Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Silver Surfer 14, originally released September 2nd, 2015.
Spencer: It took me a while to realize this, but one of the major reasons why I’ve always loved superheroes so much is because they represent a world where people can stand up to injustice, inequality, and bullies, and make a tangible difference for the better. That’s something I long for, and I’ll admit that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d do to reshape society if I had god-like powers. But what looks good in a fantasy — or even on the comics page — doesn’t always go as planned in real life. That’s exactly what Norrin and Dawn discover in Dan Slott and Michael & Laura Allred’s Silver Surfer 14, where their attempts to rebuild the universe to their own specifications instead of exactly as it once was could result in major repercussions.
Things start out innocently enough: Dawn’s love for Anchor Bay allows her to channel the power of the Shaper of Worlds and recreate a perfect likeness of her hometown, while Norrin begins rebuilding the universe just the way it was before it was destroyed at the outset of Secret Wars. They don’t stick with just replication for long, though — Dawn’s inability to perfectly remember the Earth leaves the world looking spotty, while Norrin decides to repent for the sins of his past by ridding “his” new universe of Galactus and restoring all the worlds Galactus ever destroyed.
Let’s kick our discussion off by focusing on Dawn, because her handiwork seems more obviously flawed at first glance. I love the idea that Dawn can’t properly recreate Earth because she doesn’t know it well enough. The fact that Dawn could recreate her town and family to the point of legitimately resurrecting them from the dead (and Norrin confirms it — they’re the real deal) shows that it doesn’t take some sort of complete, 100% accurate recollection of every detail down to the tiniest atom to recreate something — it just takes a passion for and knowledge of the subject. Dawn’s got those in spades for Anchor Bay, but she’s never really traveled outside its borders — what she knows of the world she knows from media and her sister’s postcards, an idea the Allreds bring to life magnificently.
The world Dawn has created is shallow and two-dimensional, both literally and figuratively. Second-hand experiences can’t recreate something as complicated and beautiful as the planet Earth — pictures and videos are great, but there’s nothing like seeing the world in person.
So the Lowly Zee suggests that Dawn get help from somebody who knows Earth better than her. Dawn calls for Norrin, but instead accidentally ends up creating a duplicate of the Surfer. Given that Dawn’s powers allowed her to literally resurrect her family, I have to wonder: how “real” is this new Surfer? No matter what the answer is, though, two Silver Surfers existing at once is clearly a very bad thing.
Dawn’s dual-Surfers aren’t the only anomalies, though — Norrin’s recreating all the planets Galactus destroyed has also resulted in a few cosmic redundancies, and the Shaper of Worlds isn’t happy. Norrin’s motives, both when faithfully recreating the universe and when forging his own path, are so pure that it’s tough to see them bring about negative consequences, but at the same time, gaining these kind of God-like powers pretty much always ends with the recipient abusing their powers (intentionally or otherwise). Up until those final few pages, though, Slott had me convinced that he was subverting that trope, and that’s mainly because of Glorian’s guarantee.
Here’s a hint that I should have heeded myself: when someone says “it’s really that simple,” it never is. I should have been more suspicious, but the fact that Norrin so readily accepts Glorian’s plea and that the rest of the issue up until those final moments plays out so consequence-free had me convinced that this moment was Slott giving his readers permission to put their suspicions aside and focus on other aspects of the story. But now it looks like I was wrong — while it hasn’t been confirmed, it’s implied that Glorian and Zee have been manipulating Norrin and Dawn all along.
Think about it — throughout the issue, Glorian is practically harassing Norrin, hitting him over the head with the idea of doing whatever he wants with the universe. His bringing up Galactus at all appears to be a gamble to get Norrin to finally lose control, and likewise, Zee strings Dawn along with just the right mix of leading questions to get her to call for the Surfer. Again, I can only speculate about their motivations, but when we first found these guys they were living in a pocket dimension of nothingness — maybe they want out? Maybe they want to take control of things themselves, and are using Dawn and Norrin as tools to do so? Glorian could feel that recreating the world in his image is a type of justice for his years spent outside the boundaries of reality, but that just goes to show exactly why it’s so dangerous to tamper with the natural order: everybody’s idea of a perfect world is completely different.
