This reprint of the 1985 miniseries The Eternals: The Dreaming Celestial Saga lands a number of curious narrative jabs worthy of exploring if you find yourself inspired by the recent relaunch of the title. Clearly, Marvel thinks it high time to reintroduce comic readers to the various iterations of the Eternals — this is the first time this arc has been republished since its initial run. Additionally, the earlier Thor run that brought the Eternals into the mainstream Marvel Universe also gets nicely collected this week. There has never been a better time to catch up on some of the key moments from Kirby’s classic creations.
This compilation, while paced effectively and many enjoyable moments, unfortunately lacks the cohesion or timelessness of some of the earlier or later stories featuring the Eternals.
First, there is a lot to appreciate about this trade. The story focuses on the Eternals, living secretly among humans, reunifying to confront the monstrous race of subterranean Deviants. Under the leadership of Ghaur, the Deviants work to find a renegade Celestial with the intent to use their power to their own ends. There is some fine action and scripting throughout, and if you happen to be interested in Marvel’s godlike elements, this collection will provide some solid context for this little corner of the universe.
I quite like Buscema’s artwork — it’s playful and vibrant while being easy to follow the narrative arc. His work is so recognizable, and his hands have touched just about every major property DC and Marvel has to offer. This isn’t his best work (I think some of his 10-year run on The Hulk gets the nod), but it’s done competently and with joy. Even though I think these characters work best as a comment on mythic gods and the role they play in our psyche and humanity, seeing them attend parties with the Avengers was amusing, and the bonus “What if?” issues were great standalone stories.
Unlike a two-year collection of a monthly comic, this trade is made up of a single miniseries (with a few supplementary issues in other Marvel books to boot). Unfortunately, the creative team changes near the end of the series, which is commonly a bad sign for a book that had a explicit story to be told from the beginning of its publication. Gills was replaced by Simonson on issue #9, and Buscema with Pollard on issue #10. It isn’t all that shocking a shift with this new team, but it is noticeable. I don’t know why Marvel would do this at the end of the mini’s run, but it’s an unfortunate editorial decision that makes the arc feel less focused.
The later creative team does a fine enough job bringing the story to a close, but the major problem with this run are the characters. With the exception of Ikaris, there just isn’t much to many of them. The Eternals was Kirby’s way to explore mythology and mythos outside the standard superhero book, and when these characters are explored in with an eye towards mythological questions, the Eternals really shine. Oddly enough, trying to integrate these characters more firmly into the larger Marvel Universe seems to dilute what makes the characters interesting. The fact that this 1985 run wasn’t reprinted until now shows that it was ultimately unremarkable and forgotten until writers obtained a newfound interest in the characters in the 1990s and 2000s. Understandably, not every run can be a classic, but it’s easy to see why this miniseries failed to grab the attention of readers and engender curiosity in these characters.
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