Eternals1.jpgOr “How Can You Be Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?”

Neil Gaiman is one of those writers who make people like me flap their arms in a complete brain-melting furor, finally and completely aware of what it is to know you’re never going to be the best writer around, and furthermore, you’re probably not only not in the ballpark, you’re stuck in the parking lot of the wrong team, wearing a tinfoil helmet, a home-made uniform, and wielding a football bat. If Neil Gaiman, as a writer, is the equivalent of Prometheus bringing fire from Olympus, then I am, metaphorically speaking, the guy painted on the side of the FTD truck. Thus, I must throw aside natural jealousy to tell you the most important thing about “Eternals…”

This book is amazing. I’ve mentioned my admiration for Jack Kirby before, but honestly, the Eternals aren’t his strongest concept. This isn’t entirely Jack’s fault. At the time of publishing, all Marvel comics took place in the Marvel Universe (TM and Copyright), and had a shared canvas. With a concept as far-reaching and ethereal as this, that becomes a drawback. The premise of characters whose power and bearing (oh, and immortality) makes lesser mortals mistake them for gods is done a disservice in a world where gods ACTUALLY EXIST, and even wear big red capes and work for the government. I’m looking at YOU, Don Blake.

Luckily for this re-launch, writer Neil Gaiman is experienced with both the concept of god-like beings AND playing nice with a shared universe. The first three issues of Eternals were filled with character moments, (re)introducing our cast of characters: an overworked doctor, a spoiled party kid, a soccer mom, a teenage superstar, a third-world general. Oh, and one crazy blonde hobo, who claims his name is Ikaris.

The story proper really starts to cook in issue four, as we see Ikaris (seemingly killed last issue) being… reassembled? Resurrected? I’m not sure, but in any case, he’s been put back together and finds himself in Olympia, the Eternals one-time homebase. The game’s also afoot back home, with Mark Curry (the aforementioned doctor) seeking more information on Ikaris’ ramblings from Sprite, apparently a new age Shaun Cassidy. (If you don’t get that, remember: I’m old.) Sprite knows all about the Eternals, and talks Mark into entering a secret cave in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It is during this exchange that Sprite’s motives start to look less and less altruistic. Meanwhile, Sersi (pronounced “Sir-See” for the benefit of those who, like me, inexplicably want that second s to sound like a ‘z’) laughs off the assumption that she’s a super-being, though she doesn’t stop the perception that she’s a loon, by having a discussion with her cat.

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Oh, hell, indeed. This is, surprisingly, not nearly as worrisome as the activites of Former Deputy Prim Minister Druig, of… some country whose name is full of consonants. It seems his low-grade warlord act has attracted the attention of the constabulary, and they want to have a word with him explaining his new status as either “political prisoner” or “guy found in ravine.” Druig has… OTHER ideas.

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Hey, every pantheon needs a god of evil, right? Somebody’s got to be Loki. Back in San Francisco, my patented Han Solo bad feeling is being proved perfectly valid, as Sprite tricks Mark into taking himself out of the equation, leaving Sprite alone in a secret Eternal compound. Ikaris was entirely correct, you see. They ARE all godlike, mythical figures, they HAVE all lived for thousands upon thousands of years, never aging, never changing, always returning to their original form even after the most heinous injury. And Sprite’s form is that of a prepubescent boy. Long story short? He wants to grow up, but is still adolescent enough to want to get even with the Eternals who got the long end of the stick.

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This moment right here is pretty much pure Neil Gaiman. It’s an awesome character moment, yet it’s intrinsic to the plot. Meanwhile, Ikaris has regained his memory, and searches out his fellow Eternals, starting with a young mother named Thena who has been having… interesting nightmares. Nightmares of blood and thunder, of fighting hordes of misshapen monsters, nightmares that seem like they MUST be real. Most frightening of all is the fact that she wins…

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When Thena awakes, she has been transformed, back in her own body (complete with wicked spikes and golden body armor.) And she seems to be just a smidge angry about it, though who wouldn’t be? Luckily, Ikaris arrives, just in time to trigger her full memories again, and reveals that someone intends to awaken “The Dreaming Celestial.”

That would be bad. How bad would it be, Egon? “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.” Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon. Is Druig a part of Sprite’s plan, or another complication? Is Mark Curry going to wake up in time? Can even the power of Ikaris and Thena stop them? We’ll have to come back for #5 & 6. I, for one, don’t have any problems with that. The writing is simply incredible, with even the simplest expositional dialogue conveying as much character as a year’s worth of Spawn. As for the art of John Romita Jr, he’s one of the few people I know of who could actually convey the power, alienation, and majesty of Gaiman’s words and Kirby’s characters.

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I like it when the pictures actually live up to the ideas behind them. Gaiman and Romita (and everyone else, for that matter) have done wonders with this series, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all ends. My only complaints thus far are the esoteric painted covers (Quite pretty and all, but not as pretty as the interior art. And they seem misleading, especially to someone who might buy the book based on the cover rather than the guts of it all), and the fact that it’s a limited series. I highly recommend “Eternals,” even to those who want to wait for the inevitable trade paperback. This story actually benefits from the cliffhangers and wait between issues. A book this good should be savored, and completely earns its rating: Four and One Half Stars.

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Discuss this issue over at the Major Spoilers Forum.

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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