In the soundtrack for the movie Highlander, Freddy Mercury asked, “Who wants to live forever?” The answer, of course, is just about everyone. Alchemists and scientists alike have sought the secret of immortality for as long as anyone can remember. So what would happen if death truly became a thing of the past?
Seeking to answer that question is Eternal, a new miniseries from BOOM! Studios. The story takes place in the year 2270. People no longer fear death, as a company called New Life long ago (at least eighty years earlier, according to some dialogue) perfected both cloning and consciousness transferal. However, there’s a dark side to New Life, as so-called “Pures” (non-genetically manipulated people) are confined to internment camps, where they receive harsh treatment.
The story follows three main characters: Gail Jensen, part of the Human Liberation Front, which seeks to destroy New Life; Peter Rathmann, a New Life enforcer who gets a conscience; and Violet, a Pure who is imprisoned for bringing an antibiotic into her camp.
The debut issue of this series suffers numerous problems, first and foremost of which is relying on tired old clichés. Oh, of course the company is evil. Oh, of course that means that everyone who works for it is a vicious psychopath (except, of course, for Rathmann, who is shocked – shocked! – to learn that his employer is evil). Oh, of course the people who are different are being discriminated against in the worst possible way (and just to drive this last point home, in the course of the first issue, two black Pures are captured, beaten, and executed by their white captors – subtle!). The villains may as well all have fabulous mustaches that they twirl nonstop.
Another source of frustration for me is the fact that I have no idea why New Life insists on locking up all the Pures in the first place. At first I thought it was just discrimination, but it’s alluded to several times that their DNA is incredibly important… for some reason. Considering that the Pures are at the center of the conflict of the story, you would think some time would be devoted to explaining what’s up with that, but no. Presumably, it will be explained at some point, but not telling me in the first issue isn’t intriguing – it’s annoying, and only adds to my impression of New Life as cartoonish villains who do evil for evil’s sake.
Finally, quite frankly, I don’t think the comic has thought through its own premise very well. For example, a Pure is captured after escaping one of the camps and interrogated to find out what she knows about the Human Liberation Front. When she refuses to answer any questions, the villainous villains of villainy threaten to shoot her husband, then her. And they do. But, wait – I thought Pures were super-important for some reason! And hey, if New Life has technology that can transfer human consciousness from one body to another, how have they not adapted this into a mind-reading machine? It’s over two hundred and fifty years in the future, for crying out loud! Of course, there’s hardly any future-tech shown at all. Aside from a few pages featuring a holographic display, there’s nothing in the art that would really mark this comic as taking place in the future.
There was one thing I really liked in this comic, and that was the opening. It features a news program discussing “death parties,” in which teenagers get together and kill themselves. Showing how this society was reacting to the elimination of death was right in line with what I wanted to read about. Unfortunately, it’s only one page.
If you want to read a good story that takes place in a post-death society, read Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which is available here for free. As for Eternal, well, let’s see if it gets its act together, first.