Funnybook Babylon

February 13, 2009

Waited for the Trade: Eternals – To Slay a God

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , — Matt Jett @ 8:43 pm

Eternals: To Slay a God
Collects: Eternals #1-6 and Annual
Writers: Charles Knauf, Daniel Knauf, Fred Van Lente, Jack Kirby
Artists: Daniel Acuna, Pascal Alixe, Jack Kirby
Marvel Comics

eternals1

Only slightly delayed due to NYCC!

The works of Jack Kirby are among the most influential ever produced in the comic book industry. He created characters as diverse as the New Gods, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Fantastic Four, and Black Panther, characters that have remained popular until the present day, though some of them have undergone several iterations. Marvel’s most recent re-imagining of Kirby’s work is the Eternals revamp, started by Neil Gaiman in 2006 and continued in their current series by Charles and Daniel Knauf, previously of Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I mention Kirby because for better or worse, his influence is all over the title. The Knaufs take Kirby’s themes and expand on them to create something new and free of the restrained, down-to-earth superheroics that typifies so much of Marvel’s output. It can be seen on every page, as the Knaufs compose a story that spans vast distances of space and time.

Eternal BackstoryThere are really two stories in this collection. The first is the backstory of the Eternals and their creators, the Celestials. Because it’s all fundamentally background information, it’s conveyed primarily through narration. The Knaufs walk a fine here, keeping the narration from being boring by pairing it with incredibly strong visuals. Daniel Acuna makes the Celestials look so majestic, so visually arresting, that the reader is compelled to take in the whole saga.

The second story is the one that drives the majority of the conflict in the book, as two groups of Eternals fight each other for control of the group, and compete to rally their amnesiac and powerless fellows to their respective sides. This plot is helped along by some wonderful fights as the Knaufs use the Eternals’ power-sets to create brutal, visceral combat that the characters can believably bounce back from. That last bit is important; fight scenes that stretch believability can drag down a work and the Knaufs skillfully avoid that.

Eternals can certainly take a beating.Eternals does fall flat in a few areas, however. The Knaufs are seemingly obligated to integrate the series with the greater Marvel Universe, so they have Iron Man show up a few times to act flustered about whatever the Eternals have been up to. Those scenes don’t really add anything to the story, they’re just opportunities for these characters to brush Iron Man off and show how self-sufficient they are. Another problem is with the lack of a good recap for anyone who hasn’t read the Gaiman miniseries. If you didn’t read that before reading this, you’ll get the gist of the story but most of the details will be confusing.

Eternals grabbed me on a level few comics do these days. The closest thing I can compare it to in terms of the feeling of wonder it evoked while I was reading it is Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis. This comparison isn’t as random as it seems, though. Kirby’s Eternals share a lot of themes with his New Gods: both concern groups of good and evil gods in conflict over the fate of a world or a universe, as the case may be. Morrison and the Knaufs tell completely different types of stories using these motifs; Eternals is not nearly as concerned with the art of storytelling as Final Crisis is, but both titles go out of their way to tell the grand sort of story that only comics can do.

7 Comments »

  1. great review, gotta agree with you fully on nearly all points.

    also I have to add I like the way the Knauf write the Tiamut/Uatu relationship

    Comment by Nathan — February 13, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

  2. This sounds interesting, and it’s probably a book I would have ignored. How seriously does the comic take itself? I know it’s not Deadpool, but if pages like the 3rd shot you have here are scattered through the book, it should be pretty good.

    Comment by Pete — February 14, 2009 @ 12:02 am

  3. How much did Van Lente write? I love his work (everyone should read Action Philosophers) and the “hours to heal” joke sounds like his voice.

    Comment by Christian Otholm — February 14, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

  4. “How much did Van Lente write?”

    He only did the annual, which introduces Kirby’s “Young Gods” to the Marvel U.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Gods_(comics)

    Comment by Nathan — February 14, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  5. Pete:

    I’d have to say Eternals takes itself pretty seriously for the most part, but there are at least 2-3 jokes like that page in every issue.

    And yeah, Van Lente just wrote the annual (which I completely neglected in the review, sorry. It’s good!) and, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have anything to do with the bulk of the trade.

    Comment by Matt Jett — February 14, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  6. I thought the Annual was taken out of the trade at the last minute?

    Comment by Dan Coyle — February 15, 2009 @ 12:42 am

  7. I just bought it and it seems that it was. No annual. Damn.

    Comment by Christian Otholm — March 11, 2009 @ 11:06 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Powered by WordPress