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eternal comics
 
average writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 7
Eternal Comics
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Only Printing / June, 1973 / 36 pages / Last Gasp
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Eternal Comics Back Cover
Back Cover
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Eternal Comics Indicia
Inside Front Cover
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sphinx comix
Sphinx Comics
AVERAGE SCORE 9
Eternal Comics picks up where Sphinx Comics left off, so if you haven't read Sphinx (or at least read the reviews of Sphinx) you should probably start there. Eternal Comics presents part two of "Agents of Dread," which is really the third chapter in a specific timeline of John Thompson's signature protagonists, Thon and Rda. Eternal Tales, which preceded Eternal Comics by a year, has a standalone story about Thon and Rda that predates the timeline that begins in Sphinx Comics #2. Confused? Here's the chronological order for reading:
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Eternal Tales
Sphinx Comics #2
Sphinx Comics #3
Eternal Comics
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In my reviews of Sphinx Comics, I noted that Thompson's scripts often delivered exposition through extensive narration in text boxes. In Eternal Comics, this proclivity proves excessive, with entire pages of "Agents of Dread" consisting of nothing but text or text with a small illustration. With Sphinx Comics, I declared it was possible to glance at Thompson's script and make up a perfectly compelling story just by studying the illustrations, but this would be impossible with Eternal Comics.

As mentioned, part two of "Agents of Dread" picks up where Sphinx #3 left off, with Thon reincarnated as Sir Francis Bacon in 16th century London. He travels with Rda to Egypt, where they enter a subterrranean portal and meet Osiris, the lord of the underworld. Osiris brings them to a deep underground chamber, where the comatose body of the Egytptian pharaoh Ikhnaten hangs from his feet, still immobilized by a curse from the hGwa (Sphinx Comics #2). Osiris tells Thon and Rda that Ikhnaten must be awakened from his deep sleep for the hGwa's "age of madness" to be conquered.

Osiris then informs Bacon and Rda that due to the hGwa's curse, Ikhnaten cannot be awakened for another 379 years. So Bacon and Rda turn around and go back home to London. The End.

What the fuck? We just followed some very heavy narration for 11 pages only to learn that Thon and Rda can do nothing about the evil forces of hGwa for another 379 years. Their whole trip to Egypt was for nothing! It's a pretty frustrating dead end for this epic story, which spanned over 55 pages and three comic books. Thompson may have intended to write one more chapter in the story that would have Ikhnaten finally waking up and helping Thon defeat the hGwa, but it never happened.

On top of everything, part two of "Agents of Dread" has so much text, there room for only a handful of Thompson illustrations that match the power of his previous books. The saving grace for Eternal Comics is the nine pages of single-page drawings that follows "Agents of Dread," most of which live up to Thompson's traditionally high standards. Following those nine pages, Eternal Comics reprints an 11-page story from The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You. The story, "Rebelution," is a fine example of Thompson's earlier style of fragmented surrealism, and worthy of finding a new audience, but the recycled material and disappointing conclusion of Thon and Rda's saga hurts Eternal Comics' overall score.

Eternal Comics was Thompson's last one-man comic book. The volume of work he produced in underground comics was limited, but it stood out based on the quality of the art and Thompson's building of memorable mythological worlds. Some thought there wasn't much market for Thompson's type of comics in the counterculture, but Thompson never believed that. As he told Mark James Estren in A History of Underground Comics, "a sizeable segment of the hip community is interested in mysticism, poetry and the occult."

Though Thompson was never a best-selling underground creator, his following was loyal and, as underground fans go, sophisticated. His artwork was certainly admired by his peers in the industry and influential to anyone who explored similar stylistic territories. He's one of my favorite underground artists, though it requires chutzpah to display my favorite Thompson illustrations anywhere but the most private of rooms.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
Last Gasp printed approximately 10,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.
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COMIC CREATORS:

John Thompson - 1-27, 28 (collaboration), 29-32, 33 (collaboration), 34-36
Robert Crumb - 28 (collaboration), 33 (collaboration)
William Blake - 27 (poem)
Phil Bowers - 28 (collaboration)
Alan Ginsberg - 31 (quote)
Daniel Moore - 31 (quote)
Rick Griffin - 33 (collaboration)