If SEVEN TO ETERNITY fell under your radar, don’t worry. With the vast breadth of comic book stories, the hardest question to ask yourself is where to start. While Marvel and DC Comics dominate the different realms of entertainment, they only represent a fraction of the amazing work done in the medium. Marvel and DC may hold the biggest names in the industry, and to be clear, their influence has been substantial. However, 1992 signaled a change. Writers and artists grew tired of the big publishers owning the rights to their characters and stories. Many of the biggest names in the industry, including Jim Lee and Todd MacFarlane, broke out of these corporate restraints to start Image Comics. Twenty-five years later, and the creator-owned market has boomed.

Even passionate DC or Marvel writers turn to Image and similar companies to express their own creative passions, writers like UNCANNY X-FORCE’s Rick Remender. In September 2016, Remender teamed with artist Jerome Opena to begin work on a western-fueled, high fantasy adventure comic set in the land of Zhal. For the last five issues, SEVEN TO ETERNITY has roped me into a deep plot mirroring the many fantasy epics I grew up with. With the recent release of its first collected trade, you have an opportunity to dig into the first five issues of the series without interruption, in preparation for issue #6’s release on May 24. Hopefully, this article can convince you to give SEVEN TO ETERNITY a chance, especially if you are trying to find a footing in the vast and unique world of comic books.

The Bleak Land of Zhal

Seven To Eternity
Image Courtesy of Image Comics

How do I best describe the overall world and genre of Zhal, the setting of SEVEN TO ETERNITY? It’s hard to pin down. The overarching story of Zhal is high fantasy. Remender fills it with touches of magic, strangely beautiful creatures, and a grand quest in exotic locales. An evil tyrannical king known as Garlis, or the Mud King, has taken the land with his magical gifts, and magical warriors known as the Mosak aim to end his rule.

READ: Learn more about Image’s array of creator owned titles and 25 of ComicsVerse’s recommendations!

While epic fantasy does inspire SEVEN TO ETERNITY, the other influences break several of the conventions that make fantasy… fantasy. There is this strong narrative drive throughout the story that mirrors American Frontier Westerns. The protagonist, Adam Osidis, is the only hero to carry a rifle (through which he harnesses his magic). Furthermore, the land of Zhal seems to blend the very affluent lands of typical fantasy with very wild, frontier landscapes. Adam lives in an old farmhouse on the prairie, and a covered-wagon battle on a cliff cements this story’s frontier air.

The biggest departure draws from the superhero genre. As mentioned, the Mosak are magical warriors. However, there is a lot of influence from stories like X-MEN. Each mage can only access one mystical ability. A large reptile named Drawbridge can use his mouth as a portal to another dimension. Adam Osidis carries a set of Nails, which are bullets carrying the blood of other Mosak. The Nails allow him to temporarily access different abilities. Each Mosak is completely unique, but the general populace fear them. They garner no respect because their powers stem from the same place as Garlis’ abilities.

The Mud King’s Army

Seven To ETernity
Image Courtesy of Image Comics

Despite being such a deep cultural phenomena, LORD OF THE RINGS has one major downfall: Sauron. The great, fiery eye in the sky is not a character but an overarching and destructive force. While the people fear this grand, demonic force, his armies do his work. He does not have potential because he never appears on screen. Even Saruman falls into the undermotivated villain camp, simply wanting to take over the world.

While Garlis’ motivations themselves aren’t new, he is saved by one of the best personalities in comics. The Mud King has a demeanor very similar to Marvel’s Loki. He is manipulative, visibly rotten but more than capable of pulling people’s strings. A former Mosak, Garlis’ power binds himself to others through deals. By hearing his offer, people have their souls bonded to the king’s. This binding puts them under his psychic control, no matter where he is. Garlis prefers to use his bonds to spy, and he blackmails his servants to follow him. If they do not pay heed, he sends his son, the one-man army known as the Piper.

LISTEN: ComicsVerse interviews Rick Remender about his work on UNCANNY X-FORCE; hear about his views on violence in comic books and themes of family.

Garlis’ motivation barely breaks free from the “take over the world” cliches. In many ways, he is much like Magneto if the X-MEN villain had indeed won. Garlis feels that his gifts make him wholly entitled to rule. While that doesn’t save his character, Remender’s writing of the villain is fascinating. Garlis is always talking, and even when he is cut off from his abilities, he is trying to bargain. He is the high fantasy villain that most stories in that genre deserve but don’t receive.

The Heroes (?)

Seven To Eternity
Image Courtesy of Image Comics

SEVEN TO ETERNITY works so well because none of the characters are pristine. Fantasy stories usually focus on the immaculate hero. Frodo Baggins wanted little more than to get fat and die happy. Luke Skywalker sought adventure, but who in the history of ever is that optimistic? This trope drives fantasy stories. I have no issue with this foible. Many of the stories I enjoy have uniquely perfect heroes.

However, SEVEN TO ETERNITY acknowledges the strengths of complex heroes. Adam Osidis alone has enough uncertainty to make this quest compelling. Though a foil for the reader, Adam is dying. Garlis is his only option, and the Mosak save Adam while he is making a bargain. They see Adam at his worst, and then fate forces them on the road to imprison Garlis. This imprisonment thread is unique. Killing Garlis kills everyone bonded to him. The Mosak are all trained killers, and each is driven to kill Garlis. For example, Patchwork only survived Garlis’ murder of her family because her Mosak gift activated. The pixie-winged empath Jevalia was once Garlis’ aid. Another unnamed Mosak warrior was one of Garlis’ generals and his first corrupted soul.

Read: Explore Rick Remender’s other work. Follow the students of a school for assassins in DEADLY CLASS!

Beneath all of this is Adam’s enmity toward the Mosak. When he was young, Adam watched his brother die. The Mosak could have saved him, but they turned Adam’s father, Zebediah, away. He was formerly Mosak, but Garlis convinced the masses that Zeb aided the tyrant’s rise. Zeb was cast out, and Adam grew up hating them for killing his brother. Remender uses this building tension to drive his characters into worse and worse situations, and their reactions cement their complex humanity.

Seven to Eternity, Forever Forward

Seven To Eternity
Image Courtesy of Image Comics

To discuss all of these story details ignores the simply incredible artwork produced by Jerome Opena for this series. Quite sincerely, Opena is one of the most haunting, beautiful and detailed artists working in the medium. As Rick Remender says in issue #2, “I work very hard to try and construct an engaging story, but… the artist is the person who is going to spend the most amount of time realizing the script.”

This partnership involves a great amount of give-and-take. The story told through the art proves to be some of the best I have seen in recent years. However, there are so many more reasons for you to pick up this story. At the very heart, this story is about family. It is about the lengths one will go to give them a better life. Adam succeeds as a character because family grounds his whole self. His quest, his visit to the Mud King, even his Mosak ability are grounded in family.

Obviously, I deeply enjoy this story, and with more issues on the way in the coming months, I don’t have long to wait for the continuation of Adam Osidis’ journey. I do, however, ask that you stop by your local comic shop and pick up issue #1 or volume 1 of SEVEN TO ETERNITY. If you were ever a fan of fantasy adventure, this story might be just what you need for a quiet, evening read.

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