“Eternals” #2 ends with a “next issue” box written in that classic Stan Lee, faux-grandiose, carny-barker style. It reads, “Only half of the ancient truth had been revealed, true believers! To read the full story of the Dreaming Celestial, don’t dare miss the next soul-shattering issue: Apostate Betrayed!” I suppose it’s meant to be taken ironically — “true believers” is a direct swipe from Stan the Man himself — because this type of exclamatory hucksterism clashes with the slowly-paced, expository nature of this issue. There’s certainly nothing even close to “soul-shattering” about “Eternals” #2, and I don’t quite believe all the enthusiasm in that “next issue” box after reading twenty-two pages of immortals standing around and worrying.
When I reviewed the first issue of this comic, I expressed my dismay at how slowly the story was developing, even after the Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr. series had set everything up. In retrospect, Charles and Daniel Knauf’s first issue was a whirlwind of plot momentum compared to this stagnant issue — a comic in which various Eternals act like superhero versions of the cast of “Party of Five.” Sersei’s worried about Makkari’s “addiction.” Thena reminds her dad about babysitting duties. Ajak roughs up a dirty hippy. Ikaris tries to keep the whole clan from falling apart.
These are gods walking the earth, and that’s the best the Knaufs can do with them? Turn them into fifth-rate prime time soap opera outcasts?
The comic isn’t a total disaster, though, and I think there’s still hope that it may yet become something worth reading. Issue #2 has a few quality moments amidst the nonsense: most notably, the artwork of Daniel Acuna. I praised Acuna in my review of the first issue, and he continues to impress here. He can pull of the shadowy and the mysterious as well as the iconic and radiant. Some of his women verge on plastic-Barbie-doll territory, but they are goddesses after all. (Or, at least, they are the women the goddesses of the world were all based on.) Acuna is good, and if the Knaufs continue to go in the direction indicated here — with an emphasis on the very human problems of the immortal beings — he’s a perfect fit, with his ability to do domestic and cosmic with equal facility. I think he’s better than the material he’s being given to illustrate, unfortunately.
I did enjoy some of the story bits and slices of characterization, even if the whole package doesn’t quite have the quality I was hoping for. The appearance of Matt Fraction’s The Order was brief, but well-handled, and the Knaufs do a nice job with Tony Stark’s more diplomatic side. The Knauf’s characterization of Ikaris is particularly interesting, with his dignified grace and confidence. He seems to have a plan that his words only hint at, which adds a sense of mystery to his actions. He works well and, of course, Acuna’s art perfectly captures his essence. So there are some bright spots in an otherwise slow and dreary issue.
It’s still too early to condemn this series, and the Knaufs do seem to be heading somewhere: the Deviants are scheming, the Celestials may not be what they seem, and the Eternals are trying to hold everything together while dealing with their very human problems. But after two issues, it’s still all promise — a lot of talk with no sense that anything significant will happen soon — unless you believe the imitation Stan Lee in the “next issue” box, which I, understandably, do not.