by Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr.
This is probably the most coherent take on the Von Daniken-esque “ancient astronauts” mythology in mainstream comics, for what that’s worth. It’s a revamp of an old Jack Kirby Marvel series about de facto gods who came to Earth and raised man from proto-human to human, leaving behind another race of immortal godlings beings to watch over humanity’s development, and yet another race of secretive, chaotic, and powerful beings to act as someone for the good guys to fight. The trick is that eventually the gods — Celestials, as they are called — are going to come back to judge Earth; it’s a pass/fail system, and fail means they’ll just clean up the mess they made (i.e., destroy humanity).
Not being a huge Marvel fan I bought this on the strength of Gaiman’s writing, and while it is still head and shoulders above much superhero work, it’s feet and ankles below his past efforts. The story is good enough, and there are places where his wit and humor shine through, but it is… well, rushed. It was originally intended to be a six issue series, with the first and last being double-sized. At Gaiman’s request a seventh issue was added, but even so there are expository pages where you have to squint to see Romita’s superb draftsmanship. By the time it is over it’s clear that it was the set-up for a new continuing series, so some of the plot’s oddness can be written off as continuity housecleaning. Still, it never felt like there was a real climax to the story at all.
If you are a Marvel Comics fan who obsesses over the minutae of continuity, or a fan of mid-Twentieth Century pseudo-mythological hokum, then it’s interesting. Otherwise, give it a pass.