Eternal (Black Mask Studios)

Thanks to his mastery of Kickstarter, Ryan K Lindsay has become one of Small Press’ most prominent stars, with titles such as EIR, Deer Editor, Chum and more. Creating deep, meaningful and beautiful comics with a cavalcade of great artists, for his new book Eternal, Lindsay reunites with his Headspace cohorts Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe to bring us a tale of a Shieldmaiden locked in a vicious battle with an evil ghost.

Publisher: Black Mask Studios LLC
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay, Eric Zawadzki
Artist: Eric Zawadzki (Art), Dee Cunniffe (Colours)
Price: £5.49 from ComiXology

Eternal follows the story of Vif, the leader of the Shieldmaidens of Hvallatr who, in an effort protect their village and it’s people, travel the seas to engage a villainous wizard, Bjarte, and his men. However, despite being victorious in their endeavour and slaying their enemy, death is not the end for Bjarte’s misdeeds as he returns in a ghostly form to antagonise Vif and her village again and again. Now, Vif must continue to lead her village, all the while, attempting to put an end to its ethereal tormentor. But how do you end a presence which is eternal?

Ryan K Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki have created a fantastic story with Eternal. Incredibly powerful and tremendously written, Vif’s tale is one which feels truly compelling and engrossing from start to finish. What makes Eternal truly terrific as a read is the deeper meanings which are laced into what is a straightforward story about protection and, ultimately, vengeance as Vif and Bjarte’s rivalry grows from their respective needs to protect themselves to something much more personal. Meanwhile, those deeper meanings that death is not the end are subtly mentioned throughout, with the final realisation that is simply another step of the journey coming across as hauntingly interesting.

While there is plenty going on in Eternal, the writing can feel a bit lightweight in places, with very little exposition of the various factions not helping. (The Shieldmaidens for example, come across more aggressive than perhaps they are meant to be). This may well be down to Zawadzki doubling the size of the book after receiving Lindsay’s initial drafts and so it spreads 24 pages worth of story into 50+ pages, which can leave the amount of detail a little lacking in places. However, this is only a minor quibble, and in the end it is the extra space which makes the book work, and it’s not often we complain about a book having too much in it. (Especially when Eternal is topped off with the inclusion of some very interesting back matter to explore the three different creators of this book.)

With his role in expanding the initial scale of the book, Zawadski’s artwork is every bit as important as the story telling and every bit as impressive. His pencils are wonderfully clean and smooth throughout, making each panel a joy to look at. Meanwhile, during their most prominent moments of the story, Zawadski’s fight scenes are the standout of his entire catalogue here as they are all beautifully rendered and avoid the problem of cluttering the panels. This style’s success is more than helped by Dee Cunniffe’s gorgeous colours, which really help imbue a real world sense into the book, while also selling the darker, more mystical elements. His contribution stands out often, but is best exemplified with the opening battle scenes, where the overuse of red is gorgeous against the prior ‘white’ pages. The art team do seem to do the real heavy lifting for this title, with many panels silent as well as a good use of ‘blank’ pages to imbue a real atmosphere on the reader.

There is little more that can be said beyond ‘Eternal is a fantastic comic!’ Tremendously written with meaning and fantastically rendered with great art and colours, this is a book which not only offers readers a captivating story but offers one which will make an impact on the readers soul, with their thoughts on it staying with them for days and weeks after. This is the kind of one-shot all creators should aspire to produce and all readers should ensure they read.