By Kelly Gaines
Disclaimer: I’m going to get weird in this review. Not ‘unsettling distant relative at a family reunion’ weird, but definitely ‘weird guy rambling about god on the subway’ weird. If that’s not your thing, I’m sorry.
Picture the universe as an old-school DJ- controlling the beat, moving seamlessly from record to record without throwing off the rhythm. It’s not one or two records, though. This is The Universe. The records are beyond billions, they’re infinite. And they all have to be played, timed, flipped, and moved without being disturbed. It’d take one hell of a DJ to do that, and maybe that is the unwitting cause of those cosmic misfortunes we all fear- misfortunes like what happened to Caroline. Eternity Girl #4 creates this DJ of the Universe (or Universe as a DJ) image and drives the point home in vivid detail. “When you wanna play another song, you can’t just flip the switch. That’ll break the rhythm.” In those words, we have one tragic way (of many) of looking at Caroline. The switch was flipped and her life was thrown off beat. The rhythm is broken. Mix that with an internal arsenal of nuclear power, strip away her career and friendships, and Caroline Sharp’s hysterical disregard for the value of life becomes empathetic. Eternity Girl continues the exploration of reality started in Milk Wars by blurring not only the lines between reality and fiction, but the lines between genres of fiction and perception of meaning as well. #4, in my opinion, is the best issue of Eternity Girl yet. It shows confident attention to detail and an ability to marry visuals and written text in a way that many comics neglect. In this issue, the style of comic art becomes a tool to both manipulate and express emotion. This is storytelling at it’s finest, and the Young Animal line should be proud to host such raw philosophical creativity.
Let’s look at it bluntly. Titles created by the big two rarely offer readers layer upon layer of meaning to analyze. Even when layers exist, they’re often layers of plot- one event that leads to another event that sets off six more events- it’s complex, but only on the surface. The rarity is finding titles that have layers in every aspect of the story, layers that make you think differently, connect differently, and alter your perception. Eternity Girl is a title I’ve gotten to look at in half a dozen ways. The reaction is constantly changing, and I can’t help thinking it’s deliberate. Caroline’s world, her reality, morphs as frequently and unpredictably as she does. The books trail her through these changes giving the distinct feeling of looking into a house through different windows. One window might be tinted, another one stained glass, and another one dirty and broken, so whether or not what’s inside is changing too is hard to gauge. Maybe it doesn’t matter. What matters is the way the view changes from window to window. We can all look through, but we’re not going to see the same scene- and god knows what someone on the inside looking out sees. That’s the reader experience, and it’s Caroline’s experience as well.
Eternity Girl #4 establishes a series of Iterations. In mathematics, an iteration is a repetition of a process applied to the result of the last repetition – roughly. I was laughably bad at math for a majority of my life, especially when larger theories entered the curriculum, so my explanation comes from my shoddy understanding of the longer explanation I begged out of an aerospace engineer friend of mine. And I’m certain if he reads this he’ll tell me I missed the point entirely. So, let’s try the English class definition of ‘iteration’- the process of repeating. That’s easier to understand, but the mathematical definition adds something to the ‘Iteration’ panels. They are a series of repetitions of the same scene, but they are also an expression of the product of each repetition when repeated again. Confused yet? No worries, this took me a decent amount of time to talk myself through. As we read each repetition, we carry the impression that the previous repetition left- it’s never that initial feeling from the first time we saw the scene again. The iterations are the same scene played over five times. Each time we see it, we’re looking through a different window. First, we’re on Fury Road (Mad Max, if you don’t know. It’s great, get into it), followed by a classic golden age comic book, followed by a modern comic, followed by The Peanut’s version of Caroline’s existential nightmare. Finally, we end up in what I’m going to call “Classic Eternity Girl”, because it’s the familiar style which the title has used since its conception. Each of the iteration changes the visuals, the tone, and language, which means you can literally see Caroline try desperately to kick the football (Charlie Brown style) while Madame Atom taunts “If you kick the ball you’ll be liberated from suffering.” It’s bleakly funny. The iterations are an example of using the comics medium to its maximum potential- pictures and words playing off each other and working together to mold a story- but it’s more than that too. We are reading the same story, told in five different ways, and all with the same outcome- Mutually assured destruction. At least it seems there’s something in Caroline that has detached itself from the desire to end all existence- she’s only concerned with ending her own. Unfortunately, she’s willing to do so at any cost, and the price may be a little too high from the perspective of those around her.
That being said, Never Man uses his reality altering abilities to circumvent Caroline’s most recent suicide attempt. She’s splitting her atoms and appears to be so consumed by her inner conflict that she neglects to remember that becoming an atomic bomb will wipe out thousands of other people in the process. At least ending their lives isn’t her intent, It’s unfortunate collateral damage. This isn’t evil in the terms that usually define evil in comics. This isn’t a desire to cause pain. It’s an attempt to end it, one so blinding that Caroline seems to have lost the ability to consider all of the consequences.
At the risk of wading farther into college term paper territory, there’s one more impression from Eternity Girl #4 that I would like to mention. Caroline Sharp/ Chrysalis is a living atomic bomb. Right now, so many of us are afraid of nuclear destruction, of powerful people being pushed too far and the rest of us paying for it. Caroline is dealing with this on an internal level. She’s volatile, and her own power can be pushed too far and cause a reaction that thousands of unaffiliated people will pay for dearly. If you were her, in moments of hopelessness, would it look tempting? Would the nightmare start to feel like the solution? What sort of cosmic misfortune, or rhythm breaking, would allow anyone being to have that kind of power?
Eternity Girl #4
DC's Young Animal