“The root of all principles begins with placing a single foot on the road to compromise.”
Seven to Eternity (Image Comics)
Back in the days when I’d dress up as a costumed crime-fighter called “The Cowboy,” the hero of Hub City, for all my nights of constant vigilance and listening to police scanners, I only ever actually saved one distressed damsel. The long and trying ordeal by which I achieved my one meaningful accomplishment earned me a genuine arch-nemesis, a veritable supervillain with a forked silver tongue and penchant for persuasion; a friend turned fiend, cut from the same cloth as Magneto or Dr. Doom. But as with any enemy worth his Masters of Evil membership card, I could never bring him up on charges that would stick, nor even rid the precinct I protected of his presence. But still, our climatic showdown had an air of finality, and following his defeat I’d found no evidence of further villainy from him. I retired from playing at superhero after that, writing about comic book characters instead of trying to be one, and never again crossed paths with my mortal adversary.
An opportunity presented itself which I could not pass up, and only after announcing my intentions was I informed such would place in propinquity the knave and me. Now I myself am a paragon of perfect pacifism – just days ago, while in my civilian guise intervening in an assault against two convenience store clerks, I held off the assailants but refused to strike them, not wishing for needless violence or to escalate the situation – but the same cannot be said of my old opponent; our proximity is a potential powder keg for violence. Even as I write this review my protégé is pleading with me to renege on my commitment so as to allow our antagonist a wide berth.
My sidekick and I are of the same difference of opinion as Zebadiah Osidis and his son Adam in the debut issue of Rick Remender’s modern fantasy epic, Seven to Eternity, respectively. Once upon a time, before the book begins, the elder Osidis had opposed Garils Sulm – “The Mud King” – who, as my own rival, is a beguiler, earning Sulm the moniker “God of Whispers.” But since that time, Zebadiah had uprooted the Osidis clan “back beyond the periphery of civilization… a thousand miles away from any two-legged creature.” Zebadiah is described by every character as a man of uncompromising conviction – and is shown as much as he dies fighting fiercely when at last the war he fled from finally finds him – but they must be peculiar principles indeed if he was willing to cede the world to one such as Sulm. After the old Mosak’s murder, Nival becomes the main proponent of his position: “It’s not our war,” she states. “There’s honor in retreating from a place you don’t belong.” I beg to differ.
While I certainly don’t condone assassination or any killing of non-combatants, I still sympathize more with the crusading Adam than the pilgrim Zebadiah. It seems to me that that first foot on the road to compromise and corrupting all convictions was taken not by Adam in his trek to Fengow, but rather by Zebadiah in his exodus to the Volkt Mountains. Adam, alternatively, knows there is no escape even in exile. When his family’s livestock are being targeted by a boar-like beast of behemoth proportions, Adam sets off with his daughter to kill the creature, forewarning Katie, “If she makes this grazing her pattern, we’ll never be free of her.” Likewise, Sulm has made all of Zhal his grazing grounds, and if he is not hunted down, Adam’s family will never be free. Not truly.
Of course, this same scene shows I’m wrong to side with Adam, at least by Remender’s reckoning. If the boar is an analogy for fighting Sulm, Adam is clearly making a mistake. The very first words of dialogue in the entire series are “The trick ain’t to hunt, but to lure. Let ‘er come to us.” As he says such he deliberately draws blood as part of the deception. Such is (more or less) the plot of the whole first issue, writ small. Whereas Adam thinks he’s hunting Sulm, the God of Whispers shed Zebadiah’s blood merely as a lure, a means of bringing the younger Osidis to himself. By the issue’s end, the Mud King has Osidis right where he wants him, a willing audience primed to entertain the adversary’s offer.
Jerome Opeña delivers perhaps his best work to date, channeling many of the visual motifs from his previous collaboration with Remender on Uncanny X-Force, particularly with respect to the character designs for the Final Four Horsemen and the diverse denizens of Zhal. His scenery takes strong cues from the French comics tradition, most notably that of Mœbius (in style as well as subject), but to a lesser extent from Giraud’s contemporary Philippe Druillet as well.
Despite my total philosophical opposition to its central message, Tokyo Ghost had been my most enjoyed comics from any creator in recent months. It’s fortuitous that its absence will not seem so severe, being replaced by another of Remender’s original properties so soon after. And while the world of Zhal is not quite so compelling as the Isles of Los Angeles, Adam Osidis is a far more relatable protagonist, especially as I set out – against the advice of my apprentice – to again come face-to-face with my own “god of whispers.” Such is the particular power of comic books – whether superhero stories, or science-fiction, or fantasy, or the strange fusion of all three here in Seven to Eternity – that they offer not so much an escape from the troubles of our real world, but the tools to armor ourselves in idealism and to forge from fiction heroism here in reality. In this respect, Remender’s works – no less than Morison or Moore’s – are among the best; and even among his catalog Seven to Eternity promises to stand out as something special.