The Eternals is a Marvel comic book series, originally created by Jack Kirby. Premiering in 1976, it was the story of the Eternals, a race of nigh-immortal humanoids created by the giant Celestials to defend humanity against the monstrous Deviants. The original series ran for 19 issues (and one annual) before being cancelled, leaving several plotlines unresolved.
Later appearances in The Avengers and back-up strips in What If? connected Kirbys Eternals to Jim Starlins Titans, establishing that the Titan leader Mentor was actually ALars, brother to Kirbys Eternal leader Zuras. All of which also meant that villain Thanos was descended from Earths Eternals.
A 12-issue miniseries starring the Eternals was released in 1985, mostly written by Peter B. Gillis (Walt Simonson took over as writer for the last four issues), but it failed to inspire an ongoing series.
A one-shot 1991 comic by Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas and Mark Texeira - Eternals: The Herod Factor - was the next story to feature the Eternals as stars rather than supporting cast.
In 2000, another one-shot comic by Karl Bollers and Mike Higgins - New Eternals: Apocalypse Now - relaunched them as a more traditional superhero team, with code names and several new Eternals introduced alongside the original core cast. Again, it failed to inspire a longer series, and this approach wasnt followed up elsewhere.
In 2003, Chuck Austen and Kev Walker created an Alternate Continuity version, The Eternal, for the Marvel MAX mature readers line. In this series, Eternals are slaves, deployed by Celestials to forcibly evolve lesser creatures into slave labour. But then their leader falls in love - and decides to rebel against the Celestials.
Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr. returned to the original Marvel Universe concept for a seven-issue ''Eternals'' miniseries in 2006. In this miniseries, reality has warped and the Eternals now believe that they're just regular humans, but they need to remember who they truly are and regain their powers before their foes awake a buried Celestial - who might destroy the Earth. Gaiman used the reality-warping element to rewrite some of the Eternals history and purpose, as well as expand the cast by resurrecting several dead characters.
In 2008 the Gaiman/Romita miniseries was directly followed by a short-lived Eternals ongoing series, written by Charles and Daniel Knauf and initially illustrated by Daniel Acuna.
Following on from this, the Eternals (and Celestials) were again relegated to supporting cast - some aspects of the Gaiman and Knauf series were written out in various ways, and the Eternals themselves were killed off en masse to fuel the initial arc of a relaunched Avengers series.
In 2021, a new series began, written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Esad Ribic. It serves as a soft reboot, building on the Gaiman and Knauf runs with a few retcon amendments - and reintroducing the Eternals and the concepts behind them as the story moves forward.
The second arc of the 2021 series also leads into Marvel's 2022 Crisis Crossover, Judgment Day, which is also written by Gillen, and puts the Eternals at the heart of a major Marvel event for the first time. A related miniseries by Gillen and artist Guiu Vilanova, Death To The Mutants, focuses on the Eternals and their perspective on the event.
A Marvel Cinematic Universe film adaptation titled simply Eternals, was released on November 5, 2021, directed by Chloé Zhao. It marks the debut of the first deaf MCU superhero, played by Lauren Ridloff, as well as the first explicitly queer lead of an MCU film, Phastos, portrayed by Brian Tyree Henry.
(A one-off comic, Eternals Forever, which is not directly related to the Gillen series, was also released just before the film and acts as an introduction to the comic versions of the characters)
Before the standalone film, the Eternals mythology was alluded to in other MCU movies. Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 introduce the concept of Celestials. Infinity War has a reference to Thanos's father A'Lars (Mentor), and Thanos's homeworld of Titan was mentioned. The exact nature of Thanos himself has yet to be established in the MCU, though his brother Eros was introduced in The Stinger for Eternals.
- The Eternals (1976)
- The Eternals (1985)
- Eternals: The Herod Factor (1991)
- New Eternals: Apocalypse Now (2000)
- The Eternal (2003, alternate continuity)
- Eternals (2006)
- Eternals (2008)
- Eternals Forever (2021)
- Eternals (2021)
- Judgment Day (2022)
- Death To The Mutants (2022)
- Eternals (2022, a direct adaptation of the 2006 Gaiman series)
- Eternals The Five Hundred Year War (2022, alternate continuity)
This series contains examples of:
- Abusive Precursors: The Deviants were this, enslaving humanity before first the Eternals, then the Celestials, cut them down to size.
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis: Olympia, Polaria and anything the Celestials left behind.
- Ancient Astronauts: The Celestials are an entire race of ancient astronauts basically going around seeding planets with life to eventually judge their worth. They eventually returned and were worshipped as Gods by the Incas.
- Dating Catwoman: Thena and Kro used to have a bit of a thing going on. At times, they're still on relatively good terms, being some of the few representatives of their races capable of speaking diplomatically to each other.
- Fusion Dance: A group of Eternals can join together into a "Uni-Mind," a gestalt entity that looks like a giant floating brain and has enormous psychic powers.
