Trade Junkie: “Eternals”

There’s a mile high golden plated god standing in the center of Golden Gate Park and he’s very annoyed with you.

“Eternals” was written by Neil Gaiman, an increasingly well known British writer within several mediums such as novels, television and of course comics. This comic in particular takes characters created by the late comic legend Jack Kirby and breathes new life into them while at the same time explores the origins of the universe in which they exist. To summarize the story in as best a way as I can the beings responsible for the creation of humanity known as the Celestials also created protectors and “gods” for their pet race known as the Eternals. Several decades ago an unknown event caused the Eternals to lose their memories resulting in many of them taking up normal human lives without ever knowing of their vast powers. One Eternal, however, has managed to recover his memory and attempts to help resuscitate the memories of his comrades. But when the grotesque race known as the Deviants begins kidnapping the Eternals for an unknown means the question of how and why the Eternals lost their memories becomes all the more urgent. Especially when one of the Celestials themselves reawakens in the midst of the conflict.

I’m so incredibly torn with the writing in this book. On one hand you have Neil Gaiman exploring the origins of this universe in his own imaginative way. All of which is a fantastic read that really draws you in. On the other hand though you have the Marvel influence. See, this book in particular was written around the time of Marvel’s Civil War event. As such you have a lot of really oddly placed and somewhat jarring dialogue about the Civil War inter-spliced with the actual story of the Eternals. In addition to that you have several side plots that try their best to tie into the Civil War, but ultimately lead to nothing of any real importance. the inclusion of some characters like Tony Stark and Hank Pym only serve to point out just how jarring it is that all of this takes place in the same world and is largely distracting.

That all said the main story revolving around the Eternals and their conflict with the Deviants, the sleeping Celestial and even themselves is all done very well. The handful of characters introduced throughout the story all have their own interesting aspects. Even the abilities of the characters themselves not only step out side of the norms a bit but also manage to tie into the characters’ personalities themselves. Neil Gaiman has managed to set up a very well thought out and intriguing origin for these characters and this universe, with the sheer immersion into the history of this world being this book’s major drawing point.

Unfortunately this story suffers from one more nagging issue, the ending. There isn’t one. In the case of immortal characters the fact that the ending is left open is fine, but the way it’s done here is unfortunately somewhat unsatisfying. The intrusion of Marvel’s event into this book really takes it’s toll and no where else is this evident more than in the ending which despite being longer than most of the other chapters still feels rather rushed. Unfortunately what’s more is that within this revitalized origin story the inclusion of the Civil War dates the book in a bad way and makes it feel like more of an after thought at some points than an actual stand alone story.

The art in “Eternals” is probably its defining feature. The cover, for starters, is easily one of the best covers on just about any book. While the cover is less than important to some people to me I can’t help but take in its somewhat simple elegance. It gives a more painted and authentic look to the book than most comics really ever have. It’s a nice gate way into the art that lies inside.

Being originally a Jack Kirby creation the designs of the characters retain a somewhat modernized version of the original Kirby art. It manages to be simple in its design and color without losing any of its tone as it still manages to capture the range of important moments within the story. The art does a fantastic job at homaging a more simplified era of art and storytelling while still keeping it fresh and firmly within the present time period making it come off as nostalgic without alienating unfamiliar readers.

“Eternals” was written by Neil Gaiman as stated previously and was illustrated by John Romita Jr. The trade has been published several times throughout the years with the most recent being the 2008 release, all of them collect the entire seven issue mini-series. While this is an origin for the Eternals it is still connected into the 2006 event Civil War by Marvel. While prior reading of Civil War is not necessary it may lead to a bit of confusion to those not familiar with that story line. “Eternals” has two sequel volumes that followed it by the names of “Eternals: To Slay a God” and “Eternals: Manifest Destiny” both of which have proven to be a bit harder to find than this comic. Regardless they may serve to alleviate the negative feeling of the conclusion within this trade.

In the end “Eternals” is a clear case of editorial invasion in a written product. The inclusion of several invasive elements diminishes from the main story line. While the issues with the series are evident though “Eternals” still serves as an enjoyable read. The intrusion of Civil War on the plot may throw a several people off , but may even be a welcomed inclusion to those die hard fans of the event. While the series may lack a definitive ending it still manages to set up a deep and enthralling origin behind it making it stand out, despite its flaws, as a fine reading experience.

Retail Price: Paperback – $9.99, Hardcover – $20/24.99
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Superhero
Original Release: July, 2008
Availability: Uncommon

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