Thursday, 20 February 2014

New Beginnings - Undertow #1

Atlantis is a place which has been written about often. Fictional or not, Atlantis has been a place of interest to many. Image are now revisiting a new vision of how things could have been with Steve Orlando at the helm.

Undertow is set in our past with what could be considered an alien race of water-breathing humanoids. Life is comparable to our standards on some levels, which makes the opening narrative of a young man born and bred into privilege quite relatable, but it is only a short precursor to the story. As a way to strike out and break away from the social norms expected of him, he enlists into military service. A way to see new places and people that hadn’t been vetted by his parents, but also a way that thrust him into harms way. Into the sight of Redum Anshargal, a person who supposedly didn’t exist.

Redum has been built up to be somewhat of an urban myth, an individual who brings fear to the hearts of Atlanteans for being a rebel or to some degree a terrorist. But is this really the case? The story follows how Redum is more of a scientist than a warrior, searching for the next step that allows his species to walk the Earth without the need for a water breathing suit. Along the way, they observe early man first starting to become organised, as they hunt for an amphibian that could potentially unlock the key to the next step in their evolution. 

Visually the comic’s cover immediately struck me as having similarities to Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's “The Wake” with dark, detailed imagery and contrasting colours. Inside this is carried over further, but it also had me thinking of other titles like Jeff Lemire’s Trillium, although that is admittedly due to the face shapes and types that artist Artyom Trakhanov has used for the characters. Having to imagine a reversed world where in water is the natural state can’t be easy but Trakhanov has managed it. His is quite a heavy style, though I did start to find it got quite tough on the eye especially with such a dim palette used for the colouring, but it does give a certain sense of gravity to it all. This isn’t a jovial light-hearted comic and the main characters have differing levels of sombreness, so the dialogue and depictions work together well.

As a story I found this issue a bit slow as it took two thirds of the book to get to the actual main target. This is more about the history of the team and getting them established as a unit in the reader's mind. The amount of time spent on just a couple of the characters did seem a little unbalanced, but they did go on to be the main focus for this issue.

This is quite a brave piece in my mind as there are a lot of similarities and potential nods to other titles. It also is set in a time period which gives quite a free rein to the creative team. As such I think this could be a bit of a Marmite title, which those who love vehemently love and those who don’t, really don’t.

Matt Puddy now understands why people were raving about Cabin In The Woods - great film!

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