BY MATT TUCK
Marvel’s Eternals continues to be the best mainstream comic on store shelves, creating a morality tale worthy of Olympus itself. This series is a true work of art in every sense.
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Esad Ribic
Gillen and Ribic’s Eternals run is only three issues deep, but it is already proving to be the standard bearer for what a comic should be.
As the Eternals mirror the ancient gods, so does Gillen’s writing echo the ancient heroes and mythological tales of Perseus, Hector, Achilles, and even Heracles himself. More so than any of the issues, Eternals #3 addresses the philosophical ideals that heroic tales have always embodied.
Since the days of Ancient Greece, people have been fascinated by the stories of magical gods, heroes, and monsters. But look closer, and these were more than just fantasies to entertain the children by the nighttime fires. They taught lessons in morality, self control, humility, and even demonstrated that no one is perfect, not even the gods.
What Gillen is doing so masterfully is weaving these same ideals, using the superhero genre to question what it means to be gods and heroes. He is capturing the same core themes and lessons, translating them into a modern epic fit for Homer himself.
This particular issue raises the question, how safe are the heroes? By no means is Gillen the first to broach this idea. If you recall, Christopher Nolan made this argument in The Dark Knight. In Eternals #3, Ikaris has been mysteriously sent to guard an ordinary boy, Tory Robson. He makes awkward small talk with Toby’s parents, and even shares in a cup of coffee. But the arrival of a hero, as Gillen acknowledges, is not the herald of peace and security; in fact, it’s just the opposite. As Gillen writes, “The appearance of a hero should be a comfort...but all it really says is that something is going to happen that requires a hero’s presence.”
While Ikaris hovers outside the Robson home, a hail storm with boulder-sized ice rains from the sky. Again, the author alerts us that although Ikaris is there to protect this particular home, many died where there was no hero to protect them. Then again, there was no storm until Ikaris arrived, which begs the question, would there have even been a storm had Ikaris stayed away?
While Ikaris protects Tory, Sersi and Sprite investigate the murder of Zuras, and it leads them to the home of the Deviants, Lemuria. There, they find Thena, who it is mentioned was once mistaken for the Greek goddess, Athena. Gillen even refers to her as “a goddess in Hell.” She has left Olympia in search of love among the Deviants, whom Gillen portrays as a misunderstood race of their own, and not inherently evil. In this move, he slyly injects a bit of social commentary and realism into a comic portraying superheroes and gods.
One of the better touches is that our story is being told from the perspective of the Machine itself, who is both the audience’s guide and an active part of the narrative.
As amazing as Gillen’s writing has been, where would he be without Esad Ribic? Quite frankly, this is the best artist in the industry, and he proves it with every panel. Ribic sets the bar so high that few can reach his level of artistry so consistently.
I am so captivated by Gillen and Ribic’s Eternals that I am conflicted. On one hand, I am fully vested in this story, and I am eager to see where it is going and how it will shape out. On the other, I will surely mourn the end of such a beautiful work of art. And that is precisely what this is: a true work of art.
This is the standard to which all other modern comics should be measured.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.