(Side-note: Glorian, the Maker of Miracles, seems to be a clear allusion to Mr. Miracle, who was also created by Silver Surfer co-creator Jack Kirby. Kirby is essentially the architect of the Marvel Universe, to the point where a Fantastic Four story once depicted Kirby as God — could Glorian be some kind of meta-commentary on the creation of Marvel? It’s worth exploring.)
I’m always impressed by the way Slott and the Allreds use Silver Surfer to tackle weighty topics without ever losing their senses of humor and wonder, and this issue is no exception. Silver Surfer 14 is a visual feast from start to finish, and these already-lovable characters seem even more charming than usual.
Seriously Patrick, when was the last time you saw something this cute? Silver Surfer does so much well, but the sheer humanity of Dawn and Norrin may be its most potent weapon by far.
Patrick: That humanity — and the role it plays in creation and re-creation — is absolutely vital to this issue. Spencer, there’s a lot of space-magic nonsense at the heart of the incident of this issue, where all four of our characters seem to be throwing god-like powers around, but the real act they’re engaging in is something that we witness every time we pick up a comic book. Dawn and the Surfer are rebuilding the Marvel Universe: a task that Slott and the Allreds have, in their own small part, literally signed up for. No doubt the kinds of questions that Norrin and Dawn are asking as they bring the universe are the very kinds of questions Marvel’s writers and editors find themselves asking. The biggest enemy in both cases seems to be the possibility of unintended consequences of change.
Dawn can foresee some of those consequences. It’s a heartbreaking moment when she has to tell her father that she won’t be bringing her dead mother back as well. Dawn’s father is making a reasonable request, and more than that, he’s asking for a change to the universe that really means something to him. It’s deeply rooted and emotional, and it is something he had at one point in his life.
Dawn may be whisked away (to make France or Belgium or whatever), but she wasn’t going to bring her mother back anyway. The only answer she offers is “but dad, she’s gone,” which is true about the majority of reality at the point in time that she says it. Dawn knows that there are some loses that are part of existence, and the loss of a parent or a wife means just as much as that person existing in the first place. After all, if she brings back her mother, then she’s really not bringing back her father exactly as she remembers him either – he’s a man that has lost his wife and continues to run a small B&B without his life-partner. That’s part of him.
I’m reminded of the old Spider-Man axiom: ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ Norrin and Dawn have the greatest power imaginable, and therefore have the greatest responsibility imaginable. Marvel editorial has that same power, and that same responsibility, right now – they have to decide what does and does not exist as part of the Marvel Universe. What Slott and the Allreds are doing in this issue is questioning to whom the creators owe that responsibility: to the creation itself or to the creators? Let’s take an easy example: when Earth-616 snaps back into reality, will Gwen Stacy be alive? Surely, some fans would love to see the character again, thrilled at the prospect of making new memories with an old favorite. Other fans would reject that as a retcon – readers hate accepting something as true if they believe it to be false. There’s no such thing as an easy choice in remaking the universe, and that’s what Dawn and Norrin see as they either make alterations or refuse to make alterations.
But this issue is also making a case for the idea that this kind of responsibility is on-going. Being able to recreate all of reality may sound like a unique opportunity to shape the world around you, but the reality is that we are always shaping the world around us. Surfer’s tour of the newly-formed universe is proof of this: in his day to day work, he’s destroyed thousands of planets, saved millions of innocent lives and — in one very poignant example — forged one very meaningful relationship. Again, to tie it back to the creators, it doesn’t take an editorial “Hard Reset” (the name of the issue) to put a writer in a position where they can change something. All creation is change. While I’m sure we’re going to have a fun little punch-em-up between “real” versions of the Silver Surfer in the next issue, I’m already perfectly satisfied with the idea that there can be more than one “real” anything.
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I do think it’s interesting how many different approaches creators are taking to the non-Battleworld Secret Wars stuff. Both this and Loki went way-ass meta with their stories, but other series — like Spider-Woman and Silk and Ant-Man — have just settled into what’s sad about those specific worlds / characters / stories ending. There’s a little bit of meta mixed in with those too (particular in Spider-Woman as Taylor and Spencer observed last week), but by and large, I’m amazed at the variety to these end of the world stories.