Review - Undertow #1

"Ukinnu Alal. You can die right here, or you can be reborn."

Happenings under the sea are largely a mystery. There may be a lot more answers if Atlantis was currently a place you could visit relatively easily, as it would give us insights into one of the most storied civilizations in history. Were you to visit in Undertow #1 from Image Comics though, you'd be greeted by a city aware of its importance and, consequently, prideful of that fact. The issue is written by Steve Orlando, illustrated by Artyom Trakhanov and lettered by Thomas Mauer.

Atlantis is the world superpower and Redum Anshargal is its worst enemy. If you want to break free of the system, he can offer you a place at his side, exploring the wild surface world in his watertight city barge The Deliverer. He and his hostage-protege Ukinnu Alal hunt the Amphibian, a legend that could be the key to an air-breathing life on land. But as they become the hunted, can Anshargal's team survive long enough to turn the tables on the godlike beast they set out for?

Atlantis has certainly had its own fair share of attention throughout history, yet Orlando is presenting a side of it that's a lot more political. In Undertow Atlantis has succumbed to the hubris that comes with being the world superpower and Orlando really plays up that fact, especially since it gives rise to Redum. It's quite an interesting take on the legendary city and Orlando goes to great lengths to emphasize their pride, relying on scenes that juxtapose their advance culture with the more primitive humans just learning about sticks and stones as tools. Orlando throws a lot at the reader in the first issue, requiring their undivided attention for what is shaping up to be a very intricate universe rife with politics and fighting.

Trakhanov's art is very heavy. It plays up the notion that the majority of the action is underwater, further underscored by the dark tone of the colors. There are some panels where the characters appear a little muddled, which requires the reader take an extra close look in order to discern who (or what) is the focus of the panel. There's definitely a Bernie Wrightson quality to the art in some respects and Trakhanov really establishes the citizens of Atlantis as beasts of the deep. Redum especially gets a lot of attention and is illustrated as a fierce, intimidating warrior hellbent on taking what he feels is rightfully his. Standard panel layouts fill the pages, leaving little room for deviating and offering more creative layouts.

Undertow #1 is extremely ambitious and Orlando seems to be aware of that. He's stuffing the first issue will manner of characters, plots and themes, with the hope that they will all come together to tell a grander story. That's not to say he won't accomplish that, but it is a very daunting task ahead of him. Still, Undertow #1 offers an interesting look at Atlantis and there are obvious comparisons to many of the world's current superpowers, accented finely by Trakhanov's art. It's a very dense issue and looks to be the start of an even denser story, but could be well worth your time.

Undertow #1 is in stores now with interiors below.