One group of classic Marvel characters that have been almost completely absent from the collapse of the Multiverse, as well as the defense of Earth from Thanos and the Builders in the Infinity/Avengers Worlds arc prior to the Incursions are some of my favorite Marvel characters, the Eternals.
You’d have to be a long time Marvel reader to remember them; the Eternals were one result of the God-like cosmic beings known as Celestials genetic experimentation with native species.
These giant, enigmatic beings were believed to travel the universe searching for planets for qualifying lifeforms and like gardeners or zoo keepers encouraging young native species to develop into intelligent forms. They would revisit their experiments and based upon some determination understood completely only by them would approve or destroy the experiments. Many a Marvel story guest starring the Eternals had humanity on the chopping block because of warring and polluting our planet.
Need further demonstration that the Celestials are still a mart of Marvel’s expansive storytelling? Remember the head that the Guardians of the Galaxy movie showed us was the home of the Collector? That was one of the self-same Celestials. Here’s a few reminders from GotG.
Continuing the origins of the Eternals, on Earth the Celestials took a population of pre-human hominids and produced populations of the angelic beings called Eternals, demonic beings with mutable forms called Deviants and they may have tweaked the hominids to set them on the path to evolving into humans who would be the true subjects of being tested as being worthy of life or not. One job of the Eternals was to be local security for the humans. The Deviants job was less clear. Were they there to pressure the early humans to evolve? In the Marvel stories it was commonly the Eternals fighting the Deviants to aid or protect the humans.
The Eternals are extremely long lived, essentially immortal beings capable of improving various inherent energy manipulation abilities into specialized talents. Some were like DC’s Superman being able to fly, being superhumanly strong and being able to generate laser like beams from their eyes. Ikaris was the most idyllic model Eternal and he could be closely compared to the more popular character, Hyperion. There have been many versions of Hyperion as recently being a pre-Secret Wars Avenger or in contrast one is presently leader of the Squadron Sinister. First here is Ikaris.
Now the Avenger’s Hyperion.
And here is Hyperion in his most traditional depiction in the Squadron Supreme and Sinister.
One arc story arc for long since cancelled comic Quasar suggested Hyperion was an Eternal from another universe. This gives his otherwise Superman based inspiration a strictly Earth based origin. He sure resembles an Eternal to me. ‘Nuff said on Hyperion.
Other Eternals like Makkari developed superspeed and Sersi a former Avenger being capable of molecular matter rearrangement such as her patented turning men into pigs. There is the leader Zuras who is the oldest Eternal on Earth and his daughter Athena who dared to love a Deviant, the long lived Kro.
One popular story is that the Eternals were the inspiration of countless mythical pantheons most notably the Greek Gods; Zuras for Zeus, Makkari for Hermes (Mercury), Sersei for Cersei of Homer’s The Odyssey, et al. The interesting dynamic is that the Marvel Universe also has actual Gods such as the Olympian (Hercules) and Norse (Thor, Odin, Loki) Gods. Who came first? They will and have both claimed primacy.
The Eternals and Deviants were co-created by Jack Kirby and were featured in the Fantastic Four and Thor to name a few ongoing series. The Eternals also had a number of limited series over the years. Recently the great Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. revitalized the Eternals in a limited series, an opportunity Marvel completely missed or ignored. Even more recently they had a co-starring role in the latest New Warriors series which notably lacked Ikaris and highlighted Zuras as being tricked into helping the High Evolutionary. It was a disappointing outing for these great characters in my opinion.
There is one particularly interesting spin off story related to the Eternals and Deviants. Thanos the Mad Titan is an Eternal, though also mutant expressing something called the Deviant gene or Deviant syndrome.
The story went that a population of Eternals rebelled from the Earth-based population and its Celestial obligations and set itself into the solar system eventually settling on Saturn’s moon Titan. (Notably these Titan Eternals were not as long lived as their Earth based cousins because they were out of the blast radius when early Eternal Chronos blew himself up trying to master the energies that empowered all Eternals.) Their cosmic or solar radiation consuming metabolisms permitted them to survive in space and in Titan’s originally hostile environment without food or O2 apparently. They built an advanced civilization on or underground on Titan and Thanos was one of two known offspring of Titan’s scientist and leader Mentor and his wife Sui-San. In the recent Thanos Rising mini-series, which did some retconning such as the almost complete absence of his brother the rather embarrassing character Eros (here’s a family shot without Mom)
it was explained that Thanos’ appearance was due to the unusual expression of dormant “deviant gene”. I thought I’d read that Sui-San was a Deviant either in disguise as an Eternal or simply a Deviant that looked like an Eternal. There was at least one other such Deviant, Ransak the Reject who looked completely human or Eternal. However, I was corrected on this and can’t find a reference to prove Sui-San was anything but an Eternal.
With the popularity of the Inhumans and their increasing importance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to replace the mutant humans such as the X-Men it is notable that the Kree that created them in the MCU and comics were interested in why the Celestials were paying so much attention to the primates on that mudball Earth. Their own experiments produced the earliest Inhumans who were evolved to be essentially modern humans with the capability to become much more through the process of terrigenesis. I understand that the Inhumans could replace the Mutants since they are relatively similar in practice but why ignore the Eternals?
Interesting to me at least, the half-Eternal and descended from Earthly origins part of Thanos’ background has been ignored. Maybe Thanos and Peter Quill will have some shared lineage to be revealed in the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy sequel since they are both essentially half-Terran, half something else. Peter Quill being half Eternal makes perfect sense to me. His mother described him as being an Angel. The Eternals certainly qualify in appearance and range of abilities. Moreover, their shared genetic origins would permit Meredith’s conception of Peter.
As an aside I wonder if Fox Studios came to own the Eternals because of their early appearances in Fantastic Four? This seems like a stretch compared to the Badoon and Skrulls that MCU has been denied. There is much being assumed that Marvel is undercutting the characters it sold to Fox Studios. This might explain their lack of use.
In the comics recent arcs I have been wondering why the Eternals had not risen to help protect the Earth from their wayward cousin Thanos in the Infinity War. Nor did they foresee the Incursions or try to interfere with them to protect the Earth as was their responsibility to the Celestials. The Celestials were notably killed by the Beyonders before the last Incursion but no comic I read indicated that they also got to the Eternals; why would the Eternals merit notice by the Beyonders as they were merely superhumans?
However, when the Eternals join into the form called the Unimind they are greater than the sum of their parts. Surely they could have contributed a great deal to Earth’s defense.
I’d be interested to read a story to explain this absence.
Will we ever see the Eternals again? Did they fail to survive on any fragment that Doom and Strange used to create Battleworld? They would have no obvious role without the Celestials but the Titans demonstrated that they could pursue their own destinies rather than submit to the role the Celestials gave them. I hope Marvel brings them back soon. Perhaps they are too similar in god-like power to DC heroes?