July 16, 2024

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Comic Review: Low Volume 1

A future underwater world may be doomed, or one woman's optimism may lead to life elsewhere.

How many different comics series did write Rick Remender create with Image Comics?  I don’t know.  I may or may not be the biggest fan, but he does consistently good work, and he’s highly creative.

With that in mind, let’s look at the first volume of Low, subtitled The Delirium of Hope.

Remender set the world of Low on a dying Earth at some point in the distant future.  The sun at some point in the past expanded, making the planet’s surface too hot and radioactive for life.  Probes were sent off into space to find a new home.  So far, none have returned.  What’s left of humanity lives in domed cities in the deepest part of the ocean.  These cities are running out of resources.  Even if people could continue living down there, the sun’s expansion will eventually increase enough to finish off the planet.  The situation is pretty bleak no matter how you look at it.

And yet, Stel Caine is full of optimism for the future.  Her husband Johl is the last of the Helmsmen for the dying city of Salus.  Her two young daughters are buoyant things looking to follow in their father’s footsteps (the Helmsman suit responds only to Caine DNA).  And her son Marik is a promising mechanical engineer.   There’s plenty to be miserable about, but Stel has plenty of optimism even as Johl goes for a more pragmatic approach to life.

Then one day, tragedy strikes.  Johl dies, the girls disappear, and Stel herself barely gets back to Salus.  Marik grows up to become a corrupt, drug-addicted cop.  And still Stel is optimistic for the future, particularly when a probe returns from space.  There may be a habitable planet out there.  Someone just needs to go the surface and retrieve the probe.  Stel knows where it is, and the only person she can take with her is Marik.  And even then, it’s not easy.  Is the human race doomed or is Stel’s optimism warranted?

Remender in his introduction talks about how Low is a reflection on how his own optimism made his life better.  It shows.  The title has a double meaning.  Beyond the obvious undersea setting, almost everyone here is at their lowest level.  People are living debauched lives.   Since the world is dying, why shouldn’t they?  Furthermore, just about everyone Stel meets resists her optimism.  They call her foolish for feeling that way.  And yet, she doesn’t agree.  And then other people are not only out to maximize their own pleasure, but they see no reason to not inflict pain on others over petty squabbles.  It’s a bleak world.

Consequently, it sure is nice to see Stel’s optimism.  She isn’t foolish or some kind of Pollyanna, but her hope for the future may be contagious.  And that comes despite a lot of horrible moments in this book.  Will she maintain that optimism?  That’s for the second volume to reveal.

As for this book, the writing is nice, but Greg Tocchini’s watercolors make for nice pictures but I found the story harder to follow.  I couldn’t tell some characters apart in some scenes.  The underwater seascapes and the domed cities looked cool, but the story didn’t flow well.  As such, I’m giving this 8 out of 10 background characters that may be Popeye.