Low 1: The Delirium of Hope
Writer - Rick Remender
Artist - Greg Tocchini
Editor - Sebastian Girner
Creators - Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini
Please note: this is a collection that is not appropriate for children.
What is it about our need to shine the light on the unknown, or the future as a whole? And when we find out what is out there, how does that dictate our actions? Low 1: The Delirium of Hope strives to convey this intense need to “know,” while also providing a fresh take on the post-apocalypse genre. Set in a world where the inevitable star-death of our solar system’s sun is around the corner, the story initially follows the Caine family and their importance to the radiation-shielded domes located in the ocean’s depths. As a “helmsman,” the Caine patriarch assumes the role of hunting and gathering, while Stel the matriarch monitors probes trying to find habitable worlds.
Written by Rick Remender (Deadly Class, Black Science), panel work from Greg Tocchini (Ion: Guardian of the Universe, Batman and Robin), and edited by Sebastian Girner (Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Southern Bastards), Low introduces the terrors of the deep while highlighting the shallowness of the human condition. This first volume is described as one woman’s optimism against the waves of hopelessness for an entire species; what can readers take from this experience if they choose to dive in?
Level of Artwork and Craft
Tocchini commits his talent to produce a world that feels far-off; using the word “fantastic” in its less-than-common definition is suiting. There are slight humanistic touches to every aspect of the bubble worlds that these characters inhabit, with just enough outlandish design to make scenery and locales almost necessary. The aesthetic is dripping with standard post-apocalyptic sexualization: think Frank Frazetta, if he regularly drew oxygen tanks and biometric warmachine diving suits. As stated before, this book is not for children, with a mature rating and many depictions of sexual acts. (The reasoning used in the volume is essentially sound: if you think your life didn’t matter, wouldn’t you be a little less inhibited?)
Story Pacing, Movement, and Cohesion
Coming from such an academic grammatical background, I will always notice inconsistencies in spelling and syntax, which Sebastian Girner and his team did miss at times. Names (especially in a science fiction/fantastical medium) are incredibly important in not only identifying characters, but building a story’s aesthetic, and when the volume can’t decide if the father’s name is “Johl” or “Joel”, it can shatter suspension of disbelief. I know this may sound a little nitpicky, but consistency throughout a piece is akin to a good referee or umpire: if doing their job correctly, it’s thankless with no one to notice. So when the book can’t decide if it’s the “Cain” or “Caine” family, this is just as terrible as a missed pass interference or a phantom tag on the round to second base.
The redemption of Marik Caine was an aspect of the volume that I greatly enjoyed: from bucking the responsibility of hunting, to dirty cop, to religious rockstar-gladiator, Marik’s journey was framed through many of his failures and few of his triumphs. In the same vein though, Tajo’s redemption seemed comparatively rushed using the final few pages to make what the reader would consider “good decisions”. Because of the comics medium, I understand that many stories need to be wrapped up in five to eight issues, but just like the inhabitants of these undersea dwellings, the volume could have benefitted from more time.
At its core, Low is about one woman’s struggle to keep hope in a world that refuses to allow happiness; I appreciated the youthful demeanor, but both the storytellers and my own brain would have to remind me that this wasn’t some twenty-something out of college, but a mother with three grown children. The art never made her look what could be perceived as “her age,” and treated every woman in the book as a Conan-esque sexpot with tight midsections and barely-there tops. There will be many times that you’ll see Stel in less and less clothing, and there is little distinction between her physical sexuality and Tajo’s.
Depth of Theme and Thematic Reach
I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a post-apocalypse portrayed with an overabundance of water. Please don’t misunderstand me: I thoroughly enjoyed the latest Mad Max (even though the comic took away almost everything great about the movie), but I feel that deserts and fire are much more commonplace when the world is ending, which becomes tedious at points. But what really appealed to me as a reader was the impossibility of hope as a conceptual tool: many of the podcasts have documented me saying that hope is what’s missing from the current DC titles (I’m looking at you, Superman), but the idea of hope creates a feeling of taboo forbiddenness. When the feeling of hope is all but absent or not allowed, the audience constantly looks for glimmers of positivity, once again having the reader actively participating in dissecting a book.
Utilization of Sequential Art Medium
What I appreciated most was the creators’ attempts at utilizing the idea of “pressure” through both wording and panels. Colors are often expected to be cool and comforting that deep in the ocean; props like jellyfish or upper-class tapestries make sure to burn into the audience’s eyes whenever present. Dialogue is created to be urgent at all times, daring the reader to race the characters to their next thoughts, while spaces in slum sections often seemed crowded and sprawling. In combination, Remender and Tocchini are constantly cramping readers into a space where they can only watch the story unfold, creating the sensation of both a movie and a chapters-long book.
Low takes you to the depths of both the ocean and of human perseverance, having the reader actively searching for hope in hopelessness like the characters search for a way to the surface world. Beautifully rendered with tight pacing and dialogue, the characters seemed oddly sexually charged at times, with no real Chekov-style explanation to back the artwork. This is definitely worth a read from a strongly-established creative team, with a style that gently pressures the reader into a mindset where they have to finish what the Caine family has started. At only about ten dollars for the first volume, with Remender and Tocchini at the helm, Image has created a perfect storm of excuse-defying storytelling.