Eternals by Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr.

I tend not to follow modern mainstream Marvel or DC comics at all these days. With the exceptions of the various collections of Silver and Bronze Age material and the occasional, very rare, collection of modern material by authors that I like (Ed Brubakker, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Kurt Busiek, James Robinson and a few others), they do absolutely nothing for me. Compared to the glory days of the Silver and Bronze Ages, the quality of new comics output by both companies is generally absolutely abysmal these days.

But every once in a while they do come out with something worthwhile, something a little different, like a brand-new kind of superhero story, or a high quality reimagining of an old one. One of the better “reboots” of a classic superhero comic that I’ve read in recent years was Eternals, a seven-part mini series produced by Marvel Comics, written by Neil Gaiman, and with art by John Romita, Jr.

This is a reimagining of Jack Kirby’s old Eternals title from the 1970s and early 1980s, and elevates what was really a second or third rate (although fun) Bronze Age Marvel series to true “classic” status. Although the original was an interesting enough series in its own right (and I myself almost always prefer the originals over reboots), in my opinion, Kirby was well past his best when he worked on it, and it showed.

I know that the purists will be screaming “BLASPHEMY!!” from the roof-tops at these comments, but I cannot emphasize just by how much this modern, “Gaiman-ized” version of the Eternals completely blows the original out of the water. Gaiman takes the original concepts and story and runs with it all, creating a fresh new look at the original, a more adult (in the good sense) story, and great characters. What else would you expect from Neil Gaiman?. All of the original characters, both protagonists and antagonists, get a real make-over in this new version.

The Deviants, in particular, are given the expert Gaiman treatment. These were the one-dimensional, bad-guy cannon-fodder in the original series. Now they’ve been fleshed out, made more three-dimensional, and given a lot more depth, darkness and outright menace. The two lead Deviant antagonists are a nasty team altogether, obviously modelled on Vandemar and Croup, Gaiman’s own creations, the two vicious assassins in his classic novel Neverwhere. These two are by far my favourite characters in the entire story.

Romita’s excellent art also sets off Gaiman’s writing perfectly, and the series was published in a number of variant covers (most by Romita) that all collectors will want to grab. I usually am NOT a fan of the multiple “variant cover” nonsense, but I made a point of grabbing most of these, because the Romita covers are so good.

I won’t spoil things by revealing details of the story itself. Just go buy it. The series was collected in both hardcover and trade paperback. I bought both, and I’d definitely recommend grabbing a copy of the trade paperback, at least. I’d say that anyone who is not a hardcore original Kirby Eternals “purist” should enjoy this one.

Some Interesting Prehistoric Stuff

I love to browse the Sci-Tech page (page 154) on BBC1’s Ceefax (teletext) service. There’s always a lot of interesting snippets culled from various sources such as the New Journal of Physics, Nature and Science magazines. My favourite areas of interest are astronomy and space exploration, and palaeontology, and here are a couple of palaeontology snippets from recent pages:

Apparently scientists in Germany, Switzerland and the US claim that they’ve found the point at which the African and Indian elephants split and diverged from a common ancestor. They compared genetic research done on both species and other research done on the extinct woolly mammoth and mastodon, and came to the conclusion that the split occurred 7.6 million years ago.

Another interesting snippet concerns the dinosaurs. Accepted theories state that when the dinosaurs first evolved, they swept all before them, and rendered the earlier, more primitive forms of reptiles (known as dinosauromorphs) quickly extinct. Apparently that’s considered now not to be the case, and both lived side by side for many millions of years.

Just a couple of interesting snippets from the pages of Sci-Tech. Go to Ceefax page 154, and git yerselves ejjicated a bit. 🙂

Heroes Debuts on UK Television

The first two episodes of Tim Kring’s Heroes, Genesis and Don’t Look Back, aired earlier tonight (Wednesday 25th) on BBC2, followed by a short ten minute behind the scenes thingy, Heroes Unmasked. I must say that I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve been following its progress since it started on satellite TV, and it’s nice to see this series coming to a more general audience on terrestrial TV. It’s also nice to be able to watch it all from the start again.

The first episode seems to start off as a slow-tempo kinda X-Men clone, but it soon finds its own niche and transforms into something quite different. Conspiracies abound and there’s lots of great action and complex stories ahead, so all the UK terrestrial TV viewers are in for a treat. And it is soooooo nice to see a series about super-powered folks, and not a single glimpse of a cape or tights (I’ve always thought that capes ‘n’ tights look really naff on-screen – they only really work in comics or animation).

Heroes, along with Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, is right at the top of my list of current favourite sci-fi TV series. So let’s roll on next Wednesday night, BBC2 at 9pm, and episode 3.

Cassini Finds Another Saturnian Moon

So the Cassini mission has found another moon orbiting Saturn? That brings the total of moons around the ringed planet up to a total of sixty. Sixty moons! Sounds mighty impressive, doesn’t it?

It’s a little ‘un, only a rock, really, at a mere 2km (1.2 miles) in diameter. That’s 4-5 times smaller than the mere “meteor” that supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs. If that’s the case, and this new “moon” is so small, how can they justify calling it a moon? And how many of the other Saturnian moons fall into the same category? Most of them, I reckon.

Yet the scientists seem to be falling over themselves to increase the number count, according the title to every tidgy little rock they find orbiting the planet. Ironic, isn’t it, considering the rush by most of them a while back to strip Pluto of its status as a planet? If Pluto isn’t a planet, then this menagerie of large boulders is no more a retinue of moons than I am.

You’d think they’d at least have the decency to be consistent, wouldn’t you?

Books, Books and More Books

The books keep on rolling in (mostly SF), faster than I can keep up with reading them. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get to read even half of them (I’ll be lucky) before I die of old age. But it won’t be for lack of trying on my part.

Lessee – over the past two or three weeks I’ve amassed somewhere in the region of 50-60 new books. A few of those have been computer and web design books. Some have been science books – I started hunting down every Stephen J Gould and Robert Zubrin book that I could find – and several have been history books.

However, at least 70% of the books have been SF, split fairly evenly between novels and collections or anthologies of short fiction. I’ve bought a whole bunch of more recent Alastair Reynolds novels, a stack of Dan SimmonsHyperion/Fall of Hyperion, Endymion/Rise of Endymion and Ilium/Olympos, several Mike Resnick novels – Santiago, The Return of Santiago and Dark Lady, and a list of others too long for me to bother typing up.

But, as I’m a huge fan of short fiction, I get most excited by the collections and anthologies of short stories. Some of the best of my recent haul are:

  • The Year’s Best Science Fiction 23rd Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois
  • The Best of the Best Volume 2, edited by Gardner Dozois
  • One Million A.D. edited by Gardner Dozois
  • The New Space Opera, edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan
  • Cities, edited by Peter Crowther
  • Starlight Volumes 1, 2 and 3, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Galactic North (collection) by Alastair Reynolds

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff, but these gems alone will keep me going for ages. I know I’m a book addict, but maybe I’m going a little overboard, eh? Talk about a junkie needing a fix…