Image Comics series is set thousands of years in the future as mankind seeks hope amid despair.
Don't look up to the stars for the next great sci-fi adventure. It may just be down below in the deepest recesses of the ocean.
Writer Rick Remender and artist Greg Tocchini create a sea-faring universe far into the future for Low, which mines the "bubble-helmeted science-fiction fun stuff" Remender likes to dig into for visuals with a balance of European Heavy Metal style and Tocchini's expansive, alien-like aquatic landscapes.
"There's really something satisfying and aesthetically pleasing seeing characters in these crazy super future suits with 20-foot-long fins as they're swimming through the oceans surrounded by colorful fish and other life down there," says Remender, who also worked with Tocchini on The Last Days of American Crime.
"The ocean acts as space in that you still can't go out into it without a space suit. It's interesting the similarities between them."
Low puts the Caine family at the center of the drama in Salus, one of the last domed cities still around since being dumped into the drink some 30,000 years or so ago. Because the sun was rapidly expanding quicker than anyone anticipated different nations created municipalities that they would sink to the bottom of the ocean while probes scouted scope for a new, habitable world.
Lots of time has passed, radiation from the sun is getting closer and no one has any idea what's even up on the surface. What Stel Caine and her family know, however, is that they have to do something quick: The 2 million residents of Salus are facing their city falling apart and the air growing stagnant and full of sickness.
Not exactly lighthearted fare. But the story he begins in Low No. 1 (out now) will become "a metaphor for life," Remender admits. "What we face and what we're up against, all of our various problems and things we face as human beings can seen insurmountable and terrible to different degrees, but that optimism and that disposition we bring to it can really affect change."
The most positive of the characters in that vein is Stel. An eternal optimist in the face of crushing despair, she believes that people can inform the reality around them with their perspective, Remender says. "There is just no reason to have hope but she does."
There are a lot of people counting on her, he adds, and by the while the situation in Salus gets worse quickly, readers will start to get a better idea of what she's made of and "by issue 2 we get a look at her tenacity and bend against the currents of doom and gloom."
Another main character is her son Marik, who starts off similarly to his mother yet is ultimately a countermeasure and a physical representation of the thing she is trying to rally and fight against.
Their choices define not only who they are and how they see things but also what the world gives them back — "the universe's response to their attitude basically, if I can go deeply hippie and new age," says Remender, adding that Stel's daughters Della and Tajo also become focal points during the series.
The Caines' Helm Suit, a tricked-out, armored piece of old technology, plays an integral role as well. These weapons were created thousands of years ago when mankind still had the scientific and production means before the world went really south. The protective suits can only be activated by those with a specific DNA to insure a family's bloodline, but the Caines have used theirs to hunt and provide for Salus.
Most of the Helm Suits and their pilots were taken out, however, by large bands of pirates. Mainly comprised of refugees not allowed in the few cities that are left, these pirates travel the ocean in submarines and ships pillaging what they can and are even rumored to have a mythical city of their own.
Two civilizations definitely exist, however, and in addition to Salus, Remender teases that readers will be introduced to a second city created by another nation that has very different politics, design and aesthetic.
Both underwater domains come alive when a race to the surface arises when one of the space probes returns. While most of the people on Salus see no reason to waste the rest of their lives to hunt down the probe in a scorched and irradiated landscape that used to be humans' home, Stel and a number of other characters make the journey to locate a potential solution to saving mankind.
While series such as Fear Agent was more of "me leaning into my depressive nature," Remender says, Stel has forced the writer to focus on his optimistic side.
"People probably need more to read about a hopeful character who endeavors to struggle against incredible odds. That uplifting story always seemed kind of trite to me, but as I get older, I see that it's not."