Silver Surfer 9

silver surfer 9

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Silver Surfer 9, originally released February 18th, 2015.

Patrick: As he’s about to take Galactus head on in combat, Silver Surfer recalls the story of David and Goliath. I love David and Goliath, mostly because of how its message has been muddled by the passage and time. We read that story now as a triumph of the little guy against immeasurable odds — which is a fine story to comfort us when we feel like we’re taking on the world. But the real story isn’t quite so comforting: David wasn’t an untrained kid with a slingshot stuffed in the back pocket of his overalls; he was a trained soldier, battle-hardened and armed with his weapon of choice. In slaying Goliath, David isn’t beating the odds, he’s fulfilling his potential. And that’s exactly what this issue of Silver Surfer does too: both in terms of narrative power and the power cosmic, Norin Radd gloriously achieves his potential.

Before we get to that fist-pumpingly awesome bit of silliness at the end of the issue, there’s a lot of history to sort through. Dan Slott and Michael Allred have spent the last eight issues developing a character that has been actively ignoring his own past. Instead of being an interstellar pariah, Radd has become something of a galactic journeyman, taking Dawn Greenwood on adventures purely for the sake of having adventures in the universe. That’s a totally sweet characterization, especially for a dude that remains stoic throughout. But Radd’s history is another story, one that Dawn requests to hear “in full” before she can even begin to forgive him for destroying (or at least having his hand in destroying) countless worlds.

The issue drops into origin story mode, and Allred delivers a beautiful two-page spread chronicling how Surfer went from apathetic socialite on his home planet, to the Herald of Galactus, to superheroic rebel. Allred includes one panel of Surfer and the Fantastic Four battling Galactus, and that’s all it takes to tie Norin Radd to the larger context of the Marvel Universe.

Reed Richards Johny Storm and Silver Surfer vs. Galactus

I know, I know, I know — this should go without saying: of course the Silver Surfer is an integral part of the Marvel Universe. Early in the series, we saw Surfer Teaming up with Hulk and Doctor Strange (and even the Guardians of the Galaxy) to fight some earthbound menace, but Norin and Dawn made the specific choice to leave that sort of thing behind. This is a firm reminder that the Surfer exists in this universe, and an assertion that his history matters.

The reason we’re getting this history, and the reminder of Surfer’s place in the Marvel Universe, is simple: he’s about to do something awesome. Or gnarly. Or bodacious. Or any surfer slang you wanna toss out there — it’s all equally good. As far as I’m concerned, the whole issue is leading up to Dawn’s realization: “He’s surfing the moon.” That’s an aggressively silly idea, and there’s no escaping the cheesiness that comes along with Radd using his surfing abilities to save the day. It’s like anachronistically pandering to a young readership that doesn’t exist any more. But the idea of “surfing the moon” transcends its own silliness by being exactly the type of thing that only the Silver Surfer can do, and by extension the only thing the Silver Surfer should be doing.

Plus, Slott and Allred give the readers all the time in the world to wrap their heads around what Radd is doing. Beautifully, they don’t cheat any of these moments, or have the characters overly narrate what’s happening. It would have been so easy to show a kind of impossible perspective and make it clear that Norrin is perched on top of the moon, riding it like a surf board, but instead Allred favors the perspectives of the two characters we know and love. I’ll admit to still being totally confused when Norrin lands on the moon and digs his heels in. Once you know what’s happening, it’s all to clear that he’s surfing the moon, but without context, the action is delightfully ambiguous.

and shatter them

When we knock back over to Dawn’s perspective, all we can see is the moon moving across the sky. That moon, by the way, has appeared throughout the issue, foreshadowing its importance. You can see the moon in Founder Keen’s holographic projection of the planet, and in the sky above Dawn and Norrin, and it pointedly appears behind Norrin’s hand as he vows to protect Newhaven. Cheekily, the moon also appears on the title page, with the word “Slingshot” printed right on top of it.

SLINGSHOT

That’s what this series and this character is all about: taking something as ridiculous and unbelievable as surfing the moon, and convincing the reader that it was inevitable.

The same is true of the Surfer’s sacrifice, which I’m going to leave to my good friend Taylor to discuss. I found this issue to be greatly rewarding, not just for its idiotically huge moon-crashing set piece, but because of what it cost the character to make that happen. Were you moved by Surfer’s sacrifice? Or does the silliness override the emotion?

