For Your Consideration: Marvel’s The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus


Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus Alex Ross cover

The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus Alex Ross cover


One could argue that Jack Kirby’s last fully realized cosmic drama was The Eternals for Marvel, during his third tour of duty with the company. He intended the sprawling story of Eternals, Deviants, and Humans to be set apart from the Marvel Universe, but as things developed, it got dragged into the mainstream continuity where it has remained on the fringes. That changes this year with the big budget feature coming in November as well as The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus which collects Eternals (1976) #1-19 and Annual #1, Eternals (1985) #1-12, Eternals: The Herod Factor, New Eternals: Apocalypse Now, Iron Man Annual #6, Avengers #246-248 and material from What If? #23-30. 

Ever since his tenure on Thor in the 1960s, Kirby liked the notion of aliens being perceived by humans as gods. Now back at Marvel, he still wanted to explore the theme. The timing was fortuitous given Erich von Däniken’s best-selling book Chariot of the Gods? which discussed the idea that aliens had visited Earth in the distant past, influencing ancient cultures, including the Mayans. Marvel thought the idea had merit, as they had already jumped on that bandwagon with the first issue of Marvel Preview in 1975.

The Eternals #1

The Eternals #1


Kirby was given the green light to produce The Celestials. As Kirby set to work, it was decided to rename the title Return of the Gods in order to cement the relationship in consumers’ minds. A logo had been created and it was even used in several house ads before the Legal Department stepped in and had it removed. They felt the type treatment was close to an infringement so the final title became The Eternals. What are they?

“That is the question. And it’s a big question, because it involves us all in a great cosmic adventure which began when the dinosaurs split the scene and humanity was first pushed on the stage of that universal Gong Show we call History,” Kirby wrote in a first issue text piece.

“Something happened back there, among the steaming ferns and moving continents of prehistoric Earth. And neither Walter Cronkite nor Howard Cosell nor your ever-lovin’ current events teacher was there to take notes on the events we must nowadays sift from the myths, the mummies, and the skeletons that lay buried beneath tons of soil.

“So what happened there, in that unreported, unwritten, mystifying beginning of all things? How many mammoth events provided the oil which still spins the wheels of this plastic pickle-works we hail as modern civilization?”

The Eternals Annual #1

The Eternals Annual #1


There have been four document eras, each known as a Host, as the voiceless, gigantic Eternals came to Earth to seed life and see what happens. When the Fourth Host was due to arrive and render judgment on humanity, the Eternals, led by Zuras and Ikaris, fought to gain a positive verdict.

Ray Wyman Jr., in The Art of Jack Kirby, suggested, “Although the story writing in Eternals was fragmented and distracting, Kirby’s pseudo-techno designs were as fascinating as ever.”

After 1978 and Kirby stopped the title, the characters were fair game to the next generation of editors, writers and artists, many of whom were strongly influenced by Kirby’s creations and were eager to play with them.

Writer/Editor Roy Thomas was the first to integrate the Eternals/Celestials cosmology with the Universe aspect of Marvel. To Thomas, it seemed a natural for a clash to develop between beings from opposite origins: science and magic. Starting in 1979’s Thor #280 through issue #300, the Asgardians confronted the Celestials. The Eternals, spawn of the Celestials’ tampering on Earth, sided against their creators. In the wake of the battle, most of the Eternals formed their Uni-Mind and went exploring the galaxies, leaving only a handful remaining on Earth.

The Eternals #5

The Eternals #5


Acts of the Celestials have also been responsible for other events that have rippled throughout the universe containing Earth-616 along with countless other parallel universes. Devron the Experimenter and Gamiel the Manipulator were charged with monitoring Earth-78411, home to Moonboy and Devil Dinosaur. The two young Celestials fell into a quarrel that got them reassigned to observing other races – the Kree and the Skrull.

When the First Host arrived on Earth to begin their experiments, which led to the birth of the Eternal and Deviant races, Set of the Egyptian pantheon of gods found out. He then dispatched his semi-humanoid Serpent Men, hoping to curry favor with the Celestials’ Gatherer robots and have his people included in the experiment. The robots refused and when the Serpent Men appealed to the Host itself, they were destroyed. The experiment proceeded, creating the Eternals and Deviants alongside man.

Iron Man Annual #6

Iron Man Annual #6


It was stated that some 26,000 years ago, there was an Eternal civil war that led a faction, led by Uranos, off Earth, relocating on Uranus. They later used Kree technology to build a spacecraft to renew the civil war. En route, the Kree stopped them and expressed their anger at having their materiel stolen. The survivors of that space battle relocated to Saturn’s moon Titan. Six thousand years later, when the land of Lemuria was sunk by the Second Host Celestials, it allowed for the creation of the Serpent Crown, which has been the focal point of several titanic tales (Avengers: The Serpent Crown).

Makkari, the speedy Eternal, was later revealed to be the Golden Age heroes Hurricane and Mercury, tying him to previous Kirby co-creations (Golden Age Marvel Comics Masterworks Vol. 1-2).

The Avengers #246

The Avengers #246


The world of super-hero and the world of Eternal finally meshed in a three-part story in The Avengers #246-248, where one of Sersi’s parties was crashed by Starfox and the Wasp. The action quickly shifted from Manhattan to Olympia and by the end of the story readers learned that Starfox was a Titan-based Eternal, a son of Alars, no less. The connection between Alars and Zuras was also revealed here. Many of the Polar-based Eternals left Earth, while their Deviant counterparts remained lurking in the shadows, after these events that set up a 12-part maxiseries written first by Peter B. Gillis and completed by Simonson.

Eternals (1985) #1

Eternals (1985) #1


Meantime, the voluptuous and fun-loving Sersi was added to the Avengers’ ranks for a period and later, under writer Walter Simonson, the enigmatic Forgotten One also joined Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Kirby intimated that his Forgotten One was known by man as Gilgamesh and even Hercules, but in the new interpretation, the Hercules connection was glossed over since Hercules was already a separate – and popular – character.

New Eternals: Apocalypse Now

New Eternals: Apocalypse Now


The remaining Earth-bound Eternals have struggled to find their peaceful place in a world filled with humans, mutants, Deviants and the stray Inhuman, among others. More recently, En Sabah Nur, best known as Apocalypse, used the Deviants as pawns, hoping for a war with humanity. Then, Zuras, back from the dead, returned to Earth and expressed his displeasure with Ikaris’s efforts as Prime Eternal. Ikaris, having seen other advanced humans feared or hunted, attempted to stop the Deviants without introducing the Eternals into the public consciousness. He took the name Sovereign and introduced his brethren as a super-hero team, the New Breed. With only half-hearted support from his “teammates”, the New Breed managed to thwart the Deviants and then disbanded.

The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus Jack Kirby cover

The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus Jack Kirby cover


How much of the material here will be recognizable on screen? That’s a question for later, but this omnibus certainly lays down the foundations of who these cosmic beings are and just how important they are to the Marvel Universe.

There remains a Neil Gaiman/John Romita Jr. miniseries not included here that should be sought out and read as well.