Monday, April 26, 2021

The City Of The Space Gods!


After resolving to confront the mysterious Celestials upon learning of their impending judgment which would decide the fate of the planet Earth, the mighty Thor hasn't fared well in his all-too-brief encounter with the first Celestial he has decided to challenge directly:

...unless you consider being atomized on the spot as a sign of progress!

And indeed, when the mammoth alien named Gammenon turns to enter the ancient Inca city shielded by the dome the Celestials have erected over it, there is nothing to indicate that a god had once stood among the peaks of the Andes mountains and waged a futile struggle against him. It's only when Gammenon sets down the aircraft full of passengers which he'd gathered for study that we learn what became of Thor in the instant of Gammenon's strike--and that even an Asgardian realizes there are times when discretion is the better part of valor.

As Blake disembarks along with the other passengers, however, he discovers not only another human already present in this city, but one of the race of Eternals he had met (as Thor) 1,000 years in the past prior to the coming of the Celestials' third host. The other, archaeologist Daniel Damian, had decided soon after discovering the existence of the Celestials in 1976 to stay in the city just before they sealed it off for the next fifty years, and take the opportunity to learn what he could of the space gods decades before the time would come when they would render their fateful judgment. Blake meets Damian after three years had passed--but the latter is startled to learn that not only does Blake have knowledge of the Celestials, but that "Donald Blake" is also something of an archaeological "treasure" that Dr. Damian is startled to see face-to-face.

Yet having more than met his match in defying one Celestial, how will Thor proceed now that he finds himself in a virtual nest of them?

Unfortunately for Thor, the situation he has found himself in develops complications in the form of two of the jet's other passengers--and there is also Ajak, whose loyalties are mixed in his service to the Celestials, a race of beings who might well decide to destroy the world in which he and his fellow Eternals live.

It's clear that Thor has decided on the more prudent course of action, which would be to secure the safety of both Dr. Damian as well as the plane full of innocent mortals who have become trapped here. The Deviant, Ereshkigal, is, like "Mr. Johnson," on her own fact-finding mission, though still haughty enough to assert her authority over everyone assembled here--while Johnson, like his fellow agents before him, has grossly simplified the situation by assuming that he can force everyone's cooperation which his own mission just by virtue of the fact that he's armed. And if we throw into this mix Ajak, whose charge is to prevent any interference with the plans of the Celestials, we end up with a perfect storm of conflict where nearly all parties lashing out seems unavoidable.

Of course, there's one individual here who's well-versed in dealing with storms.

We already know of Damian's wish for his daughter to be contacted and reassured of his safety--assuming that Thor is able to arrange for the exodus from the Celestial stronghold of all of those now in his charge. What his might is able to accomplish in that respect is truly impressive, and no doubt worthy of more than the rushed treatment given to it on this story's final page--a casualty, regrettably, of mid-1979, when Marvel's monthly stories were limited to seventeen pages. But the last page gets the job done satisfyingly enough--though for the passengers' sake, we're all hoping that the chain Thor managed to lay his hands on is a little more durable than what you would find at a construction site.

Given the urgency of this situation, you would think that upon his arrival back in New York Thor would give a full briefing on the matter to the Avengers first thing, which in turn would alert the N.S.C. as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. to the situation--yet as we know, he chooses different steps to take, none of them involving Earth forces, an odd choice considering that Odin is withholding any information or help from himself and the Asgardians. With his high regard for Earth, wouldn't Thor's priority be to rally its forces to the danger of the Celestials? After all, what does he think Johnson is going to do when he regains consciousness and arrives back in the States--keep quiet after all that's happened, instead of reporting in? (Oddly enough, in the following issue, in an apparent effort to muzzle him, Johnson's status is shifted by writer Roy Thomas to being a member of the C.I.A., rather than SHIELD--which will be news to the latter agency, considering he was sent on a mission to ascertain the whereabouts of his fellow SHIELD operatives.)

Fortunately, another writer/artist has already brought the Pentagon up to speed.

A look at these circumstances through the eyes of Jack Kirby!



Anonymous said...

It's getting kinda hard to keep the whole cosmology here straight. I have no doubt that when Kirby was writing the Eternals, he was disregarding or ignoring Marvel continuity, where the Greek gods are firmly established. So, Roy Thomas, or whomever, was tryin' to shoehorn all these characters into one coherent universe. I think much of Thomas' career, (and it was a great one, I'm a fan), was trying to make order outta chaos. Maybe that's what the Kree-skrull War was about. Tryin' to get all the horses in the same corral.
This proved to be a messy business.
It's kinda like when Starlin created Thanos and the Titans and that whole mythos; he clearly meant them to be the offspring of the Greek gods, but it contradicted other stuff so Marvel just said, "okay, we'll make 'em a bunch of transplanted Eternals."
Now what I'm wondering is, what the deal is with this Ereshkigal, a.k.a Hecate.
Ereshkigal, in Sumerian mythology, was the goddess of death and the underworld. She had wings and claws for feet, like your average ancient middle-eastern demon. Hecate is a bit more ambiguous, but the ancient Greeks associated her with the underworld also, but also with witchcraft and sorcery. And transition.
Perhaps an ancient cthonic goddess predating even the Greeks and presiding over the dim regions between life and death, reason and unreason.
So how the heck is she depicted here as a Deviant?
Deviants aren't gods or demi-gods, if anything they're a bunch of slobs. Sure, they've got some fancy hardware and pop-guns, and occasionally produce some dangerous customers.
But why would Hela give a moment's thought to a Deviant, even one as powerful as this Ereshkigal seems to be? She's not a goddess, even if humans believed she was.
I dunno. Maybe these dark "goddesses of the underworld" have a girls' night out on occasion and drink wine and gossip and complain about men.
Maybe my ex-wife could get in on that! She might qualify!


Colin Jones said...

An Eternals movie is coming out later this year and Marvel has launched a new Eternals book so your post is well-timed, CF.

Comicsfan said...

M.P., I'm no authority on Deviants (or the Eternals, for that matter), but it's been my impression they have an inflated impression of themselves as well as a set-in-stone demand of what's due them. Admittedly, it's difficult not to acknowledge their standing--they did take over the Earth in ancient times, after all, even forcing a reckoning with the Celestials, who typically take little if any notice of those races they literally tower above but in this case rained down disaster for the Deviants that nearly wiped them out (to say nothing of the rest of us). From what we've seen of Ereshkigal, her arrogance and presumption would do a Deviant proud, though I dare say she'd receive quite an education from Hela were they to meet (or, perhaps I should say, were Hela to deign to permit such a meeting).

Colin, I'll be curious to see what Disney... er, Marvel Studios does with the Eternals in cinema, given that they can't exactly skirt around any mention of the Celestials and the role the space gods played in Earth's ancient past.