LOW by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini
The last Rick Remender graphic novel I read had been actually scheduled as the last X-Men series I read earlier this year for my X-Men comics diet. Suffice to say, I wasn't charmed by it so I only got to finish the first volume because I lost interest easily in the way the story was told. It just didn't click for me, is all.
Now that was back in April or so, and now here I am just a few months later reading another work of his. As soon as I finished this, I have to say that this is comparably an improvement from Uncanny Avengers. That comparison would be unfair though, since they are of different genres, and I could tell (given the Afterword for every issue of this series) that Remender is quite passionate and proud about this work. I do think he should be.
LOW is a sci-fi comic book story set in an underwater world. It's also billions of years into the future, where our sun in the solar system has expanded to a toxic level of radiation, so it is more or less about to wipe out the world. The human race and other creatures migrated to the deep levels of the ocean and have made their homes there. One such place is Salus, and this is where the protagonist family of the story lives. Low is more or less about the mother Stel and her unabashedly stubborn positive way of thinking no matter the dreariness of her circumstances. Bundled into six issues, the series' first volume The Delirium of Hope is a thematic examination of what it's like to be an optimist in an often nightmarish landscape filled with despair. Over the course of said issues, Stel lost her husband, had her two daughters abducted, and her only son estranged to her because he resents her for being so inconceivably 'hopeful'. The conflict is more or less about Stel overcoming difficulties with the power of positive thinking. In a sense, I have to admire the tenacity of her self-belief.
Stel is a mother who never loses hope which in a hopeless world should be a commendable thing. Or is it? I think that's the challenge being presented for Low's narrative. Should a person always choose to believe in the adage that one is responsible for his or her own attitude when it comes to dealing with the universe, and that attitude will certainly shape the course of their destiny? Or is the universe truly a place without order and more leaning towards chaos, so however the person feels he or she has any control over how they would react, the universe finds a way to take them by surprise or overwhelm them anyway?
Based from this volume so far, the universe is not only winning, but s also being a dick about it. Although Stel has faith that her endeavors to rescue her daughter would not be for naught, and that her efforts will not be wasted so long as she keeps up her positive attitude, certain situations tend to disprove it otherwise. I actually do like this kind of story Remender has weaved because it feels very personal and heartfelt in a lot of ways. I enjoyed this for what it is in spite of not sharing the writer or his lead character's way of living their lives. I'm more of a pragmatist myself, right in that sweet spot between optimism and pessimism. There are advantages to forcefully clinging onto positivity because hope does spring eternal, but being too fixed about this perspective is just as damaging as being nihilistic and negative. Too much of anything is always a bad thing after all.
In addition, Stel reminds me a lot of Catelyn Stark from the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire series. Much like Catelyn, Stel is a mother struggling to unite her family, only to find that her will and efforts are constantly tested. I suppose I would read the next volume after this just to see how Remender handles the next arc of the series because once again another blockage is impeding Stel's way and I know there are possibly more to come, and I want to see how she would move past them with her power of positive thinking which Remender apparently is determined to campaign and drive home to the readers. I don't find it annoying because touchy-feely things okay for me since they have little impact on my own perspective anyway as a pragmatic. Besides there are quotable moments I did agree with. Like this:
I think Greg Tocchini is worth crediting alongside Remender (if not more so) because as the artist of this series, he has made the reading experience an exceedingly amazing one because of his lush sceneries of the aquatic disquiet present in the panels and specific scenes. I truly loved looking at the breadth of his illustrations and I believe that if another artist had drawn for Low, it would have changed the way I looked at this series altogether, and I may not be more forgiving of its story's flaws and its writer's ultimate bias about his heroine's personality and personal beliefs. His art style is just gorgeous:
In a nutshell, Rick Remender's Low is a commendable work I wouldn't mind speaking good things about, but Greg Tocchini visual contribution is the one thing I would probably give more praise. Whatever opinions I may have that contrast Stel's, I still think she was a character I can find myself caring about, and I'm interested to see how well she would fare, or how much she might change as the story progresses. I'll pick this series again soon enough.