Overview

The Eternals #1

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The Eternals #1

Credits

  • Words: Neil Gaiman
  • Art: John Romia Jr.
  • Inks: Danny Miki
  • Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
  • Story Title: Chapter One: Intelligent Design
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jun 21, 2006

The Eternals have returned, but why doesn’t anyone remember them, least of all themselves?

Dr. Mark Curry’s life is a hectic routine, and the last thing he needs is a nut and his outrageous story—that both of them aren’t human at all, but Eternals, god-like beings created by an even more powerful race called The Celestials. This strange man, Ike Harris, or more appropriately Ikaris, is right, though his memories are cloudy; but Dr. Curry, once known as Makkari, isn’t buying any of it, as if he’s forgotten everything. But Ikaris and Makkari aren’t the only ones who don’t remember everything. There’s Sersi, party-planner par excellence, who’s hired by Druig, an Eternal as well in the guise of an ambassador of a small country. There’s Thena, an engineer working for Tony Stark, whose latest non-lethal weapon recovers the truths that Ikaris is trying to convey to Makkari. And then there’s Sprite, now a child star caught up in the politics of superhuman registration. But though none of them knows the exact nature of who and what they are, others, who’ve already started moving against them, definitely do.

The most difficult thing about reviewing The Eternals #1 is separating Neil Gaiman the writer rock star from the script he’s turned in. The phenomenon that Gaiman has become is well deserved—he’s a master storyteller who has only a handful of peers when it comes to capturing the imagination. Consequently, fans and readers who may only know him by name expect gold from everything he touches. Add to this the prospect of Gaiman taking on characters and a mythology that Jack Kirby made legendary, and one can hear the hype machine running at full power like it was created by Tony Stark.

Fortunately in comics, Wednesday’s hype is already half-dissipated by Thursday, and once one digests The Eternals #1 it’s easy to see that it’s a solid read but not a great one, a thoroughly entertaining first chapter, but one that doesn’t leave readers with the wonder and excitement that perhaps we were expecting. While the density of ideas do not carry over from Kirby to Gaiman, Gaiman does preserve a 70s comics vibe, particularly in the cadences of the dialogue. And he places his own stamp on The Eternals by tweaking the premise he used in American Gods—that the gods of mythology walk among men now, on the down-low because humanity has forgotten about them—and adds a further wrinkle in which these "gods" have forgotten about themselves. Gaiman uses this forgetting to humanize his cast by focusing on their personality traits instead of their powers. And in addition to fleshed-out characterization, Gaiman also paces this issue at just the right tempo, deftly integrating the Eternals backstory while laying the groundwork for a number of interesting conflicts. The only real clunker in these 48 pages is the ham-fisted way that it’s tied to Civil War. Still, The Eternals #1 delivers the sort of well-developed story one would expect for $3.99. And yet, it doesn’t deliver what one would expect from Neil Gaiman. While The Eternals #1 does what it should in terms of character and plot, it does so in a workmanlike way, with none of the sparkle of a great Gaiman story, and none of the exhilaration of a Jack Kirby story.

It’s surely a matter of personal taste, but John Romita Jr.’s appeal continues to escape me. In particular, I’ve never liked his stiff, blocky body types nor his feline facial features. And in general his style looks both old-school and indy, with little of the dynamism and energy of either. However, I liked his artwork in this issue more than I usually would. For one thing, he uses those stylistic ticks I’m not partial to on Ikaris exclusively while the other main characters have much more varied and human designs, making The Eternals #1 a better visual read. Both Sersi and Thena are enchanting, but in completely opposite ways. Black-haired Sersi with saucer eyes and sassy mole like she just stepped out of swinging London in the 60s; Thena exquisitely Nordic with fine features and an inner glow. Romita Jr. renders both impressively, but his artwork truly hits its stride during Ikaris’ flashback, conveying the epic scale and grandeur of Eternals history. And while I didn’t buy Ikaris’ fight scene (with assailants who apparently don’t know that these beings are called Eternals for a good reason), the sequences that did work for me do so because of the way that Romita evokes Jack Kirby’s thick-lined action frames with a simplicity and economy of line.

The Eternals #1 is only a letdown when compared to the hype. Judged purely by what’s on the page, there’s enough to bring me back for issue #2.

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