The composition of what makes the Eternals interesting is somehow vast, but also simple. Under Kieron Gillen, its complexities are reduced, yet feel infinite. The first story arc was marked by a cosmic murder mystery and ended with an excellent action-packed last issue. Out this week, Eternals: Thanos Rising kicks off, a new one-shot that reveals vast and very important Eternals history.
This is a spoiler-free review save for what was revealed in the preview and given what is said on the intro page, Thanos’ creation is a key element of the issue. This issue opens 200,000 years ago during a “quiet time” as the caption reads, but on the very next page, we can see it wasn’t quiet at all, as Eternals fight in a war. After you pick up your jaw, especially after seeing a Dino-Rider style T-Rex, the story lays into some important data pages.
The data pages help reduce a lot of complicated information down into easily understood snippets, and that’s where a lot of the beauty of this issue shines. It’s also through the captions from our narrator, and together you gain an understanding of the Eternals as only the Eternals could due to their ability to live for such great lengths. When you never die, can be reborn, and even have your memory wiped and be happy for it, there’s a lot that changes as far as perspective. This issue gives you that.
Largely this issue is a side adventure tied to Thanos that’ll have fans checking their Marvel Encyclopedias and taking notes of their own. Gillen has crafted a beautiful story here about parentage, the desire to extend one’s own life through children, and what that means for the Eternals who aren’t so focused on something so primal and animalistic. One can see how, for instance, a god-like creation like the Eternals could move away from perfection thanks to the machinations life exhibits due to knowing our end is coming. There are thought processes and philosophies you’ll ponder as these characters chew on ideas and missions born from their own flawed thinking.
I suspect some will read this and feel confused, or feel like there’s a barrier to the deeper layer of content that’s obviously there. That can be felt thanks to how the characters speak (they are ancient, after all), or how important the data pages are to help inform portions of the book. Some of the ideas also feel almost surface level, as if they could be probed a bit deeper or made with more clarity and certainty. Readers will know it’s there, but if it could go a touch further it might have more impact.
Art by Dustin Weaver has a raw edge, not unlike comics from the ’80s. The dinosaur battle seen in the preview is reminiscent of something Walt Simonson might draw and this gives the storied and lengthy history that spans this issue in a suitable aged feel. Layouts bend and twist well, creating a kaleidoscope feel as if to convey choices and actions made are going off the deep end. There’s a fantastic 16-panel page near the end that thoroughly slows down time well only to pick it up with an instant-classic four-panel page that uses a 3D effect.
This book takes a bit of patience to allow it to flow over you, but once you’re thoroughly engrossed it’s hard not to marvel at the smartness of the story. Like Gillen said in AIPT’s interview back in August, this is an excellent berserker sci-fi mythological comic. Eternals: Thanos Rising feels otherworldly as if plucked from another dimension, offering secrets and enjoyment we dare not touch, but must.
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