Taylor: Surfer’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.
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.
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.
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.
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?