With the power of myth being juggled between existing continuity and new questions, one of the Marvel universe's most enigmatic properties returns to comics in a splashy manner. While Eternals #1 has gorgeous visuals and intriguing "exclusions" offer teases to pull the reader in, unfortunate thematic parallels will inevitably create concerns of similarity.
In the "what if?" category, we might have a whole different idea of the cinematic universe had we seen Edward Norton's Hulk before Robert Downey Junior's Tony Stark. Likewise, we open on the resurrection of the entire Eternal race … somewhat similar to the resurrection protocols of the Five in the current X-Men related books as curated by Jonathan Hickman. Adding the stylized graphic designs for textual information is another Hickman-esque gag, all the way back to Pax Romana and The Nightly News. While more recent books like Excellence have used the tactic to good effect, this doesn't feel like something you've never seen before, much like the Eternals themselves were born in 1976 out of Jack Kirby's stillborn wishes for the New Gods at DC (created in 1971).
The clever bit is how that sense adjacent to deja vu is used in the storyline. Ikaris is an "arrow," a weapon to be aimed and used without much thought on his part about motives or nuance ("When will I get to hit something?"). Of course, he's forced into situations where he wants to have questions but kind of plods through on brute force like a fifth edition goliath barbarian. To go to a different medium, "all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again." Still, the odd, minute variances in Kieron Gillen's script make everyone uneasy as the entirety of Eternals society is forced to deal with its first collective change with these new lives.
Of course, Esad Ribic, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles' artwork give this work the airy, legendary feeling of the works of gods and monsters. The idea that a book with this kind of hype , ahead of an equally enigmatic big screen take , would not have the sort of production budget and values that could fuel a small publisher for a year is no surprise. That's not even the sort of thing you'd be surprised to see.
What's interesting is the things not said. Luis Three-Fingers. Ivain Goldentouch. The other eight "exclusions" from the Eternal resurrection cycle, like Victor Creed trapped in the soil of Krakoa. Those intriguing side ideas, like peripheral panel elements from Top 10, of course, don't have any room to shine with a battle in the sewers and that last page reveal that needs to be reached. What's on the actual page is a fairly flat read, and its quirky corners remain unexplored. Hopefully, that can happen, but here, you're left with things, "the same as it ever was," apologies to David Byrne and — ultimately — Ikaris himself. RATING: HONORABLE MENTION.
By Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribic
NEVER DIE. NEVER WIN. ETERNALS. What's the point of an eternal battle? For millions of years, one hundred Eternals have roamed the Earth, secret protectors of humanity. Without them, we'd be smears between the teeth of the demon-like Deviants. Their war has waged for all time, echoing in our myths and nightmares. But today, Eternals face something new: change. Can they – or anyone on Earth – survive their discovery? From the thought provoking minds of Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine, Uncanny X-Men, Thor) and Esad Ribi? (Secret Wars, King Thor) comes a new vision of the classic Marvel mythology!