- Starfish Aliens: The Celestials are pretty damned far beyond the comprehension of most creatures.
- Token Heroic Orc: This evolves a little over time, as more sympathetic Deviants are introduced, but there are a few recurring characters.
- Karkas, a huge lumbering Deviant who reads philosophy and prefers to avoid violence.
- Played with for Ransak - he looks entirely human and allies with the Eternals, but hes a Blood Knight and The Berserker, constantly fighting his inner demons.
- Yrdisis plays this straight - shes an artist and seems to be a genuinely nice person. And shes been in a happy relationship with the Eternal Khoryphos since not long after her introduction.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Mostly played straight with the Eternals being beautiful and good while the Deviants are mostly ugly and evil. Inverted with the Reject and Karkas; Thena's sympathies are initially with the former because he's a fairly handsome guy, but he's also a violent killer, while the monstrous Karkas is well-spoken and just wants to be loved.
- Been There, Shaped History:
Sersi: The Greek storytellers could never spell my name right.
- Ikaris led Noah and his ark to safety during the biblical Great Flood.
- Ajak was worshipped as Tecumotzin, the Inca God of Light.
- Sersi is the sorceress Circe from Greek Mythology.
- Deviants are implied to be the inspiration for biblical demons and Satan himself.
- The Forgotten One is apparently also the actual Gilgamesh.
- Big Red Devil: Kro uses this form when he wants to terrify humans. He's big and red normally, so his disguise really just involves growing some horns.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Sprite is one highly annoying little bastard.
- Captain Ersatz: The Eternals were originally intended to be CE's of the gods of Greek mythology, with a few gods from other pantheons thrown in for variety.
- Clark Kenting: Ikaris hides his eyes with dark glasses.
- Comedic Spanking: Ikaris spanking Sprite. Probably slightly less jarring when the series was first published.
- Emergency Temporal Shift: Jack the Ripper, pulled to the present by the Deviant Zakkas machine. He slips back to the past just as Ransaks about to kill him. This seems to be a theme for Zakkas summoned warriors - two Huns shift back while plummeting towards the pavement after Karkas throws them out of a high window. Inverted into Hold the Line with Tutinax, whos almost unstoppable - Thena knows that they just need to keep him occupied until time catches up with him.
- Empire with a Dark Secret: Deviant Lemurias not portrayed as a great place anyway, but the revelation of Purity Time - genetic cleansing where more extreme Deviants are sent to the fire pits - comes as a shock to Thena.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Deviant scientist Zakka summons the great warrior Tutinax from the past, hoping hell cause havoc. Tutinax promptly kills him.
- Hold the Line: The Deviant gladiator Tutinax, summoned from the past by Zakkas time projector. Its not clear if Ransak can actually defeat him, but Thenas aware that they dont have to - they just need to keep him busy until he snaps back into the past.
- Home of the Gods: Most Eternals live in Olympia, a city hidden among the mountains of Greece. A few other cities are mentioned, like Polaria in Russia and Oceana in the Pacific.
- Humongous Mecha: Most humans assume the Celestials to be giant space robots. It's somewhat more complicated than that, however, as their suits of armour are only a single aspect of their cosmically massive being.
- Peter Pan Parody: Sprite is clearly designed to reference Peter Pan, and he is aware of this.
- Social Darwinist: Rapid reproduction and a high mutation rate mean the Deviant population is pretty unstable, and they have a festival for culling the "dead ends" in giant ovens. Thena is appropriately horrified.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Plenty of Eternals note that humans constantly misspell or mispronounce their names throughout history.
- Wainscot Society: While most Eternals live in Olympia, their Hidden Elf Village, Sersi and Ikaris choose to live among the humans under assumed identities.
- Apocalypse Maiden: According to prophecy, the Ordained Ones, twins born to Eternal and Deviant parents, will inherit vast power when they turn 18, overthrow humans, Deviants and Eternals, and shall rule the world forever. The twins do exist, but this claim is false, the prophecys fake, and the whole things a scheme to restart the war between Eternals and Deviants.
- Back for the Dead: Ajak, who wasnt seen in the previous maxi-series, makes his first significant appearance in years. Dr. Damian, last seen in the original 1976 Eternals series, also returns. Both are killed by an enraged Ajak at the end of the story.
- Big Bad: Doctor Daniel Damian, who seeks to destroy the Eternals and the Deviants. And no longer cares about humanity, either.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Brother Visara, whos taken charge of Lemuria, does manage to capture some of the Eternals. But as soon as Kro returns, Visara loses control. And his life.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The Slicer, Brother Visaras Lemurian guillotine.
- Continuity Nod: Theres a mention of Brutus, a Deviant leader who appeared in one story set after the fall of Ghaur. Hes lost power in Lemuria by the time this one starts.
- Death Faked for You: Khoryphos and Yrdisis have been rescuing Deviants from the executions, faking their deaths and smuggling them out of Lemuria.
