I was surprised when Eternals arrived, since I didn’t remember a comic by Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. about a race of super-powered Jack Kirby creations hiding as humans recapturing their memories and powers. (Turns out it was a limited series that ran from 2006-2007.)
This Marvel Knights Animation production consists of ten episodes, each ranging from 10 to 13 minutes. There’s minimal animation — figures moved against a background, lips and eyes opening and closing — an approach I found appropriate. As expected, there’s a lot of conversation. In a Gaiman comic, you want to keep a lot of the text, right? The discussions also establish the characters, helpful for the unfamiliar viewer (which I suspect most will be).
The story opens with the identification figure of Mark Curry, an intern studying to be a doctor. A mysterious being shows up and tells him there’s more to his life that he doesn’t remember. He spins a story of the Celestials, giant beings who caused humanity to advance and created the super-powered Eternals. They also created the Deviants, a race of monsters.
My favorite exchange takes place during this introduction, when the demigod asks, “What would you say if I told you that you were an immortal, indestructible being put here by aliens to preserve and safeguard the earth?” Mark responds, “I guess I’d say, ‘please leave me alone.'”
Iron Man appears in one of the several story threads. Beyond Mark’s tale, there’s a woman named Circe (uh oh) wanting to be a party planner; a woman from Tony Stark’s company building a weapon; a kid celebrity named Sprite; a reality show featuring young people with powers; and the demand to register superheroes with the government. Not much is done with the TV show piece, so I’m not sure why it’s there, and I’m guessing the registration part dates this to a loose tie-in with the Civil War crossover event.
I was disappointed by the look of the female warrior. I found, in this tale of normal people with lives changed by exceptional beings, the design of the usual busty superhero woman out of place. That’s a rare feeling for me, since I’ve read so many superhero comics I can usually overlook it. I suspect it was the contrast with the deeper characterization than is usual in this kind of story.
That kept me interested, until all this mythology became a relatively standard “bad guys vs people who have to step up to their chance to be heroes” story. Since I wasn’t previously familiar with the comic, I got invested in the twists and turns of the cast, although by the end, this turned into gaudily costumed mostly men arguing with each other. Still, one of the better Marvel motion comic offerings, I thought, and watchable for those looking for cosmic superhero stories.
There’s a 10-minute extra called “Looking Back With John Romita Jr.”, where he talks about the Kirby influence. There are a good number of clips from the episodes we’ve presumably just seen included, which makes it feel a bit light in new content. The sticker on the front of the package promotes
Best-Selling Author Neil Gaiman And Superstar Artist John Romita Jr. Team Up For The Extraordinary Tale of Eternals And A Brand-New Retrospective!
That suggests that Gaiman also participates in the new content, which isn’t true, so beware the false advertising if you’re a fan. Here’s the trailer for the release.
(The studio provided a review copy.)