“I’m writing this down. People should know how I got here and how my hands got so dirty.” And with these words written by the relatively unknown (to me) but uber talented Steve Orlando begins Undertow from Image Comics. A fascinating reimagination of the infamous lost city, however in this story Atlantis is far from missing and happens to be the most powerful nation in this world. The subaqueous life here has all the familiar key elements any society might have with homes, schools, businesses, government and a military.
Enter Ukinnu Alal, our protagonist and narrator. Alal comes from a powerful family and has lived a privileged yet unsatisfying life, which prompts him to join the Atlantean military. Still not satisfied and unable to escape the corruption of a fascist government, by some act of providence he is captured and recruited by Redum Anshargal. Anshargal is regarded by Atlantis as a criminal, a dictator like terrorist leading a band of gorillas in a mutinous rebellion that threatens those in power.
Alal finds common ground with Anshargal as he discovers that they share some political and ideological beliefs, both wanting the personal freedoms that come with a democratic civilization. Also important to the controversial leader is scientific exploration, specifically above the surface on land as he and his team search for an amphibian that may hold the secret to a life above water.
Undertow is a wild multilayered underwater sci-fi adventure that immediately engulfs us in a world full of conflict and uncertainty. It includes the aforementioned science fiction element along with some fantasy and a strong political component. It is also, thanks to Artyom Trakhanov is one of the most beautiful books I have seen. His cover with Anshargal raising his fist above the water symbolizes a common yet strong political message of solidarity and resistance and is reminiscent of the 1968 Olympics. The book is also complimented well by letterer and designer Thomas Mauer. When the narration transfers from Alal over to Anshargal, Mauer changes the narration text from white to black, a practice that is sometimes unappreciated and taken for granted by some readers. A strong first issue for this talented creative team and yet another fine series from Image Comics.
You can purchase the first issue right here from Image.