Here’s a little game I like to play in my own, comic-obsessed mind: Which comic has art that’s the most inversely proportional to the quality of its writing? For example, “Batman” might qualify these days, as Grant Morrison’s stunning and provocative writing is almost inversely proportional to the inconsistent and tepid stylings of Tony Daniel. But if an award were given for such a thing, “Eternals” would probably take first prize — for what it’s worth — since the gorgeous artwork of Daniel Acuna is completely wasted on the bland, uneventful, and laconic writing of Charles and Daniel Knauf. “Eternals” might look great, but after five issues, it’s proven itself to be one of the weakest comics in the Marvel line.
“Eternals” is the graphic narrative equivalent of NBC’s “Heroes.” Sure, we see more costumed characters on the pages, but the way the comic jumps from location to location and from slow-as-molasses subplot to subplot feels just like the first season of Tim Kring’s television show. I stuck with that show until the season one finale, but I don’t think I’ll be sticking with this comic book for that long. It’s not just that so little happens, it’s that what does happen seems imposed and unimportant. A character in issue #5 gets beaten to a pulp, and has his back broken, and we don’t even really know why. Yet that’s the only major event in the past five months of the series. Other than that, it’s a lot of anxious characters talking about what’s to come, and a lingering sense of doom that does nothing to illuminate the lives of these proto-gods in any way.
Even the moments that try to reach toward the suspenseful fall into rote cliche, like when Sersei and Zuras realize that the transmission they’re tracking is coming “from inside this base.” Dun dun dunnnn! Like a frightened babysitter, Sersei has to find the source of the “phone call” before it’s too late! What will she do? Meanwhile, we cut to some guys speaking Spanish and some random act of violence. Cut to Ikaris and Thena having a domestic squabble, cut back to Sersi, repeat. None of it seems to add up to anything more than what I identified back in issue #1: “the Eternals are awake and bad stuff is on the horizon.”
These are the gods of the Marvel Universe and they spend their time acting like characters from a third-rate television soap opera. But even “Heroes” has some characters that you might care about, or find interesting on some level. “Eternals,” in the hands of Charles and Daniel Knauf, doesn’t even have that. All it has is the painterly art of Daniel Acuna, doing some of the best work of his career on a comic that’s nowhere near as good as it looks.