BHOC: ETERNALS #17

This issue of ETERNALS was another comic book that came to me in a 3-Bag bought at a Toy Store or a Department Store. There was no other way that I would have picked it up, as Jack Kirby’s godly Marvel epic was not to my tastes as a kid. I found it harsh, and shrill, and difficult to get into. All of the characters sounded the same to me, and I wasn’t interested at all in the larger mythology that Kirby was building. And it seems that I wasn’t the only one, for all that the power of this work has been re-evaluated in recent years. I wanted super hero books, but while ETERNALS looked on the surface of it like a super hero title, it really wasn’t. So it wasn’t of any more interest to me than a war book or a western or a mystery title.

ETERNALS was reaching the end of the line at this point–there would only be another two issues after this one before the saga was cut off mid-stream, left to other hands to finish up in the pages of THOR. Already by this time, Kirby had been strong-armed into making a tenuous Marvel Universe connection in the series, even though it clearly was set apart from the existing Marvel Universe–Jack tried to have it both ways by using not the actual Hulk but rather a robot constructed by some Hulk fans. Kirby figured that this would give the people at the office what they were after, a Hulk appearance on a few covers, without compromising his vision too much. But that Cosmic-Powered Hulk storyline derailed ETERNALS in a major way, and the title never quite recovered its momentum thereafter.

This particular issue is mostly an extended Kirby fight scene, which is always a certain amount of fun. Kirby definitely understood how to stage dramatic action. As the story opens up, from a crypt discovered below the city comesthe Deviant creation Dromedan, who had been imprisoned there for centuries due to his awesome power of mind-control. Three Eternals confront Dromedan–Ikaris, Makkari and the Prime Eternal, Zuras–with teh intention of burying him once again. But as they hurl their immortal powers against their foe, they quickly discover that Dromedan can manipulate vven their minds, and they are overcome in little time.

In the nick of time, the trio is rescued by the arrival of Sersi, who uses her command of molecular structures to create a mighty python that attacks Dromedan, disrupting his control of the others. But once Dromedan is aware of Sersi’s presence, he is able to strike directly at her, thus liberating himself from the unreal python. So the Eternals are back at square one, but Sersi tells the others that she has a plan to deal with Dromedan. Given that the title of this issue is “Sersi the Terrible”, it’s probably not a good idea for Dromedan to have pissed her off.

In a moment reflective of the issue’s cover, as Ikaris hurls himself once more into battle with Dromedan, Sersi uses her own abilities to create dozens of Ikaris duplicates, which also enter the fray. Without knowing which is the true Ikaris, Dromedan has no way of halting his attack with his mind-force. As the tables begin to turn, Dromedan unleashes all of his power, wiping out all of the Ikaris replicas and leaving only one Ikaris in the fight, the strongest of them all.

Having isolated his target, Dromedan marshals his abilities for one final strike. Eternals can’t be killed, but they can be discorporated, and that is what Dromedan proceeds to do to Ikaris, disintegrating him utterly. As Dromedan pauses from this great effort, another Ikaris pops up from concealment–all of the Ikaris figures that attacked Dromedan were creations of Sersi, the true Ikaris was not among them. And with Dromedan’s power largely drained, the Polar Eternal is able to unleash his own optic beams to annihilate Dromedan. The text is very clear on this point, Ikaris shows no mercy, he kills Dromedan straight out. This was outside of the super hero code book in 1977, but Kirby followed a different set of rules, the rules of war. In the aftermath, the four Eternals renew their bonds of friendship, and it’s revealed that Zuras could have destroyed Dromedan at any time, but was hoping that he could be brought under control and rehabilitated. So Ikaris’ actions, while acknowledged as necessary, aren’t given the full stamp of approval.

The final pages of the book transition back to Ikaris’ homeland, where his sinister brother Druig attempts to pry the secret of an ancient super-weapon out of a court wizard. One of the running complaints about Kirby’s ETERNALS series was that he hadn’t introduced any characters that were true recurring villains. In part, this is because Kirby was painting his tapestry in shades of gray. But in Druig, Kirby is again seemingly attempting to give Marvel and the vocal fan readership what it says it wants. Druig is clearly cut in the Loki mold, given his relationship to Ikaris and their mutual father Valkin. But he only shows up late in the game, and so never quite acquires teh stature of a Loki (though he’s a figure that almost every successive ETERNALS creative team has gone back to, similarly looking for a villain to put the cast up against.)

6 thoughts on “BHOC: ETERNALS #17

  1. In fairness, if Kirby had more time to work on Eternals, he’d probably have gotten it back on track.
    This and Kamandi are the only Bronze Age works by Kirby that impressed me back then (and now). Otherwise I was scratching my head why everyone thought he was awesome (I hadn’t read much Silver Age Marvel back then).
    Tying Eternals into the Marvel universe was such a bad idea. “These are the characters behind our legends and superstitions” is very different from “these are characters who happen to look like Greek gods and demons but demons and Greek gods are totally real, what a funny coincidence.”

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    1. I’m with you on Bronze Age Kirby but I’d add Mister Miracle to your two faves. As for Eternals, it’s a shame that the market will probably never allow a series which continues the saga of the Eternals from its original last issue and keeps it in its own separate world.

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      1. I love Mr. Miracle but my mind classes them as “right before the Bronze Age.” I think it’s because when i started reading comics again after a long gap, I came as the Fourth World stuff was winding down.
        It is truly unfortunately nobody will ever use “He cheats death! He defies man! No trap can hold him!” to describe me because I love that line.

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  2. I really loved the Eternals when it came out: the awesome first couple of issues; Sersi; the Kro-Thena love match; the Uni-Mind; The Reject and Karkas; Sprite & the Forgotten One; and the brilliant issue 11 with the Russians. This issue however (and the cosmic Hulk issues preceding) was a real disappointment; the writing was particularly wooden, and the art in most places distorted despair some prime Royer inks. The two subsequent issues were much better ( although not too different from the type of Thor stories you would find circa 1965), and I was bitterly disappointed to find no issue #20 available on the racks.

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  3. Too bad kirby couldn’t or wouldn’t go back to marvel in the 80s to give externals a finale like he did to the new gods at dc.sad

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