Superparents Break The Fourth Wall In 'Eternity'
Right around the midpoint of Eternity, his follow-up to the sci-fi comics trilogy Divinity, writer Matt Kindt suddenly goes meta. He and artists Trevor Hairsine and Ryan Winn are charting the adventures of Abram and Myshka, two cosmonauts who have traveled to the far reaches of space and gained unfathomable powers. In the Divinity books, the two newly forged superbeings clashed over the proper use of their abilities, ultimately falling in love and retiring together to a lonely cabin in the Russian wilderness. The last we heard of them was when, lying in bed with Abram at the end of the deluxe edition of the comic, Myshka revealed: "I'm pregnant."
Now, in Eternity, Kindt explores the ramifications of superparenthood — and, in the process, starts questioning his whole project. The scene is a huge battle over the fate of Abram and Myshka's child, who just so happens to be of paramount importance to the very fabric of reality. The conflict over his destiny is so epic, it doesn't merely fill the pages with high-energy fight scenes between magical beings — that's to be expected — but it breaks the fourth wall and turns on its own genre. Pausing in the midst of the maelstrom, Abram decides, "this is ridiculous."
"Fantastic characters and ... incredible creativity and imagination [are] being poured into this show of violence. What is the purpose?" he asks. "How many times and in how many ... fictions have these colorful struggles played out? And for what? ... We came here for one simple reason. To find our child. Everything else is window dressing."
That's a pretty drastic admission to make in the midst of a comic that, like its predecessor, is so lavishly equipped with "window dressing" — drastic, but not wholly unfamiliar. Kindt expressed a similar impatience with standard superhero trappings in Divinity, when he had two characters' final battle come down to a conversation over a chess game in a white void. And his artists share, or at least acknowledge, his ambivalence. Eternity's climactic spread — a two-pager that's a fabulous achievement in composition — is stripped first of its color, then of its finished lines, until an image of Myshka soaring skyward with her son consists only of a rough outline. Remember, this drawing says, in the end it's all about the relationships.
Focusing on relationships is a fine ambition for a sci-fi superhero comic, and these creators express it cleverly. But they don't fulfill it. Kindt's superparents had plenty of backstory in Divinity, but here we don't see any of that. As a result, they aren't dimensional enough to make their emotional struggles particularly engaging. Instead, what Abram calls "window dressing" is key to maintaining the reader's interest. Fortunately, though, Eternity comes with some pretty awesome trimmings.
Kindt sets the story in the same remote part of the universe where Abram and Myshka first acquired their powers, and he dreams up some wonderfully weird places and people to inhabit it. The blue-skinned Brothers of the Bomb are menacing, especially since their leader wields a supercool, spiky scepter. The arachnid-like Stitch, an inhabitant of the Pollen Pits, is unnerving. The flying messenger Grimm-1 and sinister Dr. Tear are thoroughly alien. Hairsine plays with scale and jumps across continents and galaxies with the greatest of ease, and colorist David Baron drenches the whole book in Kool-Aid: There are fuchsia skies, cerulean cliffs and a forest of pulsing lavender fronds and drifting pink nodules.
Maybe the best part of Eternity, though, is the reappearance of David Camp, a character who never got enough to do in the original series. The leader of a gang of zealots who worship Abram, Camp is an intriguing loose cannon, the kind of ambiguous figure who should inspire a whole book of his own. Abram and Myshka's conflicts are nothing in comparison to the angst of a betrayed disciple.
Kindt and Hairsine give Camp a powerful final scene, closing out Eternity with the promise of more to come from him. That's an encouraging sign for the future of this universe: Maybe Camp's further adventures won't require so much "window dressing." Who knows? Maybe he'll smash the window.
has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com.She tweets at @EtelkaL.
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