His Hatred Rends Time Itself. Still He Must be Opposed:
But someone’s murdered Zuras, Eternal Prime, the Eternal whose job it is to have things be his fault.
And whoever pulled that trigger’s fired another bullet. The deadliest bullet in the Marvel Universe.
Thanos is back.
In the ruined capital of the Eternals, the unlikely duo of honest-to-the-point-of-aggravating warrior Ikaris and freshly-revived-after-betraying-her-peers-in-the-JRJ-Gaiman-miniseries trickster Sprite are all that stand against the Mad Titan.
We Know the Bullets. But Where is the Gun?
With Eternals‘ second issue, artist Esad Ribić, writer Kieron Gillen, colorist Matthew Wilson, and letterer Clayton Cowles codify the look and language of their cosmic comic. Ribić’s world is impossible spaces with histories beyond human comprehension. He populates them with a cast who refuse to call themselves capital-G Gods but have the power to lay claim to that loaded title. And they move like it, whether in battle or in quieter moments.
The battle that opens the issue really is an astonishing piece of craft on Ribić and Gillen’s part. As drawn by Ribić, Thanos and Ikaris are both force personified. Ikaris is relentless, hurling himself forward even when he’s standing still. He is, as Gillen puts it, an arrow. But if Ikaris is an arrow, Thanos is a bomb. Ikaris is mighty. Thanos is, to paraphrase Guilty Gear, a merciless apocalypse.
Ikaris strikes. Thanos hammers. As they trade blows across time and space, the tide turns irreversibly against one fighter. It is a battle of strength, endurance, will. And wits. Wits must not be forgotten. Ribić gives his fighters kineticism. Wilson’s colors lock in their beauty, their surreality, and their terrifying power. Gillen gives them fury and fighting words. Together, they craft a rhythm to the clash, an arc strong enough to carry the whole of the comic, had they chosen to expand it.
Eternals #2 isn’t a fight comic. If it was, it would be excellent, but it isn’t. It’s a mystery. Someone killed Zuras. Someone resurrected Thanos using the Eternals’ great Machine. Someone’s meddled with a system that life on Earth needs to survive. Someone’s a traitor. And there’s very little time left, save perhaps where time is broken.
Eternals‘ first issue established key questions. The second issue asks more but simultaneously establishes context and stakes. Gillen thereby expands the book without recklessly ballooning it – though a set of new subplots will need to be balanced carefully with the main story in future issues, lest the whole thing get lost on a detour to humanity’s relationship with the (pointedly not) divine.
As the scale of the mysteries plaguing the Eternals comes into focus, so too do the group’s dynamics. The Eternals are forever bound by their history. But while that bond is unbreakable, it is neither happy nor healthy. Everybody wants to save the world, but within the Eternal community, there are multiple schools of thought on how to go about that. Never mind the traitor.
This issue reads in part like Ribić and Gillen’s response to the 2006 John Romita Jr./Neil Gaiman Eternals miniseries. In broad strokes, their stories are quite similar — something has gone badly wrong with the Eternals and their system, and someone’s turned their coat a nefarious color. But where Romita Jr. and Gaiman focused on the Eternals recovering lost memories and reconciling them with the humanity they’d briefly carried, Ribić and Gillen lay the cosmic cards on the table from turn one.
The Eternals’ status quo is intact. Ikaris is an arrow. Sprite is a trickster. Sersi is a schemer. Everything is Zuras’ fault. The Eternals’ status quo is in dire peril. An arrow flies straight and true, but it may not be able to match whoever used Thanos as a bullet. Sprite may be innocent, or she may be taking another shot at treason. Sersi’s game is far from clear. Zuras is dead, but everything may yet be his fault. The Machine is constant. The Machine is afraid.
The Machine is emerging as the most exciting part of Eternals. As a longtime Gillen fan, I seriously dig the way he’s experimented with his comics’ narrative construction. The Machine continues their intriguing double duty as a removed-from-the-action narrator and actively-involved-in-the-churn character in issue #2. They slip between wise poeticism and amiable informality in their conversation with the reader. This creates space for Gillen’s goofier side to show through without breaking Eternals‘ vibe.
It’s a neat, neat, neat piece of comics-craft — one that ties directly into the emerging mystery. I cannot wait to see where Ribić, Gillen, Wilson, and Cowles’ spiral leads next.
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