Silver Surfer 1

silver surfer 1
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Silver Surfer 1, originally released March 26th, 2014.

TaylorSurfer’s have always had a pretty bogus rap around popular culture. We tend to think of them as west coast bums who have forgone any responsibility in their endless pursuit of the perfect wave. It’s an unfair stereotype and one that fails to acknowledge the deep community and thoughtful demeanor of a lot of surfers out there. Similarly, the Silver Surfer has struggled with his one reputation. Once the harbinger of doom for Galactus, the Silver Surfer now spends his days trying to make up for a past life of wrongdoing. His reputation is poor but maybe with enough good deeds he can change the way others look at him… and perhaps change the universe as well.

Life is tough for the Silver Surfer: floating around space, trying to make amends for being a huge jerk for his former employer. Things are going alright until he meets Incredulous Zed, the viceroy of an impossible planet/city called the Imperium. Zed recruits the Surfer to protect his home from the Never Queen, who holds the power to destroy all who get in her way. You know, the usual evil space conqueror type. Zed uses a device called “The Motivator” to find a ransom to keep the Surfer bonded to his pledge to protect the Imperium. Funny thing is, the hostage is an Earth woman he has never met before.

If that write up sounds a little goofy, then I’ve done my job fairly well up to this point. Silver Surfer 1 is a virtual treasure trove of references to the pulpy past of comic books and science fiction. Writer Dan Slott is on point throughout the issue when making the tone of this issue border on the homage. You have the Silver Surfer saving tiny little planets and being worshiped as a god, which some might see as a reference to that episode of Futurama, but really has its origins in science fiction books dating back to the 1950s. It’s a goofy premise made all the sillier by the fact that the person saving the day is a silver coated man surfing through interstellar space. While Marvel has done a fantastic job of making potentially goofy scenarios seem fleshed out and real, there’s something about the Silver Surfer which makes him hard to consider worthy of our modern day scruples. However, Slott seems to realize this, heads us off at the pass, and presents us with something that’s more comedic than anything else.

Other examples come from outside of the Surfer and can be found in the universe he inhabits. One of the primary characters of this first issue is a double-mouthed smooth talker named Zed. He’s basically a used car salesman floating around in space and I think it’s no coincidence that he doops the Silver Surfer into protecting the Imperium when the latter had already agreed to do so. To do this, he uses a device which is unimaginatively named “The Motivator.” It scans a person’s past, present, and future and selects a hostage to be taken. It’s silly and dumb but totally at home in the universe Slott has created.

Sweet memory.Slott’s writing benefits from the artwork of Mike Allred, who captures the pulpy feel of the story perfectly with his style. Every page of this issue looks like it was drawn in the 1960s, no doubt an intentional move on Allred’s part. The characters look like something Stan Lee would have created back when he was 20 years old and even the color schemes lack the vibrancy of today’s comics. Additionally, Allred draws many of his panels with an almost cartoonish aspect, further making this issue an obvious parody.

The Impericon!It’s a weird look, but Allred pulls it off quite well. The world of the Surfer isn’t all that serious and because of the artwork we’re able to understand that all the better. Even when we are shown a scene of the Never Queen killing a previous protector of the Impericon, it comes out oozing with melodramatic goo.

All of this seems like a calculated move and like the surfers of our own world, the Silver Surfer series is off to a start few could take seriously. The tone of the issue reminds me very much of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and it will be interesting to see if Allred and Slott can maintain it issue after issue without the series becoming disingenuous.

Patrick, are you catching the wave of this series? I have to admit, at first I wasn’t wile about Allred’s art but  then it started to make sense to me in the context of the issue. Did you find it was the same for you? Also I was bored by everything that happened on Earth. Am I just insensitive to the plight of a woman wearing a ladybug dress or is something not quite right with that aspect of the story?

