Eternals #1 Review: Defining One of Marvel's Biggest Unproven Ideas

As with any death in superhero comics, nothing is forever, and now, the Eternals are back in action within the Marvel Universe. In what was initially planned to be a launch tied to the release of Marvel Studios' live-action debut of The Eternals, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Esad Ribic come out swinging with one of the biggest comics of the week. 40-some variant covers later, and it's evident the House of Ideas hopes to transform this series into a flagship title—that much was confirmed the very second you open the cover. Luckily, for all involved, they may be onto something here.

For the entirety of their existence, the Eternals have largely been supporting characters in other comics found across all corners of Marvel's mythos. In fact, Gillen and Ribic's The Eternals #1 may only be the 70th issue featuring the Jack Kirby's creations under their own title, and the creative team is taking full advantage of that fact.

Though this introductory issue pays homage to past Eternals tales and the mythos of yesterday, it's still an opportunity to deliver a soft reboot just as the characters gain some sudden mass-market appeal. This is far from a hard reboot and Gillen even goes so far as to insert dialogue explaining why some characters suddenly posses new appearances—surely not just to align with their upcoming big-screen counterparts.

But there's also plenty of space here for the creative team to establish a fresh new premise ready for exploration, and that's exactly what they do. This issue's set up is one that could make Jonathan Hickman blush; though, it doesn't go full-on charts and diagrams, it's very reminiscent of the Hickman-ian "Dawn of X" titles. Eternals takes a group of established Marvel characters and provides them a hard detour from what readers may have seen in the past, ultimately giving the creators more creative flexibility as the story progresses.

As such, this debut issue focuses almost entirely on concepts and characters, only setting up a clear plot in its closing pages: a story featuring the delightful return of another somewhat familiar character. All of this is a unique setup, but one that works in these circumstances. It's a tall order to feature literally dozens of characters at once while also penning a story that spans the globe.

With all of that said, Eternals #1 makes it evident Ribić was born to draw this comic. When his work is fused with Matthew Wilson's colors it feels like you're watching ancient mythology play out before your eyes—a perfect team-up for the story at hand.

Interestingly, these characters are returning to their roots as they remain on Earth. Similar to the arrival of New Attilan some years back, this story establishes new Eternals strongholds in places where other Marvel characters may easily pop up now and again. There's even a surprise Avengers cameo here before too long.

Readers looking for a strong character-driven story serving study on the likes of Ikaris, Sprite, and the remaining Eternals will find Gillen and Ribić's Eternals #1 to be a delightful read. Readers looking for something akin to a blockbuster event may need to keep looking, save for an epic, applause-inducing cliffhanger. It's an intriguing new start for readers new and old, alike and, at the very least, it's evident this creative team is setting out to establish a definitive take for one of Marvel's biggest unproven ideas.

Published by Marvel Comics

On January 6, 2021

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Esad Ribić

Colors by Matthew Wilson

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Letters by Clayton Cowles

Cover by Esad Ribić