I so want to give this a good review. Hell, it’s Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, whom I’ve defended time and again against the people who think that graphic novels have little redeeming value. But Eternals falls far short of what could have been such a great story. I mean, I know what Neil’s capable of writing, and even when he’s mediocre, he’s at least far more interesting than the average writer.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m more a DC fan than I am a Marvel fan. 1602 was a great Gaiman-Marvel mesh, because the major players in that story were … well, the major players for Marvel. It’s hard not to recognize Robert Reed and the X-Men, when they’re some of the biggest characters in the franchise. But a bunch of obscure Jack Kirby characters? Shoot, I had a hard enough time understanding the back continuity of the original Sandman character.
This should have been a great story, because Neil is so good at taking older, obscure characters and giving them a new, interesting life. He and Alan Moore have always been great at this sort of thing, but with Eternals, I found much of the reinventing boring and uninteresting. At times, it reminded me so much of Moore’s work on Miracleman (the group-induced amnesia, and the all-too-brutal solution to a childish problem) that I wonder if Alan even knows what Neil’s done with the story. Maybe if I had a better understanding of the original eternals, I would feel differently, but as a stand-alone story, it’s disappointing.
And speaking of stand-alone stories, Eternals isn’t. It’s a set-up, it’s exposition, so much so that I went online to discover if this was a graphic novel, a mini-series, or an ongoing series for Gaiman again. Despite the lack of any clear resolution, Eternals was a mini-series, a self-contained story that’s supposed to have a start, a middle, and an ending. It has the first two elements, but that last, crucial part of the story is missing. Ah, but I also find out that Marvel has decided to continue the series, with a new writer-artist combo. Really? I’m shocked. I mean, considering that the greatest threat to humankind is left standing, with less than 14 hours to go before a possible annihilation, with all the main characters dispersing to find more heroes, I’m amazed that there’s anything left to tell.
It seems like Marvel tapped Neil to come up with a new series, to create the genesis of a revamped mythology, for other people to write. While this is fine in its own right, I can’t help but recall Lady Justice, World of Wheels, and Teknophage, some of the other series Neil created for other writers, but which all failed miserably when all the Gaiman fanboys realized that it took more than an idea to be a Neil Gaiman story. I can’t fault Neil for the opportunity (the included interviews and behind-the-scenes bonuses in the collection reveal a genuine enthusiasm for what he did), but it’s a shame that he won’t be the writer to continue the series.
If you’re a Gaiman fan, it’s worth reading, but please, save yourself some money and check it out from the library, or borrow it from a friend. It would be a shame to pay full price for the book, given how little story it actually contains. I’m certainly disappointed that I did so, and I’m one of the biggest Gaiman fanboys out there. Just ask my Death tattoo.