Our sun will kill us one day. We all know this. While we may not be alive to see it, our world will burn in the fires of our once life giving star and eradicate whatever remains of our race. In the years before this the Earth’s surface will become uninhabitable and our species will be forced beneath the oceans to survive. Focusing on the Caine family, this is the setting for Low, written by Rick Remender (Black Science, Uncanny Avengers) with artwork by Greg Tocchini (Last Days of American Crime, Uncanny X-Force), which gives life and a thick emotional feel to this story of hope and despair.
Father Johl is an experienced hunter exploring the ocean world in the last “Helm Suit,” a genetically coded exosuit designed to aid the wearer in exploring the underwater world, hunting for food and protecting the underwater city of Salus from attack. The focus of this first issue is wife Stel whose optimism keeps alive the hope that one day the probes sent into the galaxy will return with a new home for humanity.
Despite the ominous setting the story opens hopefully for the Caine family, taking daughters Tajo and Della on an adventure beneath the waves to teach them about the Helm Suit that one of them will inherit some day and use to hunt for their people, it opens with the feel of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Tocchini’s design of their ship has more than a touch of the Nautilus about it and excitement builds as they encounter the classic sea monster of a giant squid.
This is where the story turns much darker and Remender shows us that the sun burning the landscape is not the real threat our future will face, the Caines attacked by a group known as the Horde, outsiders of the protected cities who fall somewhere between pirates and monsters and suddenly we depart a light Jetson’s style world and enter Mad Max territory and Stel’s fervent optimism is tested as her family faces horrors and torment.
The second issue revisits the family several years later, dealing with the aftereffects of her family’s anguish and showing more of this dystopian world. The people of the ocean city of Salus are led by decadent Politicians, and protected by drug addicted Police. They have fallen to base pleasures to see out their last years of breathable air. The world, or what is left of it, has lost hope and only one person clings onto the belief that there is any future for the human race, but can Stel’s optimism survive the further tortures this world has in store for her?
Tocchini’s artwork of rough lines and contrasting colours is very impressive, and matches the tone of the story well. It has great emotional push and could be perfectly set in a gallery of science fiction art, however what it gives in emotion it lacks in detail. The coarse designs give a storyboard feel to some of the great visuals such as cityscapes which leave the reader longing for more detailed views of these great scenes.
What Remender has created is a unique and unpredictable tale, the reader thrown from hope to despair alongside the characters, and Remender has cited his own battles with depression as a source of inspiration. This is not light reading or a happy distracting tale, but it is a good story well told.
Volume one begins the tale but there is so much more still to be told, and we have yet to see the full power of the Helm Suit or if Stel’s hope will be justified and whether her belief is strong enough to see her and those around her through the darkness.
Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope from Image Comics collects Low issues 1 – 6 and is on sale now