Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Jerome Opena & Matt Hollingsworth
Publisher: Image Comics
Rick Remender has made his name writing high concept comics. Fear Agent, Black Science, Low, Tokyo Ghost – each is as an exploration of the science fiction genre, and every time, he finds some new avenue through which to approach it. With Seven to Eternity, there’s certainly a bit of deviation. Of course, Remender has worked outside of science fiction before, one need look no further than the exceptional Deadly Class for proof of this. But with his high concept books, he’s always seemed to go back to sci-fi. To be fair, Seven to Eternity #1 certainly has some sci-fi elements, but its basis seems to be inspired more by fantasy than and classic mythology than anywhere else.
It’s a welcome change of pace, not only for the writer, but also for the comics I’m reading. This is probably personal more than anything, but there’s certainly been a drought of fantasy and fantasy-inspired comics of late. Yes, I Hate Fairyland exists, but that’s more of a comedy than anything else. The only true fantasy comic that comes to my mind (that I’m currently reading) is Autumnlands. Fortunately, I get the feeling that that is about to change.
At the risk of sounding rather shallow, the debut issue of Seven to Eternity is really fucking cool. Honestly, I was going to be giving this book a chance regardless, simply because of how much Remender has impressed me over the past few years. But man, after the action sequence about halfway through this issue, I need no more convincing. Funnily enough, it wasn’t even Remender that did the convincing – it was Jerome Opena and Matt Hollingsworth. It’s not like I haven’t seen their work before, in fact, I think they’re both exceptionally talented. But their work in this issue feels like it’s on a tier apart from everything they’ve done before.
There’s a sense of scale to this book that is enabled entirely by Opena. The first time we see one of the celestial beings (I’m not really sure what else to call them) is absolutely breathtaking. I had to just take a minute to lean back and admire the page. I would attempt to describe it, but I don’t feel my words could do it justice – and clearly, neither did Remender, because the dialogue in this sequence is sparse. In fact, I would like to see these pages with the text boxes removed entirely – I have no doubt that the art on its own would be just as effective as it is with the bits of dialogue that are peppered throughout. While this particular scene is certainly the most awe-inspiring, it’s by no means the end of absolutely stunning pages in this book.
In fact, not a single page in this issue failed to make me want to pore over it, and analyze the visuals. I mean, usually in my reviews I’ll mumble about how the art is used to sell the characters, but it feels like so much more in this issue. The whole affair has an incredibly strong aesthetic, and there are some wider establishing shots that are absolutely gorgeous. And despite being kind of dystopian in nature, Hollingsworth actually makes the color pallet interesting. Sure, the book has its fair share of tans and grays, but they’re contrast against neon blues and and vibrant purple skies.
I do feel that I’m perhaps underselling Remender’s writing a little bit here. I opened on a bit about his penchant for high concept stories, but what I didn’t mention is that he’s always had an ability to make them feel deeply personal. By keeping the scope relatively small, he does the same with Seven to Eternity. The issue focuses its lens on a single family, and even more specifically, a single character. Now, this family is exceptional in this world, in the sense that they’re somewhat divorced from it and have historical significance. Even then, this is a very personal story, and one that I can’t imagine is going to end well.
The entire first half (three quarters, maybe?) is devoted to introducing the characters. And while the propose opening feels a little bit heavy on the exposition, the character dynamics ultimately feel very natural. Are they a bit archetypal? Definitely, but there seems to be enough nuance to them that there’s not an over-reliance on it. It’s also worth mentioning that Remender is a writer that’s very good at playing with archetypes, and subverting expectations as to how stories will end. Deadly Class is a particularly brutal example of this, although I guess I should save my inevitable love fest for that book when it comes back next week. My point here is that there’s a lot of room for these characters to grow, and I have complete faith in Remender’s ability to keep them interesting.
While I do like all of the human characters, the most immediately interesting bits of development in this issue are those that go towards fleshing out the world. Debut issues have a lot to shoulder, and in addition to establishing the plot and characters, this issue spends a lot of time on world building. Probably more time than anything else, in fact. This comes in a variety of fashions – pieces of dialogue, exposition, and visuals – and is handled incredibly well across the board. Actually, this is one of the few reviews in which the word “exposition” doesn’t come with a negative connotation. It feels natural, for the most part, and it all manages to be rather interesting.
Look, I know that this is a really strong week for comics, and there’s a lot to check out. I mean, that’s pretty true of every week these days, thanks to the variety offered by most publishers. But I implore you: give Seven to Eternity a shot. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I find it hard not to recommend this issue on the basis of its visuals alone. I really liked this as a debut issue, and have no doubts that this is a series that will go anywhere but up in terms of quality. After reading this issue multiple times, I’m just left really excited for more.