Taylor: Oh, the silliness doesn’t bother me all that much. After all, it’s been a major part of the series — getting upset about now seems like a moot point. No, I wasn’t bothered by the silliness at all, but I was bothered by a number of things in this issue.

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the moon. As you said, Patrick, when the Silver Surfer decides to fight Galactus, he decides the best way to defeat the guy who destroys planets is by “surfing” the moon into him. Ignoring the silliness of destroying someone with a moon (pour one out for Chewbacca), I had major qualms with just how this action went down. First, as we can see below, the Silver Surfer gets some help in turning an orbiting body into a projectile.

BOARD!

Yes, that’s faithful Toomie plowing itself into the moon, helping to move the celestial object for its master. While this is a touching instance of Toomie’s faithfulness, it also makes us question exactly who is moving the moon. Is the Surfer pulling it as board is pushing? Or is board just doing all of the work on it’s own? Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that the Silver Surfer is not “surfing” the moon into Galactus. Rather, he’s either pulling it or Board is pushing all on its own, making the Surfer’s heroic deed not as admirable as previously thought.

What also bothered me about the actions of the Silver Surfer in this issue is that they entirely unoriginal. Comic books are practically built upon the idea of heroic sacrifice and virtually every comicbook hero has died at least once in their careers. So what is making the Surfer’s turn particularly admirable in this case? I guess we could cite his desire to rectify the wrongs of killing millions of people (from millions of planets [really?]) but if anything, that makes his sacrifice feel kind of inadequate. It all just feels like uninspired story telling that borrows from stories already told yet not offering up anything new or interesting to draw us in.

Along these same lines, I found Dawn’s actions in the issue to be suspect at best. First, she is appalled to learn the truth about what the Silver Surfer has done. Then, she refuses to ride to safety because she feels a sudden solidarity with a group of aliens she met hours ago. At the end of issue she bemoans the loss of the Silver Surfer and frantically is trying to think of a plan to rescue to him. Again, this is the type of pseudo-independent female lead that pervades pop-culture. While on the surface it looks like Dawn is asserting her morals when she refuses to speak to the Surfer and then accept his help, it’s all just a show in retaliation for him lying to her. Is she really all that upset he killed millions? No! how do we know? Minutes after making her grand stand against the Surfer, she’s asking for spaceships to go save him from space. If she was really angry all of those deaths, wouldn’t she have been glad to see him suffer? Instead we see her plight was about the morals of killing millions of innocent people. Instead, she’s just angry that a man lied to her. It’s a typical way women behave in pop-culture and one that perpetuates a world that revolves solely around dudes.

So sure, the silliness doesn’t bother me in this issue, but maybe that’s just because there are other things that bother me much more. So while Norrin maybe fulfilling his role as hero in this issue, I find the issue as a whole fulfills old stereotypes in a way that lacks any originality or vigor.

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?

9 comments on “Silver Surfer 9

  1. Taylor, I think you’re being kind of hard on the issue. This might just come down to a matter of taste, but I’d like to respond to each of your criticisms:

    I really don’t think it’s problematic that Norrin used his board to help stop Galactus — he is the Silver Surfer, after all. I mean, we wouldn’t object to Iron Man using his suit or Batman using his utility belt, would we? I totally disagree that using every resource available — let alone the one resource we associate with the character — makes Norrin’s actions somehow less heroic. Plus, Norrin never suggests that he’s doing it alone, saying quite explicitly that they’re doing this together.

    I’ll also quibble with your labeling this issue as “unoriginal”. I mean, sure, we’ve seen stories like this before, but if a hero risking life and limb to stop a villain is too unoriginal to pass muster, we might as well dismiss all of comicdom. For me, anyway, the fun of comics is the twists and turns along the way. “Good guy punches bad guy” has definitely been done, but punching the bad guy with a moon? That seems like a lot of fun to me.

    As for Dawn’s change of heart, I really don’t think it’s as dismissive as you suggest. Obviously, we all know what it’s like to be mad at a friend, but not want them to die, so the question really comes down to just how monstrous Dawn views his actions. I could try to make cases for her not wanting anyone to die, or his heroic last act being enough to win her over, but I really just think it comes down to them being friends. Whether she trusted him or not — or even if she thought he was a monster — doesn’t matter in that moment because he was her friend. He’s out there dying, and her desire to help him seems totally believable to me.

