Literacy 2021: Book 23: The Eternals

A collection of Jack Kirby’s last attempt at creating a comic book pantheon

The Eternals by Jack Kirby

Collects issues #1-19 of the Eternals comic series, along with Annual #1

Colossal aliens called Celestials visited Earth in ancient times, spurring the evolution of apes into not just humans, but two other species: the immortal Eternals, and the unstable Deviants. Now, the Celestials are back for a 50-year judgment of all life on the planet.

Full of the bombastic and action-packed stories of Marvel in the 1970s. Ambitious in its scope — it’s unclear whether Kirby actually believed in Chariots of the Gods-style theories about ancient astronauts, but he definitely recognized its potential for an epic story. Some clever takes on how the Eternals influenced human mythology over the centuries. A showcase of Jack Kirby’s cosmic-themed art, with tons of Kirby dots, and absurdly detailed drawings of Incan temples and Celestial machinery.

Full of the clunky dialogue and meandering storylines of Marvel in the 1970s. The story is all build-up and no resolution; of course Kirby had little control over the series’s cancellation, but to be honest, it’s evident pretty early on — even before the Incredible Hulk makes a guest appearance — that he’d run out of ideas for the story’s direction. Knowing that the book is almost entirely the work of one man is impressive, but also led to a couple of jarringly sloppy mistakes, like calling one of the main characters by a different name.

Enjoy it as a showcase of Jack Kirby’s artwork and his imagination, but the concept itself is kind of a let-down.