The Eternals are. . . complicated. For several reasons, they are hard to jump into and understand straight away, not least of which because their creator, Jack Kirby, was beginning the phase of his career in which everything he did was extremely High Concept — epic and star-spanning to the point of being an abstraction. The problem was compounded when Kirby left Marvel before coming to any sort of conclusion of the concepts presented in his cosmic ponderings; he moved over to DC and began work on the New Gods.
This left Marvel seemingly at odds with the Eternals and their gods, the Celestials, ever since. No creator has ever quite known how to handle them or how to integrate them fully into the universe, so the Eternals have, somewhat appropriately, always sat alone and above the more mundane happenings therein.
Keiron Gillen, then, has been given a monumental task in his Eternals books. Over in the ongoing title, he and Esad Ribić have been hard at work creating a palpable, reader-friendly reintroduction of the characters without dumbing down the huge concepts, picking up the pieces of the characters after the Celestials removed their purpose (and they all killed themselves) in Jason Aaron’s Avengers.
Alongside that ongoing, Gillen’s dropping one-shots that tighten focus on aspects of the Eternals cast that don’t fit neatly into the action of the main book. In Eternals: Thanos Rises, he gives us the pre-history of the Mad Titan (which is to say, the story of his parents). In Eternals: Celestia, he takes a look at those the Celestials truly abandoned: the priests.
Ajak and Makkari are two theologically opposed—but equally lost—believers. Both have been the interpreter of Celestials, and both have lost their gods; in the aftermath of The Final Host, the Eternals’ very purpose has been revealed to be not only a lie but over as well. Ajak’s Celestial lords no longer speak.
Makkari, on the other hand, was the prophet of the Dreaming Celestial, now torn apart and distributed for parts.
Thus lost, the two embark on a pilgrimage to Avengers Mountain. For those keeping track, Avengers Mountain is a big ol’ dead Celestial, and our current Avengers are just crawling around in its innards like some sort of gruesome superpowered maggots.
The issue’s purpose is to impart to the reader the spiritual repercussions of the Celestial abandonment. It might be hard to grasp how hollow the Eternals might feel, knowing their million-year-long existences have been a lie. That the lie was told by tangible, concrete beings they have known might be a harder pill to swallow, still.
It’s the superhero/Kirby version of spiritual disillusionment, and the issue attempts to illustrate how two different types of believers might handle such a thing. Ajak, dogmatic and of the old faith, ultimately refuses to believe the truth, much the way that some folks refute the fossil record.
Makkari, who already represents a revolution in the faith — one who has neglected an Old Testament for a New Thought — skews all the more radical: in the face of abandonment, why not (like her real-world creator before her) create a New God?
The issue, like all spiritual matters, refuses to settle any scores or to offer a way forward. Instead, faith tries to settle against faith. . . an ongoing division of thought on an eternal, unanswerable question.
Eternals: Celestia does little to present a full picture, or even attempt to apply this Celestial narrative to the main book’s narrative. Rather, like Thanos Rises, it provides a brief insight into history and the sort of context that adds depth and vibrancy to an underexplored culture. With so little direct information on the Eternals in the Marvel Universe, this sort of one-shot is much needed.
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