Eternals #1 (2008)
Story by Charles & Daniel Knauf
Art by Daniel Acuna
Lettered by Todd Klein
The new Knauf/Acuna Eternals series picks up where the Gaiman/Romita miniseries left off, with the recently awakened Eternals preparing for the imminent arrival of the sinister Horde. In the intervening months, they seem to have settled into a predictable pattern. Makkari gets visions of depowered Eternals from the Dreaming Celestial, and Ikaris and Thena rush to recruit them to their side before the sinister Druig can enslave them to his. In short, it's Transformers: Armada with Eternals instead of Mini-Cons and the Horde in place of Unicron.
This is a perfectly logical follow-up to the Gaiman/Romita series, if a bit lacking. At the moment, it's microfocused on the Eternals rather than some sort of grand cosmic conflict - and we're once again left with the problem that the Eternals themselves are not terribly interesting characters. Oh, sure, they've got conflicts of interests, but they seem to be caused by external factors rather than some sort of internal personality. I couldn't tell you how Ikaris and Thena would react differently to the same situation, and even their conversation about brainwashing doesn't do much to highlight the differences in their personalities. It doesn't help that the only Eternal who does have a genuine personality - Sersi - has had her basic characterization screwed with so many times that it's hard to know what she really thinks.
But I was expecting most of that. It's possible that things will kick into high gear next issue, when we're promised the sublime cosmic secrets of the Celestial. Though I have a feeling the revelations will somehow fall short of the mark set by recent cosmic work like Godland.
One thing that I wasn't expecting, though, is how quickly I've tired of Daniel Acuna's art. When I first saw his work on Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters it was a bresh of freath air - a genuinely new look for mainstream American comics, pop and a little bit trashy, painted without being stiff, and made possible only because Acunn controlled every aspect of the visual presentation. But two years later his style hasn't shown any signs of evolving, and the cracks are starting to show.
One of the significant weaknesses of Acuna's art is the sameness of his character designs. Sersi looks like Thena who looks like Linda West who looks like Miss America who looks like Emma Glenn who look like Phantom Lady. Makkari looks like Ikaris who looks like the Flash who looks like Firebrand who looks like Uncle Sam. And what makes it worse is that Acuna is clearly capable of achieving a wider range - Druig and Legba are truly unique-looking, the Red Bee had a different appearance than his other women, and there are background characters who are some wonderful-looking cartoons. It seems, however, that when drawing heroic archetypes he falls back on the same pattern over and over again.
There's also a lack of genuine emotion or expressive body language in his figure work. I like the expression on Sersi's face in the first panel above, but it doesn't seem to represent any sort of genuine emotion and definitely doesn't seem to match (or serve as a counterpoint to) her worried protestations. There's no longing in Sersi and Makkari's hand-holding, no passion in their kiss. There's no genuine worry on Sersi's face as she pleads with Makkari, and his reaction seems less like regret and more like "dropping a deuce."
He's also not a great storyteller. His simple grid layouts and the uncluttered compositions of his panels make pages are often very easy to read, but at the same time also no overall design to the page, nothing to lend a bit of extra drama to key scenes. One panel follows another, with no real attempt to juice any of them for maximum impact. There are no gestures or motifs to connect the panel, or a key moment that they're built around. There's no particular reason for any of the panels to be horizontal, vertical, or square. That dramatic kiss isn't elongated, and the extra-tall gutters just seem odd rather than meaningful. In short, it's a perfectly competent but dull page.
Still, it may be harsh to judge Acuna on his meager output. He's drawn what, twelve issues of comics in the last three years? And you certainly don't want to mess with a formula that's been successful. Still, I hope he shows us some new tricks soon or his success maybe short-lived.