Eternals #1 is written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Esad Ribic, colors by Matthew Wilson, and letters and designs by VC’s Clayton Cowles, published by Marvel Comics. The main cover is provided by Esad Ribic.
**Spoilers For Eternals #1 Ahead**
Baby’s First Eternals Book
I have never read an Eternals comic before, but I will tell you what I have read, which is The Wicked And The Divine, Young Avengers, Ludocrats, and many other works by Kieron Gillen. Enough to know I am largely a huge fan of their work. As for Esad Ribic, I have read Secret Wars, Thor, and more, so know very well the high caliber of art to expect from them. Put these creators together and there was basically no way I wasn’t going to check out this book. I was right, as Eternals #1 is one hell of a debut.
What Is An Eternal?
If like me, you aren’t overly familiar with the Eternals, this book can seem daunting. Kieron Gillen is aware of this and makes this issue work as an introduction to the concept as well as the team itself. Even better, he achieves this without the entire issue feels like an exposition dump. You get a bare-bones explanation of their purpose and where they came from, which feels like enough to me. I don’t need a breakdown of their history or anything substantial, just enough so that I can pick up the book and not have to dash to the Marvel wiki every few pages to understand what’s happening. They’re reborn indefinitely, strive to preserve their own culture and methodology above all else, and wipe out their enemies, the Deviants.
Eternals are cogs in a machine, almost literally. When one of the cogs isn’t doing what it’s supposed to and fucks up badly enough, it’s excluded. A brief reference to Thanos as an example of what it takes for someone to become excluded is well-played. Invoking an incident that also occurred in the Marvel Cinematic Universe works great here, removing a barrier of understanding for those who aren’t entirely familiar with the history of the Mad Titan.
As fun as Ikaris is, the majority of the issue is dedicated to his wrestling of the newly-returned Sprite. In a brief synopsis of what got Sprite excluded for a time, Gillen paints her as someone who rebelled against the system that the Eternals are bound to, an anarchist among their people. They don’t remember any of that, but I don’t know much trust I have in Sprite as a result. Ribic executes their movement fluidly, yet manic. They are a ball of chaos with little to no restraint, and you can feel them about to leap off the page. Ikaris is more rigid in his movements, clearly powerful, but not an acrobat. The juxtaposition in their fight is delightfully amusing.
Oh Hey, I Know That Guy!
Naturally, there is a bridge to the larger Marvel Universe in Eternals #1, and that comes in the form of Tony Stark. We get a little bit more insight into the more recent history of the team, or at least Ikaris specifically, but just enough so that you know what informs his interaction with Tony. It doesn’t feel like a history lesson or something you need to have a full understanding of to go forward, you get just enough. The pacing and delivery of information are about as close-to-ideal as I could really hope for.
Ikaris addresses Iron Man in a way that feels more like Gillen addressing the reader, breaking the fourth wall almost. “A full reboot of the Eternals” is a great line of dialogue for establishing what’s happening in-universe as well as what we, the readers, are witnessing. Referring to some of the Eternals taking advantage of this time to modify their appearance and that it’s common, is the most promising thing about this book. The possibilities with an artistic license there are endless and I can’t wait to see what that looks like. It’s another way that this has become a solid entry point for the franchise as well since team members aren’t even guaranteed to look the same. It keeps things rewarding for long-time fans, but much more accessible for people like me.
Death Is Coming
You can feel while reading Eternals #1, that this series is going to be something big. I don’t mean in the sense of readers and numbers that old men will count towards its success, determining how long it gets to live and breathe for, though I am sure that will perform admirably there as well. I mean in the scope of the vision of the work. Much of this issue is spent on Ikaris and Sprite and establishing a relationship with the reader to the ideas at play, but we are left with but one thing to hang onto, going into the next issue. Gillen gave an interview here in which he describes his plans for the villain at play…Thanos. “…Giger’s Alien aboard the ship that is Earth.” I have goosebumps on the last page of this book, fearing the unholy terror that is about to be brought to the Eternals. Death walks among the undying.
The Art Of Eternals #1
Esad Ribic uses dramatic expressions frequently throughout the book, which I find incredibly amusing. It keeps the mood a little lighter, given Wilson’s muted coloring provides a darker atmosphere. The grim looks on Ikaris’ face, the childlike demeanor of Sprite, these things brilliantly capture the spirit of the characters in execution. The character design work that Ribic is displaying is some of his best ever. The deviant Ikaris and Sprite fight is positively disgusting and oddly memorable for being something I’m sure we’ll never see again. I can’t imagine whatever ungodly horrors are up his sleeve for the time to come.
Blue is a HUGE thing in Eternals #1 and it is utilized strikingly and efficiently. Wilson’s colors at the beginning surrounding the rebirth of Ikaris are stunning, and pave the way for Cowles’ incredible design work and lettering, folding in blue at every possible chance. There are data pages here! You can feel the influence that Jonathan Hickman and Tom Muller’s work with the X-line has had at Marvel, and this book embraces that potential. There are design elements at work here that are sure to make it stand out on shelves in a way that many other big two books would never care to attempt. You can feel that Eternals is embracing artistic freedom on a level that we just don’t get to see very often. The sheer visual design of this comic is worth the price of admission alone, I feel.