With ten new characters, a supporting player set up for a major role in the future, plus cameos, space gods, and a whole new mythology concerning the origins of the universe, Eternals has a lot on its mind. There isn’t time or even the need to reference events in the larger MCU, like Spider-Man’s identity reveal, the death of Tony Stark, or a mention of mutants. Instead, Chloé Zhao’s film is one of the rare Marvel Cinematic Universe projects that doesn’t prioritize its connections to the larger franchise. Eternals clearly exists within the canon, of course. The Snap is mentioned, as are the Avengers, but none of these references necessitate that you see the prior 29 films and TV shows in the MCU. The film does, however, lay some interesting groundwork for the future and drop a number of cool Easter eggs for those who have followed the Eternals’ saga in the comics.
Dane Whitman, The Black Knight
Eternals not only gives us a Game of Thrones reunion between Richard Madden and Kit Harington, but it also introduces a major character from the Marvel mythos. Harington’s Dane Whitman is better known in the comics as The Black Knight, and he is the third character to bear this moniker. You probably noticed the emphasis placed on Whitman’s family crest. That’s because the role of Black Knight is part of Whitman’s family lineage. And that uncle whom Sersi encourages Dane to patch things up with? That’s none other than Nathan Garrett, the second Black Knight who, in the comics, turned to a life of crime before passing the mantle onto Dane to redeem the family name. Early in the film, Dane expresses an interest in magic, referencing Doctor Strange and hoping Sersi is some kind of a sorceress. He’s not even surprised by the revelation of her powers. That’s because Dane Whitman is no stranger to the world of magic and superpowers.
So, what does being the Black Knight entail? It means wielding the Ebony Blade, which is referenced by Sprite in the film and shows up in the post-credit scene. The Ebony Blade was forged from a meteor by the wizard Merlin. The blade grants its wielder immortality and a magic suit of armor, but it also comes with a blood curse. The sword becomes more powerful the more its wielder gives into their own sins and misdeeds. It thirsts for blood. And the more honorable its wielder is, the duller the blade becomes and the more its promise of everlasting life fades. Harington’s decision to “try” to defend Earth with his family legacy at the end of the film will undoubtedly bring much darkness his way.
During the dinner table scene at Gilgamesh’s (Don Lee) abode, Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) mentions hanging out with Thor several centuries ago, and laments that the Norse god won’t return his calls now that he’s an Avenger. While Kingo did not share a friendship with Thor in the comics, the God of Thunder is intricately tied to the Eternals and the Celestials Saga. After the cancellation of Jack Kirby’s Eternals series, Roy Thomas and John Buscema crafted a continuation of sorts in the pages of The Mighty Thor. They defined the difference between the Greek gods and the Eternals, who share many similarities, including names. While it may not amount to anything, the introduction of Zeus (Russell Crowe) in Thor: Love and Thunder may hold the promise of a showdown between the Norse and Greek gods against the Eternals, with Thor caught in the middle.
The Secret of the Celestials
Eternals takes a dark turn when it’s revealed that the only reason they were sent to Earth was to ensure the human population increased so that their energy could be harvested to give birth to the Celestial Tiamut. Essentially the Earth is just an eggshell, and its inhabitants are food for the gods. In the comics, there was a similar revelation during Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s first arc on The Avengers, in which Earth’s mightiest heroes and the Eternals learned that life on the planet Earth was only a means to save the Celestials from an insectoid parasite, the Horde. Essentially, humans were created to be antibodies for the Celestials, and the Eternals’ true purpose was to cultivate them, with Earth as a petri-dish.
Thena and Kro
Although the Deviant Kro (Bill Skarsgard) doesn’t have many moments of dialogue during his evolution in the film, there is a point where he appeals to Thena (Angelina Jolie) through the words of Gilgamesh, whom he killed earlier in the film. There is a moment of romantic tension between the two, though it’s over quickly. In the comics, Thena left the Eternals to live among the changing people, the Deviants, and her soulmate Kro, who much like in the film, sought to improve the status of his people beyond mere monsters. Kro and Thena’s relationship was off and on for centuries, and the two even had twins in the 20th century, evidence that Eternal and Deviant union was possible.
During the climax of the film, the Eternal child Sprite (Lia McHugh) makes the decision to betray her fellow Eternals and join Ikaris (Richard Madden), citing her jealousy of humans who possess what she will never have, like the abilities to grow up, know love, and start a family. In Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.’s Eternals revival, Sprite, who was at that time a male character, erased the memories of his fellow Eternals, giving them all mortal lives so that he could live his life uninhibited as a Justin Bieber-esque pop star. The illusion almost destroyed the world, and Sprite was killed for his betrayal. Thankfully, in the film, she’s given a more empathetic outcome.
The Dreaming Celestial
The golden Celestial at the center of Earth’s core is Tiamut the Communicator, known in the comics as The Dreaming Celestial. In the comics he was a renegade Celestial who resisted Arishem’s decision to destroy the Earth. Earth was spared but Tiamut was buried underground until Deviants, seeking to have an Eternal of their own, awakened him. Eventually Tiamut ascended to the rank of Celestial once again. In the film, his life energy is destroyed, and his partly emerged body becomes a new topographical area of interest on Earth. The position of the dead Celestial is very similar to that of the Progenitor, a Celestial that the Avengers currently inhabit and have dubbed Avengers Mountain. Perhaps Tiamut will serve the same purpose for the next iteration of the Avengers in the MCU.
Ikaris, denied of his purpose in service of the Celestials chooses to fly into the sun. In the aforementioned opening arc of Aaron and McGuinness’s Avengers run, all the Eternals kill themselves after discovering the Celestials’ true purpose for them. Ikaris’s decision to end his life also mirrors his characterization in Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic’s Eternals run, in which Ikaris is described as an arrow, always focused on the current mission and never the larger question. The core theme of that series was “Eternals never change.” In the film, change also proves too big an idea for Ikaris to handle in the end.
Starfox and Pip
The mid-credits scene introduces two major players from the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, Eros aka Starfox (Harry Styles) and his sidekick, Pip the Troll (Patton Oswalt). Eros is a fellow Eternal, and brother of Thanos, while Pip is an alien with teleportation powers, though his often-drunken state gets him into trouble. In the comics, the two adventurers often aided cosmic characters like Adam Warlock, The Silver Surfer, and Gamora. While it’s not yet known where Eros and Pip will turn up next, or how their absence during the battle with Thanos will be explained, the two are just as likely to be members of the next iteration of the Avengers as they are to be new recruits in the Guardians of the Galaxy.
“Are you sure you’re ready for that, Mr. Whitman?” The voice of the offscreen character in the post-credits scene of Eternals is none other than Mahershala Ali’s Blade, whom fans have eagerly been awaiting. So, what does the Daywalker have to do with Whitman’s role as The Black Knight? In the comics, Whitman battled Dracula, who sought to claim the Ebony Blade for himself, and stopped an army of vampires from invading London. As the MCU delves further into the horror side of their comic-book properties with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Moon Knight and the recently announced Werewolf by Night, we should expect to see a lot more creatures of the night cropping up. It wouldn’t be inconceivable for Harington’s Whitman to be a central character in the upcoming Blade film, and an essential ally of Blade’s who builds a team to defend Earth against magic and monsters. Did Eternals just stealthily tease Midnight Sons? Fingers crossed! Either way, true believers, Eternals opens up numerous possibilities for the MCU going forward.
More on the Eternals
- Who Is Eros, Marvel’s New Star Playboy?
- Oscar Futures: Eternals Is Not the Awards-Friendly Blockbuster That Was Promised
- Eternals Is Nobody’s Film