Pulp #642

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Pulp #642

Well hey there, gang! I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves on this fine, wintery week – I’ve just emerged from what I can only describe as a whirlwind of illness, exam study and sleep deprivation, capped off with a casual 14 hour crash day in which I spent 95% of the day in bed. It’s a tough life, being a student, I tells ya.

This time around, we’re delving into another fantastic story from those extra-creative folks at Image Comics – Low, written by Rick Remender (Black Science, Uncanny X-Force, Punisher) and drawn by the amazing Greg Tocchini (Uncanny X-Force, Last Days of American Crime). For clarity’s sake, I picked up the first volume in the series, The Delirium of Hope.

Fuelling my love for post-apocalyptic sci-fi, Low tells the tale of an Earth that’s so ravaged by solar radiation that humanity has to delve into the depths of the ocean in order to survive. Salus, the underwater kingdom, isn’t safe for long, though; their air systems are shot to hell, they’re ravaged by pirates and their leaders are more concerned with blocking out the outside world in a never-ending orgy/drug haze than actually leading their people. The system is corrupt, and utterly broken, and it seems that just about everyone has given up hope. Everyone, that is, except for Stel Caine, one of the few remaining scientists in Salus. When a probe launched tens of thousands of years ago crashes back to Earth, bringing news of a new, inhabitable planet, Stel’s eternal optimism pays off – all she has to do is get to the probe, somewhere on the surface.

Man, what a read. Remender has built a fantastic, dark and rather brutal universe. When paired with Tocchini’s utterly fantastic artwork, Low makes for a brilliant read – life in this far flung future looks bleak, but the way Tocchini’s art flows, it looks beautiful. Low covers decades, rather than being a continuous, uninterrupted story – the opening arc and the closing arc of the first trade are set at least a decade apart, which makes for some interesting character development between time jumps. Stel’s position as the optimist is tested time and time again throughout the story, and the horrors she has to endure over the course of the story would be enough to break most people. That exploration of hope against all odds proves to be the prevailing theme of at least the first volume, in keeping with the title, and it seems likely that Stel will eventually crack, which will make for interesting reading.

Low is one of those stories that really grabbed me; it’s markedly different from most of the content I’ve read – the closest equivalent being Scott Snyder’s The Wake – yet still maintains the quality of some of the best sci-fi stories out there. The pairing of Remender and Tocchini makes for a new dream team, and I’m super excited to see what they do next.

I really am impressed with the content I’ve been picking up from Image lately. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve picked up a single dud story from them in recent years; while I wasn’t particularly impressed with Clone when I picked it up, it still seemed a cut above what I’d been reading at Marvel and DC (particularly the latter, until Rebirth). Given the powerhouse nature of some of their titles (Saga being the foremost example), it seems pretty likely to me that the Big Two will become the Big Three. Maybe I’m just missing the crap stuff, but hey, it’s nice to be optimistic for once.

Written by Alastair McGibbon