ETERNAL Review – A Beautifully Violent Perfect Comic
Story by Eric Zawadzki & Ryan K Lindsay
Script by Ryan K Lindsay
Art and Letters by Eric Zawadzki
Colors by Dee Cunniffe
Published by Black Mask Studios
More than three years in the making, Eternal—a new Viking shieldmaiden ghost story from Eric Zawadzki, Ryan K Lindsay, Dee Cunniffe and Black Mask Studios—is as beautiful as it is violent. And that’s saying something because it’s extremely violent.
Eternal, a Lesson in Deliberate Storytelling
The story follows Vif, a Viking shieldmaiden, as she stewards a village of women and children and its legacy after the village’s men do not return from battle. The script, written by Ryan K Lindsay (Beautiful Canvas) reads lean, with few to no words on many of its pages. It reads lean not because in its final form, Lindsay’s words are stretched across twice as many pages as originally conceived, but because each line of dialogue and narration, every word, is deliberate, loaded, and essential. It’s a less-is-more approach to storytelling that shows control and mastery.
Eternal, Visual Storytelling Uninhibited
Giving visual life to Lindsay’s script, Eric Zawadzki (The Dregs) is the true architect of Eternal, though. By Lindsay’s own admission, the book grew into something greater under Zawadzki. Originally written as just a 24-page tale, he expanded the story into the 48-page tour-de-force that the book became in order to explore the themes visually, and much to the story’s benefit. Too often in mainstream comics, arbitrary 20-, 22-, and 24-page-limits restrict stories, robbing them of their full emotional and thematic resonance. Zawadzki ensures the entire weight of Eternal is felt by exploring the story on a double-sized canvas.
Though it’s not clear exactly where Zawadszki expanded Lindsay’s original script, some parts of the book stand out as obvious candidates. Following a tragic scene toward the book’s middle, a series of black pages leads into a powerful splash image set again a stark black background. That series of pages slows the pace of the book, allowing the reader to step into Vif’s boots and to really feel her loss.
Another, violent scene cuts in and out of the narrative dovetailing with itself near the end of the book. This refrain grows with brutality with each reappearance, but it’s true weight is only understood when nearly all of the story has unfolded. This powerful, gutting effect is simply not something a comic choked by the average page-count could achieve.
And all of this is to say nothing of Zawadzki’s page design and lettering work, which are masterful and could be the subjects of an entirely separate full-length review.
Eternal, a Masterclass in Thematic Coloring
Rounding out the creative team, colorist Dee Cunniffe adds even more drama and intensity to Zawadzki’s impeccable linework. Cunniffe’s colorwork oscillates between distinctly cool and hot tones throughout Eternal. Calm, emotional scenes, like a discussion between two characters about legacy at the start of the book, feel at rest with shades of blue and green. Conversely, heated actions scenes sear with violent reds and oranges.
But Cunniffe smartly deviates from his pattern to inject drama. About midway through the book, a quiet funeral scene burns literally and metaphorically, capturing precisely the torrent of emotion in Vif. And in the climax, as the themes of violence and legacy dovetail, Cunniffe brings his two palettes together further elevating Zawadzki and Lindsay’s perfect final image.
Eternal, the Bottom Line
Enteral is a rare and special book—the kind of book that shows what an artist, a writer, and a colorist can create when arbitrary factors like page-counts and deadlines don’t get in the way of the story; the kind of book that only happens when a creative team’s vision and execution are truly unified; the kind of book that beats the breathe out of your chest and fills your heart at the same time.
Eternal hits comic shops this Wednesday!
Frank Gogol is a comic book writer who dabbles in reviewing and interviewing as a way to learn his craft. His approach is equal parts critique and analysis. For more from Frank, follow him @frankgogol on Twitter.