The Homini Immortales – commonly known in the Marvel Comics universe as Eternals – are certainly Jack Kirby’s most important legacy upon his return to the House of Ideas in the 1970s, after the years spent in DC Comics.
Result, like the human race, of the Celestials’ genetic manipulations and in continuous struggle against the Deviants, their evil counterparts, the Eternals have crossed the millennia and have been known by various civilizations, which usually mistook them for gods, so much so that the deities’ names of some human religions have echoes of the names of these characters.
In over forty years of life this Kirby’s creation – one of the most important and iconic of all those sprung from the mind of The King – has returned several times in the Marvel stories and the last significant incarnation of the Eternals was undoubtedly the miniseries signed in 2006 by Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.
Today, with a MCU film currently in production, Ikaris and his companions return in a new series signed by Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic, with Matthew Wilson’s colors.
The British comic-writer makes his return to Marvel after five years making the commitment to revive a group of complex characters relatively little known by most readers and he does so by deciding to immediately immerse his story in that mix of mythological and science fiction concepts that were the hallmarks of the original Kirby series.
Gillen reconnects the storyline to the events told by Jason Aaron in the first narrative arc of his Avengers and recalls ideas from the Gaiman / Romita Jr. miniseries, but at the same time sets up a debut issue that works as an entry point even for new readers. In what is configured, at the conclusion of the first issue, as a mystery – with an illustrious murder that will be the engine of the new story – the author avoids the trap of putting into play all the characters that make up the Eternals’ cast, but rather limits himself to focus attention on Ikaris – the most famous Eternal, the living arrow – accompanied by Sprite and Zuras.
It is through these three characters and their interaction that Gillen provides readers with the narrative coordinates and information to follow the story. The tone effectively ranges between courtly and colloquial and the inclusion of a lighter humor vein in some parts of the script does not clash with the general structure of a story that takes itself very seriously, but rather provides the reading with a smoothness which leaves room for the drrawings’ fascination.
Ribic is undoubtedly the appropriate artist to recreate an atmosphere that blends mythology and technology together, that mix that Kirby had already been able to convey in pages that can hardly be forgotten once admired. Ribic, with a completely different personal style devoted to realism, manages to emulate the same sense of wonder as the King’s pages, recalling in large sections a sci-fi setting like those of Moebius. The economy of traits with which machinery and spaces are depicted is linked to the search for technological detail; at the same time, the acting of the characters is just as fluid and effective. On each page there is a storytelling studied with precision and, albeit in the majesty of certain poses, the panels are alive and lively: it never expires in the stillness of the image, but the comic’s sequentiality is enhanced at every juncture.
Wilson’s colors complete the work through a color palette that ranges from electric blues of a sci-fi style – which give the feeling of asepticity of some settings – to warmer colors that add volume to the images. The colorist, according to the sequences, always decides to start from a precise shade, and then declines it in various shades, each time defining a specific spatial setting with a different color.
Eternals # 1 also confirms that by now in the Marvel comic (but not only) the use of infographics has become common use of the narrative model. Used to their full potential by Jonathan Hickman in his mutant relaunch (but an element that has always distinguished the comic production of this author), Gillen brings them to this book to convey to readers a series of context information necessary for understanding the story, but that if inserted into the flow of comic pages they would necessarily have taken on an aura of annoying didacticism. The patterns of the geographical distribution of the Eternals on Earth summarize with clarity and effectiveness a quantity of information that the reader can easily draw in parallel to the reading of the story, using those pages almost as a conceptual map of “fundamental” notions.
This new Eternals series debut therefore portends the development of an interesting story that aims to enrich the myth of this creation and Gillen is able, without upsetting the nature and iconicity of a well-defined creation of the U.S. superhero comic, of immediately implant the sprout of an original idea of this new tale: the Eternals have always been seen by humans as gods, but in truth they are “simply” another race that has finally discovered that the role to which their own creators had delegated them was a great hype. So what is the role and task of the Eternals in the Marvel universe? The series will have to answer this question.
Translated in English by David Padovani
We talked about:
Eternals # 1
Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribic, Matthew Wilson
Marvel Comics, January 2021
31 pages, comic-book format, colors – $ 5.49 (digital edition)