‘Silver Surfer’ #1 Chooses Incident Over Introspection [Review]
For most of his publication history, the Silver Surfer has been a character marked by tragedy and tumult. The inherent irony of the character was that he could traverse the vastness of space with ease and wield immeasurable power in the palm of his hand, but he could hardly bear the torture of his own emotions.
The first issue of the brand new Silver Surfer series by writer Dan Slott, artist Mike Allred and colorist Laura Allred chucks a lot of that baggage out the window, and, believe it or not, it’s all the better for it.
[Potential spoilers, after the cut.]
This issue doesn’t give the Silver Surfer a lot of time for self-reflection (though at one point his shiny skin does literally reflect his entire past in what I'd call a meta-joke). Slott and Allred fill each page that features the Surfer with new characters, new ideas, and new mysteries to throw at him. As soon as the Surfer figures out what the two weird-looking cameras floating in front of him are, here come some space cops. Soon after the space cops come and go, he’s exploring a huge, seemingly impossible cosmic city. And before the Surfer or readers really get a chance to dig into that, it’s time to get to the big twist.
For readers who are familiar with the Surfer’s past, about how much of it has dealt with his inability to protect people he loves, it’s a real curveball. It’s a really funny gag, too. It inverts the standard-issue Silver Surfer story in a way that is so clever that I’m quite frankly shocked I’ve never seen it before.
That said, people are going to call this a throwback comic, and it’s not an entirely incorrect label. The Allreds’ art, while it certainly adheres to their own established style, is clearly supposed to call back to the Silver Surfer work of the man who created the character, Jack Kirby. It goes well beyond basic homage, though. The Allreds are channeling Kirby’s creative spirit in these pages.
(Kirby famously threw the Surfer into the pages of Fantastic Four #48 without letting collaborator Stan Lee know about it beforehad. The Surfer wasn't part of the plot they discussed; Kirby just added him in the completed art.)
Look no further than the two-page spread that reveals The Impericon, that insane space city I mentioned earlier. It doesn’t necessarily look like something Kirby would design—it’s a little too wavy and abstract, and Kirby tended to prefer straight lines and defined angles in his impossible machinery—but it definitely seems to be an attempt to do what Kirby did by bringing what was seemingly impossible to visualize to life on a page. I found myself staring at the spread’s tiniest details for a really long time. It’s one of the most visually stunning images I can recall from a comic in quite a while.
There is a whiff of the Surfer being driven by guilt in the early pages of the issue, which find him restoring a tiny solar system back to health simply for the sake of helping its people, but most of the emotional heavy lifting takes place in what I guess I’d call the B story, which introduces a young woman named Dawn who wears polka-dotted dresses, has something of a rivalry with her twin sister Eve, and adores her New England hometown of Anchor Bay.
I’m not sure Dawn gets enough page space to make the last page, which smashes her and the Surfer’s stories together, have quite the impact it could (a flashback on the first page also hints at a connection between the two characters). But considering that’s kind of the whole point, and that a first issue of a comic book only has so many pages, it isn’t a glaring problem. If anything it stokes curiosity about just what Dawn’s whole deal is.
Silver Surfer #1 is an immensely stylish comic book. Each page pops with energy and vitality. Some fans of older Surfer stories may view the approach as an attempt to jazz up a cerebral character with a lot of flash, thereby stripping out the deep meaning, but I don’t think that’s the idea. It’s more about simply doing something new. And this does.