Group Review: Undertow #1

Each of the participating writers/reviews of Comic Bastards will give the issue a score of: Buy, Borrow or Pass along with a short reason for the score. Here’s a blurb about the issue from Image Comics before we begin: Atlantis is the world superpower, and Redum Anshargal is its worst enemy. If you want to break free of the system, he can offer you a place at his side, exploring the wild surface world in his watertight city barge The Deliverer. He and his hostage-protégé Ukinnu Alal hunt the Amphibian, a legend that could be the key to an air-breathing life on land. But as they become the hunted, can Anshargal's team survive long enough to turn the tables on the godlike beast they set out for?

Kimberly: BUY

I admit that before reading Undertow I thought it was a different Undertow I saw that was really whimsical and elven like; I think it’s still worth checking out. However, I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

It’s like a reversed Atlantis story. What if the original inhabitants of Atlantis wanted to discover what was on land? What if they were militarized? Well the answer may lie in the pages of Undertow. It also had an Avatar vibe to it; I think it’s that hunger for discovery that plagues humans. Even though this inhabitants aren’t exactly humans but it could still be applicable.

I love the way in which the narrator describes his surroundings and his journey. I would give the story telling an A+, but this issue is jam packed full of dialogue and action so at times it may get a bit confusing. The usage of color scheme adds to that underwater atmosphere that I especially loved in this issue.  Though this isn’t something I would normally be interested in reading, I am still going to give it a “buy,” I think it’s entertaining and it’s got a unique angle.



I had extremely high hopes in this lofty story. It has been promoted for some time now by Image and it looked on the ads to be a real interesting tale of deep sea melodrama. And for the most part, it is. Undertow looks like it is going to be an epic tale of undersea political intrigue and heavy duty in your face action. This first issue delivers on that as we bear witness to a battle, as well as some brief history of an insurrection that is occurring within the Atlantis’ state. We also get to know the rebel leader Redum Anshargal  better as seen through the eyes and narration of Ukinnu Alal, a child of privilege who has left it to find himself while serving in the Atlantian army.

Artyom Trakhanov’s art is very powerful and worthy of great praise. He covers tremendous action and wide landscapes of story scope very exquisitely. Steve Orlando’s story however, though it is bold in presentation and heavy on action, it almost feels like he tries to stuff too much in this first issue. You have some time man. Don’t try to throw everything in at once. Pace it man. Pace it. It doesn’t have to be a sprint.

All in all, I believe that Undertow has a ton of potential, but I am very curious to see how the next issues play out before I am sold on a full commitment to buy.  Borrow, all day, but, I want to see if Orlando’s story gets into a good groove once all the elements are properly established.

Steve: PASS

Right now, at the beginning of this review, I’m still not sure whether I want to give Undertow #1 a Borrow or an outright Pass. I didn’t hate this Atlantean history retread, but I almost immediately forgot about it when I put it down. Much of the fault there, I think, has to do with the fact that I’ve seen this “ancient-yet-technologically-advanced underwater society” trope so many times before, and frankly I’m pretty sick of it.

The art is a little bit of all right, although it does get a bit overly-wrinkled and busy at times. My main problem is with the dialogue, which I found to be stilted and abrupt, even though there’s a lot of it. Both the story and the voices used jump all over the place without actually saying much, hammering in points of a society that still doesn’t feel fleshed-out by the issue’s end.

A story about fishpeople who shun their totalitarian, emotionless society in favor of exploring prehistoric land in search of a legendary amphibious creature should be good, and while this isn’t what I’d call terrible; its implementation doesn’t match its concept.


Dustin: BUY

Leave it to me to be the optimistic voice right? I fucking hate underwater societies. I hate them. I find the idea of Atlantis to be stupid and illogical which is why I don’t like stories about underwater societies. It’s why I never complain when Namor or Aquaman are walking around above water, because can you really blame them? It’s fucking better up here. This series deals with an underwater society… but the world is crazy.

The first crazy ass idea of it is that it’s taking place at a time in which humans are still basically monkeys and definitely savages. In many ways our underwater people are space explorers on their own planet. Even the opening of the urban legend of Redum Anshargal reeks of Space Pirate goodness. The parallel between space exploration continues as we discover that the underwater society is much like our own; complacent and controlled by the ruling class aka the government.

I know it’s become a complex idea. Basically it’s a story set in the past before humans dominated the world, but in a way it’s commentary about our current society and explores the idea of us one day having to explore a new world to live on and the idea that we wouldn’t be able to live the way we do currently. For humans this is oxygen which isn’t breathable on say Mars, whereas with our underwater dwellers it’s water for air.

Now the issue did have some problems and overall I didn’t connect to any of the characters, but the concept and execution won me over. Additionally I enjoyed the art with the sharp and thick line work. The coloring only served to make the world and setting pop off the page. It might not be for everyone, but I’ll definitely be back for more.

Samantha: PASS

This comic immediately felt like I was being pulled in an undertow. The whole comic was a blur of rapid movement. I couldn’t breathe or understand the full capacity of what was happening. If I didn’t read Image’s site, I still would be thrashing my arms wildly at what the hell is going on. The whole thing was just very unusual for me. No doubt the comic took us to a new places and experiences. But it was thrown at us with a heavy hand. I hate when first issues throw tons of information at you. It stresses me out and always feels like a cop out because they couldn’t think of a better way to introduce a new world.

At the same time, I didn’t want to give Undertow a “Pass” for one simple reason; I think some people will love this comic. The underwater elements are pretty fascinating. I don’t think enough comics are based underwater. People love the Lost City of Atlantis. And last but not least, monsters are involved. So I think some will jump onto this series very quickly with all its allure. For me though, I will pass up the chance to drown once again.

Score: 2 Buys, 2 Passes and a Borrow

Writer: Steve Orlando Artist: Artyom Trakhanov Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 2/19/14