Classic Comics Cavalcade: Legends Reimagined In Gaiman And Romita’s ‘Eternals’

by Tony Thornley

Marvel’s Eternals is one of those concepts that’s hard to make stick.

It’s been tried many times in the god-like characters’ history, from their creation by the legendary Jack Kirby to greats like Roy Thomas, Walt Simonson, and more. The concepts were interesting, and the characters fascinating, but they were almost too big for the Marvel Universe. So outside of the occasional appearance, and Sersi’s Avengers membership through the ’90s, the characters were more or less dormant for decades.

In 2006, for the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary, Marvel attempted to integrate the characters into the larger universe on a scale they hadn’t really attempted yet. To do it, they recruited an A-list creative team and gave them seven issues to reinvent Kirby’s classic characters. With Neil Gaiman, John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, Matt Hollingsworth, and Todd Klein at the helm, it was a set-up for success.

Across the world, 100 ordinary humans wake up knowing there’s something different about themselves. Meanwhile a dreaming cosmic being stirs in its resting place. Mark Curry, Ike Harris, Thena Eliot and Sersi are about to be drawn together in a battle to save the entire planet.

This wasn’t Gaiman’s first Marvel story, but really I feel like it’s the most successful at being a Marvel story. He makes these god-like characters relatable, and down-to-Earth, especially before they ascend back up to the heavens. However, he made sure they didn’t lose that after they had transformed into their superhuman selves, such as Makkari mourning his human life, or Thena continuing to protect her son.

There are a few plot points that don’t land, largely because they feel like something we’ve seen before. Sprite’s entire motivation feels like a direct parallel of Pinnochio’s in Vertigo Comics’ Fables. The “gods hidden as men” plot is something Gaiman floated for a proposed Thor series that was later used by other writers. It’s an interesting character-driven read, but it’s not the most innovative.

Romita and Miki put in strong work through the series. Interestingly, the most mundane aspects of the story, such as Sersi’s party or Mark’s work struggles, are the best looking parts of the story. It’s incredibly unconventional throughout, and Romita leans into that in his line work to create a great read. It does get a little stiff and clunky in a few spots towards the end but it’s generally pretty strong.

Though I’m still not fully in on the Eternals as a concept, between this series and the more recent (and currently running) volume I’m significantly more interested now. Or at least understanding them better and may have to pick up more.

The Eternals is available now from Marvel Comics.

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