When Jack ‘King of Comics’ Kirby made his return to Marvel Comics after a short stint at DC Comics during the 1970s, he attempted to continue themes from a wild, personal, cosmic-scale project started at DC. This reincarnating team, evolutionarily experimented on by the gods known as Celestials, has protected Earth since primordial times and was freshly christened the Eternals!
The 1976 series starting with “The Eternals” #1 should be read first. You’ll see the Eternals revealed as the inspiration for all human myths as they reappear on Earth right on time for the return of the incomprehensible Celestials. That series ran for 19 issues before being cancelled and is collected simply as “The Eternals by Jack Kirby The Complete Collection”!
Also, there’s a pretty important storyline with the Eternals in “Thor” #283-291 v1 & “Thor” Annual #7 v1 that is essentially the wrap-up for the cancelled 1976 series and brings the mythological past and heroic present of The Eternals into the main Marvel Universe with Thor and therefore Spider-Man, the X-Men, and everybody else you probably know from their blockbuster films. Awesomely, all that side stuff has been conveniently collected in “Thor and the Eternals: The Celestials Saga”.
After reading the original 1976 series (and taking that detour through “The Mighty Thor”) the second “Eternals” run (started in 1985 and only 12 issues) comes next, and the great Walt Simonson worked on the last part! You can read the whole thing in “The Eternals: The Dreaming Celestial Saga”. Then there was a long era with very little material. Just the 1991 one-shot “Eternals: The Herod Factor” (which wasn’t really important), and a 1999 one-shot called “The New Eternals: Apocalypse Now” (which was kind of important). Both are only collected in the massive tome called “The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus” along with the complete two first series from 1976 and 1985 we already covered.
The group’s grand return came in the third “Eternals” series. Launched in 2006, it was written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by John Romita Jr. It’s a smart restart point and super popular though it does take place after the material we covered above. Many choose to skip ahead to this stuff as it essentially reintroduces most individual characters for contemporary audiences (and explains why they disappeared after “Apocalypse Now”) and will probably be the main source material for the upcoming film! You can conveniently snap it up as “Eternals by Neil Gaiman”. There is also a fourth series from 2008 to read next that received the name “Eternals: To Defy the Apocalypse” on its complete collection. That series finishes the story Gaiman’s set up and reintroduces the remaining secondary characters.
There is also a fifth, new series currently running in 2021. It was just recently partially collected in “Eternals vol.1 Only Death is Eternal”. Written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Esad Ribic, this series sees the characters reborn once again and is exploring the connection between the Eternals and the Mad Titan himself, Thanos.