Suzanne: What meaning can we find in our collective fascination with dreams, or rather nightmares? From myths about gods like Hypnos and Morpheus to the cult obsession with Sandman, these stories reveal our curiosity with the thinly-veiled world we enter each night with sleep. I catch myself searching for insights about my dreams — what does a dystopian future filled with giant monsters really say about my current frame of mind? Here’s hoping Norrin Radd and Dawn Greenwood break through to their subconscious in Silver Surfer 5.
Last issue, Silver Surfer experiences his greatest fear and becomes trapped in the Great Barrier of Galactus surrounding Earth’s atmosphere. Fast forward to current events — the Surfer confronts Dawn by calling out to her “To me, Dawn Greenwood!” from her window in the middle of the night. He assumes that she is the source preventing him from cosmic travel. This scene plays off of the trope of a suitor visiting their love for a midnight tryst (think Romeo and Juliet) but fails hilariously without a romantic subtext.
Meanwhile, Bruce Banner and Stephen Strange pay a visit to the sleepy town of Anchor Bay in search of The Lord of Nightmares. Doctor Strange reveals that everyone on Earth is asleep except for Dawn Greenwood! Even the Silver Surfer (curse that nap from last issue!) is powerless to wake The Lord of Nightmares and end this dream state. Everything gets a little weirder and convoluted as Hulk and Doctor Strange battle twisting tongues and vicious fangs. Dawn and Norrin wander further into the dream world and watch her loved ones enact their worst nightmares. Will Dawn be able to stay awake long enough to break the spell?
Guest appearances can be unbalanced or (at worst) irrelevant to a story arc. Thankfully, the inclusion of Doctor Strange and The Hulk feels organic to the tone of the book. Little details like Doctor Strange giving Dawn The Eye of Agamotto add to the zany, cosmic theme. Yet at one point Silver Surfer stops Hulk from interceding, saying “The girl is my responsibility.” His actions draw a clear line that Doctor Strange and The Hulk are merely supporting cast in this plot. Most of the dreams we visit are of Dawn and her family — keeping the focus on the least established character in the series. But will we ever see an appearance of Shalla Bal or the Fantastic Four in this series?
There’s a great use of dramatic irony as Dawn watches Norrin’s nightmare about serving as herald. He literally asks her to look away so that he doesn’t have to share his past with her. Is her knowledge of his misdeeds an extension of this nightmare? It reminds me of someone trying to keep their dating history out of a new relationship. How long will Norrin be able to maintain this secrecy in a galaxy filled with his mistakes? Silver Surfer’s nightmares all relate to his past, while Dawn’s nightmares involve not growing in the future. This is fitting for Silver Surfer’s extensive history in the Marvel Universe versus Dawn’s role as a new character developed for the series.
Drew, I didn’t even touch Dawn and Silver Surfer’s meeting with the Lord of Nightmares. Did this feel a bit anticlimactic to you, like meeting the Wizard at the end of the Wizard of Oz? Do you think this series will maintain its charm with most of its supporting cast back on Earth?
Drew: If there’s one thing I’m definitely not worried about, it’s this series losing its charm. Either Slott or Allred alone is enough to guarantee that a series will be zany fun, but the two of them together is a match made in cosmic heaven. More to your point, though: as charmed as I’ve been by the recent stay at the Greenwood Inn, I wouldn’t consider any of the characters we’ve met so far to be supporting cast. This series already seems to be set up for very episodic space adventuring, with Dawn and Norrin encountering a different alien world every few issues. Some of those worlds may be home to characters Dawn and Norrin already know (as in these last two issues), but that is only significant in how it effects our central pair. That is to say, I think Eve and Mr. Greenwood’s nightmares are significant, but only in how they inform Dawn’s own perception of herself.
Actually, this all reminds me of a theory about dreams I once heard: that they’re actually a series of still images, and any narrative we see in them is simply our consciousness trying to make sense of that random string of unrelated images. This makes dreams more of a Rorschach test than anything — an exercise where our interpretation is really the point. In that way, it makes sense how central Dawn is to the nightmares she encounters here. Her sister and father may not be defined by how they treat Dawn, but Dawn certainly is.
Taken together, those dreams establish how Dawn might have been pigeonholed as the homebody AND how she might actually need to leave the nest for a while. That’s some heavy lifting that Slott handles beautifully.
Less graceful is the explanation for why Dawn’s status as last awake person on Earth would make her in any way important to stopping Nightmare. Doctor Strange explains away his agency when he reveals that he’s a mere astral projection, but Hulk is apparently actually physically there, and Norrin is clearly capable of punching holes in roofs/reflecting sunlight with his surfboard. Actually, Dawn doesn’t ultimately contribute anything productive to the waking of Nightmare, making the stress Strange puts on her awake status seem a little, well, strange. I’m happy to hand-wave it away in the name of fun (this issue sure is a lot of fun), and I don’t anticipating this being a problem now that we’ve established why Dawn will be with Norrin, but it stuck out to me as a little strained. Maybe I need to take up more of Dawn’s “Why not? That’s magic. Makes perfect sense” attitude.
Getting back to those dreams, though, the more I think about that still image theory of dreaming, the more like comics it feels to me. Comics are also a series of still images that we sting together into a narrative — a narrative that is highly influenced by how we interpret and relate to those images. Much of that stringing together happens in the gutter — the space between panels — which Allred cleverly does away with in these dream sequences, separating the panels with just a simple black line. That could suggest that there isn’t as much room for interpretation here — this is basically Dawn’s origin story — but I prefer to think that it’s simply hiding the act of interpretation, allowing us to forget that that may be all dreams really are. It’s a subtle move, but I think it helps create that dreamlike aura of something being amiss.
As usual, I had an absolute blast with this issue. I also continue to be impressed as to how smart and thoughtful this series is. I know Slott and Allred both have the capacity to be clever and touching, but I think I’m never quite prepared for how effectively they amplify those traits in one another. This issue gives us all of the emotional stakes of Dawn’s newfound wanderlust, but also some hints as to Norrin’s own emotional baggage, all while featuring some trippy dreams and the Incredible Hulk. What more could you ask for?
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?