Comic Book Review: "National Comics: Eternity #1"
What do you think of one-shot issue stories?
This summer DC Comics has released a new anthology series of one-shot comics: National Comics. These are one-story issues that are unlike the normal DC universe comics. They are are filled will gritty stories and eerie individual adventures of unrelated stand alone character similar to the classic “Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits” TV series' (if you‘re old enough to remember them, or we luck enough to grow watching the reruns on TV). These books give the reader the option (and choice) of simply picking up one issue and being able to have a complete story (and singular protagonist). The first of the books, Eternity #1, was released in July.This issues story, “Kid Eternity”, written by Jeff Lemire art by Cully Hamner and Deric Donovan, follows New York Police Mortician, Christopher Freeman, on an extremely weird murder case, with the most unlikely partner.
“Kid Eternity” begins in New York City, New York. Christopher Freeman is dreaming: A year early he had died (or almost had died) but he came back to life. “Not like in a creepy, brain-eating zombie way”; he was normal, but something was different about him afterwards. He’s dreaming about the last day he was “alive”. He was arguing with his father on a street corner. Suddenly, a car pulls up and someone inside draws a gun and shots both of them full of bullets. Chris feels himself going to a limbo-like place where he sees his father and a bunch of other strangers. Chris begs his father to leave limbo, but he father can’t and asks Chris to stay with him, because he’s scared. Chris runs away from them and somehow wakes up alive, but he father has died.
Chris is awoken but his alarm; he’s late for work again. He gets up, gets ready and catches the subway. He notices someone on the subway (in a suit and with a goatee) that he is sure that he recognizes, but he can’t place his finger on from where. He gets to work at the police station late, again. He does it on purpose; so he can see “her”. The girl who works at the front desk starts at 8 p.m. Chris gets there late so he has a chance to see her before he heads down to the morgue. Captain Phillips rebukes Christopher for being late. He apologizes and heads down stairs as he looks at the front desk girl; he’s sure she doesn’t “even know I’m Alive”.
Chris starts the preliminary notes on a mid-50 year old gunshot victim, Darby Quinn, he records the signs of a struggle (scratches and bloody knuckles) and a gun-shot wound to the chest. He starts to begin the autopsy: He pulls up a gurney next to the corpse and lays down next to him and touches his hand. Christopher's “special” power (after coming back from the dead) is that he can return to limbo and find dead people. He then works with them to help find out how they died. He flies down to limbo (it’s a bit like purgatory, where they’re “newly dead” wait to go to their final resting place), where he finds Darby Quinn. He tells him that they have work to do. Chris grabs a hold of Darby and starts to fly back to the “real world”, when he sees the goatee / suited guy from the subway there with the rest of the dead. The man grabs onto Darby and tells Chris that, “This one’s mine”. Darby kicks him away and Chris and Darby return to the land of the living.
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Chris wakes up and Darby’s spirit is there in the morgue along with him. Darby doesn’t realize at first that he’s dead, but Chris explains it all to him: They have 24 hours to figure out what happened to Darby. That’s what Chris can do: bring the dead back for a single day to help him solve their murder. “Ghost Detective” is what Darby Quinn calls it. Darby asks why he can’t remember what exactly happened to him. Chris says that he can’t remember his last, most recent memories because “Death scrambles your brain”.
Suddenly, Captain Phillips appears. He demands to know why Chris has been there all night, and yet the autopsy hasn’t been performed. Chris has been late every night and his work is slipping. The captain tells him that he only kepy Chris around because his father was the finest cop that he ever served with. Phillips decides to send Chris home for the week—without pay. Next week, they’ll re-evaluate his work and see if Chris should stay or not.
As Chris leaves the police station, Darby’s Spirit follows him. Chris says they need to solve Darby’s death before it's too late: for Darby and for Chris’ job. They go the scene of Darby’s death: Darby's Antique Store. There’s no money missing from the cash register and the door wasn’t forced. Darby points out that one of his antique guns is missing: A German World War 2 Luger. His father gave it to him. They go into the room where Darby was actually shot. Chris guesses that it the gun that shot Darby. Darby says that he never kept the gun loaded and only he knew where the bullets are. He also notices that there is the door to the upstairs room that is unlocked; he always keeps it locked.
