Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope (Issues #1-6)

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Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (author) & Greg Tocchini (artist)Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (author) & Greg Tocchini (artist)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLow Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope, written by Rick Remender and drawn by Greg Tocchini has an intriguing concept whereby in our far, far future (it’s actually the deep past relative to the characters in the story) humanity has fled our burgeoning sun by setting up cities in the depths of the oceans, where they await the news from space probes sent out to seek inhabitable planets. Unfortunately, by the time of the storyline, no probes have returned, the air in what appears to be the only remaining city is turning toxic, and its citizens have turned to a nihilistic, hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs, and violence as a means of “dealing” with their impending doom.

The story focuses on a single family whose DNA allows them to work an integral “helm suit” and we meet them just as the parents are taking out the two young daughters on their first trip outside the city to become acclimated to the outside and begin their training on the suit. Unfortunately, things don’t go well, and it’s pretty much downhill from that not-so-auspicious beginning. But through it all, the mother — Stela — retains her trademark optimism and belief that one’s viewpoint can affect reality.

So yes, an intriguing premise ripe with some potential. Unfortunately, I can’t say that potential was met and for a host of reasons. I’ll begin with the art, which while it had its moments (mostly in the underwater exteriors), was mostly muddy, undifferentiated, and acted in my experience at least as more hindrance to the narrative than complement. It was rare I felt grounded in either space or story thanks to the art.

LowThe story itself, meanwhile, has its own issues. One is pacing, with strange jumps (sometimes quite large) in time that often feel abrupt and disruptive (and not to intentional effect) and force the reader to take on faith changes (sometimes great changes) in character that would have been far better shown. For instance, over the span of four months, conveyed via a single line saying “four months later,” the son Marik is almost wholly transformed in personality and impact. It isn’t so much that I couldn’t buy that change; it’s just that I would have wanted to see it rather than have it happen off-stage. This is true for other characters as well. The other problem I had with the story is I never really had any sense of this world as a fully realized one with a concrete present and a solid past, and too many aspects were simply glossed over for me. The society felt like a prop in the story to drive plot and character, not an environment from which this plot and these characters would have organically grown. Perhaps if the plot had been exciting enough or the characters compelling enough, the sketchiness/hand-wavinesss of the world wouldn’t have been so noticeable, but that isn’t the case.

As for those characters, Stela’s optimism is too one-note and repeated/commented upon too often. I also have to say that the manner in which she is drawn — like a sexy 19-year-old at Ibiza was a constant distraction (not due to sexiness but due to the incongruity of it). And I really mean she looked like a 19-yr-old because there appeared to be little to no difference between her body and that of her teen daughter. And believe me, we see a lot of their bodies so as to be able to compare. Finally, she’s a relatively static main character. Perhaps she’ll show evidence of change going forward, but the Stela at the end of Volume 1 doesn’t appear all that different from the Stela at the start. Other characters don’t have much sense of personality, save for the bad guy who is pretty stock and also one-note. And while I don’t need my main character to be likable, it’s difficult to take an entire cast of unlikable characters; I seriously wouldn’t have bemoaned the death of any of these characters.

Between finding myself not particularly interested in either characters or events and having a difficult time simultaneously simply viewing the narrative via the artwork, Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope was overall not a great reading experience. Not recommended.

Published April 7, 2015. Image Comics. Millennia ago, mankind fled the earth’s surface into the bottomless depths of the darkest oceans. Shielded from a merciless sun’s scorching radiation, the human race tried to stave off certain extinction by sending robotic probes far into the galaxy to search for a new home among the stars. Generations later, one family is about to be torn apart in a conflict that will usher in the final race to save humanity from a world beyond hope. Dive into an aquatic fantasy like none you’ve ever seen before, as writer Rick Remender (Fear Agent, Uncanny Avengers) and artist Greg Tocchini (Last Days of American Crime) bring you a tale mankind’s final hour in the cold, deathly dark of the sea. Collects Low #1-6.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who’s been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the “Notable Essays” section of Best American Essays. His children’s work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he’s not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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