UPDATE 8/2/2014 11:50 PM PT: Printing errors in a review copy of “Low” #1 resulted in an inaccurate first review. A new review follows below.
Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini try something a little different in their new book “Low.” However, issue number one suffers from a few readability problems stemming largely from some confusing — if beautiful — visuals. Sci-fi and fantasy stories live or die by their ability to create and convey a clear world to readers, and “Low” #1 struggles in that regard.
This is a different kind of book for Remender and though the biggest issues in the book are with the art, “Low” #1 is not an entirely convincing argument that this is the writer’s strongest work. The story has all the typical elements in place that we’d see in any sci-fi story, but there are no real surprises, no subversions, no clever angle to make it all feel fresh. There’s also not enough here yet to be emotionally engaging to appeal to readers on that level, so on all levels it’s missing its mark, if only by a bit.
“Low’s” primary premise centers on a man and his family, who live inside a protective dome in a future where the sun’s expansion has sent the remainder of humanity to live in the depths of the sea. Perceived villains are not necessarily villains and some of the man’s family as well as some of himself is taken from him in the first issue — it’s all pretty typical plot. With nothing to subvert expectations beyond the cool factor of people who live in the ocean, the first issue relies heavily on the art to provide something extraordinary. Unfortunately, that’s where the book goes a little wrong.
Tocchini’s art is undeniably beautiful and it’s got an evocative and distinctive tone to it that’s interesting, but there are some significant storytelling failings. The art has lovely lines and an almost hypnotic quality to it, but it’s overly busy and sometimes too loose and ill-defined when it comes to complicated world building. While Tocchini’s visual execution would work easily enough for a book set in a realistic world, “Low’s” critical and unique world-building requires a lot more artistic clarity. The pacing is a bit uneven and inconsistencies abound throughout the book. Crowded panels, a lot of characters and a plethora of technology means there’s never a place in the book for a reader’s eye to rest, to absorb and understand what they’re seeing.
Though the colors overall are beautiful, they’re not quite consistent enough to help when it comes the lack of clarity about where are characters are (in the water, in the dome, in a vehicle, etc.) And though some areas are incredibly well considered and stunning, others feel a bit rushed and haphazard.
Certainly one issue, even an oversized one such as this, is not enough to write “Low” off. There are many interesting roads Remender and Tocchini could take and some intriguing things already at play, even if this isn’t as strong a start as I would expect from two creators at this level.