Title: Low #4
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Greg Tocchini
Publisher: Image Comics
Rating: 4 / 5
If there’s one thing we know about Low this far in at issue four, it’s that the grim and bleak are going to be standard themes for the title, despite, or perhaps directly because of, the main protagonist’s staunch optimism. That seems perfectly fitting, when you think about it.
Low #4 opens up with Stel and Marik literally losing oxygen. Not to be deterred from her goal, Stel gives us a wonderful internal monologue about perseverance, which is foreshadowing, no doubt, what is to very shortly come to pass. She’ll need to reflect on those inspirations again and again.
“Reality is our projection—everything is a choice,” she envisions, just before saving her son from drowning. Remender’s words aptly describe the situation for the inhabitants in Low, but it’s hard not to think if he’s relating it to more than just fiction.
Stel and Marik have finally reached their goal—or at least a pit stop on the way to their goal: the elusive and degenerate Third City. Not only does Stel do the first part of what she set out to do, but we’re given a bit of a plot tangent in discovering that the Third City has oxygen, something that is dangerously low back in Salus. I suspect Remender will revisit this notion again soon. I’m willing to bet oxygen is something worth going to war over in Low.
Remender continues the exposition of the history of this world via a discussion between Stel and Marik as they traverse the Third City in disguise. Note: the overheard gutter dialogue of the locals is a wonderful mish-mash of slang and hilarity. Perhaps worth mentioning most of all is that these panels are probably the highlight of Tocchini’s artwork to date. The designs are simply gorgeous, including radiation-mutated species, gladiator pits and dingy old slums. The copper and crimson colors remind me of some ancient desert town fending off its inevitable collapse. I love it.
We are treated to a bit of positivity, a rarity in this title, before it is quickly ripped away from us, Marik and Stel altogether, which is decidedly less rare. Stel finally thinks she avenges her late husband by killing Roln, the pirate who killed Johl and stole her daughters. But after running him through, Roln seemingly shakes it off. Is there magic in Low? Or is it just some hyper-organic healing tech? The answer is given by Roln on the next panel, so the mystery doesn’t linger long, but we now understand more about one of the antagonists. Additionally, it appears his brother has extra “powers” as well. Oh, how the plot thickens! The comic ends with Marik’s moroseness and stupidity proving to be his downside.
It seems both Stel and Marik are incapacitated.
I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion of this first arc. Sci-fi is back in comics in a big way and Low is doing wonders to lead the charge.
Review by Brent Gladney