By Steve Orlando, Artyom Trakhanov & Thomas Mauer
Undertow is a new series debuting from Image Comics this week by a couple of relatively new creators. This series is about an aquatic humanoid race that happen to be the tip of the evolutionary pyramid in this world. Atlantis is the sole governing society and their only real enemy is a fabled pirate rebel named Redum Anshargal. We follow a sheltered and privileged Atlantean named Ukinnu Alal, who is the only survivor of his battle unit, and is taken under the wing of Redum.
Going into Undertow without any preface proved to be a bit of a confusing read at first. After that first initial read, I checked the solicitation and then read the first issue again which helped immensely. The opening battle scene between the Atlantean army and Redum’s pirates was a bit of a mess making it hard to follow. War is never simple or clean but when using it to open your new series you might want to put a little more context into your fight scenes to make for a smoother read. After Ukinnu Alal decides to join Redum’s ranks there is a forward jump in time to them adventuring onto dry land find and study a creature called the “amphibian.” The reason for this is so they can discover the secret to living both on land and in the sea. That aspect of the story is actually pretty interesting and sounds fun but there are so many unnecessary fight scenes in this first issue that the overall plot gets lost in the shuffle. There is one other appealing concept they explain this issue: Redum’s ship, The Deliverer. A ship that can fly through the air and also submerge into the water, all while sustaining life on board for his aquatic crew. For Undertow’s first issue, this felt like too many ideas addressed without enough cohesive story to flow for an easy read.
Trakhanov’s art however is quite beautiful in both his designs and his colors. With an otherworldly series like Undertow, it’s nice to have an artist go above and beyond when it comes to his designs. From the looks of both the outside and the inner workings of Redum’s city-sized ship: The Deliverer, to the suits the pirates wear to explore dry land without dying, Trakhanov really wows with all of the Atlantean technology. From front to back, the art in Undertow is exquisite and makes the mildly discombobulated story much more palatable. If there was personally one complaint to be said about Undertow‘s art it would be that opening battle scene. It was really hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, other than the good guys seemed to be the ones dying. It’s a small complaint about an otherwise stunning looking issue.
Undertow feels like it has a lot of potential but just had a bumpy start in this first issue. Again, it’s that opening battle scene that personally felt confusing and unnecessary. They could have easily just opened with Ukinnu Alal already on board the Deliverer and addressed his past in a later issue after presenting the plot in a more solid way. In fact they could have left Alal out all together and focused more on Redum who is the most interesting character presented so far. Even if this debut issue was cluttered, it’s worth checking out just for the art. There is a feeling that as this series goes on the creators will settle into their own story. You feel plenty of heart in Undertow that can still be turned into a strong series, it just might take a couple more issues to get there.