Low issue 3 is a huge turnaround from where the series has been, and it owes itself as much to a tonal shift in the writing as it does to a newfound clarity in the art that really works. In this issue, Mrs. Caine gets permission to get her son out of jail as long as she promises to take him with her on a potential suicide mission to retrieve a probe on the surface. The only reason for one of her probes to come back, she claims, is because it’s found a habitable planet elsewhere. The city of Salus has recycled its air to the point of toxicity, so everyone there will die anyway, but they almost won’t allow her to try and die on her own terms, which seems strange. And so begins the Mom & Me Undersea Roadtrip to Survive Maybe.
The real strong point of this issue for me was Greg Tocchini’s art. Where I’ve had complaints the last couple months of the art being muddy and too dark, in this issue he lets us see some of the leviathans at the bottom of the ocean and he really kills it with their design. They’re terrifying dinosaurs, or maybe at that point, evolved versions of the lizards we know on the surface, and they’re colorful and powerful looking. Breathtaking.
Remender’s writing in this issue is stronger than it’s been in a long time. He still relies on some on-the-nose dialogue more than I tend to dig, but in this issue he plays the dramatic tension of it by placing the dialogue on top of majestic scenes of the ocean, and the enormous horrors that live there. It’s well-placed, and it really works in this case.
One of the continuing nagging issues I have with this series is that Remender and Tocchini keep going back to scenes of intense sexuality. I get that Remender’s going for a kind of last-days-of-Rome vibe with this, where everyone in these underwater city’s knows they’re gonna bite it, and they’re just fucking the pain away. But each issue so far has opened with, in order, a nude lady, a centurion fucking a slave woman (actually a drug-fueled fantasy), and a double page spread of an orgy. It was like turning the page onto a realistically painted version of the cover of the Welcome to the Pleasuredome album by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It’s not that it’s offensive or that it doesn’t have a place in this kind of book (it’s creator owned after all); it just seems tone deaf to the current climate of sexual politics. And, as per usual, that’s me bringing my own politics to the table, so I can’t blame Remender for making choices that I personally wouldn’t, but it turns me off to the whole experience, no pun intended.
For a book that Remender pitched to the public as being about hope, this series up until now has been as bleak as his darkest Uncanny X-Force stuff; the tonal shift in this issue that I really welcome is that they’re starting to get the hope from the horrifying majesty of the deep ocean. It’s a great dichotomy and I’m excited to see where they can go from here. Definitely the best issue so far.
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Greg Tocchini Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 9/24/14 Format: Print/Digital