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By Marc Strom
Get ready for a godly brawl.
The Eternals have their work cut out for them when the Young Gods make their return in ETERNALS ANNUAL #1 on November 12. If you've never heard of the Young Gods, however, have no fear—Marvel.com spoke with the Annual's author, Fred Van Lente, about just who these guys are and what they want with the Eternals.
"The Young Gods are humans plucked by various Earth deities from several different countries—and several different time periods—to represent the highest levels of mankind's achievement," Van Lente educates.
"When, in the pages of THOR, the Fourth Host of the Celestials chose not to destroy our beloved homeworld, the Earth goddess Gaea had the Young Gods go into space with the Fourth Host on their Mothership," he continues. "In Gaea's words, they were to 'learn the mysteries of the cosmos at [the Celestials'] feet.'
"Off they went, and, save for a few exceptions haven't really been heard from since."
Given their more obscure history, one wonders just what made Van Lente want to bring them out from the annals of Marvel limbo and brush the dust off the characters. But he explains that this impetus goes back to the origins of another series he currently chronicles.
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"Fans of INCREDIBLE HERCULES may recall that originally that book was supposed to be called Renegades and star all the heroes who fought on the Green One's side in WORLD WAR HULK," the writer reminisces. "While I was tooling about my favorite obscure Marvel fan sites I stumbled across a description of the Young Gods and I thought, here were characters that could go toe-to-toe with me and Greg Pak's merry band of super-iconoclasts.
"Although the Renegades book never materialized, I remembered the Young Gods and their motivations from that story and they easily—and much more appropriately—got dusted off and sent into service in this ETERNALS ANNUAL."
When the Young Gods return to Earth next month, they'll come back with a defined sense of purpose, something they previously lacked. Of course, whether or not Earth will survive this new motivation could go either way.
"The Young Gods were led to believe they had a brilliant destiny lying before them, but found themselves, once venturing into space, to be largely ignored by the Celestials," the scribe relates of the Gods' activities since last we saw them. "Hope turned to bitterness, until their spiritual leader, Varua, discovered their true purpose: To save humanity from themselves. They return to Earth to suck up the entire mindscape of our world's population into a pan-human Uni-Mind."
And, with Uni-Minds being one of the Eternals' many specialties, enter our heroes.
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"The Eternals show up to investigate, and discover that the Young Gods largely feel jealousy and contempt for them—as the newest generation frequently does for the one that came before it," Van Lente notes. "The Eternals aren't affected by the human Uni-Mind, and the Young Gods know it—in drama we call this 'conflict,' kiddies, so the slugfest begins!"
Van Lente says that the chance to write the Eternals proved a dream come true: "The Eternals are among my favorite [Jack] Kirby creations, and Marvel characters, of all time. I feel so lucky this year because I've been able to write some of my all-time Kirby faves, the Eternals and Machine Man over in MARVEL ZOMBIES 3."
Given their godly nature, however, Van Lente notes that a different approach is required for the Eternals than for most any other Marvel hero.
"I think the trick to the Eternals, as opposed to more human characters, is that while they're modeled after humanity their outlook is much more macrocosmic, for lack of a better word," he reasons, delving into the Eternals' inhuman psychology.
"They're less interested in individuals—with a few exceptions, like Thena's love for her son Joey—than with the big picture, with humanity as a whole," Van Lente elaborates. "That leads them to be more philosophical, and more fatalistic, than the average super human character.
"Iron Man might hear about a dam collapsing on the news and fly to stop it. An Eternal would probably not stop a natural disaster unless it was happening right in front of them—and [even] then they'd have to think about it first. Their interest is in Earth, not humans, and that's a crucial difference [which] makes them unique and interesting characters in a super hero universe."
Van Lente finished off by promising fans a battle for the history books, as two unstoppable forces collide for the first time.
"It's rare the Eternals face foes powerful enough to give them a run for their money in an all-out battle. Thanks to the Young Gods, the wait for a mega super-brawl with the Eternals is over, so grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the fireworks."
ETERNALS ANNUAL #1, by Fred Van Lente and Pascal Alixe, touches down on November 12. To read the first issue of Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.'s ETERNALS at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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