Monday, July 7, 2008

Eternals #2

Since awakening from their amnesic slumber during Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr.'s mini-series two years ago, the first handful of Eternals have been on a constant vigil for more of their forgotten peers. But where the big family had previously been merely racing against the boot-up speed of a sleeping god, today their troubles have multiplied. With the devious Horde on its way to devour the Earth, it's never been so important to locate and enlighten more confused Eternals... it'll take as much firepower as they can muster to repel the invasion.

I was a fan of Gaiman and Romita's Eternals back in '06. Not a frothing, sequel-hungry fanatic, but a fan nonetheless. I found the story to be inconsequential and spacey at times, but the grand scale of what was going on and both creators' knack for powerful, easy-to-read moments of grandeur kept me buying and reading the series until its conclusion. As the immediate follow-up to that tale, the ongoing series pales in comparison. Father-son duo Charles and Daniel Knauf, known for their work on Iron Man and, more notably, HBO's Carnivale, have taken the premise of the limited series and weighted it down considerably. Where I often worried that there wasn't enough going on in the mini-series, there's too much happening here. Everyone, it seems, has a secret agenda and they're all too happy to grimace, posture and tell you all about it.

It wasn't long before I'd learned to loathe any and all of this issue's dialog. Most of its cast uses such a wide vocabulary that it's tough to say whether they're speaking off the cuff or off a teleprompter. The permeating sense of awe and wonder that I loved in the mini-series has been carried over, albeit partially, but it offers nothing new. It's still cool to see a stationary celestial looming silently over the Golden Gate Bridge, but that was Neil Gaiman's contribution, not the Knaufs'. What innovations the writers do bring to the series are so focused on conveying the galactic importance of the book's message that they never slow down and think about how difficult the issue is to read. Did we really need a monotone narration from the dreaming celestial in this series? It was hard enough to follow what the more human characters were saying, now you're asking me to focus on the emotionless, almost computer-like mentality of an all-seeing, all-knowing god? No thanks.

On the visual end, Daniel Acuna does a lot of good and a lot of not-so-good. His rich, colorful style immediately gives the book a strong identity, but his troubles with consistency always get in the way just as I'm starting to enjoy myself. When he's on, visualizing the SHIELD heli-carrier or a charismatic cult figure set against the backdrop of the towering celestial in San Francisco, he's dynamite. When he isn't, dealing with hokey alien forms or the celestial's ridiculously colorful brethren in action, he'd be lucky to pass as average. It's like his readers have to pay the piper for every enjoyable moment he delivers. He shows flashes of brilliance, but they're constantly counter-balanced by surges of ugly.

There are times I think this Eternals gets what made its predecessor tick, and times I think it's hopelessly lost. The family's search for their missing siblings could make for the driving force of an epic tale, but the Knaufs shift it to the background, more interested in tying Iron Man and the Order into the proceedings. I had a lot of trouble keeping up with their excessive dialog, which always seemed to be muddying up Daniel Acuna's best illustrations, and finished this issue relieved for crossing the finish line, not anxious to see what twists the story will take next month. This isn't total garbage, but it isn't good, either. Skip it and wait to see if things improve later on.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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