Comic books are where my geek credentials fall flat. Well, not entirely flat, of course: I know what they are, can name some major companies (well, Marvel and DC, anyway) and characters, and I do own a few. But the ones I own and the ones I read only ever reach me when they are already published in coherent bindings as books and after the stamp of approval has been put on them in some way or other. I.e. Watchmen
, V for Vendetta
or the like. I am beginning to feel confident when it comes to Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman, but it has taken me many years; and I still feel confused and a little out of my depth when confronted with Avengers and Justice Leagues in various shapes and guises.
I had heard of the Eternals
, but I had no real grasp of the concept or really any idea of what it was all about. All I knew was that the Eternals were … well, eternal. With superpowers. And fancy costumes. Basically gods. I have since learnt (from my recent reading of Gaiman's Eternals
, in fact) that there are gods in the Marvel universe, and the impression I took away was that the gods are puny compared to the Eternals. And the Eternals are fairly puny compared to the Celestials.
It may be that someone with a better grasp of Marvel and Kirby would appreciate this book more than I did. As soon as I understood the premise, which appears to be something like a take on Däniken on steroids, my expectations skyrocketed. I had visions of Sandman
esque glory bathed in ancient religions and history. And I confess I was disappointed when that wasn't what I got. There were tantalising hints, of course. They are linked to ancient Egypt (one of them is identified as Toth) and ancient Greece (although that might just be me associating wildly over names like Zuras and his daughter Thena, not to mention Ajak and Ikaris), but there was potential for so much more. Although for all I know that potential was already used up in the 70s.
The composition of the story worked very well for me as an introduction, but it also felt like too much of a first instalment for my tastes. Perhaps that is why I never really took the comic turn -- I don't handle lack of closure very well.
That said, it is good. There is poetry in it (I don't mean verse); it has satire, a villain (scratch that: several villains on several levels), and a well-structured plot with a good beginning (which reminds me very much of the opening of Zelazny's Amber
, incidentally).There isn't that much character development, but once again that may be explained by Gaiman working with other people's characters, I suppose. I realised too late that it was a detective story in a way. I took the bad guys as given and did not stop to ask for motivations. Some things are too quickly glossed over when you have the possibility of reading cover to cover in an afternoon. Serial publication has its advantages for the reader.
All in all I would say that while it is no Sandman
, it is still worth reading. And it has pretty pictures.