.
After this opening scene, Remender focuses on characterization and a discussion of Stel’s optimism and hope. Unless I am mistaken, Stel’s optimism and hope is no longer an innate characteristic of her personality, but is now a belief in a religion known as quantumology. It takes a bit away from her individual strength and puts it on the back of a larger religion which used to be the mainstay of Salus.
Despite the introduction of the religion, Remender does an excellent job of exposing a gaping hole in Stel’s resolve. Marik’s death has shaken her and self-doubt has come rushing in. Remender uses this to introduce Stel’s new crewmates as they relay how Marik’s sacrifice embodied Stel’s optimism and hope. Remender also leads the conversation into difficult waters, creating tension among the crew as Zem Gotir’s past is revealed. Tocchini is at his best during this sequence. He depicts a number of different stories in Gotir’s past from the loss of his wife and daughter to the sacking of Salussian ships. Tocchini doesn’t use traditional panels but instead wraps the different images in a clockwise fashion around his wife and daughter. His story never comes full circle but instead begins at around 11 o’clock and ends at 7 o’clock. It depicts his descent and how low he has fallen.
Unfortunately, not all of the artwork is as on par as this page. The ensuing pages depict a fight sequence between Zem Gotir and Mertali, the other crewmember. Gotir’s face and head end up having very odd proportions. In one panel his face appears flat and smushed. Another panel shows an enlarged head which appears larger than his upper torso! It really takes you out of the intense drama-filled moment. Outside of this fight sequence, Tocchini struggled with some depictions of Stel’s profile as well. There are panels where her lips are not centered on her face and it throws off her entire look. Otherwise, the artwork is what you come to expect from the series.
Remender wraps up Low #8 by allowing Stel to work through her problems on her own, but as she becomes lost in her own thoughts a new threat emerges.
Is It Good?
Low #8 gets the reader reconnected with Stel as she deals with the loss of her son and the horror of her daughter’s actions. She is cracking and losing faith, but this allows us to connect with her on a strong emotional level. Remender and Tocchini introduce what appears to be a meta-antagonist; however, they are left alone after the opening pages. Tocchini was hit or miss this issue. He excelled with some panels, while others were a little sloppy and even dropped you out of some of the most intensely scripted scenes. Dave McCaig picked up nicely on the colors maintaining the dark greens and blues for much of the ocean sequences, but also was able to dip into the yellows, oranges, and reds during the ritual sacrifice.