Friday, September 19, 2014

More Kirby: The Eternals #17

Last week, I looked at one of the more inspired issues of Jack Kirby's The Eternals, #13. Today I'm jumping ahead with another random copy that I've found:


This is issue #17, cover-dated for November of 1977. It's pretty much an all-Kirby deal, with a bit of inking from Michael Royer. The price has gone up, but we still get only seventeen pages of story. I'm not sure how upset pre-teen boys would be at the extra nickel, or if they are still the main audience at this point.

Man, those females and their wrath.

It seems fairly boy-ish to my eyes, with the introduction's implication of amazement that a woman will save the day. I'm sure that Kirby means to show Sersi as being the equal of the men around her, but making a big point about her being FEMALE kinda cancels that out.

He's thinking so hard that it crackles

This is the 1970s though, so there is more than enough macho to go around. The story opens up with our three male leads, Ikaris, Makari and Zuras, trying to foist a mind-control helmet on some guy in a cave. He calls himself Dromedan, which is a little odd in a book in which everyone's name is supposed to evoke an ancient deity. I'm guessing that Kirby was thinking of the Andromedan galaxy where many sci-fi stories are set (and where Marvel's race of Skrulls are from). It's also where many UFO conspiracists place the home of the alien race that watches over us.

The Eternals version of "Your Mama!"

Apparently, Dromedan is the villain because he's insane. ALL the Eternals have amazing matter-control powers, but it's OK because they practice a bit of responsibility. Obviously, Kirby doesn't follow the usual tenet of having the bad guy go crazy BECAUSE of the power. In this universe, personal morality comes first.

The latest in fetish wear

The boys get down and battle, and it doesn't go well. Despite trapping their adversary in a pool of molten rock, they all fall to mind-control, leaving Ikaris punching himself (sadly, Dromedan doesn't say STOP PUNCHING YOUSELF IKARIS HAW HAW!), Zuras sporting a nifty new clubbing outfit and Makkari sobbing somewhere to himself off-panel. Speaking of new outfits...

Here's Sersi's awesome introduction. In her recent appearances, she's drawn more like a typical comic-book woman. Perhaps a little taller than average, but conforming to a modern fashion-model aesthetic, and probably based on the modern idea of her mythical namesake being a great seductress. Kirby presents her as a stocky, yet curvy warrior-woman. Betty Brosmer, perhaps, with dark hair. There's also a nifty framing effect here, highlighted by Glynis Wein's coloring decision.

action figures attack!

Sersi's thing appears to be creating things out of thin air, so she comes up with a plan that starts with five Ikaris' attacking the Dromedan. The fight goes on for pages, but eventually our master villain disintegrates them all with crimson eye-beams. Lest we confuse this with Darkseid's Omega Effect, he espouses that "Eternals CAN'T die! But you shall live as FREE-FLOATING ATOMS!"

pfft, wisdom.

Yeah, what he said there, too. I had never noticed before, but in this panel we get to see that the back of Makkari's helmet has a wing design on it! What a neat little Kirby detail. How often do we look at the back of everyone's heads in a comic book?

The last sound he heard was TZAAM!

Of course, none of those Ikarisi were the real thing, but all clever fakes made by Sersi. And so the real Ikaris peeks his head out of hiding and disintegrates Dromedan with yellow eye-beams. Which brings up a question about the concept of the Eternals. They all appear to have the same powers of mind-over-matter, but only Sersi goes around making giant snakes and such. Is this an expression of their personalities that they do different things?

Polar Eternals: good at killing, not so much at light conversation

Because the implication of the next page is that there are some sort of tribal, if not racial, differences among them. His friends try to comfort Ikaris by raising him above his "FROZEN-FACED family of toughs," but the implication is that he's just a barbarian who instinctively fights rather than thinks. Much as Orion of the New Gods was always fighting his true nature, Ikaris has to fight his own pre-disposition.

Kirby machinery should not be operated under the influence of mead

This point is hammered home by a little coda showing us two of the polar Eternals being, well, sinister. The little techno-wizard Sigmar is being bullied by the constantly-drinking Druig into revealing the secret of an ancient super-weapon. So, we're back to another attempt to blow up the "space gods."

Besides the repetition of this old/new threat, Kirby just doesn't seem very inspired in this issue. The pages are mostly variations on the standard six-panel grid with some sporadic uses of the four-panel grid (for expanding fight scenes). It's mainly a big punching fest, with Sersi coming in to show the value of strategy. There isn't any of the usual cosmic grandeur; it's more like Jack Kirby filling up pages to meet a deadline. All right for a twelve-year-old probably, but very disappointing for an adult to look back on.

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