Someone wants the Eternals — Earth’s resurrection-prone superhuman guardians — dead. And not just dead, but DEAD. Finished. Gone for good. Off the board. Permanently and irretrievably kaput. To do that, they have resurrected Thanos, aimed him at the Eternals, and broken the Machine, the Eternals’ living supercomputer. With the Machine broken, the Eternals cannot come back. And more pressingly, the Earth — to which the Machine is linked — is now at risk of death itself.
As Thanos stalks the Eternals, the conflict-prone once-immortals investigate. And they sling barbs, because why should the looming annihilation of the planet and the rampage of the most dangerous being in existence get in the way of bad history? Meanwhile, the living arrow Ikaris enlists reformed trickster Sprite in watching over human boy Toby Robson, in the hopes of averting his apparently prophesied death.
Doom is inevitable, at least until a butterfly flaps its wings
Since Eternals launched at the start of this year, artist Esad Ribić, writer Kieron Gillen, colorist Matthew Wilson and letterer/designer Clayton Cowles have built an intriguing mystery in the midst of their cosmic superhero story. This is a book that makes time for both a ferocious duel between Ikaris and Thanos and a dive into the Eternals long-shared, long-fraught history. Ribić’s art has been reliably grand — especially during the sequences where he tours the fantastical between-seconds-and-dimensions-and-realities cities and lairs the Eternals call home. Gillen’s scripts have woven the mystic and the ridiculous together with skill.
That said, while the last issue of Eternals was quite good, the wide selection of tones and stories it was juggling threatened to wobble its equilibrium. Happily, issue #4 ably confirms that the creative team knows Eternals‘ score and how to conduct it.
Issue #4 sees Gillen start to wind the assorted threads of Eternals‘ story together. Ikaris’ quest to protect Toby Robson is pulled a bit closer to the main narrative by his (from a distance but still engaged) reunion with Sprite. And Sprite’s investment in bodyguarding Toby, aside from providing an opportunity for her to interact with the humans she’s intrigued by, pulls everything surrounding Toby a bit closer to the central story. Given how detached it felt previously, this is a major plus.
Moreover, it proves an opportunity for Ribić to delve further into one of the most interesting manifestations of his style in Eternals — contrasting the otherworldly protagonists with everyday humans in a corner of the Marvel universe that bears witness to superheroic strangeness without often getting properly involved in that superheroic strangeness.
Likewise, when Thena and Kingo go to parlay with the infamously shifty Eternal Druig in the wake of most of his city being annihilated, the scope of the conspiracy – from the resurrection of Thanos to the maiming of the Machine to the exact ends of the yet-unseen traitor who kickstarted the spiral of rising doom the Eternals are now caught up in – becomes a bit clearer. The questions are coming into focus, and with them, the shape of the story.
Indeed, on the whole, Eternals issue four feels like a deep, sharp breath before the plunge. The players are acting. The stage and set are on full display. The core themes – first among them the Eternals’ struggle to truly change and their habit of falling into destructive and self-destructive patterns – are growing richer and more directly engaged with the text.
Ribić takes full advantage of the book’s more fantastical settings to stage mercilessly superhuman brawls. He renders Thanos an eloquent cannonball – momentum and cold fury incarnate such that even the mighty Eternals cannot match him easily. Gillen’s script twists his penchant for delightfully odd humor into something sinister and unsettling. There’s a time and a place for snippy quippery, and when it’s neither the time nor the place and the quipster is a near-divine AI whose mind is breaking, it’s a sign that bad times lie ahead.
Bad times, but fascinating times. Eternals issue four is an excellent superhero comic. I cannot wait for issue five.
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