Seven immortals live among us, enduring their own humanity as best they can through the ages. For everyone else, time may heal all wounds, but when one has nothing but time to relive history and trauma, there is no such healing. And there is never allowed to be an eighth immortal, or else…
The Eighth Immortal #1
Alice Li Barnes (artist), Lettersquids (letterer), Jacob Murray (writer)
Source Point Press
January 27, 2021
Many stories have explored what immortality means for the beings who endure it, especially as they watch the fleeting lives of mortals go by. Here, Curipan must do more than watch. She must monitor the mortals to ensure that the eighth, a Pillan, is never allowed to come to be. The Pillan are the offspring of humans and the immortals who once defied the laws of the spirits. They manifest in humans during adolescence, evident through otherworldly green eyes. We are introduced to this concept right at the beginning as two young teens who have little interest in anything more than their phones wander through the mall.
This also introduces us to the ways in which Alice Li Barnes uses colour to shape the story, beginning with soft grays, black and white, with lines and shading that offer a careful carelessness in each panel. Colour suddenly appears in the green eyes of one of the teens who then is struck by the pains of her first menstruation. Red seeps in, and more green surrounds Curipan’s words. When Curipan finally appears in full, frightening form, Barnes leans into harsh cross hatching that gives the immortal’s shroud a life of its own, changing the tone of a story that started with a light and airy feel into something dark and ominous.
LetterSquids solidifies the power of the words that shape this story, shifting from a casual, typical black font on white, to a supernatural cursive scrawl, white on black, that punctuates the magnitude of Curipian’s power as she extinguishes yet another soul.
“I am Curipan and the cost of my immortality is denying it to others,” the immortal says as she watches the young woman walk away, unaware of what has just happened to her. Curipan remembers each soul she has not allowed to find its own immortality. It exhausts her. But her pain runs deeper still, we learn, as the story introduces the child she’s lost along the way.
Curipan’s misery is juxtaposed against some of the other immortals we meet, both of whom are men. Both of whom have their own unique relationships with mortals and sex that serves only to infuriate Curipan, the only one of the three who appears to maintain any sense of responsibility and burden towards their immortal roles. Lucan is living in decadence and debauchery, while Kikan, Curipan’s partner, goes through the motions of mortal life, seeming to seek pleasure here and there when it strikes him to rise out of his indifference.
We don’t get to meet any of the other immortals at this time. For now, this is purely Curipan’s story, and what an engrossing one it is.