Patrick: You’re a heartless monster Taylor, always have been always will be. I totally loved the earth-based stuff, but I’ll fully concede that it’s boring as fuck — especially when compared to Silver Surfer’s interstellar nonsense. That’s totally the point though. There are only two moments in the issue where Dawn’s life intersects with the Surfer’s — on the very first page and on the very last page. Taylor already touched on the mysterious circumstances of the last page, so I want to talk about the mysterious circumstances of the first. The scene is two little girls, wishing on a shooting star — only, that’s not a shooting star, it’s the Herald of Galactus. The sisters each make wishes: Eve, the adventurous one, wishes to travel the world, a wish that eventually comes true, while Dawn, the empathetic one, wishes that “that star could just keep on going. Then everyone could get a wish. And it could stay up in the sky forever.”

Does that wish come true too?

The way the Motivator is explained, the logical assumption you can draw from the end of the issue is that Dawn will become the most important person in the universe to the Silver Surfer. But what if Slott’s already given us all the information we need to understand their relationship? Dawn wished that the shooting star would fly forever, and grant wishes, also forever. During his visit, Silver Surfer is mumbling to himself about dismantling the earth atom-by-atom. His change of heart, drastic though it may be it, happened after Dawn made her wish on a star. Dawn made the Silver Surfer into a thing that grants wishes.

I’m totally jumping to crazy conclusions here, but god damn that’s a cute thought, right? Surfer seems like he’s a good soldier, almost always taking on whatever task comes his way. For so long, it was “find worlds for me to devour!” but one innocent girl accidentally asked him to make wishes come true, effectively setting him free of his servitude to Galactus. That’s why she’s so important to him.

Taylor, you mention that the colors aren’t as vibrant as most modern comics, but I will slap you right in the face for insulting Laura Allred’s honor! Slap! Slap! Slap-slap-slap! The coloring in this issue is stunning. Modern and archaic coloring techniques are used side-by-side to breathtaking effect. Surfer’s shimmering body is given shape through waxy, almost crayon-esque coloring, and that’s set against the digital perfection of an outerspace starscape. With some added newspaper comics dotting, the pages transcend time, presenting a simultaneous pastiche of like a dozen different visual styles.

Silver Surfer is a man from ALL TIMESMichael Allred’s designs are right on par with his wonderful work on FF, but the coloring is what sets the visuals apart from that already stellar work.

Also, I love seeing that Dawn and Eve (oh, holy shit, I just got that) are wearing the same basic dresses as adults that they were wearing as kids. Only, y’know, more grown up versions.

Dawn and EveGuys! Adorable.

I can’t wait to see where this is all going. It’s clear that Slott is taking the freedom afforded to a roving nomadic interstellar hero, and it seems like anything could happen. Plus, look at that — grounded to a real human relationship.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

15 comments on “Silver Surfer 1

  1. Taylor, I hate to pile on, but I’m curious what you meant by “the color schemes lack the vibrancy of today’s comics.” These are about as big, bold, saturated primary colors as any series on the market — indeed, I can’t think of a series I’d consider more vibrant.

    • Well I’m not denying that the color is bright, that much is obvious. Rather it lacks any sort of depth or realistic quality. It has a flatness that is apparent is all. Vibrancy doesn’t just refer to something being bright, it also means something being alive and much of what I saw in this issue just looked dead. Patrick, that picture you posted of the girls is a perfect example of this. They have some weird dead eye stare going on there which I think can be partially attributed to a lack of depth in the coloring. Hopefully this ends the thread of shitting on Taylor. Thanks guys!

      • Sure. Allred’s style definitely has a throwback quality, which I think kind of demands a more traditional, less rendered coloring style. That said, the details Patrick highlights — the colored inks, the subtle gradients, and especially the attention to light sources — all belie a much more modern approach. It’s less flashy than something super photoshop-y (like, say, Green Lantern), but I think it’s ultimately just as impressive. I’ve been saying the same thing about Javier Rodriguez’s similarly subtle colors on Daredevil for years, though, so maybe take my opinion with an extra grain of salt.

