REVIEW: National Comics: Eternity #1

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National Comics: Eternity #1 introduces Kid Eternity to the New 52 DC Universe. With Jeff Lemire handling script and Cully Hamner on art, Major Spoilers has high hopes for this one-shot. Can Eternity exceed expectations?

NATIONAL COMICS: ETERNITY #1
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Cully Hamner & Derec Donovan
Colors by Val Staples
Letters by: Patrick Brosseau
Cover art by: Cully Hamner
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

Previously, in Kid Eternity: Doesn’t matter, New 52! This character seems to bear little resemblance to earlier incarnations of Kid Eternity, a Golden Age character who debuted in Quality Comics, which was later sold to DC. He was most recently murdered in the pages of pre-reboot Teen Titans. Ouch.

ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT KID ETERNITY

In the New 52, Kid Eternity is Christopher Freeman, a New York City coroner with the ability to speak to the recently dead. He gained this ability after he died (briefly) in an incident that permanently cost the life of his father. Eternity is, in essence, a ghost story, but it is not a particularly fresh take on the topic. It has a basic set-up that’s been played out in many forms of media; the television shows Tru Calling and The Ghost Whisperer come immediately to mind, with the former also featuring a morgue worker. No bonus points for originality.

The execution is too rote for what I have come to expect from Lemire. He’s shown a deft hand with books like Sweet Tooth and Animal Man. I am particularly a fan of the latter, which hit hard right out of the gate with a creepy intensity unmatched by anything in National Comics: Eternity. In this one-shot, his dialogue is very good, and the story moves from point A to point B easily. Christopher Freeman is a troubled twenty-something haunted by unresolved issues with his deceased police officer father, and the best moments in the issue come from amusingly antagonistic banter between Freeman and his spirit charge. But while the talking bits are natural, everything else comes off forced. This is a mash-up of a police procedural with a ghost story, but the procedural elements are a poor man’s version of CSI. We are told that Freeman has been using his powers to solve crimes, but his supervisor thinks Freeman is a screw-up and disappointment until issue’s end, so what was the effect of all those crimes he solved previously? Freeman also casually breaks several evidentiary laws, such as tampering with a crime scene, which is met with a pat on the back from police officers. The supernatural elements are half-baked as well. Freeman’s ghosts have little memory of the moments up until their death, because why, the plot requires it? Additionally, there is a sexual assault angle that did not feel earned. I don’t like when writers use sexual violence as a plot element for cheap heat, for no deeper reason other than making a character truly despicable.

STRONG START

The art is right in line with what a ghost story should be. This is a darkly colored book, with Val Staples sometimes working the pages with swathes of red, breaking the monotony with brief flashes of violence. Hamner and Donovan fill their New York City with plenty of detail (and a well-placed tray of surgical tools), making the setting feel lived-in and real. The ‘other world’ scenes are suitably hellish, and the panel layouts are imaginative. The only strike is that the art seems to run out of steam by issue’s end. The most imaginative work comes in the first few pages, as Freeman dreams his way through the “place between places” where the recently dead reside. Nothing else matches the verve of these early scenes, and it is a shame the issue did not sustain the energy. Especially, the first page is the most haunting of all; little else approaches the resonance of that initial image.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY

National Comics: Eternity ends with cliff-hanger and sets up a villain, making it seem that this one-shot is a backdoor pilot issue for a possible on-going series. Unfortunately, this issue does not make a compelling argument for a Kid Eternity monthly. The dialogue is capable, the art is good, but the core concept is neither original nor compelling nor particularly well-executed. Oddly enough, a character hewing closer to the original Kid Eternity concept, with the power to summon mythical or historical personages, seems like it has fresher potential than this brand new incarnation. National Comics: Eternity #1 sadly rates a below average two out of five stars.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