Deep in the Andes mountains a momentous discovery is made. A professor and his daughter, led by a man who may be more than he seems, discover an ancient Inca chamber full of artifacts depicting extraterrestrial contact with earth. The man turns out to be an Eternal- a subgroup of humans with miraculous abilities- and hidden in the Inca chamber is a cosmic beacon. A beacon he wishes to activate. But there is another group of mythical beings, known as Deviants, who will stop at nothing to destroy the beacon, and a raiding party of these creatures soon arrives to do battle. But what is the beacon for? Who does it call to?
So begins this collection of Eternals stories from the 1970's. This was the era of Chariots of the Gods and the idea of ancient visitors from space was in vogue. Jack Kirby, who along with Stan Lee created many of the Marvel characters now on the big screen, took this concept and ran with it for nineteen issues until the series was cancelled- and in that time he introduced all kinds of quirky and strange ideas. The cosmic beacon is meant to welcome back the Celestials- a race of all- powerful space gods who experiment on creatures throughout the cosmos, and later return to judge their subjects.
This is the time of the Fourth Host of Celestials, and they have come to enact a fifty- year judgment on Earth. If the Earth is found wanting it will be destroyed. And the Eternals are meant to serve the Celestials in this process.
"They planted intelligent life on this planet--the crop has matured...the Celestials will test it and weight its value!"
This was a fun read. The Celestials are a longtime fixture of Marvel comics, and with them appearing in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I thought it would be fun to look at their earlier appearances. This is a story that frankly would make a good movie- it's very cinematic in its scope- and even a reboot of the story with modern writing and art could be nice if done right. The story follows several of the Eternals- chiefly Ikaris and Thena, although others come and go- as they attempt to protect humanity from Deviants and Celestials alike. One of the cool ideas here is the concept of Hosts. The First Host came a million years ago to experiment on early humans. The Second Host came to apparently check up, and at that time destroyed the Deviant civilization that had enslaved humans. The Third Host was just a few thousand years ago and was about study and cultivation. And now the Fourth Host is about judgment.
Why do they do this? No one knows. Even in the comics not much is known about Celestials, and it's that sense of mystery that makes them interesting. This series is definitely as product of its time- the 70's- so the dialogue is hopelessly overwrought and the art is pretty hokey. I think a lot of today's readers might have trouble with this- comics were more juvenile back then even if the concepts were not- but if you can overlook that, this is not only an interesting piece of comic history but also a fun read. And some of the visuals and descriptions are great.
Miles of travel reveal the first traces of the Deviants' lost grandeur: a giant carved face, half buried in the ocean floor, peers with sightless eyes that date from a time before the great flood.
That's what I'm talking about. An interesting subplot here is a forbidden romance between an Eternal and a Deviant- Thena and Kro. She's a prominent daughter of the Eternals' leader and he is a ruthless Deviant warlord, but somehow there is a connection. Apparently they had a fling in ages past and Kro wants to renew it, but when Thena accompanies him to the Deviant city she witnesses the horrors of their society, including the ritual of Purity Time an occasion where Deviants that are considered rejects are killed. Thena is of course horrified but soon befriends one of the Rejects, an unstoppable killing machine that has been bred to fight. When a Celestial arrives to investigate the city, chaos breaks out as its very presence practically destroys the city, and Thena takes the reject and another mistreated creature with her as she escapes.
As I said, for all the neat concepts, this is very much dated, and I'm not sure it's even in print. I obtained a copy through ComiXology (where a lot of normally unavailable stuff is available in e-form) but I had fun with this. At one point Ikaris and Margo take a cab in NYC and we get this little gem.
"Thanks cabby-- keep the change... I enjoyed your sense of humor."
"We need one here, buddy!"