This issue of ETERNALS would most likely have been the third book in that 3-Bag in which I got INVADERS #13, based on when it was on sale originally and how I know I got it. Can you find the typo in the cover copy on this cover? It’s a typically bombastic Jack Kirby cover, with some very strange and design-oriented anatomy to it. I’m not certain offhand who inked it–I would guess John Verpoorten–but it’s not a fabulous inking job. It could use greater separations of the planes and more of a focus on the main characters.
As I’ve said previously, I didn’t love ETERNALS when it was coming out. It was strange to me–I liked my super hero comics a bit more straightforward than this. While I had read the following issue, and so I knew where this book was going, it didn’t really give me all that much help in terms of finding my footing. It was difficult to even tell who I was supposed to be pulling for, given that there were a bevy of characters on display. The Kirby comics of this era were truly unlike anything else that was coming out at the time, and seemed a bit out-of-step with the industry. But that very quality is what’s made their value last over the years, where other seemingly-slicker and more contemporary comics of the era are either forgotten or show their age and lack of sophistication. Even as a kid, there was something fascinating about these books, their weird design style, the way the story was put together–but for the longest time, I couldn’t crack the code.
This issue opens in the Deviant city, where we are introduced to the Reject. In this opening sequence, he comes across as something of a riff on Kirby’s earlier NEW GODS creation, Forager, as he, too, wears a mask to conceal the fact that he’s not ugly and misshapen like his Deviant brethren, but rather a perfect human specimen. His fellow Devinats beg their leader, the Great Tode, to destroy him, but in order to do so, Tode decrees that the Reject must fall in combat, as that is the way of the Deviants.
From here, we cut to New York City, where the Deviant Warlord Kro and the Eternal Thena have renewed their acquaintance. In teh past, they were star-crossed lovers, and while a strong connection still exists between them, Thena cannot overlook the fact that her paramour is an (ugh!) Deviant. But Kro wants to take her to the Deviant city, to show here that a bridge between their worlds is possible. Meanwhile, the other Eternals–Ikaris, Makkari and Sersi, as well as human friend Margo Damian–hang out with Doctor Sam Holden, and we get a short recap about the three species of life: Human, Eternal and Deviant.
As promised, Warlord Kro and Thena journey to the Deviants’ city, which lies deep below the ocean. Here we learn that, ages ago, the Deviants battled the Celestials when they returned for their Second Host, while the Eternals remained at a remove in their mountaintop retreat–and the Deviants were decimated as a result, their city crushed and hurled beneath the waves. Since that time, the Deviants have constructed their new capital city, Lemuria. It is here that Warlord Kro and Thena journey.
As they disembark. Warlord Kro is dismayed to see that they’ve come during Purity Time, a regular event during which all of the Deviants whose unstable genetic structure might prove dangerous to the race are rounded up and eliminated through ritual combat. Thena is outraged by this display of genetic cleansing, and Kro does his unconvincing best to justify it, saying that the Deviant genetic structure is so volatile that without this ritual cleansing, the whole race would soon collapse. He also points out that, to a deathless Eternal, combat to the death for honor is meaningless–Thena cannot understand what drives these Rejects.
Meanwhile, the Reject has been outfitted with armor, for he is to face the most feared Deviant killing machine from among the ranks of the unwanted: a thing known only as Karkas. This is what Kro brought Thena to see–the Reject looks like any Eternal or Human, yet was a product of the Deviant gene pool. His genetic structure is stable. Thena is horrified that the Reject is being sent out to fight and die–and more so once his colossal opponent enters the ring. But it’s too late to stop events–and as Thena and Kro look on, the battle is joined! To Be Continued!