Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Eternals #7. "Chew on this, Mister Big!!"

Jack Kirby, Eternals #7
The Eternals #7. "The Fourth Host!"
I don't know what kind of an idiot Nick Fury is but he's clearly not fit to be in charge of an international anti-espionage agency.

In this issue we discover his agents are given hand-held atom bombs, in case of emergencies. Now, I'm no expert but I refuse to believe any responsible spy network would give its men atom bombs.

One; what exactly are they expected to use an atom bomb for? And, two; if they get captured, that means the forces of darkness'll have got their hands on an atom bomb.

Leaving that aside, what kind of training is it that leads a SHIELD agent to believe the correct protocol upon meeting an alien visitor for the first time is to throw an atom bomb at it?

No kind of protocol.

But that's exactly what happens here.

Yes, it's the world according to Jack Kirby and, despite its loopiness, you just have to love it.

The story is this. We're in the Andes and, after a lengthy absence, the giant Celestials have returned to judge the planet Earth. If it fails that judgement, it'll be destroyed. A bunch of SHIELD agents have blundered into this scenario, have been captured by the Celestials and are out to escape so they can warn the world. Needless to say, before such as the Celestials, they and their puny atom bombs are mere gnats and are soon disposed of.

It may be heresy but I've always had mixed feelings about Jack Kirby. On the one hand, I love his mid-era Fantastic Four and Thor stories. The energy and imagination of them's too much for any self-respecting comic fan to resist, and I love Kamandi. On the other hand, on the wrong strip, his "anything goes" approach can be a disaster. I hated his post-Don-McGregor take on The Black Panther, and I recently got my hands on a whole pile of his 1970s' Captain America mags and thought they were awful, the lowpoint of which being the sight of Cap and the Falcon riding around on skateboards. That was the problem with Jack. All that creativity, he just couldn't rein it in.

Jack Kirby, Eternals #7, the Celestials
Still, we're on safe ground here with The Eternals, because, unlike Captain America, it gives Kirby the chance to do what he does best - make everything big.


The Celestials were so big they made Galactus look like Charles Hawtrey.

But The Eternals was a strip that took the established Marvel continuity and flung it in the bin. Suddenly, there was an Atlantis that had nothing to do with the Sub-Mariner, and Greek Gods who had nothing to do with the Olympians from such strips as Thor and the Avengers.

As long as the two worlds were kept apart it didn't matter but the presence of SHIELD agents in this outing confused matters immeasurably. Suddenly, these stories were taking place in the same world as all those other comics whose continuity they were directly contradicting.

In the end, it doesn't matter.

None of it does.

It's not real, it's just fiction, and the continuity of comic books is so strained these days, you can explain a million and one routes around the problem. What matters is that, for the nineteen months that the strip lasted, you got pure Jack Kirby as it was meant to be done.


John said...

You're right in saying there's now too much emphasis on continuity in superhero comics. I suppose it started with the first Crisis. I mean, really, who cares if some detail contradicts something said 25 years ago? They're just colourful fantasy adventures and someone like Kirby in particular had his own take on the characters, using some existing ideas and ignoring others as it suited him. Why not? Eternals was fun.

Anonymous said...

This issue was the first cross over between the Eternals and the "official" Marvel Universe. Later, a long story arc in Thor (290?-301) sometime around 1980 brought them together with the Asgardian and Olympian gods who had been regulars in Marvel comics since the 1960's. Roy Thomas said in an editorial at the time that everything published by Marvel had to be able to cross over and tie in with everything else published by Marvel. Continuity, continuity, continuity.

Anonymous said...

The obvious solution, if The Eternals were intended to be separate from Marvel's superhero universe, would be to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. out of it, and to use some other agency: FBI, CIA, NSA, US Army Special Forces, etc. Or make up another fictional spy agency, one unique to the Eternals' universe. Maybe A.U.N.T.I.E. or something. (Well, U.N.C.L.E., T.H.U.N.D.E.R., SHADO, UNIT, and all the other good acronyms were already taken.)

The use of S.H.I.E.L.D. would seem to indicate that Marvel already had at least tentative plans to integrate The Eternals into the same continuity as the Avengers and Fantastic Four.