The god-like Eternals walk among us once again. But not without their fair share of new troubles. There’s the reawakening of the mischievous and mysterious Eternal, Sprite, as well as the murder of their leader, Zuras. Quite the first day back in business for our hero Ikaras. Gillen, Ribić and Wilson deliver a comic book that’s epic in scale and ambition.
I freely admit that while I did read Neil Gaiman’s take on the Eternals (over a decade ago now) I haven’t really kept up with their appearances in Marvel comics since then. I admit even more readily that I’m not really a big fan of this later-era Kirby creation. Hell, I’ll even admit that not everything Kirby created – especially on his return to Marvel after his Fourth World adventures over at DC Comics – is something I blindly cherish. And, judging by the Eternals past history in comic books, I’m not the only one. But, having read Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribić’s debut issue of Eternals #1, I find that I’m suddenly a convert.
Eternals #1 is the perfect jumping on point for any new reader pulled into this comic book’s orbit because of the stellar creative team involved with this book. And forget about whatever synergy opportunity may or may not have been missed with the postponement of the Eternals film. I was looking forward to this series more than the film anyway. A book that re-introduced this new and improved, rebooted version of the Eternals and that purposefully draws comparison with Game of Thrones – thanks to Gillen’s always-meticulous background research and preparation that sees the Eternals divided into various factions – or houses. All illuminated via a Hickman-like family tree/chart that I personally enjoy included in comic books.
Gillen gives us a set of Eternals dripping with mythology. Beings who seem trapped – like so many heroes of ancient myths across the globe – on a pre-destined cycle of behaviour. Ikaras, as he awakens to his new reincarnated life, is described as “a living arrow”. An apt description that sums up Ikaras and his immortal brethren. Someone who in the past has followed his path straight and true. But, with the reawakening of a new Eternal, the impish Sprite, something tells me any pre-destined plans may be revised. Especially as Sprite has been left dormant until now because in her last life she “grew… bored of (her) station of eternal child.” Hmmm, it would seem the Etrenals have some previous history for rebelling against their supposed function in Earth’s history. Could the age-old theme of pre-destination we see at the core of myths (something Gillen is currently picking at in his contemporary fantasy series, Once and Future) be something Gillen is returning to here? It would make perfect sense, given what the Eternals learnt about themselves in The Avengers series by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness. The Eternals had learnt that they have grossly misunderstood their true role on Earth, and it was a revelation that’s saw them implode in “blood and death”. That must take some epic-sale reflection on the part of the Eternals.
But, while we wait for Gillen’s saga to take shape we are given a narrative that helps fill in the gaps and establishes a new social order for these awakens Eternals who are coming to terms with their new reality. In many ways Gillen and Ribić have been given a blank canvas to create their own vision of the Eternals. A vision, I dare say, Marvel are hoping will stick this time round.
But, it’s not all change. And certainly not yet. The Eternals still go looking for Deviants to take down, as Ikaras and his new charge, Sprite, do here too. But, this is one of the few action sequences in this book. Although the dialogue, the relationships and the epic hero scale of the world in which the Eternals dwell across the globe – tesseracts folded in-between atoms – will have you so invested you won’t even notice the lack of such comic book requisites.
Ribić, working hand-in-hand with colour artist Matt Wilson, deliver a ready made fantastical world within a world in which the Eternals come off like “flies to wanton boys”, even though they were once thought of as gods, and even share their names. But, the artwork certainly reflects their new-realised station in the bigger cosmic picture. Although, their whole hierarchy certainly still echoes similar godly pantheons with their very own Mount Olympus and Zeus-like head of state. A head of state that turns up murdered on his very throne! And so, like Watchmen before it, we have a murder mystery all dressed up in capes and cowls. A whodunnit set against the backdrop of a god-like society with the architectural magnificence to match. Each new landscape presented epically across its own half-page/splash page to really put across the vast scale of their secret kingdom right here on Earth.
Fantastical backdrops and vistas that I haven’t seen this beautifully and lightly executed in comics that often since the late, great Moebius, an intriguing, play-agianst-the-rules new Eternal and a murder mystery to contend with. All this and a final page reveal that will only add more complications to the situation. It’s certainly been a very busy first day back on the job for Ikaras, that’s for sure. And a debut issue that promises great things to come. That’s if they survive this time round.
It’s a bold and epic-scale first issue foreshadowing the world and plots yet to come and promising heroic, cosmic-scale action that undoubtably has designs on being a vast, sparking saga on par with Lord of the Rings, but with a very different and more contemporary set of characters. A comic book that is let down only any its format. This would be far, far more respectfully parented to this reader if it had been packaged up as a European style album – a bande dessinée – but then, I could always wait for the inevitable collection. Although, on the strength of this debut issue, I can’t see me having the patience to wait that long.
Eternals #1 is a huge statement-of-intent comic book. A heroic poem in comic book form and out now from Marvel Comics.