Eternals: The Herod Factor #1
Issue(s): Eternals: The Herod Factor #1
I don't have a problem with the one shots, per se. It would be my preference that all of the Marvel Comics Presents stories ran as one shots, if they were economically viable that way. The problem is that the stories were clearly written for Marvel Comics Presents, with a cliffhanger every 8 pages followed by a splash page, and it just kills the flow. It's too bad that the decision to publish them as oneshots wasn't made before they were plotted and drawn.
Anyway, as you can tell from the cover, this is a story about how Ikaris' arms have grown so big that he can't even lower them, and it's obviously very painful.
Well, that and a monster that is hunting and killing human twins.
The Eternals assume that the monster is a Deviant. There is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in this story from Karkas and Reject, the two Deviants that hang out with the Eternals, showing that they are unhappy that the Eternals always blame everything on the Deviants. It's something that comes up every chapter or so, but doesn't lead to any kind of resolution.
I also want to highlight the fact that Karkas notes that he was labeled a mutate by the Deviants. In the Subterranean Wars annual event, it seemed like there was a distinction between Deviants and Mutates that i don't agree with. This line in this story, which is written by the same creative team as most of that event (Roy and Dann Thomas), seems closer to what i understood. A Mutate is, at best, a type of Deviant.
Anyway, to explain the actions of the monster, Phastos arrives with a scroll detailing an ancient prophesy talking about twins born of an Eternal and a Deviant. Thena correctly points out that the Eternals are supposed to be a (super) science-themed comic, not a magic themed comic, and there really shouldn't be any place for prophesies in their book.
(We'll learn that Thena actually has another reason to not want to hear that prophecy.)
Meanwhile, the Deviants are in the middle of a French Revolution style purge. Kro has abandoned the throne, and the leader that took over after that, Brutus, was exposed to be "just" a Mutate in the Subterranean Wars.
Since then, a group of Deviants led by a Brother Visara have been beheading anyone associated with the previous Deviant leaders. At this point they are down to executing the servants that cleaned the floors of the priests' quarters.
Ikaris has snuck into the Deviants' kingdom to investigate the prophecy. Which makes sense, because he knows that living among the Deviants is Khoryphos, an Eternal that is in love with Yrdisis, a Deviant. So if you're looking for the children of an Eternal and a Deviant, they are a good place to start.
But they haven't had any babies. They are busy rescuing the Deviants that are supposedly being executed, replacing them with dummies, and transforming them into human shapes so that they can go live among humans.
So which Eternal and Deviant have really been making babies? Well, anyone that's been reading the Eternals knows all about Thena and Kro's relationship, and yes, it's their baby.
It's said that during the Vietnam War, Thena and Kro had one of their trysts, and this time Thena became pregnant. The first Eternals series began publication just slightly after the Vietnam War ended, and the twins are eighteen in this story. So we seem to be ignoring the sliding timescale and saying that the twins were born a couple years prior to the start of the Eternals series.
The story does make note of the fact that Thena seemed to meet Kro for the first time in the first Eternals series, but it says that she was only pretending at that time and she's actually been seeing Kro on and off for centuries (Kro is unusual in that, while most Deviants live for a few centuries, he is immortal like the Eternals).
Anyway, Thena transferred her pregnancy to a sterile human woman, and the woman, a Mrs. Ritter, later had twins. And that is of course who the monster of the prophecy is after. Thena tells her secret to Sersi and they go and collect the twins, Donald and Deborah.
The twins are brought back to Olympia to be guarded, except that they are left with just Reject and Karkas while Thena goes and tells her secret to the other Eternals (the two Deviants gripe that they aren't included in the meeting). And during the meeting the monster attacks, defeating both Deviants. This time, though, the monster kidnaps the twins instead of killing them.
The Eternals fly off to Lemura, assuming the Deviants are responsible for the kidnapping. Thena is told to go find Kro and tell him what's going on, and the two good Deviants are left behind.
There's that "stand and wait" line again. We also saw it in Avengers annual #20 (also written by Roy and Dann Thomas) and during the Collection Obsession.
It's worth noting that Thena was briefly in charge of the Eternals after her father left Earth. I've always liked the fact that Ikaris, the most obviously super-hero-ish looking of the Eternals (and the blond male), was never the most important of the characters. Makkari gets a lot of play, and so does Sersi, and Thena was leader. But Thena got demoted in the last series because of her relationship with Kro, with Ikaris taking over, and in this series the sex-shaming continues.
