Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dustin Weaver
Color Artist: Matthew Wilson
Cover Artist: Esad Ribić
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Eternals are in the midst of great societal change. After a major betrayal followed by a great revelation about their civilization, the Eternals face a new challenge with Thanos, the Mad Titan. While Thanos himself had zero interaction with the Eternals in the past, his father has history with them as shown in Eternals: Thanos Rises #1.
For readers hoping this comic explores more of Thanos’ origins, you will be extremely disappointed. It’s not about Thanos, rather it’s about the origins of his beginnings. It follows the history of his father A’lars, aka Mentor, and his schism from the Eternals on Earth to found the Eternal colony of Titan, the birthplace of Thanos. This comic is more about exploring the significance of Thanos’ former home, his birth, and how it affected his father’s life forever in Eternals’ history.
The story is very well-written with the way Mentor and the other Eternals discuss the matter with each other, their dialogue feels reminiscent of Jack Kirby’s original Eternals comics. The art by Dustin Weaver and the colors by Matthew Wilson make this feel like a grand comic book. The issue of course is that there’s no real tension, no suspense, it’s all recap of how things develop. The preview images for the comic show a wild and fun splash page of action, but that’s all the action in this comic.
The story takes the Man of Steel route with the depiction of the Eternals’ civilization, where everyone’s place is decided and predetermined before birth but one side vies for agency and procreation. If you’re familiar with the Man of Steel film’s opening scene on Krypton, then that’s what you briefly get here with Mentor in Jor-El’s place while Zuras represents the status quo. But unlike Jor-El, things don’t work out for Mentor.
The comic is essentially a history lesson on how Mentor’s greatest hope for his people birthed one of the greatest evils in the Universe and it haunts him. However, a key issue with this comic is the depiction of the main Eternals, specifically their treatment of Mentor. I will discuss this in the Spoilers section, but readers might come away disliking the main Eternals cast by the end while feeling incredibly sorry for Mentor. This is an issue that could be rectified in the main series, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
Another major issue is the big question the comic poses, “So who’s to blame for Thanos?” The answer is obvious: Mistress Death. For those who don’t know, Marvel comics retconned Thanos’ origins back in 2013 with the series Thanos: Rising written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Simone Bianchi. That comic established that Mistress Death directly manipulated Thanos to be the cosmic villain he is today from birth to adulthood, despite Mentor’s caring and gentle child-rearing.
All comics afterward tackling Thanos’ origins double down on this. That includes the Thanos 2016 series, where she was a main antagonist for the first two story arcs and Thanos kills Mentor. Even Donny Cates’ Thanos Wins arc in that series explored this in a more predestined cosmic way. By the end, if there’s anything that this book highlights about the main Eternals is how un-heroic they can really be. So when the main series tries to sell them as “heroes” it doesn’t fully work, at least for me.
So, I mentioned before that the ending of this comic shows how terrible the Eternals can be towards their own. Essentially, this book retells Mentor’s history and how he and his wife Sui-San, Thanos’ mother, are punished by the Eternals for Thanos’ birth. And not just any Eternals, Ikaris, Thena, and Zuras. Especially Zuras since he had a falling out with Mentor, his brother, in the beginning and by the end they essentially torture Mentor by placing him in “Exclusion”.
We finally see Exclusion, at least for Mentor, and it’s without a doubt a cruel and unusual punishment. They essentially put him in solitary confinement in a pitch black room, but then it starts to slowly glow and he finds a note from Zuras. It says the room is outfitted with an “infinite resolution screen” that will glow with bright white pixels showing how many deaths Thanos caused in the Universe, and…it’s a lot. Enough to cover the entire room in bright white light that literally burns Mentor’s eyes after a week. And to top it all off, Zuras ends the note saying, “I told you so.” Just. Wow.
Oddly enough, now I’m wondering if Eros, aka Starfox, Thanos’ brother, has been resurrected and put in Exclusion too, since he died in Donny Cates’ Guardians of the Galaxy series in 2019. However, if the point of this book is to show how terrible the Eternals and their leader Zuras were, then mission accomplished. These characters aren’t heroes under Kieron Gillen’s watch, they’re not even likable, and I feel they won’t be for a while until the series is either over or someone else comes along.
Eternals: Thanos Rises #1 focuses less on Thanos and more on the history and ramifications of his birth. It’s disappointing but manages to tell a tragic tale of his father A’Lars, aka Mentor, and his mother Sui-San and the impact he has on them. The artistic depiction of the Eternals is great thanks to the art team of Dustin Weaver and Matthew Wilson. However, the Eternals’ civilization feels like something ripped from the Man of Steel film’s portrayal of Kryptonian society. By the end, you’ll likely walk away feeling incredibly sorry for Mentor more than ever before and disliking the Eternals.