Happy Comics Release Day (Edit: Whoops, tomorrow)!
I’ve been reading comics by Neil Gaiman ever since Sandman was being published as a monthly title but it took me a while to catch up to The Eternals, which published by Marvel over two years ago. Happily, I found the hardcover in the local library last week.
As you can see from the cover below, Marvel is relying on Gaiman’s name to sell the book.
The cover to the trade paperback is a little more colorful, but Gaiman’s name is still prominently displayed. Though comic fans might be just as interested in the art by John Romita Jr., a selling point all by itself.
The Eternals were one of the last creations of Jack (King) Kirby for Marvel. Kirby’s concept was that the Eternals were a race of supernatural beings created by the Celestials, who themselves were so powerful that they might as well have been gods. The Eternals were charged at the dawn of humanity with watching over the planet until the Celestials came back and passed judgment on it. I remember the Celestials from my childhood as the bad guys that Thor was fighting in a run of his original series that I collected in 1979. That story ended with the Celestials passing judgment and allowing Earth to live (naturally). Since then, various individual Eternals have been used in scattered titles throughout the Marvel Universe.
Gaiman and artist John Romita Jr. have taken the Eternals back to Kirby’s roots in this story. It’s a modern tale, not a retelling, but it manages to integrate the past of the characters seamlessly. The story begins on a personal level, as a doctor who thinks he’s human is told by a being that seems a bit more than human that they’re both immortals.
Eventually, the doctor and the rest of the Eternals start to remember their real past. In their desire to solve the mystery of their lost memories and mission, they stumble across an even greater danger to Earth.
What Parents Will Like About It:
I switched the order this time because I think this is a story that parents will like more than kids–at least, younger kids. Like most of Gaiman’s work, Eternals is very character driven. While there’s plenty of action, the main joy of this story is watching the Eternals slowly realize who they are and why they even exist. What I like is how it starts from a very human place — a doctor trying to save lives — and eventually opens up to the cosmic — the Eternals trying to save the world.
If you are a fan of John Romita Jr., this collection has to be a must-read. His work here is beautiful and detailed, especially on the splash pages, and is perfectly complimented by the inkers on the project, primarily Danny Miki and Tom Palmer.
Anyone trying to re-imagine a Kirby comic needs to be prepared to bring the cosmic and unusual and Gaiman and Romita succeed with this collection. However, it’s not a perfect book. The ending was too abrupt for me. It felt truncated and unfinished. This might be because there were plans for an on-going series after this story but that never happened.
What Kids Will Like About It:
I always think kids will like a good story and this is a good story, even given the problems I had with the ending. It’s most likely to appeal to teenagers, especially those who’ve read any of Gaiman’s prose books.
To talk about my favorite panel would be to give away the big reveal in the story, so I’ll stick with praising how well Romita and the other artists depicted Makkari’s speed powers. Bonus: Romita also gets to draw Iron Man in action.
Extras in the Hardcover:
There’s an introduction about how Kirby created the Eternals written by Mark Evanier, who wrote Kirby: King of Comics and an article about Kirby by Robert Greenberger. There is also a lengthy interview with Gaiman covering his original proposal for the series.
And there are some wonderful art concept pieces for the new series placed alongside the original Kirby images.