Stel Caine has hit bottom. Her only son, Marik, is dead, slain in a gladiatorial match. The slave revolt inspired by that match has left Stel on the run in a broken down submersible with two other gladiators. Stel still has no idea of the whereabouts of her daughters, Della and Tajo. Her hope of reaching the surface and discovering the intergalactic probe which could hold the key to the survival of the human race dims by the day. As Stel and her companions desperately search for supplies among the ruins of ancient cities, they must contend not only with other creatures lurking in the deep, but also with a lingering sense that their mission may be for naught.
Low, Volume 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us picks up soon after the events of the first volume. Not only do we follow the troubles of Stel Caine and her compatriots, but we also get to see what happened to Stel’s daughter, Della. Della has become a Minister of Thought in another underwater metropolis, the city of Voldin. Della is responsible for seeking out and punishing those responsible for spreading any message of hope—inspiring artwork, revolutionary literature, or any other expression of optimism. The government of Voldin believes that hope is heresy, and Della, despite some lingering reservation, takes her role seriously.
The contrast between the philosophies of Della and Stel take center-stage in Low, Volume 2, as the story weaves back and forth between mother and daughter. The issues collected here take on a slower pace than the first volume; much more time is given to exploring the ramifications of the decisions made by these two women, including some flashbacks, as they navigate their circumstances. While Della has become the very embodiment of oppression that Stel struggles to overcome, Stel must reach down deep to summon the will to continue her quest against all odds.
While the artwork by Greg Tocchini continues to completely surpass expectations, the slower pace of the plot in these issues might lead to confusion for some readers. The flashbacks and jumps between different characters’ perspectives can make it difficult to follow the overarching story. Even the artwork, as surreal and vibrant as it is, doesn’t lend itself to easily identifying characters, as its dream-like quality can sometimes render faces hard to distinguish. I don’t believe this poses a problem for those dedicated to the outcome of this amazing comic, but it may be enough to drive away those who were looking for more casual entertainment. The ideas and story presented in this series make it sci-fi experience much like Dune, and combined with the otherworldly artwork, Low can be a rich yet challenging experience. Ultimately, I believe the artistic choices in the story are intentional, and for me, they work. Hopefully, Low will continue to deliver its high quality storytelling in this complex tale moving forward. The next collected edition should be arriving in September of 2016.
This series represents an incredibly mature, thoughtful, and complex philosophical work on par with classic prose science fiction. Author Rick Remender is quickly becoming, in my mind, one of the great sci-fi writers of this generation, and Low is well worth the price of admission.
Low, vol 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us
by Rick Remender
Art by Greg Tocchini