Admittedly, the Eternals are a part of Marvel I never fully understood, and I can’t say that after reading this I understand much more. The Eternals were originally a group of Jack Kirby characters (I know you could tell that by just looking at their outfits, but it needed to be said for posterity’s sake) who were creations of the Celestials made to protect Earth millions of years before present day. There are a couple of rumors floating around that there might be a Eternals movie, which if true would end up seeming like Marvel is trying to play catch up with DC on announcing a New Gods movie. If this series was meant to elaborate on their history and introduce them for a newer audience, I’m not sure that was accomplished.
To retcon the Eternals history and make them more palatable, Gaiman decides to make it so the eternally 11 year old Sprite makes all the Eternals forget their history and live their lives as normal humans in order to be able to age. I ended up thinking this was a better plot than the one about the Deviants and the dreaming Celestial. The story would rather make us care about the Eternals’ human lives more than their immortal god lives (which wound up coming off as more of a waste of pages than adding depth to the characters). Overall, it just felt like most of this seven issue series was taken up more by the setup than by the actual story.
Everything actually comes together in issue #6 and then totally Breaking Dawns you, and nothing ends up happening to the Marvel universe besides a gigantic, golden, sleeping Celestial being cemented in a park in San Francisco. In fact, a lot of this collection, plot structure wise, could actually be compared to the Twilight saga book Breaking Dawn. I’m assuming Gaiman knew that if the Celestial was awakened, it would be an impossible corner he would have written himself (and every other writer at the time) into. So he just has the climax of the book squader itself into irrelevance rather than break the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, this just makes you feel like you’ve read it for no reason. There was an ongoing Eternals series that started a year after this, but it was only nine issues long, and no one remembers anything that happened in it, not even myself. Overall, this new printing really does just end up seeming like setup for a movie or giant saga that never got the green light. There’s a full story told in this volume, just not a very good one.
I like John Romita, Jr. and some of the spreads in this collection were really stunning. When cosmically crazy things were happening, Romita was really able to tap into a very Kirby-esque quality. When the characters were just doing normal things though, the art significantly suffers from stagnation and unclear transitions. Not to mention that lack of design on the Eternals costumes really makes the visuals suffer. Kirby’s designs for these characters are great, but they’re not exactly super fashion forward, and compared to the ever evolving costumes of today’s superhero comics, they just sort of don’t work.
This Eternals limited series does little to make me want to read more Eternals comics, which I’m guessing is the opposite of the intention of reprinting it. If there are no new comics featuring these characters in the near future, than this reprinting seems rather random. It’s not a timeless or particularly affecting tale, and I can’t imagine anyone but Gaiman superfans were hankering for a new printing of this.