I so want to give this a good review. Hell, it’s Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, whom I’ve defended time and again against the people who thi...moreI so want to give this a good review. Hell, it’s Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, whom I’ve defended time and again against the people who think that graphic novels have little redeeming value. But Eternals falls far short of what could have been such a great story. I mean, I know what Neil’s capable of writing, and even when he’s mediocre, he’s at least far more interesting than the average writer.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m more a DC fan than I am a Marvel fan. 1602 was a great Gaiman-Marvel mesh, because the major players in that story were … well, the major players for Marvel. It’s hard not to recognize Robert Reed and the X-Men, when they’re some of the biggest characters in the franchise. But a bunch of obscure Jack Kirby characters? Shoot, I had a hard enough time understanding the back continuity of the original Sandman character.
This should have been a great story, because Neil is so good at taking older, obscure characters and giving them a new, interesting life. He and Alan Moore have always been great at this sort of thing, but with Eternals, I found much of the reinventing boring and uninteresting. At times, it reminded me so much of Moore’s work on Miracleman (the group-induced amnesia, and the all-too-brutal solution to a childish problem) that I wonder if Alan even knows what Neil’s done with the story. Maybe if I had a better understanding of the original eternals, I would feel differently, but as a stand-alone story, it’s disappointing.
And speaking of stand-alone stories, Eternals isn’t. It’s a set-up, it’s exposition, so much so that I went online to discover if this was a graphic novel, a mini-series, or an ongoing series for Gaiman again. Despite the lack of any clear resolution, Eternals was a mini-series, a self-contained story that’s supposed to have a start, a middle, and an ending. It has the first two elements, but that last, crucial part of the story is missing. Ah, but I also find out that Marvel has decided to continue the series, with a new writer-artist combo. Really? I’m shocked. I mean, considering that the greatest threat to humankind is left standing, with less than 14 hours to go before a possible annihilation, with all the main characters dispersing to find more heroes, I’m amazed that there’s anything left to tell.
It seems like Marvel tapped Neil to come up with a new series, to create the genesis of a revamped mythology, for other people to write. While this is fine in its own right, I can’t help but recall Lady Justice, World of Wheels, and Teknophage, some of the other series Neil created for other writers, but which all failed miserably when all the Gaiman fanboys realized that it took more than an idea to be a Neil Gaiman story. I can’t fault Neil for the opportunity (the included interviews and behind-the-scenes bonuses in the collection reveal a genuine enthusiasm for what he did), but it’s a shame that he won’t be the writer to continue the series.
If you’re a Gaiman fan, it’s worth reading, but please, save yourself some money and check it out from the library, or borrow it from a friend. It would be a shame to pay full price for the book, given how little story it actually contains. I’m certainly disappointed that I did so, and I’m one of the biggest Gaiman fanboys out there. Just ask my Death tattoo.(less)
DC Comics has me pegged. Stick Neil Gaiman’s name on something and I’ll buy it. Shoot, there’s a good chance that I’ll buy it more than once, dependin...moreDC Comics has me pegged. Stick Neil Gaiman’s name on something and I’ll buy it. Shoot, there’s a good chance that I’ll buy it more than once, depending on what you keep adding to the releases. Knowing this about myself, I’m always a little surprised when something he’s written just sort of shows up on the bookstore shelves that I didn’t already know about. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is one of those somethings.
Now, I’m a pretty big fan of the Batman movies, especially the recent re-imaginings, but I’ve never been a big, big fan of the comics like a lot of folks are. I know who the major characters are in the series, including the Rogue’s Gallery, but I couldn’t tell you who the name of the robber was who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. And considering that I read this story last night, and it featured the guy, and I still can’t remember his name should tell you something.
Once I started reading the story, though, I realized that something was very, very off. Without giving away any of the story, understand that there are some very impossible things happening here, right from the get-go. Neil’s foreword let me know enough of the backstory here to get what was happening — this is essentially the last Batman story ever, much like Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? was for Superman — so I wasn’t too shocked at the idea of Bruce Wayne being dead, but … well, by the time I got to the end of the title story, I realized: Batman is more than a character; he’s a mythology.
I doubt this is any ground-breaking revelation, except maybe to myself, because when you think about it, comic book characters are very much modern day mythologies. They’re more than just people in costumes used to illustrate stories; despite their supernatural abilities, they’re everymen who fight their troubles every day, over and over again, and they will never die. They represent all that’s good in us, and they fight and overcome all that’s bad. They take on a life greater than the stories they star in, and yes, I know how cheesy it all sounds. The fact is, it’s true, and if you’re going to hire a writer to drive home this point, then you need to get the master of modern mythology, Neil Gaiman. Suffice it to say, the match of author and subject is perfect. The title story is a perfect vehicle for illustrating the mythology of Batman. And there are so many cool, clever things that Neil does during the story that I want to gush and talk about them, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone….
Now, I bought the “deluxe edition” of the story, which collects three other Gaiman-penned Batman stories, none of which I had heard of before. None of them pack the same punch that the title story does, but they do have a very Gaiman-esque approach to the stories that deconstructs and de-idolizes the character of Batman. It’s an odd set of stories to set alongside the mythology story, but there you go. The best of the bunch is probably the reproduction of the Black and White story, which sets the Batman and the Joker as actors who are waiting their time to star in their comic. If nothing else, it serves as a gentle reminder that Neil’s understanding of mythology has served him very well in the world of comics.
Is this collection worth getting? I think so. I hesitated for a while after first seeing it on shelves (I hadn’t yet been able to forget the travesty that was Eternals), but the title story is really something, even if the rest of them aren’t. I can see myself re-reading this one to catch all the little details of the artwork and the story. Plus, it fits in well with the rest of my Neil Gaiman collection.(less)