*Naturally there are spoilers ahead*
There is something about Rick Remender that brings poignancy and clarity to his opening issues. I say this about Low issue seven, but this book represents the beginning of a new arc and with unseen characters and landscapes. This is effectively another issue one. Remender creates an unquenchable thirst in the reader that leaves desperation for more; this was certainly the case for Venom, Uncanny X-Force, Black Science and Deadly Class. His grip of human emotion and relationship dynamics and their environments is critical to his success, and this is extremely well demonstrated in this issue. However it is not the writing alone that lends to a desire for more. Greg Tocchini has a rather esoteric aesthetic that takes some getting used to. On initial inspection there is an exaggeration and a blurring of borders that bears the essence of the page without necessarily the clarity of it. (I discussed the cryptic nature of the cover to this issue here: http://wp.me/p2DUQc-1PB). After a few pages you are warped into his world and are fully initiated into his way of understanding. Surely that is the most essential quality of any successful artist?
From the opening page it is clear that larger panels are there to convey very specific messages, important to the comic. The half naked character is painting the cityscape from her window and is completely engrossed within it. The paint is splattered on the floor and it drips off the canvas and is more the centrepiece of the panel than the painter. Which is quite refreshing given that she is naked and that is not the aspect that is deemed important. Greg’s use of nudity is nothing short of natural and befitting of the mood of the page. As you move into the comic, the relevance of the act of painting is made abundantly clear as well as the restrictive society in which our characters reside. This provides further insight into what seemed to be an innocent opening panel. The simplicity of that scene is contrasted with the complexities of the cityscape and the undercover hideout of the printing press seen below.
The intricate detailing of the room and clothing almost engulfs the characters completely. This is where, at times, it is difficult to understand what is happening. As soon as the action hits Tocchini moves towards a letterbox panelling system where the close up comes into the foray. The desperation of the lit match envelops tension and fear to what happens next. The letterbox system then plays a new role in almost animating the gunshots that are fired as the characters scatter trying to escape. It is quite a moving experience as our gaze drifts downwards almost in slow motion as the bullets fire into the victims of murder. It is worth noting that the colouring of the book is awash with light pinks and blues throughout and deliberately offsets the rather fine inking and intricacies of the art. The are is certainly an avoidance of darkness, which would make the page quite murky and difficult to follow.
The latter third of the book is exemplary in combing the opening scenes and leads to a disastrous conclusion. The initial scene showed the petulance of the artist in pursuing her painting, despite her girlfriend being part of the Ministry of Thought. There is a apparent 1984 thought controlling system at play in this city and the two lovers are at opposite ends of the spectrum; the artist and the law enforcer. As the printing press is attacked by our policewoman, it becomes obvious that her partner is not following convention and their lives are endanger. There comes a moment where a decision has to be made and their romance can no longer continue, and it is here that Tocchini devotes the time and space to those deliberations.
As the blue haired woman recounts her rationale for art, her lover in blue slowly reaches for her gun. It is the complete freedom that the artist thinks she has, and her lack of fear that brings the shock in seeing the gun reach the back of her head. It is an argument of ideologies that will only lead to one conclusion but the tortured tussle is so gritty and fervent that you will it to end in peace, especially when you see the following panel. If you removed the blood and firearm the scene may have been a passionate embrace as opposed to passionate violence.
Remender is very purposeful in not using any of these two characters names. This is issue seven and one of these characters is the twin sister of Tajo, and given the crazed family dynamic of the father, mother and brother, we are completely clueless to which of them is Della. So as we watch them fight, a decision is made for one of these characters to be the twin sister, and as much as they are diametrically opposed in love, they could either be like their mother or like their sister. The following pages will dictate our feelings towards the next family member and how far they have travelled from the once happy family seen in issue one. Secretly I think we all want Della to be like her mother because she is warm, loving and determined like the artist, and not akin to the sister; brainwashed, sadistic and cowardly like the law enforcer.
From the following page, we instantly know that Della has become a victim of the state and indoctrinated to the point where she murders her lover. She is not completely callous or unemotional as her actions are wavering and decisions unsettled. Della allows time for the artist to change her mind and avoid the inevitable but sadly she has to kill her. She is probably more like her mother than we give credit for, especially as Greg expertly demonstrates her remorse and regret as she comes home, bloodied and broken. The final page is testament to the emotional embodiment of the artwork as Della showers, she crumbles into a heap leaving the water droplets splashing and the blood dripping towards the drain shaped into the words Low.
It does not get much better than this in the world of comics. To have a writer so on form in developing his characters, creating a new landscape and then delicately revealing a surprise that affects the dynamic of the whole comic. To have by his side, an artist that bears an ethereal quality to that world but also able to deliver the intensity of love and violence simultaneously. This is a true gift to every reader out there and to the art form itself and is one to be savoured for a long time to come.