This issue, out this week from Image Comics, sees the return of Jerome Opeña. And, Opeña takes very little time to get back into his stride and once more develop a magical world of familiar and fantastic architecture, cities and vistas. I’d buy the book simply for the artwork, but I’d soon stay for the unfolding, thought-provoking scripts courtesy of Rick Remender.
He offers up an issue, and finale to this current story-arc, in which we pause to listen in to Adam and his traveling companion, The Mud King, as they journey through the majestic, Arabesque city in the sky and we get to hear more from the ‘God of Whispers’ and about his transformation into the despot we were introduced to in the first story-arc of this critically acclaimed series.
It’s a fascinating, philosophical issue as a result of this prolonged conversation between Garlis and Adam, and one worth contemplating beyond the book, too. We learn more about The Mud King’s past and how, through reading others’ thoughts, he saw the world for what it really is. A world were, ‘No-one is a good person‘ and in which, or so The Mud King claims, he has ‘saved more lives than (he has) taken.’ The lines between what we perceive as ‘good’ and as ‘bad’ seem to be shifting and, I feel, we are almost expected to feel some sympathy with this self-made tyrant, born ‘base of stock’ (Doctor Faustus).
It’s an interesting dialogue, albeit it rather one-sided. And, given Garlis’s knack for persuasive speech, one has to keep a healthy, subjective distance, or else be dragged into his schemes. And, this is exactly the position Adam now finds himself in, having his interest already piqued thanks to the revelation of a Holy Grail-like elixir which will restore his health. No subjective perspective for him, I fear. What are heroes, really? Do they fight for freedom, or for ego and self-gratification, even if it’s subconsciously? Who’s to say we fight for the right side, the right dream? After all, isn’t Adam selfishly giving into the promise of salvation for himself, and not for the sake of this surviving family? And, in doing so, will he become the villain he is prophesied to become? Its all a bit topsy-turvy, to say the least, but makes for compelling, thought-provoking reading.
It’s a conversation within the context of Zhal, the magical, science-fi world of Seven To Eternity, but the discussion offered here by Rick Remender is a much wider one. One that I have often thought of whenever the JLA or The Avengers go storming into another country’s business with the belief–like the American and UK armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.–that they are right. And so we are left considering, as Adam does himself, whether we’ve got The Mud King all wrong.
In doing away with him (a thorny dilemma given his link with millions of Zhal’s populace) will another, far worst dictator rise to replace him? Look at the Russian Revolution and how quickly absolute power corrupted absolutely. I wonder, if I had the power that Garlis has, and therefore see the worst of people, would I still be in favour of the human species as a force for good on this planet? We do make it hard on ourselves sometimes, don’t we? Even The Mud King’s first teacher, whom he came to love in a way, is revealed as hating him as a child, seeing him as nothing more than a ‘half-breed’ street urchin. See enough of this in the selfish minds of people, and you’d become pretty cynical, pretty quickly, too.
By the end of this issue, there is an ending of sorts, but the seeds of doubt are now planted in both Adam’s mind and that of the diligent reader. At the start of this series, it seemed so obvious who was fighting for good and who was fighting against the evil as seemingly personified by Garlis, The God of Whispers. But now, well, it’s complicated, shall we say.
In creating such a layered set of characters who seem to be developing and acting based on their own (selfish?) motivation and/or agenda, Remender and Opeña are forging a series that is a lot more than a sword, sorcery, sci-fi hybrid but a story that resonates with our own world and our own Western-influenced paradigms of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. I can’t wait to see what the third story-arc brings and how Adam, The Mosak and Zhal’s own Devil with a deal, Garlis, cope with what’s coming.
Will Adam really rise to become an even worse dictator than The Mud King? And, what of The Mud King’s own ideology? Do we get the leaders we deserve, as the boys in Lord of The Flies who would rather flock around a tyrannical Jack Merridew because he can offer then safety, protection, and food even though he tortures them and rules through fear? And, if so, is that why we have conservative thinking leaders here in the UK and the USA? We live in interesting times, and so too does Adam Osidis, The Mosak and all the inhabitants of Zhal. A regular on my pull list, will it become one on yours too?
Seven To Eternity #9 is out this Wednesday the 6th of September from Image Comics