  2. I loved this book. While the Surfer stuff was great, I honestly thought the Earth stuff was super charming in its own right. Like, I’d definitely watch a show or read a book about those two sisters and the bed and breakfast.

  3. That’s a great catch about Dawn’s stellar wish tying into her importance for the Silver Surfer, Patrick! I feel that that would be a wonderful thread for Slott to pick up on later in the story–or even next issue!

    On another note, as a longtime Surfer fan, I realize that Norrin Radd’s persona has been altered ever so slightly in this new series, but it’s one that both fits the absurdist context of this new pulpy world and one that still retains the spirit of the character back from the Stan Lee days. For instance, I know that some fans might take issue with Surfer’s comment on the last page–something akin to “Okay. I have absolutely no idea who that is” when seeing Dawn–as being too glib or dare I say humorous for ol’ Chrome Dome (after all, this is the guy that used to wax philosophically for whole pages at a time about the darker side of human nature while being gunned down by alien spacecraft). However, Slott highlighted the Surfer’s altruistic nature when he readily agrees to help those in need, or even before when he powered a miniature sun for tiny world 3. Those are the kinds of acts that are true to the core of the character. In addition, the issue even shone briefly on Surfer’s temper when he suspects of being the pawn in someone else’s foul game–a dubiously honored tradition in the course of his previous books and storylines.

    And then there’s the art… Holy moley pop art cosmos, Allreds! I could rave about it for days (and I probably will personally) but I’ve rambled on for long enough. I’m happy to see the book start off with such a strong and enticing premise/world.

    Also, the colors are ludicrously vibrant and strong, on a level that makes me want to wear sunglasses. I would say shame on Taylor, but then again, I’m probably pretty biased, as I’ve been a fan of the Allred duo since the days of Madman comics.

    • I am not all that familiar with Radd’s characterization in the comics. But even a cursory glance at his history suggests either a) a tortured soul or b) a good little soldier. Both of which are fine ways to characterize the World Gobbler’s former squire, but there’s something infinitely charming about his seen-it-all optimism.

      I love the idea that the optimism/altruism aspects of the character are imposed by someone wishing it were true. Slott is a big fan of Silver Surfer from way back (he lights up when talking about him at Cons), and maybe Slott just needs this cool icon from his childhood to be a good dude. By hanging a lantern on that wish — and putting it in the mouth of one of the characters in the book — it also kind of inserts Slott into the narrative, though not in any obnoxious way.

      Thanks for the comment Mr. Moon.

  4. This series is not Pulpy. That word does not mean old and it certainly does not mean 60s which is what the visuals are pulling from. This is NOT a pulpy story find a new word that is right. The story was indeed a throwback to the Kirby/Lee run of the Silver Surfer both in story telling and visually though the writing is less heavy handed then the original run. The lightness, humor and simple sweetness make this the opposite of pulpy.

    All those things I just mentioned made me enjoy this a lot. I think that telling completely out there stories grounded in basic human emotion is the perfect way to handle this run on Silver Surfer. I am so glad that both of these talents are working on this series since I think both of these people put a value on fun sorely lacking in todays comics when everything has to be “cool” and gritty.

    Much like the Waid Daredevil I find this a book I could give to a kid but enjoy thoroughly as an adult because it feels more adult then most of the “adult by way of a 13 year old boy” comics that saturate the big two.

    Great colorful characters some that I could relate to some that I couldn’t. I can’t wait for more!!

    • So how is this title not pulpy, Paul? The term “pulp,” in regards to literature often means any story that revolves around sensational events. How could this comic be viewed as anything but sensational? It follows a surfer…in space. I do acknowledge that pulp fiction isn’t limited to the decades of the 50s and 60s, but let’s be honest, those were the hey-days of the form. While some, such as yourself, might think of other decades when considering pulp fiction, most people tend to think of that era when the genre is mentioned. Given these circumstances, I think it’s more than fair to say this title is pulpy.

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