    • I hadn’t really thought about the board as an entity separate from the Surfer. I really only know Norrin from this series, so I guess I always assumed the personality that it seems to express is projected onto it from Dawn (just as she projected the non-name name “Toomie” onto it). Does it have it’s own, separate consciousness or is it literally just an extension of Norrin?

  2. I think my opinion of this issue falls right between both of yours, Patrick and Taylor.

    I found Norrin surfing the moon to be a kind of breathtaking move in a book that already makes those kind of moments its bread and butter, so I absolutely loved it, but it also felt like that was kind of all there was to the issue, leaving the whole book feeling a bit short and sparse.

    I’m not sure how I feel about Dawn’s characterization here. Like Taylor, I did find it to be a very jarring moment when Dawn was suddenly worried about Norrin. At the same time, though, it would kind of make Dawn a pretty awful person if she saw Norrin get injured or almost die and do nothing about it. Plus, they’ve been through a lot together, I can understand their connection being stronger than her feelings of betrayal, as appropriate as they may be. So I’m a bit torn here.

    Overall it felt like a transition issue, though. Like, Slott obviously felt like he had to end the previous issue on the (admittedly very strong) cliffhanger of Dawn sending Norrin away, but then he needed to tell the rest of Norrin’s story, so had to resort to her immediately calling him back. It’s not unforgivable, but it is rather inelegant, and that’s how the issue kinda feels to me as a whole, even with a moment as thrilling and magical as surfing the moon.

  3. I’ll admit that I might be sort of blind to Dawn’s whiplash motivations in this issue. I was just so enamored with how Allred and Slott sell the surfing the moon thing. It’s just so effective (effective to me, maybe not objectively) that I kinda didn’t care about anything else. That page that’s just three images of Norrin on the moon getting closer and closer to Galactus had me cheering in my chair. And the explosion spread on the next page just sealed the deal.

  4. Regardless of whether or not it was the best stratagem to charge Galactus headfirst without the aid of an Ultimate Nullifier, I have to agree with Patrick and say that the set-up for the moon-surfing–sorry, “He’s surfing the moon!”–and the pay-off–hello, yet another beautiful and wacky splash page by Allred–had me marking out like a mother—-.

    I think it’s the combination of the always clean and bright art of the Allreds with the pop-style adventures of the fantastic penned by Slott that ultimately create some leeway (for me) whenever certain character beats like Dawn’s whiplash reaction to Norrin’s untruthfulness and subsequent sacrifice for the planet don’t fully materialize into a masterful stroke of drama.

    By that same token, however, I think it would be fair to say that given the usual high quality of the comic set by Messrs. Slott and Allred(s), rare slips in character modes are forgivable. In addition, I side with Drew in believing that Dawn’s reaction is perfectly normal for a friend felt betrayed by another friend–yes, they’re angry with them, but at the same time, they still care for them and what happens to them because they are their friend. With Norrin’s life hanging in the balance, Dawn’s sudden concern for him is perfectly understandable.

    • Yeah, obviously, I was totally ready to forgive the weirdness of that character moment for Dawn, but I think that’s also partially because I’ve more or less bought into the idea of the Silver Surfer as this kind of cosmic journeyman, and his cute relationship with Dawn makes me only think of him as this adorable dude. The reality, of course, is much much much more horrifying. Like, what would you do if the person you were dating was like “oh, by the way, I was Hitler. That was a long time ago mind you, but I was Hitler.” This is like a billion times worse than that.

      And maybe that’s where the premise of the whole thing doesn’t really hold as much water as it should. Like, at some point I just bought into the idea that Surfer can atone for his crimes because I wanted to read a book written by Slott and drawn by the Allreds, but I can see where the conceit of the series is flawed. I don’t personally agree with Taylor’s read, but I think it makes perfect sense.

      • Rather inappropes, but I have to confess that when you brought up the Hitler analogy, I immediately flashed to the indelible image of the Fuhrer taking an epic dump on the first page of Morrison’s Multiversity from last week. I could generally take or leave Jim Lee’s art, but that opening splash of Hitler on the john is one that he should keep in his portfolio.

        On another unrelated note, the Power Cosmic ensures that no one ever has to drop a no. 2.
        Your move, Overman.

  5. LMFAO at that Star Wars EU reference! But remember. As of last year it didn’t happen! All those books I read in my teens/early 20s are now non canon 😦

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