Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini have crafted an absolutely gorgeous underwater post-apocalyptic world, but the most beautiful thing in the world of Low is the Caine family. I actually want to discuss this book in some detail, so I warn you there will be some major spoilers ahead. I read the first story arc in one sitting, and I instantly knew it’s something special. It’s meticulously crafted, and today I want to discuss how Low has quickly become my favorite ongoing series.
So let’s start at the beginning. The book opens on Stel and Johl Caine, the heads of the Caine family. They’ve just had sex, and we see them tease one another. They’re playful, and they’re in love. Stel and Johl enjoy being around each other, and they’re excited to reach a new milestone in life with their three children.This is, quite bluntly, how Remender and Tocchini sell Johl’s death at the end of the issue. Our brief moment with these characters and the idea of a happy family make Johl’s death difficult, and it serves as a catalyst for the heartbreak to come.
Issue 2 jumps forward in time and opens with Stel’s son Marik having sex with a prostitute. It isn’t loving. Marik berates the woman. He’s high, and he imagines himself a Roman centurion. It’s a dark mirror to the first scene and it speaks clearly–the Caine family isn’t doing well. Issue 3 opens with an orgy in the senate, so we see the Roman analogy called back. The government has turned to hedonism and debauchery with the world coming to an end. The love making that opens the book has become something empty. The recurring sex scenes aren’t just for shock value; they’re representative of society’s loss of hope. But Stel still holds on to hope, and issue 3 ends with Marik beginning to believe in this optimistic mindset.
We do see other recurring themes, such as the manipulation of eyes. Johl’s eye is removed by the villainous Pirate Lord Roln because the eye, as it turns out, is a genetic key for the Helm suits. There’s plentiful imagery of Johl’s eye being removed early on, and we see the scene repeated later with Marik. Of course eyes are widely known as “windows to the soul,” even if it’s a bit cliché. So perhaps it’s unsurprising then that Roln’s eyes are black and red, even though Roln otherwise appears to be human. His black and red eyes set Roln apart as a villain, just as the Caine family’s eyes set them apart as genetically gifted.
Aesthetically Tocchini brings the world to life wonderfully. The characters are all gorgeous. The vehicles have sails reminiscent of Chinese junks. Roln and Marik wear clothing akin to Japanese kimonos. Stel and her daughter Tajo are forced into bikinis as prisoners of Roln, instantly bringing Leia’s notorious costume to mind. The aesthetic influences seem to come from everywhere, but most notable is the color pallette. Reds and oranges absolutely devour this books. It’s exotic and strange, but can also be threatening and overpowering. When Tocchini pulls the red veil back, it always has an impact. The world of Low is dying, and the color pallette plays a big part in its depiction. The talk of finding a blue planet feels a bit more meaningful when everything you see is consumed in reds.
Low is a book about hope in the face of disaster, and everything about this book seems to serve that core theme. That’s why Low has me absolutely enthralled. It’s smart, intentional, and elegant. Stel is a character who is hopeful, in spite of all the signs that humanity’s story is coming to close. It’s uplifting to read Low. I put it down feeling positive and optimistic. In spite of all the horrors that I know Remender will inevitably put the Caine family through, I trust them to endure. Low is polished and precise, but it’s appeal may be even simpler. Low is just a story that I want to keep reading. It’s about hope, and positivity, and optimism; and we all need a bit more of that in our lives.