You don’t hear too often about detectives investigating narcotics in a fantasy world, but The Low City, written by Walter ‘Neal’ Nealing and illustrated by Ariana Orner, has got the goods.
InThe Low City, we are treated to a unique and intriguing genre crossover that has the makings of a thrilling saga in a vibrant and interesting setting.
Are you ready to find out more about this indie comic?
The Story Thus Far
We are immediately thrust into this fantasy world in an odd way: via police report from a detective named D.C, who is investigating with her intern, Kail. So far, the plot seems to be developing into a magic-based mystery, complete with thrilling chases and criminal intrigue.
D.C. and Kail have a pretty typical “gruff-but-kind mentor and naive, but well-meaning, rookie” dynamic; I’m interested in seeing the characters develop beyond these archetypes, but it works for now.
One interesting aspect of the story is the lore, as it lays out the hierarchy and functionality of the society, and how magic affects the law, crime, and social status throughout the comic. There are also off-hand references to aspects of the world that are not fully explored, which adds to the sense of a complete, living world.
And we’re just in the introductory phase. It’s very tantalizing, and leaves me excited to get the full scope of what exactly is going on in The Low City. The world is a mix of a medieval fantasy with some modern twists thrown in. I have to say I’m not completely sold on this mix, as it feels a little random and superficial in places, rather than an integration between old and new.
Most everything fits into your typical fantasy setting, with a few glaring exceptions; I wish these were integrated more deeply to really emphasize the unique concept of the world. As of right now, there are a few objects, settings, and one outfit(!) that feel out of place, and that can break the spell of immersion.
There is a lot that is impressive about the art in The Low City. On the technical level, Orner is extremely skilled in her rendering of characters and architecture. The characters are all highly individualized and lovingly crafted. The variety in their features and outfits creates a fun, diverse atmosphere befitting a city.
There is also great care taken to attend to small details like hair and fabric that makes each character striking and dynamic. The artist’s style straddles the line between loose and pristine, but it works.
The visual aesthetic of the comic is overall pleasing to look at. The color schemes, for example, are functional – though they could be bolder. The environments, similarly to the characters, can be beautifully rendered, especially in the wide scope of establishing shots.
There is a lot of complex architecture and designs too that are fun to look at, and this is definitely another testament to Orner’s rendering ability. The visuals are for the most part really good, but there are a few elements that keep them from being beyond reproach.
Looking for the Dirt
My critique in terms of the art deals with the inconsistent attention to detail in the backgrounds. In a lot of the panels, the characters just don’t seem to be integrated into the world in which the events of The Low City should be taking place.
There are few, if any background characters in many of the scenes throughout the city, save for specific “crowd scenes,” or when the narrative specifically calls for them. The same is true for objects and clutter in the background. A lot of elements are a bit too neat and organized; a little visual clutter would go a long way for immersion.
I also noticed a feeling of sparsity in the rendering of a few backgrounds. For example, some walls have texture, and some don’t. Oversimplification isn’t a big deal on it’s own, but feels incongruous with beautifully rendered characters and environments in other panels.
There is sometimes a lack of backgrounds entirely, which makes sense in some instances; in others, there is a glaring amount of empty space. Indications of more background elements, or the use of more dynamic shots, would help to bring less attention to the empty space. That way, when space and simplification are used as a visual narrative element, it will hold weight.
What’s the Verdict?
The Low City has a lot of elements going for it. With the art, there are plenty of truly engaging environments, and the characters are always finely crafted; the only room for improvement is in consistency in background prominence and detail.
The story is off to a good start, with some criminal intrigue, and the lore thus far builds a good foundation for a unique world; it will be exciting to see the complexities in the plot, characters, and relationships develop.
If you’re interested in the magic of a buddy-cop adventure with a unique fantasy twist, it would be a crime to not take a look at The Low City. You can find the first issue, for free, on the project’s official website here!