The Eternals #1 review – breathing timely new life into an obscure idea forever and ever

January 6, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Comics
4

Summary

Right on time for a blockbuster future, Marvel revives one of Jack Kirby’s lesser-explored creations in The Eternals #1 for a characterful tale from Kieron Gillen.

4

Summary

Right on time for a blockbuster future, Marvel revives one of Jack Kirby’s lesser-explored creations in The Eternals #1 for a characterful tale from Kieron Gillen.

The good thing about the malleability of comic book storytelling is that the dead don’t die – not really, anyway. That holds true for most Marvel and DC characters, but it especially holds true for the Eternals, one of Jack Kirby’s lesser-known and least-explored creations, since they’ve all just come back to life after dying at each other’s hands. The timing could be better. Since the Covid-19 pandemic upended the movie industry, Marvel’s plan to have this reboot arrive around the same time as the blockbuster has fallen through. But it’s sticking to its original publishing schedule regardless, perhaps in the hope it’ll do well enough to prime audiences for a big-screen adaptation of the characters and their various exploits. The Eternals #1 certainly seems to suggest the makings of a real flagship title.

Written by Kieron Gillen, who’s a can’t-miss name these days, especially after a great run on Star Wars, this opening issue delivers a quiet(ish), character-driven study on the ageless heroes who comprise the Eternals, whose past exploits and celestial mythos is touched on briefly here but largely shoved aside in favour of a newcomer-friendly soft reboot, including convenient new appearances that are hand-waved away with an in-universe explanation. We all know the real reason, of course, but brand synergy is what it is.

The focus is mainly on Ikaris, a humourless blonde muscle-man archetype with laser eyes who is instructed by the Eternal Prime, Zuras, to free the Eternal Sprite from an incredibly long incarceration. Ikaris is against the idea, but orders are orders, and predictably it leads to an immediate teleportation to New York City for shenanigans and an Avengers cameo.

All this takes up most of The Eternals #1 since a lot of space is devoted to the logistics of concepts like teleportation, a secret facility underneath Antarctica called The Exclusion, and a general sense of how the Eternals actually work, hierarchically speaking. Gillen’s a very good writer, though, so he’s careful not to provide too much exposition, instead giving just enough context so that readers aren’t asking too many questions and then getting on with the characterization.

With art from Esad Ribi? and colours from Matthew Wilson, this is a great-looking comic, and the visuals to a lot of the heavy-lifting when it comes to creating a sense of globetrotting adventure. Smart writing makes otherworldly concepts manageable without patronizing the readers who’ll be familiar with such things, and the humour is sneaky, creeping in via comparisons to recognisable real-world concepts and in the narration of the Machine, suggesting the potential of a gleefully unreliable narrator. That and a last-panel cameo will bring the house down. There’s every reason to believe that The Eternals #1 will mark the start of a major hit for Marvel – if the sheer number of variant covers is anything to go by, they certainly think so.

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