Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Comic mini-review: Eternals by Neil Gaiman

I have made it my mission - a low-key, as-I-get-around-to-it mission, but still - to absorb in some form or another all of Neil Gaiman's works.  I love his writing, his worlds both familiar and oh-so strange, his embracing of old stories and gods, his creation of new beings and universes.  So far I have managed to watch Neverwhere, Mirrormask, Beowulf and Stardust, and read M is for Magic, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Fragile Things, Coraline, Black Orchid, The Graveyard Book, the Sandman series (click on the Gaiman tag over there on the right and it'll bring up all the reviews) and now, most recently*, Eternals

Eternals is a Marvel comic book written by Gaiman, illustrated by John Romita Jr. (who signs his art JRJR, which I rather like), a resurrection of an old and forgotten comic by Jack Kirby back in the 1970s.  The Eternals are not superheroes, although they have superpowers like superspeed, flight, transmogrification, mental telepathy, mad fighting skillz, etc.  They are not gods, although they have been around for a gajillion years and are ageless immortals.  They are another race entirely, set by their makers to keep and protect the Earth ... and most of them don't know who they are. 

So this is an origin story of sorts, as one of the Eternals, Ike Harris/Ikaris, sets about to gather the Eternals together, restoring their powers and their memories of who and what they are.  He finds the speedster, Makkari, who thinks he is "Mark Curry," ER doctor; Sersi, who can change matter's form and who is currently a party planner; Sprite, a puckish male Hannah Montana; and Thena the Warrior, married with a child and a job as head researcher for Stark Industries.

Yeah, that Stark Industries.  Iron Man has more than a cameo here, as do Yellowjacket and the Wasp (whoever they are).  The Marvel universe has a big presence in this book, which dampened my enthusiasm a bit - I'm just not that interested in superhero comics.  Another dampener for me is that there was just so much going on, it was overwhelming at times: a big cast and a twisty plot are fine, but the loads of exposition weighed things down.  Wave upon wave of giant alien robots, mutant demony critters, one Eternal thinking to take over the world one country at a time, another Eternal sabotaging his fellows, the Avengers trying to get the Eternals to sign on with them, dating throughout the millennia, how many ways can an Eternal not be killed ... I realize that all this is there to lay the groundwork for future stories, but it felt a little rushed. And not nearly Gaiman-y enough for my taste.

I didn't find the Eternals artwork to be anything special - although apparently Romita kept a number of the original Kirby elements in the characters' drawings while updating them out of the Seventies.  I just couldn't get excited about this book, and a couple of times caught myself turning pages quickly - never a good sign.  I'm sure it's a solid enough comic but I have come to expect more out of Neil Gaiman.  And, I'm afraid to say, that it's made me a little leery of all the other comics of his I have to read to accomplish my mission.  I do hope the others are more Sandman and less superhero.

* I'm halfway through Good Omens too.

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