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Thor and the Eternals: The Celestials Saga Paperback – Import, 26 January 2021
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- Publisher : Marvel; 1st edition (26 January 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 424 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1302922491
- ISBN-13 : 978-1302922498
- Reading age : 9 years and up
- Item Weight : 632 g
- Dimensions : 17.02 x 2.29 x 26.04 cm
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Conceptually, it kind of works, though it's told at such inordinate length there's no way the book will be of any interest except to people who already have a fondness for Mr Thomas's work and/or the largely underpowered Marvel Comics of the late 1970s. The story began with a prologue in the 1978 "Thor Annual", which kicks off this book, and then worked its way through the regular monthly "Thor" series from issue 283 all the way up to 301. To put that in context, when it started, I was in the lower sixth form, and when it wrapped up, I was halfway through my first term at university, which pretty much counts as an eternity when you're in your late teens.
In those days, every issue of a Marvel comic started with a synopsis of the previous issue (or issues, depending on the complexity of the storyline) and had several pages of obligatory fight scenes which generally did little to advance the plot, so we're already looking at a considerable amount of filler across the 420 or so pages here. Add to that a very complex, and very wordy story, and you have one of the slowest-moving series in comic book history (to the extent that issues 293-299 - seven issues, 119 pages - are essentially one long flashback). At the time, dealing with anxiety over A levels and other teenage crises, it was actually very reassuring to pick up "Thor" every month and find, yup, absoutely nothing's happened, yet again. It was a still, calm place in an otherwise turbulent world. Rereading it all again, 40-plus years on, it remained blissfully placid. The whole thing retains a kind of obsessively-chronicled, long-drawn-out lack of consequence that's strangely charming and rather refreshing in contrast to the pumped-up hysteria of all too many comics since.
That said, in the final two chapters - the double-sized issue 300, and the fun coda in 301 - everything has been set up, matters are resolved and 300 in particular is packed with revelations. Even the action scenes are genuinely exciting, which was almost never the case in comics from this era. It's a long haul to reach this point, but the resolution is genuinely cathartic. Issue 301 is a bit odd. For reasons too complicated to explain, Thor has to carry out a Cook's tour of the realms of all the other mythological pantheons. This results in him having a fight with Shiva on Bifrost, one of those moments of sublime cosmic stupidity that only superhero comics can provide. That said, one does wonder what the world's 1.2 billion Hindus feel about their gods being described as mythical and serving as a punching bag for Thor.
The scripting on the last four stories is handled by Ralph Macchio and Mark Gruenwald, as by this time Marvel editor-in-chief Jim "Lurch" Shooter's plan to dumb down the entire line by making life unbearable for the company's best talent had already seen Roy T. depart for DC. Macchio and Gruenwald carry out a seamless transition, and Gruenwald was even more of a continuity maven than Thomas, so nothing slips by. They even manage to come up with a plausible, sympathetic reason as to why Odin was the biggest d*****d in comics for so many years, and thus why the one-off End of All Things, Ragnarok, came along again every few months. No mean feat.
Most of the art herein is by Keith Pollard, one of the better "house style" Marvel artists from this period, and he also contributes some excellent covers. Unfortunately, his story art is cramped by the complexity of the story, which requires so many panels per page, and so many word balloons per panel, he can't really cut loose. You start to feel that if the story had been told by one of today's "widescreen" artists, the epic scope it so wants to achieve might actually have been delivered. Pollard is inked by Chic Stone, a mixed blessing. Stone's "thick but clean" lines, which worked so well on Kirby in mid-sixties "Thor" when the series was really moving into its early Imperial phase, make Pollard's pencils look very slick and very pretty, but they give the art a fairy-tale appearance which reinforces the feeling that none of this really matters. The "Thor Annual", which kicks it all off, is pencilled by the great Walter Simonson, but don't build your hopes up, because it's inked by Ernie Chan, who seems to have been briefed to make sure nothing that actually looks like Walter Simonson art can be seen on the printed page. There's also a single story illustrated by Pollard's hometown buddy Arvell Jones, who captures his pal's style so effectively you'd never notice the change unless you'd been paying attention to the credits. And the main story arc kicks off with three chapters by John Buscema, the progenitor of Marvel's '70s house style. As was usually the case by Buscema at this point, his work is phoned-in hackwork, but his natural drawing ability was so strong that Buscema's phoned-in hackwork still looks better than some artists' career peaks.
The production values are okay. The book's in the same format as Marvel's "Epic Collection" series. The high-grade matt paper stock holds the original colouring well, and there's a few inessential extras to pad out the last few pages.
Overall, this is a bit of an oddity, and though it has a strange charm, at least to comic book readers of a certain age, it's so flawed that I couldn't honestly give it more than three stars. I'm far fonder of it than that rating would suggest, but much of that is due to nostalgia. I suspect the book will only appeal to people who already know they'll like it, and if that's you, you probably knew that before reading this review, but its charms will be inexplicable, if not undetectable, to pretty much anyone else.
PS if anyone's interested in reading a rather less silly comic book adaptation of Wagner's "Ring", the excellent P. Craig Russell version published by Dark Horse in 2014 is worth hunting down.
I had the original books at one time. The Eternals & Thor books from the 1970's in my collection.
I know and can see what is being subtracted in today's trades mostly reprints.
Happy to say. You still get your money's worth in the end. It would have been nice if they included a few MARVEL UNIVERSE HANDBOOK character pages that appeared in the story has a bonus.
Cheers and enjoy this adventure on a rainy day.
In the last 2 decades they went from boxes to cardboard mailers to padded envelopes to the current brown un-padded paper bag. Great job bammerzon.
Reviewed in the United States on 22 February 2021