Of all the cosmic entities in the Marvel Universe, one of the oldest and most omnipotent of them all is Eternity. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1965’s Strange Tales #138, the character was introduced as a benefactor to Doctor Strange, giving him the support he needed to defeat his longtime foe Dormammu. The living embodiment of eternity itself, the cosmic being often stays separate from the typical affairs of the heroes and villains throughout the universe, only becoming directly involved in superhero matters when he perceives that the very fabric of reality is being threatened. And with a line of similarly omnipotent children, Eternity’s influence in the universe extends beyond his lone role.
With Eternity making their entrance into Marvel Cinematic Universe, here is a history of the classic cosmic character, from their ‘60s debut on the comic book page to their debut on the big screen. As a heads-up, this article contains major spoilers for Thor: Love and Thunder for those looking to avoid details about the omnipotent figure’s cinematic role.
Who Is Eternity?
Each universe in the Marvel Multiverse is established to have its own iteration of Eternity as an extension of a larger multiversal version of the entity who personifies reality alongside the sentient embodiment of Infinity. Sensing the danger that Dormammu presents to the universe, Eternity approaches Stephen Strange to give him the encouragement necessary to save the day before stepping in to vanquish Dormammu himself. During their initial meeting with Strange, Eternity claims that the first mortal that he conferred with was Strange’s magical mentor, the Ancient One, gifting him a powerful amulet capable of incredible feats.
Eternity would later be kidnapped by the fearsome supervillain Nightmare, with the world plunging into cause due to the resulting disruptions to the space-time continuum. After Doctor Strange defeated Nightmare and freed Eternity, the liberated cosmic entity exiled Nightmare and would later work with Strange and his superhero team the Defenders to restore himself to full power when his form became fragmented.
During the 1991 crossover event The Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin, Ron Lim, and George Perez, Eternity would join a cosmic coalition to oppose Thanos after he gained all six Infinity Gems, only to be easily defeated by the empowered Mad Titan. After Thanos is defeated, Eternity develops an acrimonious dynamic with Adam Warlock, differing in opinion over how the Infinity Gems should be used after Thanos’ attack. This animosity culminated in Magus, Warlock’s evil counterpart, imprisoning Eternity in the 1992 crossover event The Infinity War, by Starlin and Lim, to gain access to all the Infinity Gems for himself. Eternity would temporarily merge with Infinity into a composite entity that overcame Magus and returned the universe to normal.
Eternity has several children (Empathy, Eulogy, Expediency, Entropy, Epiphany, Enmity, and Eon), each embodying a different concept within reality. After Mar-Vell’s son Genis-Vell was driven insane by the immense pressure caused by the scope of his cosmic awareness, he and Entropy killed Eternity and most of the universe. Realizing what they had done, Genis and Entropy worked together to recreate the universe, with Entropy following in his father’s footsteps to become the new Eternity at the start of Peter David and ChrisCross’ 2002 run on Captain Marvel.
Eternity was apparently destroyed along with the rest of the Marvel Multiverse during the 2015 crossover event Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic. After the multiverse was reborn, Eternity was imprisoned by his predecessor the First Firmament who took advantage of Eternity being significantly weakened by the sudden changes to reality. Galactus teamed up with the Ultimates in the reformed Ultimate Universe to free Eternity and restore him to his cosmic position in Al Ewing and Travel Foreman’s run on The Ultimates 2.
Eternity’s Powers and Abilities
As the living embodiment of the universe, Eternity only takes on a corporeal form when he deems it warranted and is not bound to the conventional laws of time and space, effectively making him virtually immortal and ageless. Eternity can bend the rules of reality in order to suit his purpose and has possessed mortals, such as Doctor Strange and Storm, to carry out his will rather than manifest a body for himself to take action. As the personification of the universe, when the universe dies, so too does Eternity, only to be restored along with reality.
When facing off against Thanos to prevent him from wielding a fully powered Infinity Gauntlet, Eternity was estimated to be stronger than Lord Chaos and Master Order and equal to Infinity but weaker than the Living Tribunal. To underscore this power disparity, in instances when Eternity disagrees with the Living Tribunal, he defers to the Living Tribunal’s authority. Eternity and Infinity have been able to merge into a single being, on occasion, who is significantly more powerful than either entity when they are separate.
A fraction of Eternity’s power was distilled into an artifact known as the Eternity Mask in the sixth century by a cult. The mask’s true limits to its power are still unknown but exponentially augment whomever wears it, with Doctor Strange storing it in the Sanctum Sanctorum for safekeeping.
The omnipotent superhero Captain Universe is shown to derive their cosmic powers from the Uni-Force, also known as the Enigma Force, which are linked to Eternity’s own abilities. Those that wield the Enigma Force effectively become Eternity’s mortal champion, with Spider-Man and Bruce Banner among the heroes that have temporarily possessed its awesome powers to carry out Eternity’s will before relinquishing the Uni-Force to find a new mortal host.
How Eternity Fits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
There have been hints about ancient cosmic entities existing throughout the MCU since teases featuring the Tesseract and the Infinity Stones. While the Celestials were introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy and the Living Tribunal appeared briefly during Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Eternity wouldn’t make their full MCU debut until Thor: Love and Thunder.
After losing his daughter Love to a selfish and neglectful deity, Gorr the God Butcher set out to massacre all gods by wielding the otherworldly Necrosword. After learning that Eternity will grant the wish of the first individual to make contact with them, Gorr sets out to meet this cosmic entity and presumably wipe out all gods with a single wish. Eternity is revealed to be residing at the heart of the universe, with the shard of the Bifrost Bridge within Thor’s ax Stormbreaker opening a portal directly to Eternity.
Meeting with Eternity, Gorr instead wishes for Love to be resurrected by the entity instead, with a reflection of Eternity hinting that the cosmic being has taken on Love’s form in order to fulfill Gorr’s wish. With Gorr succumbing to the lethal effects of wielding the god-killing Necrosword, Thor adopts Love as his own daughter and the two set out to defend the cosmos together. Though physically appearing as Love, the young girl possesses her own set of cosmic powers, able to project destructive energy blasts and wield Stormbreaker as she charges into battle with Thor hinting at a superhero future for Love through the awesome abilities of Eternity coupled with the Asgardian Avenger’s heroic upbringing.
To see Eternity full debut into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Love and Thunder is out in theaters now.