Reviews

Eternals #1

Mike Lukich

Jack Kirby had a knack for creating heady, mind-bending concepts dressed in superhero clothing, and Neil Gaiman simply refines this already brilliant material with sharp dialogue and characterization, while weaving it into a modern context.

Eternals #1

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 48
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Price: $3.99
Contributors: Artist: John Romita, Jr.
US publication date: 2006-08
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
"It's like the arguments about intelligent design. I know my designers were intelligent. I just don't know what they wanted me for."

-- Ike Harris, Eternals #1

In other words, why are they here? That's the million dollar question that stands at the heart of this double-sized first issue of the six-issue mini-series that relaunches the late comics legend Jack Kirby's brilliant yet underappreciated cosmic epic. Neil Gaiman, who made his name instilling gods and god-like beings with a healthy dose of humanity and vulnerability in his classic Sandman series, among others, certainly has the resume to handle this kind of material. Any suspicions that he's treading on familiar territory, however, should be cast aside.

In part one, appropriately titled "Intelligent Design", we meet Ike Harris, a recently enlightened Eternal who is trying to convince a humble young medical student named Mark Curry that he is one of Harris' kind. Not so surprisingly, Ike comes across as a total lunatic, and is given the brush off by Curry, even though Curry's status as an Eternal is pretty much confirmed in the flashback dreams he's been having. Apparently suffering from a mysterious amnesia, it appears that the Eternals are now walking among us humans with no idea of who or what they are. We're introduced (or re-introduced for those who know Marvel history) to the core group of Eternals, and they are working in our hospitals and at our corporations, starring in television shows, and planning our company parties, all of them completely unaware of their true nature. Is this amnesia part of some nefarious plot or some higher power's master plan?

It's truly excellent that this book allows Gaiman to apply his storytelling talents to an honest-to-goodness Marvel superhero book (his 1602 series for Marvel seemed a bit like an obvious attempt to give a superficial Gaiman treatment to classic Marvel characters). Of course, the original Eternals series was a far cry from a conventional superhero book, closer to science fiction/fantasy than most Marvel books, and this allows Gaiman to play to his strengths. Jack Kirby had a knack for creating heady, mind-bending concepts dressed in superhero clothing, and Gaiman simply refines this already brilliant material with sharp dialogue and characterization, while weaving it into a modern context.

Romita pulls out all the stops with some truly astonishing and highly detailed panoramas, while pacing the story with his usual sense of craft and finesse. Seamlessly blending both Frank Miller's raw pencil style and cinematic design sense with Kirby's uninhibited imagination and sense of invention, Romita beautifully re-envisions and redesigns the key figures in Kirby's pantheon of characters, managing to grant them both an otherworldly aura and an earthly gravitas. Rather than simply imitate Kirby's inimitable designs, Romita updates them and makes them his own without losing the grandiose and perhaps old-fashioned sense of wonder that Kirby was a master of.

This book also acknowledges other questions that were left unanswered in Kirby's original series, such as why there is not one shred of evidence that the enormous alien beings known as the Celestials, the creators of the Eternals who appear as miles-high giants in strange, brightly-colored armor, have ever been seen, even though Ike Harris states that they last visited our world 30 years ago (a nod of continuity to the original series). Why haven't fossils of the Deviants, a companion race to the Eternals and their opposites in every possible way, who numbered in the millions and once ruled the Earth, ever been found? Why haven't the Eternals, who are essentially immortal and can produce offspring, populated the planet with their kind? Harris doesn't know the answers to these obvious questions, and the reader is left pondering these apparent holes in the Eternals history as well as the sense of intrigue continues to build.

All of this mystery is enough to whet the appetite for the rest of this series, and Gaiman and Romita do a stellar job of resuscitating and updating this truly fantastic Jack Kirby concept for a modern audience and incorporating it into the current Marvel universe. If they can keep up the pace, I could easily see this spinning off into a regular series, which I'm sure would make Jack Kirby, whose original version of this series was cancelled before its time, very proud. Either way, this first issue provides a terrific entry point into what should certainly be a great book and, as they would have put it back in Kirby's day, a tale to astonish.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.