Neil Gaiman (author) & John Romita, Jr. (illustrator), Eternals (Marvel, 2007)

With Eternals, Neil Gaiman teams up with John Romita, Jr. to put his own spin on Jack Kirby's 1970's creations of the same name. In the present day (one assumes a continuity much like today), the Eternals, immortal superheroes of a sort, created by the even more powerful interstellar Celestials, and opposed by another Celestial creation, the Deviants, walk among humans, living human lives, having forgotten their true identities.

Driving the plot (issues 1-7 of Eternals) and the Eternals suppressed memories is one of their own: perpetually 11-year old Sprite. Craving adult-hood, he has used his power of illusion to create a reality where he could grow up while the other Eternals lived mundane lives as doctors, scientists and society girls throughout the past one hundred years. Things come to a head in the present day and a group of Deviants make use of Sprite and a newly awakened Eternal, Makkari, to free a bound Celestial, which will call other Celestials to Earth. Such a visit will prove disastrous to humanity as a whole (the Celestials have a tendency to push the reset button, as it were), so the small band of Eternals who have reawakened to their true selves band together to try and prevent the awakening.

However, there are, as of yet, insufficient Eternals awake to prevent the Celestial from rousing, or to rebind it. So this first volume closes with a quest to find and awaken the remaining ninety Eternals.

It's quite easy to step into Eternals without knowing the original source material, though it would probably help a little to know the Marvel universe. In this first arc, we get introduced to the premise behind the Celestials-Eternals-Deviants place in the universe and are set up with the plot. Things are a little confusing at first, but fall into place before too long. Gaiman also introduces a handful of the Eternals, some of whom we get to meet more closely than others, as they come to grips with realizing they're more than human -- and it's really that element, when paired with Sprite's disgruntlement -- that's the emotional core of this first arc.

Romita's art is bold and lush, and there are some wonderful full page and two-page spreads. As a bonus, there are character sketches collected at the end.

Though the art is gorgeous, and the story has potential, this first volume gets off to something of a slow start; it remains to be seen what comes of that quest to waken the remaining Eternals.

[April Gutierrez]