Or – “The Song Remains The Same…”


Every limited series boils down to one of three premises. The establishment or re-emphasizing of important characters or bits of information that may be necessary for upcoming events (see the Annihilation minis or the Infinite Crisis buildup books, or even Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters). The second premise is to put and/or keep a character in the spotlight (most of Marvels’ original minis, the Ghost Rider: Hammer Lane mini, and the current White Tiger book all fit this criteria). The Eternals is an example of the third type of series, the revitalization/reworking of a character or characters who have fallen out of favor. Notable minis of this type include the two Bob Layton ‘Hercules’ miniseries, the recent four issue Union Jack book, and even Crisis on Infinite Earths itself. The funny part is, I didn’t recognize Eternals as a “Type 3” until the end of this issue. It’s a testament to Neil Gaiman’s subtleties as a writer that he was able to completely reimagine a concept already filled with unbridled ideas, but it also makes what’s to come that much more difficult to deal with…

eter1.jpgYou can certainly see the reason why this series expanded from six issues to seven, especially given the measured pace of the first couple of issues… Even given that there are only eight actual Eternals in the issue, there are plot threads galore, and many issues left to resolve as we kick off the story. At the end of last issue, all of the Eternals seen in the series so far have had their minds returned to them, and the only real cost was the partial activation of a 7000 foot monolith outside San Francisco. Due to the efforts of Makkari (shaking off the illusions of his life as “Mark Curry,” E.R. doc), The Dreaming Celestial stands inert again, and was so impressed that he mind-melded with “Mark,” leaving the fastest Eternal forever changed. Nobody’s sure yet if it’s for the better. Most entertainingly of all, the rank-and-file of the Marvel Universe isn’t really affected by the presence of a giant, except for some arguments between city and state agencies over who foots the bill for cleaning up the giant’s mess and a little extra tourism.


Heh. I think I’d like a transforming robot better than a mile high monolith as well… Meanwhile, back at Olympia, ancestral home of the Eternals, all is not going smoothly. Ajak is aghast that Zuras has honored his agreement with Druig, the evil manipulator of minds and molecules. Druig agreed to help last issue in return for the assurance that he will be allowed to maintain his control over a middle European nation, and Ajak cannot believe that Zuras trusts the little weasel. “The world may have changed, Ajak, but I have not,” intones the king of Eternals. Ikaris pipes up with characteristic confidence that whatever Druig tries, Ikaris will stop him. Suddenly, an army approaches the citadel (which Ajak immediately blames on Druig… I have siblings like that), and the Eternals lifelong enemies the Deviants call them out.


Heh. 6000 to 5 odds and still they’re not worried. This is an interesting development, taking the Eternals from the ranks of “strangely costumed superhumans” and into the realm of the truly fantastic. But this does beg the question, if there are 8 Eternals extant and only five here, where are the rest of them? Mistress of Molecules Sersi has chosen to return to her “normal” life of parties and galas, including a lunch meeting with Tony Stark aka Iron Man. I-Man asks Sersi if she’s considered registration, and she replies that she won’t do it. She doesn’t consider herself a superhuman (mostly because she ain’t human), and Tony agrees, after his conversation with Zuras.


Wow. That’s presumptuous as hell, but kinda fun anyway. Zuras promises Tony that, in return for being left alone his people will do what Eternals always do: Protect. Preserve. Repair. Tony agrees, probably assuming that he can keep tabs on them anyway, but has another question for Sersi. In the wake of the whole CW debacle, he’s still trying to gather more power to himself, and she would add another powerful weapon to his arsenal of superhumans…


Maybe it’s just me, but I’m reading a personal connection into those words that I didn’t realize was there between Tony and Sersi. In any case, Sers’ is going to stay in the mortal world and keep her profile low. That’s six down, two to go. But what of Sprite? After all, it was he that betrayed the others in the first place, and almost caused the downfall of the entire race of Eternals so that he could finally grow up. What do you do when you’re a kid and you’ve screwed up so bad that Daddy doesn’t want you around anymore? You run away, of course, and Sprite has caught a fast train to nowhere. But every kid eventually finds out that running away doesn’t work, doubley so when “Daddy” is just this side of all-powerful. Zuras sits down next to him on the train (and I’m not clear if this happened previous to the siege at Olympia, or if Zuras is really able to be in two places at once) and remarks how hard it is to be a kid, but even so, Sprite nearly destroyed the world. Was it worth it, Zuras asks?


