With Avengers: Endgame bringing the MCU fans knew to a fitting finish, it's time for Marvel to look to the future: and no franchise is looking more important than The Eternals. But how can Marvel make ancient gods seem like futuristic cosmic champions? The comics may have given a major hint.
Explaining exactly who Marvel's Eternals really are... is harder than it sounds. In our world, they're the creation of Jack Kirby, who imagined a secret lineage of humans, altered by alien beings to become godlike, and someday protect humanity. And to bring them to life, Kirby turned to the ancient Greek and Roman gods, with names and powers that made the ancient new again. The theory was that the MCU version of the Eternals would adapt that very story... until rumors claimed the Eternals movie would star Hercules. As in the real Hercules, the immortal strongman.
But believe it or not, Marvel Comics may have dropped a major hint as to how the movies will explain it--and which Eternal Hercules could be mashed up with for his MCU debut. It's just a theory, but potential SPOILERS ahead.
The clue is given in the final issue of Avengers: No Road Home, a story that saw the Greek Gods murdered by an ancient enemy. But being Gods, the story ends by revealing a new, cosmic Olympus floating "in a space beyond space." A new, cosmically redesigned Zeus stands at the helm and offers an ominous warning that "the wheel... has turned. Zeus and his people are born again. Born anew. And let the stars tremble...
The ending makes sense for the comics universe, having a pantheon of classical gods go cosmic, filling the hole left by the destroyed Norse Gods of Marvel's Asgard. But this scene also likely gives readers the first exposure to what may be coming to the MCU. If the rumors surrounding Chloé Zhao's Eternals movie are true, then Hercules--an actual Greek god--leading a team of characters clearly based on Greek gods is easily solved. The super-powered, godlike defenders of Earth aren't based on the Greek gods: humanity's Greek gods are based on Marvel's Eternals.
But why, you might ask, would Marvel dive into Greek gods when DC's Wonder Woman is already established? Not to mention that the MCU has already done essentially the same thing, revealing that the Norse Gods were actually godlike aliens, misidentified by humans, who turned these real people into myth and legend. The answer is that this new rebirth of both Olympia and the Greek Gods pulls the ancient characters into the future. As a result, Zeus and his family are re-framed as beings who can now make the "stars tremble."
In appearance, they're now beings closer to the Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok than the Amazons. Even still, that rumor that Hercules is the hero expected to lead the movie Eternals instead of Zeus seems odd... but the Avengers comic may also offer an explanation for that, as well. The final epilogue of the story jumps one year into the future, and shows Hercules rescuing a member of the Nova Corps. But not the Hercules fans knew as his original, classical, sword-and-sandal hero--he's the one who has finally ascended to the level of the true Olympians.
The version of Hercules reborn as a cosmic god has lost the man bun, has let his beard grow out, with streaks of silver in his hair and beard conveying an immortal, but clearly vivacious champion. It's a terrific re-design by artist Sean Izaakse... but Hercules now bears a striking resemblance to the classic look of one particular comic book Eternals: Zuras... the stand-in for Zeus, King of the Gods. And obviously the deity one would expect to lead the MCU Eternals, as well. Which means the comics could also be preparing Marvel fans for Hercules's entry into the world of the MCU.
Comic book fans and classical history buffs turned to this page and saw the same thing: the iconic version of Hercules erased, replaced by a re-imagined version turning him into an alien, cosmic being. If the makers of the Eternals movie intend to do the same, then all those rumors of Hercules being plucked from ancient myth to lead a new team of Eternals begin to make perfect sense. When Jack Kirby created the cosmic Eternals in the 1970's, he looked to the classical Zeus as inspiration. It only makes sense for Marvel to use a true, cosmic Hercules to explain the classical version (the H-insignia belt could also be the basis of a Spartan helmet).
The alternative would be to ignore this opportunity, and make the leader of the Eternals a simple Zeus analogue. Yet another king of the gods like Odin, wielding thunder and lightning like Thor. Oh, and then apparently have Hercules in his classic leather sandals, somehow rubbing shoulders with Eternals. On the other hand, re-introducing Marvel fans to the idea of Herc as a spacefaring champion? The comic proves how well it would smooth out the wrinkles for Marvel movies as well. Especially since it was Thanos, a member of the Eternals who devastated Earth despite its Avengers. Specifically, a member of the evil genetic off-shoot known as Deviants, whom the Eternals on Earth were intended to fight, should they be needed.
Since Marvel has confirmed that Thanos's 'snap' broke open the MCU Multiverse, his impact is going to be felt in the future Marvel movies as well. With mankind turning its back on the Olympian Gods millennia ago, their departure makes sense. Thanos murdering mankind's defenders--and the Eternals being nowhere in sight--is a darn good reason for them to return, taking the place once held by Captain America, Iron Man, and their teammates, and facing the next threats coming to the MCU. And for the casual fans, Thanos is also the perfect example to justify the Eternals' being relegated to myth. Would anyone blame ancient peoples for seeing Thanos, and believing him to be a God of Death? We didn't think so.
What do you think? Could the comics be laying the ground work to introduce Hercules into the MCU, or is it all just fantasy?