There's a twist regarding the prophecy, but i think it's weird that there wasn't a moment, either in the last Eternals series or in this one shot, where Thena's relationship with Kro is determined to be a good thing, a kind of outreach between the two longstanding enemies. It's just eternally (no pun) a thing of shame for her.
The Eternals get caught and brain-mined by the Deviants, but it turns out that the Deviants are not responsible for the kidnappings. Meanwhile, Thena (taking Reject and Karkas with her after all) goes to look for Kro and finds him at the location where the Polar Eternals used to live. Kro has lost the will to live and has allowed himself to age (or so he claims; we'll learn later that he was just trying to keep Thena away).
When Thena tells him about their children (for the first time), he goes with her (and Reject and Karkas) to rescue the Eternals. The Eternals also get Khoryphos and Yrdisis out of Lemuria. But Kro stays behind to take control of the Deviants again (Visara winds up under the guillotine since, in the end, he was a "leader" too).
So if the Deviants weren't responsible for the kidnapping monster, who was? Well, Ikaris doesn't want to tell you.
But the answer was set up a little earlier in the story, when Ikaris went to visit Dr. Daniel Damian. Damian is the archaeologist who has been staying with Ajak in Inca temples since the first series, and whose daughter Margo (semi-girlfriend to Ikaris), died in the second series. It turns out that Dr. Damian blames the Eternals for his daughter's death, so this whole plot was with the intention of luring them to the Incan temple so that his monster, which is really a mutated Ajak, can kill them.
It's said that Ajak hasn't seen Thena for centuries. I think maybe Roy Thomas only read the actual Eternals books and maybe Roger Stern's Avengers issues and got the impression that Ajak has just always been at the Incan temple. But Ajak was among the Eternals, including Thena, in Thor #301 and Iron Man annual #6.
It's possible that Ajak is just groggy. He definitely doesn't remember being a monster and killing children at first. But he does eventually remember that, and he becomes distraught, and winds up killing himself and Dr. Damian.
Ajak is an Eternal and literally can't die, so he will be back.
In the end Kro gets a moment with his kids.
I can't imagine Jack Kirby being too pleased about his archaeologist being turned into a revenge obsessed villain (somehow it seems worse to do something like this to a minor supporting character than a super-character). Generally speaking this doesn't feel like a great use of the Eternals. It's a murder mystery story, with a lot of time being devoted to the Eternals pursuing the wrong culprits, just because of their ancient animosity as opposed to any kind of clues. That in itself might have made for an interesting story (especially when combined with the comments from Reject and Karkas), but instead of there being any real commentary on that, it just seems to be a way to fill chapters before Ikaris snaps his fingers and realizes who is really behind everything. On top of that, there is nothing about Mark Texeira's art that says "Eternals". It might have been interesting to see Ron Frenz illustrate this, or allow Herb Trimpe to stop having to ape 90s artist and let his hyper-Kirby style return. That still wouldn't have saved the story but it would have given the book a reason for existing. As it is, it's basically just more noise generated by Marvel Comics Presents.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This story is referenced in Avengers annual #20 (the first part of the Subterranean Wars), but the reference is only to Kro's abdication and the civil war that brought Brutus to power after that. This story actually takes place after the Subterranean Wars, since it's said that Brutus is now gone. Gilgamesh, the Forgotten One is said to be on a personal mission during this story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAjak, Daniel Damian, Deborah Ritter, Donald Ritter, Ikaris, Karkas, Khoryphos, Kro, Makkari, Phastos, Ransak the Reject, Sersi, Sprite, Thena, Yrdsis
This review does a better job than I ever could of summing up the many plot holes with this issue:
Posted by: Michael | October 17, 2015 11:39 AM
Is it a bad sign that I knew Roy Thomas wrote this random early 90s special I never heard of before I even clicked the link?
Posted by: Red Comet | October 17, 2015 5:01 PM
That cover is hilarious. It reminds me of Jhonen Vasquez's strip making fun of Liefeld
Posted by: Bob | October 17, 2015 11:24 PM
Thomas confirmed in Alter Ego #136 that this was intended for MCP, but he had no idea why it was bumped.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 18, 2016 10:36 AM
Interestingly, this story was first announced in Marvel Age Annual 4 in 1988- it must have been a long time in production.
Posted by: Michael | March 24, 2017 11:34 PM
Comments are now closed.
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