Low is a comic filled with ambition. Its art, scope, and prose all cry out that it is something unique in today’s comics scene and worthy of attention.
The first thing that will stand out to readers is Greg Tocchini’s art. The cover first released at an Image Expo stokes a sense of awe. The peculiar machine holding hands with a little girl in a room filled with water does not seek to provide any answers. It blends horror and wonder into an engaging mood. The rising tide and blood reds capture a sense of foreboding, yet the machine’s heart-like chest and the rising stairs help to alleviate that sense and provide some optimism to the piece.
It is this cover that first compelled me to try Low and it acts as an excellent representation of the pages behind it. Tocchini’s art maintains a warped style, allowing proportions to grow or shrink in any panel. It is not so twisted that it becomes inaccessible though. Instead, it creates a dreamlike state, providing a heat shimmer or the blur of water between the reader and the story. Although the story is happening, it is happening in an alien setting far beyond our conception of reality and Tocchini’s art along with Sebastian Girner’s colors capture this perfectly.
This blurring of reality also allows Low to present its characters in an interesting way. The story opens on a bedroom scene with two naked adults. Tocchini’s linework does not emphasize their nudity, but rather their forms. They are presented as attractive, fit adults, but are not objectified by their depictions. Other characters are made to appear skeletal or half-dead, intimating something much more sinister in their personas. Similar effects are created with landscapes and machines where the feel of something is emphasized over its details. The end result is unlike almost anything in comics now.
Tocchini’s collaboration with Rick Remender represents another win in a quickly growing string of successes for the writer. Low is the third creator-owned comic he has released in the last year and each one has presented an artist with a unique voice worth watching. Remender’s story telling skills are on full display in these titles as well and Low is no exception. The world building and characterization packed into thirty pages is nothing short of astonishing.
Rather than view the debut issue as the first installment of something intended to be reformatted as a collected volume, Remender approaches it like a pilot episode of television. The premise, characters, and world are all on full display, and a dramatic change in the status quo provides plenty of momentum. Like the best pilots, it provides a complete story with an irresistible hook at the end.
Remender also does an excellent job in quickly characterizing a large number of characters in a short amount of space. All five members of the Caine family are distinctive and I could recall each of their names after a single reading. Beyond that, the major groups, locales, and villain of the story thus far were all distinctive and memorable. Remender is surgical in his use of sequences, ensuring that each will serve multiple purposes providing elements of history, relationships, and personalities in every one. It is compression done well, telling a story quickly while ensuring readers can understand what is occurring.
That is not to say Low is a flawless comic, but its ambition in building an expansive story with unique art and ideas in only thirty pages makes those flaws much more forgivable. I previously wrote about the debut of Remender and Mateo Scalera’s Black Science and noted that the issue’s greatest problem was the enormous amount of exposition. That is present in Low as well. There’s a lot to explain about this world. Some of it is nicely fit into the speech of a man who likes to discuss history. Other bits are shoehorned into dialogue that clearly exists only to explain what is happening, specifically some lines in the final sequence. It may be a necessary evil of building such a large world so quicly, but that doesn’t make the offending lines of dialogue read any better.
Although each sequence does convey key information, some feel too perfect in tone. The post-coital sequence feels perfect in a way that life rarely does. The banter, appearance, and even colors all scream about how wonderful the relationship between the couple is, so that it is impossible to believe they have ever fought in a non-playful manner. The perfection of this moment and some others tug at the believability of the relationships. Even the largest points of conflict in the Caine family are portrayed as light hearted and easily resolvable.
Low is a truly enthralling comic though. It captures its tone perfectly, juxtaposing light and darkness against one another in a surreal future. It is as much about the battling ideas of its characters as it is about surviving an inevitable apocalyptic scenario. Remender’s world building and Tocchino’s vision combine to deliver those ideas and the story in which they exist in a truly entertaining fashion.
Low #1 is a beautiful, ambitious debut that sets high expectations for future installments.