Where did humankind come from? Is it possible that aliens were involved in our earliest history? Back in the late 1960’s author Erik von Daniken posited just that in his best-selling Chariots of the Gods and he caught the attention of the ever-curious Jack Kirby, who found it the inspiration for his Eternals. Kirby wanted to call the story The Celestials, but Marvel decided that The Eternals was a better title and so it was published, art and story by Jack Kirby, nineteen issues and an annual, published in 1975.
The storyline posits a great races of beings called The Celestials who came to Earth eons ago and created three species: the humans, the Eternals, and the Deviants. The Eternals are basically the guardians of us humans, while the Deviants, well, they’re more like escapees from the Island of Dr. Moreau and they really don’t like us humans much at all.
The Eternals story has been completely redone by the wonderful writer Neil Gaiman and talented artist John Romita, Jr., and this beautiful trade paperback collects issues 1-7 of their retelling of the Eternals story into a coherent book of its own. It’s a fun story, very readable, about how the Gods exist amongst us but have forgotten who they are because of a rather bratty trickster child God who got fed up with being perpetually stuck as a tween.
The Eternals don’t know that they’re special and even when told by another Eternal of their longevity and role, they deny it. This is, of course, a story element common across so many stories, including Harry Potter, X-Men and various superheroes who have to gradually figure out their own powers and responsibilities (yeah, we’re looking at you, Peter Parker).
There are even contemporary Marvel characters — like Tony Stark — who show up, and the Civil War element of requiring exceptional humans to register their talents shows up too, though isn’t fully explored as it’s more of a jumping off point.
The most compelling part of Eternals is the origin story, as is often the case. The golden-eyed Ike Harris finds and awakens the other Eternals but they don’t have much time to commiserate about their remarkable powers and longevity before, well, bad things happen and they are again thrust into their historic role as protectors of humanity.
The artwork by Romita is really powerful, with some two-page spreads jumping out and begging to be studied and enjoyed, along with a fluidity and classic comic book style that keeps the story zipping along to its perhaps less than epic conclusion.
Still, Eternals is a fun reimagining of an original Jack Kirby idea and is a solid read, entertaining and engrossing. I don’t see it becoming a cornerstone of the MCU, but it’s still a good addition to your library.
Eternals TPB, original story by Jack Kirby, new story by Neil Gaiman and artwork by John Romita, Jr. Published June 18, 2008 by Marvel Comics.