Darby explains that there is an apartment upstairs that his son rented out to pay for the mortgage. There is a young woman who lives up there now. Chris says that the police tried to question the tenant but there was no answer. Darby thinks she’s his murderer. She and "her rock band freak friends" would practice all night and he threatened to call the cops. Chris asks if he could remember the name of the band. Darby says he saw her putting up a poster for the band and he tore it down and threw it away. Chris looks in the trash and gets the poster. He decides to go see the show to find her.
Chris and Darby go to The Underground night club to find the band. Darby is sure that this girl killed him. As they enter the club, Darby says dirty things about the girls inside; wishing he was younger. Chris tells him that he’s old enough to be these girls grandfather. Darby doesn’t care “they want it; look at how they dress.” Chris begins to think that Darby isn’t a nice guy, and he wishes he hadn’t helped him. Darby rebukes Chris telling him that he’s figured him out: His dad was a big shot cop and Chris spent his whole life trying to live up to his expectations, but Chris was too much of a wimp. Now he uses his powers to try and make up for his failure.
Chris notices that Darby’s gunshot wound is showing, which means they are running out of time to solve the murder. Chris goes backstage and find Sally (the upstairs tenant). She’s crying, Darby calls her a “Little Slut”. Chris tells Sally that he’s with the Police Department and she freaks out and pulls out the Luger. Darby proclaims that she killed him; she’s just a dirty slut because she always had guys come to the apartment, but she would never look at him; she was too good for Darby: “Well, I showed her”.
Chris figures out that Darby went up to Sally’s apartment with his gun. He planned to try and force himself onto her. After a scuffle, Sally got ahold of the gun and shot Darby in self-defense. Chris calls Darby a “pig” and forces his spirit back to limbo; telling him he’s not helping him anymore. Chris looks for Sally but she’s run off to the roof. He manages talks her down from jumping, telling her that his knows what really happened and he’ll help her. After the cops take her away, Captain Phillips is impressed with Chris’s ability to solve the case. Chris tells him a tall tale about "following the evidence" (to hide his secret power). Captain Philips tells Chris that he’s got more of his father in him than he thinks. He tells Chris that he's reinstating him, and he'll see him at work, "tomorrow".
After Phillips leaves, the suited man with the goatee appears. He tells Chris that he’s “not playing by the rules”. He told him that Darby was his. The man introduces himself as “Mr. Keeper”. He says that there are rules that need to be followed. Chris will find out what the rule are “soon”, Mr. Keeper tells Chris that if he brings back “too many bad eggs” things will get really bad for him. Chris dismisses the warnings as threats and tell him off. Mr. Keeper jumps off the roof and disappears.
Chris wakes up late again the next day, but feels different about his life now. Maybe today he’ll mustard up the nerve to talk to the Front Desk Girl. As he gets to work he notices that she’s late; she’s never late. Captain Phillips rebukes him for being late and telling there is a “fresh one” downstairs. Chris goes to the morgue musing that every day is different at his job, some days it’s creeps like Darby and other days it someone else. As he pulls back the body sheet of the victim, Chris see the dead face of the Front Desk Girl; “The End?”
This story, as well as this new series, is a clever and interesting installment of an ongoing anthology. Although not entirely original, It has its own world, but still exists in the DC universe (Chris thinks to himself that his power kind of makes him a “superhero” but he couldn't use "Deadman" because it was already taken). On the DC Comics website, the promotion for National Comics was that each issue was a stand-alone single story issue. There were not going to be drawn-out multiple issue stories. This is great for the casual comic read, who doesn’t want to get bogged down with multiple issue / series collection just to read an interesting story. If this story is truly a complete one-shot and not a storyline that is to be returned to, there are a lot of questions to be answered: Who is Mr. Keeper? How did Chris return from the dead? What’s happened to his father’s spirit? What is going to happen with the girl he was so interested in who is now dead? If they ever do return to this story, it will be interesting to see how it evolves. If they choose not to, then this a perfect "Twilight Zone" / "Amazing Stories" / "The Outer Limits" kind of story, which offers a satisfying story with a little twist at the end and leaves you pondering the possible future of the character. Either way, it is a very entertaining story.