- The Dragon: Ajak, after his FaceMonster Turn due to Damians meddling.
- FaceHeel Turn: Doctor Damian, whos crossed the Despair Event Horizon after his daughter Margos death.
- FaceMonster Turn: Ajak is transformed into a huge, murderous creature by Dr. Damian and the machines of Celestia.
- Just the First Citizen: Brother Visara, Lemurias rabble-rousing First Among Many Equals and Big Bad Wannabe.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Dr. Damian is trying to use the prophecy to stir up another war between the Eternals and Deviants.
- Meaningful Name: The bloodthirsty old Deviant woman who Ikaris talks to during the Lemurian executions is Haag.
- My Secret Pregnancy: Thena concealed her pregnancy, mostly because the father was the Deviant Kro.
- Mystical Pregnancy: Thena used Eternal super-science to transfer her unborn children into the womb of a human woman who was trying to conceive.
- Non-Human Humanoid Hybrid: Donald and Deborah Ritter, twin children of Thena and Kro. They take after their mother and look perfectly human, though. And until Thena introduces herself, they also believe themselves to be normal humans.
- Off with His Head!: Execution by Slicer, the preferred method in Deviant Lemuria. As Haag comments, its much neater than just letting the crowd tear them apart.
- Public Execution: Lemurian crowds gather to watch the remnants of the old regime die in the Slicer.
- Reign of Terror: Now that Kros abdicated and Ghaurs priesthood has collapsed, Brother Visaras regime is executing anyone with even the flimsiest ties to the priests. A disguised Ikaris arrives just in time to see the execution of a Deviant woman who swept the floors.
- The Reveal:
- Thena has been less than honest about her relationship with Kro - it goes back at least 25,000 years, and they recently had children together.
- Dr. Damien has made a FaceHeel Turn after his daughters death, used the machines of Celestia to temporarily grant himself powers, faked the prophecy that almost restarted the war and mutated Ajak into a murderous horror.
- Starting a New Life: The fate of those Khoryphos and Yrdisis rescue from execution. Theyre disguised as humans and sent to start a life elsewhere.
- Torn Apart by the Mob: The fate of Brother Visara after Kro turns the Lemurian crowd against him.
- Back from the Dead; Ikariss father Virako is resurrected, a thousand or so years after his death.
- Big Bad: Apocalypse, whos trying to start a new war between Deviants and Humans.
- Code Name: Ikariss team adopts them when introducing themselves to the media as normal human superheroes. Sovereign, Corona, Ceasefire, Tomorrow Hawk, Payche, Sparx, Chi Demon, Warhead and Mesmer. They didnt last long beyond this story.
- FaceMonster Turn: Karkas is mutated into a rage-driven Kaiju.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: After using mind control to end a hostage situation by making the ringleader shoot himself in the legs, Psykos ensures that witnesses remember a different version of events.
- Living Statue:
- As Thomas Hawk, Ceyotes a sculptor, working on a huge scale. Hes capable of using his Eternal powers to animate one of his stone sculptures as a giant golem. He also animates much smaller statuettes to support him in battle.
- The spirit of the Deviant priest-lord Ghaur is ruling Lemuria, inhabiting a golden statue of himself. He can hear and speak (or, perhaps, substitute via telepathy), but cant move.
- Mind Control: Psykos specialises in this. Hes introduced in his civilian identity, ending a hostage situation by forcing the ringleader to shoot himself in the legs. It doesnt work so well when trying to calm Karkas, though - partly because he wasnt aware that someone else was already telepathically controlling Karkas.
- Mugging the Monster: After a university lecture includes a discussion of mutant rights and Magnetos control of Genosha, some bigoted students decide to assault Professor King when she leaves the building. The professor is actually the Eternal Suyin King - she shows her true appearance and cuts down a lamppost with a flaming sword. They run.
- Off-Model: Karkas, the huge red-skinned Deviant, is now green.
- Remember the New Guy?: Aurelle, Psykos, Suyin King and Ceyote are all new characters, but as theyre Eternals theyve been around for many millennia and all of the other Eternals of Olympia already know them.
- Resurrective Immortality: Recent events have changed Earths atmosphere in a way that allows Phastos to build a resurrection chamber, reviving long-dead Virako and potentially other Eternals. Later stories made resurrections a core part of the Eternals mythos, but at this point, it was a new concept.
- Alternate Continuity: Completely different to the previous (and subsequent) Eternals series. And not linked into the Marvel Universes alternate universes in any obvious way.
- Downer Ending: To prevent humanity from being punished for his actions, Ikaedan uses the Apple to make himself stupid so that the Celestials will decide that he's no longer a threat to them.
- In Name Only: While ostensibly based on Jack Kirby's work, The Eternal had very little in common with the previous series, besides having races called Celestials, Eternals, and Deviants.
- Neural Implanting: The Eternals in this version have a device called the Apple which allows them to give their slaves rudimentary intelligence.