This week sees the release of Eternals, the new film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Academy Award winning director Chloé Zhao and starring a massive cast that includes Gemma Chan, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Selma Hayek, Kit Harrington, and Kumail Nanjiani, this is the biggest swing yet for Kevin Feige and company (yes, even bigger than Guardians of the Galaxy, in my opinion). The Eternals are an alien race that have been on Earth for thousands of years, a family destined to protect the planet from the Deviants.
Originally created, written, and illustrated by the legendary Jack Kirby in the 1970s, the Eternals have a strange place in the Marvel Universe as a whole. Kirby’s original work was complex storytelling as only that legend could deliver, but never captured the imagination of masses the way the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Avengers would. Various iterations of the book have come and gone over the years, most notably a mini-series from Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr., but Eternals were always regarded as a B or even C book most of the time.
Things are different in 2021 though, thanks to the ongoing Eternals series written by Kieron Gillen and beautifully illustrated by Esad Ribić. So far, we’ve had six issues along with two spin-off titles that have been fairly accessible. You don’t need any previous awareness of the Eternals; instead, Gillen does a solid job through the main storyline (someone has killed head Eternal Zuras and the majority of the Eternals are trying to figure out who, while another Eternal, Ikaris, is determined to protect a human who seems destined to die). Throughout the various issues, we get to know the characters, who they are, their quirks and mindsets. And finally, in the sixth issue, we’re given what I would consider a fairly shocking revelation that actually gives the Eternals a larger Marvel footprint.
For fans of sci-fi/fantasy world-building, this current Eternals series has a lot to offer, though I would suggest that reading the first story arc in one sitting is the ideal way to digest what Gillen and Ribić are developing. There’s a big Eternals comiXology sale happening right now that will let you catch up on the firs five issues for the right price, as well as all the classic Kirby books, and with the film out this weekend you might be inclined to read where these characters came from.