Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Up The Long Ladder
When Jack Kirby turned in those first sets of pages for his new series, The Eternals, I wonder if he knew at the time that he was setting in stone the definitive evolution of mankind in the Marvel universe? I.e., that man would owe its genetic makeup to the Celestials?
It beats me why a race as obviously advanced and evolved as the Celestials would spend their time hopping from planet to planet to planet, experimenting with the indigenous humanoid life they encountered and altering its genetic makeup, and then periodically returning to monitor its progress--only to eventually pass judgment on it as fruitless and subsequently wipe it out. Does that sound very enlightened to you? Planetary lab workers? And as it turns out, lousy lab workers, at that--because, with the exception of Earth (and just barely), and allowing for the special circumstances of another world, Pangoria (exterminating its dominant race), they've given a big thumbs-down to every race they've experimented with. That's a 99% rate of failure, just to be clear. All of those Celestials, with all of those analyzing instruments, and having been at this for millions of years, and still no race's evolution has satisfied them? Someone give these guys the High Evolutionary's number, because they're obviously doing it wrong. (Not that his own work couldn't use some fine tuning.)
Still, Kirby's grand concept has stood the test of time, and writer Mark Gruenwald (with artist Ron Wilson) would later craft a limited series which expanded on the Celestials as well as the Eternals--even folding in Jim Starlin's tale of Kronos. In the first segment, Kirby's short introduction of the Celestials' experiments receives more thorough treatment:
It's a splendid retelling, and certainly does justice to Kirby's massive panels and depictions of the Celestials. Even the Inhumans indirectly fall under Kirby's "origin" of humanity--a race engineered by the Kree, but beings which had already had their genetic makeup tampered with by the Celestials. In a later segment by writer Peter Gillis, we're treated to a reunion of sorts when Black Bolt, searching for a more isolated refuge for his people, encounters the race of Eternals. Though that first meeting occurs in typical Marvel fashion:
But it doesn't take long for Black Bolt to make peace overtures, and soon the Eternals are comparing notes with one who is a more distant "offspring" of the Celestials but who has undergone further genetic enhancement:
Obviously we can paint too broadly with Kirby's brush. It's clear that the Celestials gathered a large number of the "native pre-men" to perform their experiments on, but probably not enough to account for the genetic makeup of an entire species. In other words, as you walk down the street, you may well be seeing ancestors of the Celestial experiments, but you're also likely seeing ancestors of humans who evolved naturally--though, when you take into account how many of those mated with Celestial-humans, there's no telling how many of us owe our DNA to space gods. But if you find yourself having an aptitude for science along with a low tolerance for failure, you might want to veer away from genetic research.