I always thought Jack Kirby's series, The Eternals, was a cool idea. The premise was that all intelligent life on Earth was created by gigantic aliens that needed these massive inverse square law violating battle suits to move around. These Celestials accelerated the evolution of the Geico style cavemen that were running around doing whatever it was modern stone-age families did. To protect these newly mutated humans, the Celestials created another race, this time with superpowers, called The Eternals. The Celestials went back into outer space, and, as humanity matured, they modeled their gods off the Eternals, and they in turn helped us when we needed it. They kept us safe from harm, functioning as a kind of planetary immune system. It was a cool book. You could tell that Jack loved working on it, but then he always did grand, cosmic themed stories better than anybody.
Kirby's Eternals series was a hard act to follow, and I was disappointed, but not surprised, when the first issue of Neil Gaiman's restart was just this side of unimpressive. Oh sure, the Romita Jr. artwork was flat out brilliant, but it was the story that initially put me off. It was typical Gaiman, fantasy stepping on reality, but there was something about the way the characters interacted with each other and the way the plot of that first issue unfolded that bothered me. There was something oddly familiar about the scene where Mark Curry visits Ike in the hospital, after he gets attacked. There was something about the amnesia the main characters were suffering. I'd seen all this before. It took a few days to dawn on me that Gaiman was doing Nine Princes In Amber, something that I really didn't want to see meshed with The Eternals. Somewhere in the interim that first issue was tossed into a long box and forgotten.
Cut to many months later, and I decided that if anyone can effectively pull off a Roger Zelazny story, It's Neil Gaiman. I put some thought into this book before I bought it, and decided that at its worst it would be like Sammy Hagar replacing the Van Halen brothers with Joe Satriani and Chad Smith, and, let's face it, Chickenfoot put out a great album. Needless to say, I bought it.
Story wise, there are indeed some vague similarities to Roger Zelazny's work, but once you take in the entire series, you realize that it's okay. Whether Gaiman channeled Roger Zelazny's spirit or if it was purely unconscious riffing, the story works, and it's better than anything Marvel has put out in a long while. I grabbed the hardback edition of this one because I wanted all the extras. It's like an expanded director's cut double disc DVD. Not only do you get the complete eight issue series, but you also get Gaiman's original story proposal, a lengthy interview that Gaiman did for Marvel Spotlight, and a slew of Romita Jr.'s character sketches, as well as the alternate covers for the series. It's a fine package, and well worth the 30 dollar price tag.