Remender and Tocchini are back at it with their second collaboration, and the third book Remender has launched at Image alone in the last year. Remender is a big proponent of sci-fi, so it should come as a surprise to nobody that his and Tocchini’s new book, Low, exists in a timeline many thousands of years in the future, living under the ocean and trying to shoot for space. Judging by the cover of this book, I was expecting a kind of BioShock-y vibe. I wasn’t necessarily wrong, but it brings a lot more to the table than that. Where BioShock was about steampunk designs and playing your way through a system of thought, Low is more about awesome, gargantuan design and creating its own system of thought. These people are clearly us, in a timeline far removed from our own, and it’s been long enough that they’re developing in ways that sci-fi Future Humans don’t always get to. They’re not just replacing the world “God” with “Droln,” they have new creation myths, new Noahs, new Odins. It’s a sign of some good world-building going on.
Remender has nailed the family dynamic in this book, on a much more solid level than he’s ever tried with Black Science. Black Science has always tracked the dissolution of a family, and Low is following a family’s quest to stay together, to be true to who they are and what they believe, no matter what. It’s not difficult to imagine the Caines as a Fantastic Four for a new society, where we live underwater and we need to find a new planet to live before the sun consumes us all. There’s a scene early on that’s roughly the first third of the book where Stel lays out her reasoning for believing we can survive this. It’s one of the first times a Remender character expresses hope of survival this early and you think, “Huh. I actually think I believe her.”
I love the change of pace for Remender from his usual “no good deed goes unpunished” rule, but some of the presentation in this issue seemed a little off. We get a single-page preview at the beginning of what looks like a skeleton in a diving suit fighting off a giant ship, and then we immediately jump to an eight page scene of Stel and her husband Johl lounging around naked or strutting about in what could be a kimono but is actually about the size of a dishtowel—all in front of huge picture windows. It gets a little overly expository, and at that page length, it’s hard to imagine it’s anything else. Plus, it’s the kind of unnecessary nudity (especially from the wife, who gets up and poses a lot more) that comics tend to gravitate towards. Then again, maybe professional comic book writers’ discussions with their wives all happen in the nude; I don’t know, I don’t negotiate well from a position of nudity.
Tocchini’s art on Low is impressive when it’s on, but that’s only a little over half the time. There are panels and whole pages where he’s just creating giant submersibles or sea monsters, and each page turn warrants a “hell yeah,” and then there are other pages (like the first one) that are illegible muddles until you go back a third or fourth time to figure out what the heck you’re looking at. There are even some close-ups on faces that either got real warped in the printing or were laid out super oddly. (In fairness, that could be a scanning issue; our review copies are digital). What I liked, I really liked, but what wasn’t working really wasn’t working.
Beyond even art, the issue as a whole feels a little bit rushed into production. The things I’m describing are easy mistakes, and Tocchini and Remender should both be at the point in their careers to know better. I hold out hope for this series, because I like the concept of a nihilistic fact (the sun obliterating literally everything) being turned into a story of hope, but I also feel like the workload Remender has taken on this past year is enormous and he runs the risk of stretching too thin and letting things get through the cracks. With a little tightening, though, this could be my favorite thing Remender has ever done. I’ll definitely be back for the next issue, and I’m holding my breath for next month (I wanted to make an underwater joke, and that was the best I had, cut me some slack).
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Greg Tocchini Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/30/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital