Undertow #1 is a new Image comic book, written by Steve Orlando and with artwork entirely by Artyom Trakhanov. I was completely unaware what this comic was about before starting, so the entire story was a nice surprise to me. Set in an underwater world, it’s a fantastic and mystical story. Since humans have actually only explored less than 5% of the entire ocean, the plot of a whole new civilisation hiding beneath the waves is a great story hook.
The story starts in the midst of an underwater war without explanation, but due to the shock factor of the immediate violence it just makes you want to read more to discover what’s going on. The characters have very fantasy themed names and as such I found them quite difficult to remember between scenes, but the characters’ personalities on the other hand are rather memorable, due to their deeper human characteristics. For instance, there are leaders who feel empathy, compassion and guilt and are more than two dimensional characters. This leads me to expect good things from this comic, as they have really given themselves room to venture into real-world issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress, a side-effect of war on soldiers.
I’m not going to lie, there is an epic amount of gore splattered throughout this comic, between brains floating in the ocean and people getting slashed, it’s a pretty gruesome mix. Luckily, I like a bit of gore in my comics as it shows more of a real-life scenario rather than skirting around the edges, but it’s certainly not something I’d recommend to children!
The story is quite mesmerising and I’d love to see how it can progress. There is a lack of backstory within this first issue, but it has definitely piqued my curiosity and I’d love to read more. This is helped by the fact that it ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving you wondering what will happen to the characters. After just this issue I already felt myself growing attached to them, which speaks to the strength of the writing.
The artwork feels very transient, especially in any underwater scenes, with items in the distance taking on an almost misty haze and everything is tainted with the colour blue, which can make things harder to define. It really does give the feeling of being submerged. Each scene is set with its own colours, ranging from bright pink to the deep blues and greens of the ocean floor. The only issue that I have, is although it’s nice to see the artwork in its full glory, it would be nice to have a background on the caption boxes, as the white text can get a little difficult to read at times and I did struggle to read some of them without concentrating.
There are portions pieces of the art work which I found myself particularly drawn to. Such as the little circles which highlight certain sections, as the contrast of colours really draws your eye to the scenario and allows you to take in more of the drawing. This is something I was really fond of, as there’s occasionally things that you can miss in the background of comics.
In conclusion, I really liked this issue. If you’re looking for an underwater adventure with a promising story, and wouldn’t mind some gory moments, then this is the one for you. The artwork and the story really mesh well together, it makes for a very engaging read. I would definitely recommend this for your average comic book reader, but the lack of backstory might put off any beginners.