After hearing great things about Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña’s newest collaboration, I was excited to get into the first volume of Seven to Eternity. Volume one an engrossing and beautiful whirlwind tour of their new fantasy world teeming with life and potential. It’s a bit intimidating at first, but if you can manage to keep up, I think you’ll be dying for more.
Seven To Eternity Vol. 1 (Image Comics)
A brief prose prologue introduces some background and a few key players before the main story really kicks off. There’s Garlis Sulm, the God of Whispers, an evil magician of sorts who has taken over most of the world of Zhal. One of the few holdouts against Sulm’s rule is Zebadiah Osidis, an outcast living with his family on the fringe of society.
Picking up years after the prologue, the book focuses on Zebadiah’s son Adam. Tired of running, and finally fed up with the God of Whispers’ campaign against his family, Adam decides he is going to take the fight to the man himself. That ends up being a much harder, and longer, journey than he initially expected.
There are a lot of things going on in this book, and after four issues, I’m on board. There’s the Osidis family life on the frontier, struggling to survive, feels a bit like a classic Western. Then there is a medieval feel with the almost knight-like order of warriors called the Mozak. Except the Mozak also have a variety of special powers, kind of like superheroes. The God of Whispers has his own magic lieutenants too, one of whom does terrible things with a flute. Throw in a gun with magic bullets (called a hammer and nails in this world), a gypsy wagon carrying an important package, and a dinosaur with a teleportation portal for a mouth, and it’s hard not to get sucked into the high-concept world Remender and Opeña are creating. One reason all these things work, I think, is because Remender doesn’t stop to explain anything, so the reader is a bit spellbound. The other reason is that Remender hangs all of these elements on a pretty simple plot: deliver the very important package.
Under all the fantasy trappings are some core themes that help ground the book. The question of principles, and when to bend, is constantly on Adam’s mind, as his father’s unwillingness to compromise is largely responsible for his family’s current state. At what point do you stop fighting fights based solely on principle? It’s a struggle many people can relate to, especially when Adam is tempted by an easy solution. The God of Whispers’ abilities to subtly control people, to pull their strings and spread lies, leads to some interesting questions about power and the concept of truth. I can’t help but see some parallels to the currently political landscape.
Bringing all these ideas to life are Jerome Opeña’s pencils and Matt Hollingsworth’s colors, and they do an incredible job. Opeña’s style helps make the world of Zhal feel so real. From the peaceful Osidis camp far in the mountains to the frantic, corrupt city of Fengow, every single panel is full of detail. I took significantly longer to read this book just to make sure I fully appreciated how fully thought out and designed everything is. There are no blurry backgrounds or rough-sketched characters, regardless of the panel angle. It is quite impressive. Hollingsworth brings the art home with his muted colors. This is a drab, serious story, and his colors perfectly set that tone, but are still full of life. Later in the book, when more magical elements come in, the vibrant colors contrast beautifully with the hopeless world. Finally, the few full pages and splash pages are a device Opeña uses sparingly, but when he does, they’re jaw-dropping and make the world feel huge.
As I think about this book, I can’t help but compare it to Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. In my opinion, I think this book is at or near the same level of excellence. Both stories throw readers into large, complex, actually living worlds. Both stories are about family and responsibility and sacrifice. Most importantly, both stories have fantastic ideas and art that are grounded by relatable themes and characters. And like Saga, I heartily recommend you surrender to two excellent creators and read this book.