Early this summer, I had to decide between picking up Runaways, or this title. I chose this one, for two reasons. First of all, it’s an update of a Jack Kirby series, and I assumed that Marvel wouldn’t try to update Kirby unless they knew they had a hit. Secondly, it was written by Chuck Austen. I’d never read Austen’s work, but I assumed that anyone assigned to a flagship title such as Uncanny X-Men had to have some considerable talent. Now that I’ve read the series, I’m convinced that I made a horribly wrong decision.

General Information

Title: The Eternal: Birth of a God

Author: Chuck Austen

Illustrator(s): Kev Walker

Original Publication Date: Published throughout 2003

I’m not including the “Buy From” links as that might encourage others to spend money on this.

Premise

Earlier this year, Marvel launched two remakes of classic titles. One was J. Michael Strazcynski’s fantastic update of the Squadron Supreme, which I believe is the best title on the market right now. The other
is Chuck Austen’s update of “The Eternals,” a series originally created by Jack Kirby. He took what could have been a great story about aliens who inspire human religions and turned it into a vessel for gratuitous sex and violence.

High Point

The ties to human religion. Some were nicely done.

Low Point

Just about everything else, but I’d have to say the ultimate “resolution” was the real topper, especially given the tendency to promote it as the “cataclysmic showdown” in the sales materials.

The Scores

How original is this series? Imagine if you will taking a classic, meaningful, and well thought out sci-fi film like The Day the Earth Stood Still, and giving it to Paul Verhoeven and Joe
Esterhaus to do a remake. The substance is all but gone, replaced by gratuitous sex and violence, leaving very little left to ponder when you’re done looking through the material the first time. There is nothing here that hasn’t been seen before, and it’s all been done better somewhere else. I give it 2 out of 6.

The artwork has some nice panels, and some ugly panels, with soft women and hard men. I can’t say I’m particularly impressed with that part of the package. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story was full of unmotivated decisions, ludicrous character choices, and some outright terrible dialogue. If it weren’t for the pyramids, the apple, and the like, it would be utterly worthless. I give it 3 out of 6.

The characterization starts out with some stereotypical templates to get the ball rolling, and then never moves past that. These characters are flat, and seemingly inconsistent. We know Ikaeden’s reputation as a loyal slave of the Celestials for a thousand years, but we join him after most of his internal stuggles have left him in the state where he’s ready to revolt. We don’t see these struggles; instead we see behavious described as out of character by those around him, without any indication of what his “in
character” behaviour is. The readers lose out on this confusion because we never see his previous behaviour. I was willing to give this title the benifit of the doubt earlier, in both this and plot, because
things seemed as though they were going to improve in issues 3 and 4, but I was mistaken. It got worse, and dredged us through some miserable material along the way. There’s not one likeable character in the bunch at the end of this series, and it was meant to be the first chapter of a new ongoing title. I give the characterization 2 out of 6.

The emotional response is nothing but digust at gratuity and unfulfilled hopes of something better coming over the horizon. I give it 1 out of 6.

The flow is worse than the rest of the art. Action sequences are often drawn with the panels chosen at the end of a particular attack instead of in the middle, giving the reader the impression that the
combatants are just standing around, taking turns hitting each other instead of battling in an all-out frenzy. The dramatic scenes take place in a few standard locations, but we don’t really know any of the layouts or connections between them. Thirty years ago, Chris Claremont kept writing conversations in the hallways of the X-Mansion, so that the reader could follow the characters from the danger room to the Blackbird hanger to the main entrance to the kitchen to the sleeping areas, and develop a pretty good sense of the floor plan, or the space the characters were working in. Any writer who is on Uncanny X-Men today should have read Claremont’s work and learned from it. If Austen read it, he didn’t learn anything. We get location after location, with no ties to hold them together, or even give their relative locations within the Eternal stronghold. We jump from one to the other, seeing characters in dangerous situations, never knowing if the person who might save them is just around the corner, or half a pyramid away. It’s hard to build suspense when there’s no apparant chance of rescue. I give it 1 out of 6.

Overall, this series was a waste of my time and money. I don’t recommend it to anyone. 1 out of 6.

In total, The Eternal: Birth of a God receives 13 out of 42. I’m tempted to dig through the archives just to see if we’ve ever given anything a lower score.