I wasn’t really keen on picking up this title when it was announced. At the time, Rick Remender had burned a lot of his goodwill with me with the relentlessly depressing “Low” and the unimaginative downward spiral of “Black Science.” Then he turned things around on “Black Science” and “Deadly Class” got even better, and now I’m checking out the first volume of his latest creator-owned series to see what flavor of Remender we get here.
This time it’s a familiar kind of disheartening with the hint of something that could’ve been better. We’re introduced to Adam Osidis, son of the disgraced Zebediah who failed to stop the rise of Garlis Slum, the titular “God of Whispers,” and was forced to retreat to a life of disgrace and ignominy in the countryside. Garlis isn’t one to forget a slight and after he sends one of his agents to take out Zebediah, he invites Adam to his capital so that he can hear Garlis’ offer and be won over to his side. This is because Garlis’ power comes from granting people their wishes, which allows him a place in their soul, and having the son of his longtime enemy in his power would really make the God of Whispers’ day.
To Remender’s credit, he at least manages to swerve away from my expectation that Adam would fully give in to Garlis’ temptation and become a villain who would need to be taken out by his own children. What we get in place of that isn’t all that much better, unfortunately. “Seven to Eternity” is actually going to be a lengthy road trip as Adam and six other characters with their own special powers haul Garlis across the land to a wizard that can disconnect his powers from his followers without killing them.
While the idea of a fantasy-based road trip certainly has its appeal, everything that follows suggests that the one here is going to be another familiar grind from Remender. Even though the Seven have found a way to contain Garlis’ power for the journey, it’s soon made clear that the man himself has power enough just by relying on his wits. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he’s actually enjoying the opportunity to slowly take out his captors and turn them against each other. Why else would he not run after encountering the perfect opportunity to do so in the final issue?
If the idea of seeing these characters suffer for an extended period of time sounds appealing to you, then you’re going to want to sign right up for “Seven to Eternity.” For me, it wasn’t depressing enough to convince me to stop reading after this volume. Maybe it’s because it didn’t quite reach the wrist-slitting depths of “Low” or it could be that I’ve developed an immunity against Remender’s familiar strategies. Though he wants us to consider Adam’s ongoing crisis of conscience after hearing Garlis’ offer of curing his illness as a real source of drama, I just can’t do it. There’s so much depressing stuff in the story already that I’m just ready to yell, “GIVE IN ALREADY AND GET IT OVER WITH!” at the character. Not that would really accomplish all that much, save for possibly making me feel better.
The most disappointing thing about the series is that I think it would’ve read a lot better if it had been told from Garlis’ point of view. Here’s a guy who clearly had his own (selfish) reasons for trying to take over the world and he succeeded. Now he’s at the mercy of this ragtag group of rebels and forced to rely only on his wits to survive. It’s the kind of struggle that I like to see in villains and a perspective that’s still fairly uncommon. Maybe I’ll be able to identify more with Garlis’ plight as the story goes on, even if it’s clear that Remender doesn’t really want us to.
Still, the series does look fantastic thanks to the art of Jerome Opena. He’s done excellent work at Marvel with Remender on “Uncanny X-Force” and Jonathan Hickman on “Avengers” and “Infinity” as the man has a great design sense that is great at making something alien look cool and conveying breakneck action. These things are true in “Seven to Eternity” as well with the artist really cutting loose when it comes to realizing the world of Zhal. Though the technology, animals, and landscapes may be rooted in the familiar, Opena invests them with a strangeness that makes them visually interesting. His character designs are also fascinatingly strange, best of all when he gives us a giant dinosaur with a crank-operated metal jaw that opens to reveal a transportation portal.
Right now my instinct is to wait for this series to wrap up, pick it up as cheap as I can, and then binge-read it to see if it’s just as much of a downer as this first volume portends. There is potential here, but I’m not optimistic that it’ll be realized given my experience with Remender’s creator-owned work so far. Those of you who like him when he’s going for something truly depressing will probably get more enjoyment out of what’s being offered here than I did.