Oh, no… Even having seen this sort of theme before (Gaiman used Puck as a recurring character in his “Sandman” stories), it’s troublesome to see a character who looks so much like a human kid in a situation like this. Which, I’m sure, was the point, but it’s still a bit disconcerting, especially after having read the issue once. Sprite suddenly panics, telling Zuras that he’ll call the conductor and say that Zuras tried to touch him. Zuras is non-plussed by the last-ditch panic effort, and Gaimain suddenly makes you realize what the burden of leadership has done to him, and why living the life of a homeless man with no responsibilities probably appealed to him. “Sprite. I always enjoyed having you around. You were smart, funny, and unpredictable. But journeys end… and we’re coming to the end of the line.” Sprite suddenly admits that he’s not sorry, not at all, and I’m not sure if it’s sincere, or a last ditch effort to hurt the closest thing he’s ever had to a parent. He leans over to hug Zuras, and I tear up a little…


That was chilling and touching all at once. And the gap between superhero and whatever it is the Eternals are grows even wider. Back at Olympia, Makkari decides to change the odds as 6000 to 5 isn’t fair… to the Deviants. He offers Kra, the Deviant leader, a challenge. Kra may strike at him 3 times and if he defeats him, Makkari will acknowledge Kra as his master. If he fails, Makkari gets one strike in return. Kra immediately takes his shots, but it’s one-two-three strikes your out for the big pink monster, as Mak’s speed allows him to dodge without breaking a sweat. Makkari then counterattacks with his move… he kneels and offers Kra a clear shot at his neck with a battleaxe. The Deviants are all horrified and think Makkari is nuts (which he clearly is).


The sad part is, that sounds like a pretty realistic assessment of Makkari’s mindset. Ikaris is confused as to what happened, and even Makkari isn’t sure. Zuras has already taken his leave, to deal with the last Eternal unseen: his own daughter, Thena. In her human existence, Thena somehow managed to bear a son and raise him to roughly age five or six (which begs the question, how long ago did this happen in M.U. time, and when was the last time we saw one of the Eternals in continuity?), and she intends to finish her job as mother.


Even the big Z is has a weakness for his daughter, agreeing with her, but cautioning her that “when the time comes to bury him…” Thena interrupts him, telling Dad that she will take responsibility. Ikaris arrives, explaining part of the time disparity for this issue, saying that Makkari has spent nearly two weeks on the ice where he defeated Kra, ruminating over his situation. Zuras informs him that he has an assignment for Ik and Mak (having already put Ajak in position in San Francisco to serve again as “Speaker To Celestials” and let Druig return to his little fiefdom in the mountains), to help offset the coming storm.


It’s a strange and bittersweet ending, leaving all of the characters forever changed, and setting the springboard for something even more epic. I don’t know if an Eternals ongoing could come out of this concept (the whole “ninety hidden lives” thing has a “Gilligan’s Island” hook and the accompanying limitations) but I’d really like to read it. Gaiman’s quiet storytelling style is an anomaly in comics as a whole, but among the sturm and drang, “louder is better” Quesada-era Marvel, it’d at least be unique.

I honestly don’t know if I understand everything that happened in this series, but it’s the good kind of not understanding, the “some things man was not meant to know” feeling rather than a confusion of plot or character. It’s good to see the Eternals differentiated from the Inhumans, the mythological deities of the Marvel Universe, and superheroes in general, even if the plot is open-ended and doesn’t necessarily end anything but Sprite’s manipulations. There’s a lot of fun to be had with Neil’s weird persepective on anything, but when you start out with one of Jack Kirby’s “hidden civilizations” and the whole “inspired-your-deities” undertone, and Eternals seems like a sure bet. This issue is well done, with Romita’s art superb as always, and Neil using the characters as archetypical of gods and heroes at once. I enjoyed the heck out of this series, and give it a solid 3.5 stars.


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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  1. March 14, 2007 at 11:40 am — Reply

    Gaiman has GOT to have an issue with Fathers and Sons. This is the second time I’ve seen an Immortal Father kill an Immortal Son in one of his books (The Sandman: Brief Lives), AND it was enough to make me cry.

    Although I didn’t see anything like that in 1602…the closest to it was the relationship between Sir Nicholas Fury & Peter Parquagh, and then neither of them was able to kill the other.

  2. March 14, 2007 at 2:34 pm — Reply

    I don’t know if it’s an issue with Neil or an issue with the literature he draws inspiration from. Like his use of the three-women-in-one, I chalk the “father killing son” aspect up to the influence of the old stories on his writing.

    However, I may be wrong…

  3. March 14, 2007 at 2:58 pm — Reply

    There seems to be a Father-Son, Master-Apprentice in a lot of his relationships. The Sandman couldn’t relate to his own Son and barely knew his successor…Twice, Peter Parquagh could have killed Sir Nicholas Fury and moved against it…the focus of ‘Mr. Punch’ is about a child’s memories of his Grandfather…the climax of ‘Stardust’ is made possible by a sexual encounter made years before by the Heroe’s Father and the Legacy of his Grandfather…and now, we have the Zuras/Puck thingy to contend with along with the TIamut/Makkari relationship.

    Oh, and three other things. First, Makkari really does look like Tiamut doesn’t he? And Second, I hope whoever’s doing Avengers: The Intiative remembers that there’s a Giant Gold Alien-God standing above it, watching their every move.

    Thirdly, I can explain the ‘Tourists and their Toys’ thing. In a Sandman standalone story from a bit of time ago, Gaiman chronicled the King of Dream’s part in inspiring Joshua Norton, the self-proclaimed ‘Emperoro of the United States’, an eccentric who took residence in San Francisco. In the story, not only do a similar Tourist Family turn up to request one of Norton’s Souvenir dollar bills with his face on, but Sandman is delighted to discover that small dolls are made of the Emperor in is memory.

    A little echo, perhaps, of the marketability found in the Streets of Saint Francis’ town.

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