The Eternals aren't exactly the best-known Marvel characters, even among comics fans, so it makes sense that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would employ a bit of star power to help bring these gods to the big screen.
First reported in May as part of the cast of the Marvel Studios film, Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie is now confirmed to star as the Eternal known as Thena. Given her obscure nature, here's a quick way to get up to speed on the character.
Much of Jack Kirby's work in comic books was informed by various mythologies and The Eternals are no different. Created by the alien race known as the Celestials, the Eternals defend humanity against the maniacal Deviants. Thena's name is obviously similar to the Greek goddess Athena -- a choice that is intentional. Originally, her name was Azura but she had her name changed to Thena to honor the Greek goddess of war as part of a pact with the Greek pantheon. Much like Athena, Thena is not only a skilled fighter but also a wise scholar.
HER RELATIONSHIP WITH KRO
In the distant past, Thena would meet a Deviant named Kro, who, when given the chance to kill her, chose not to. This would lead to a developing affection between the two. Kro eventually went missing for an extended period of time due to his long lifespan. He reappeared during World War II, attempting to aid his people by supporting different armies. Thena suggested that the Eternal, Makkari, go after him. This led to Makkari taking the persona of Hurricane. (Comic books written around this time would be retconned to involve the Eternals, with Makkari being Mercury and Thena being Minerva.)
During the Vietnam War, Thena met Kro again, and their rekindled relationship resulted in the conception of twins. Due to the animosity between Eternals and Deviants, Thena would put her twins into the womb of a woman named Ms. Ritter, who had been infertile until that point. Her own relationship with Kro drove a desire in Thena to see peace between their respective species.
HER PLACE IN THE MODERN MARVEL UNIVERSE
Though not originally intended to be a part of the larger Marvel Universe, the Eternals were eventually absorbed into it, especially given the relationship with the Celestials and the Kree. Thena would show up to oppose Kro as he attacked New York City, eventually holding a truce when he showed her genetically stable Deviants. Thena would go on to aid Thor and the Avengers, fighting foes such as Maelstrom and her namesake, Athena.
She would eventually become "Prime Eternal" and function as the Eternal's new leader (a role which she had always desired) after the death of her father Zuras. This would prove to be an unsuccessful promotion, however, as her father's death left her traumatized. She went on to give her role to Ikaris after opposing him when he and the other Eternals attempted to move against Kro.
Like most Eternals, Thena possesses superhuman strength, speed, stamina, and other physical faculties. She also has the power to manipulate cosmic energy, which she can emit offensively from her eyes or hands, or use to extend her own life for millennia. This cosmic energy can also make her nearly impervious to harm. She can also fly, cast illusions, teleport, and create the Uni-Mind, a collective psychic being created by mentally merged Eternals. This all makes her easily one of the most powerful female characters in Marvel comics.
HER CURRENT STATUS IN COMICS
In 2018's Avengers #4, Iron Man and Doctor Strange go to investigate the appearance of several new Eternals. Arriving in the Mountains of Greece, they find a barely alive Ikaris. Not counting himself, all of the other Eternals had either killed themselves or each other. This was due to them collectively learning of their original purpose, which was not to protect humanity but cultivate it. This number of course includes Thena, who is not even shown in her final moments.
The character's rather anti-climactic end is a shame, but it's one that will more than likely be overturned as comic book companies, namely Marvel, are known for making changes in the books to match any accompanying media. With The Eternals getting a feature film in Marvel's Phase 4, their newfound popularity will more than likely make Marvel quickly resurrect the characters, chiefly their former leader.
Directed by Chloé Zhao from a screenplay by Matthew and Ryan Firpo, Eternals stars Richard Madden as Ikaris, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Don Lee as Gilgamesh and Angelina Jolie as Thena. The film arrives in theaters on Nov. 6, 2020.