Silver Surfer 14: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Drew Baumgartner

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: When it comes to weaving together long-term plots and storylines spanning years and years, Dan Slott might just be the best there is right now — if not in all of comics, then almost certainly in mainstream superhero books. Silver Surfer 14 is Slott (and Michael and Laura Allred) firing on all cylinders, bringing two volumes’ worth of stories to an immensely satisfying ending. It not only resolves and honors everything that’s come before, but continues to put all the qualities that have made Silver Surfer such a quality read on full display: wonder, adventure, joy, love, and pure emotion — oh, and some metatextual fun, too.

Last issue was such a perfect goodbye for Dawn (who passed away after a long, happy life with her true love in another, older universe), and would have made a more-than-acceptable series finale; I almost felt hesitant to crack this issue open, worried that something might happen to sully Dawn’s happy ending or the life she got to live with Norrin, but I needn’t have worried. This final issue is indeed all about Dawn Greenwood, but about Norrin grappling with a world without Dawn and about the legacy she’s left behind.

We see the effect Dawn’s had on Norrin fairly early in the issue. After surviving the birth of the new universe, Norrin is forced to hide himself in a disguised, intangible state (Nor-Ville), spending millenia just watching the universe form. After the birth of Galactus he becomes obsessed, following the planet-eater for centuries, and eventually watching himself become Galactus’ herald and re-living his own crimes. When they eventually return to Earth he looks forward to seeing his “rebellion, liberation” again…but instead, something different happens.

Norrin — in the form of Norville Rapaport — instead visits the Greenwood Inn, willingly remaining there even when he knows it will mean being trapped on Earth for a decade. Once again it’s Dawn that pulls Surfer out of his slump, out of his obsession (and perhaps pity party?) — it’s something she was always good at in life, and her influence continues to help Norrin see more clearly even after she’s gone.

I like the shooting star angle to this scene as well. Dawn’s actual wish is selfless, but the creative team are still able to imply that Norrin’s eventual arrival in Dawn’s life is an answer to her wishes, a reward for her kindness and generosity, but also that Dawn herself was an answer to the Surfer’s deepest wishes, someone to give him a different, more human perspective on an universe he was otherwise very familiar with.

That part of Dawn will always be with Norrin, but in one of the most romantic, heartwarming gestures I’ve ever seen, he also makes sure that she’ll always be a part of everything, as well.

I’m not gonna lie — when I first read this issue, I spent at least a good minute just staring in awe at that final rows of panels, my eyes starting to tear up, my hand over my agape mouth. What an absolutely perfect ending for Dawn. It’s the kind of conclusion only Silver Surfer is capable of: something intimate, but on a cosmic scale, full of grand ideas and even grander emotions. It’s also a reveal that could be tied into the very inception of Dawn as a character, a plan Slott might have had in reserve for years. I can’t help but love that.

Slott and the Allreds also seeded another conclusion for Dawn, though. Though I wasn’t expecting it to show up again, the creative team had been hiding another Dawn Greenwood in plain sight this whole time — her hologram counterpart, living on the world of Inkandessa. She can’t join Norrin on his adventures, but Norrin can make sure she has the greatest life possible, creating hologram copies of himself and her beloved family to live out eternity together.

It’s a beautiful gift and a second happy ending for Dawn, but it’s also another Silver Surfer speciality: a metatextual comment on the way we read comics. In the past those comments have been a bit more blatant, but this is no less effective. In his afterword, Slott mentions that the problem with “Anywhere and Everywhere” “is that [the tagline] also includes the place where you stop.” Everything ends eventually, even in comics. Silver Surfer will still be here, but Slott and the Allreds’ run was always going to have to end eventually — the Surfer will have new adventures, ones influenced by his time with Dawn, but they won’t be the same for him or for readers.

But just like a version of Dawn, Norrin, and the Greenwoods will always be preserved just as we remembered them back on Inkandessa, the past 29 issues of Silver Surfer will always exist. Not just in our heart, but in our longboxes, our Comixology accounts, on our shelves. No matter what happens to Norrin next, no matter what retcons or reboots he undergoes or what kind of real life setbacks we face, they’ll always be there to revisit, so in a way, the adventures will never end. In the conclusion to their first volume Slott and the Allreds made a similar reference, but pointed out the futility of existing only for nostalgia. Here, though, they acknowledge the comfort nostalgia can bring. I have a feeling we’ll all need it from time to time. In an increasingly brutal world, it’s nice to know that Slott and the Allreds’ Silver Surfer will always be there to offer a beam of hope.

Drew, I don’t think I can fully articulate how much this issue touched and moved me. I couldn’t be happier with it. How about you?

Drew: Goodness, this is ending is so much better than I ever could of hoped for. We’ve come to expect the ends of runs at the big two to feature “putting the toys back” — returning the characters to the state they were in at the start of the run (more or less). That is, while Batman may find the love of his life, he’ll never truly be able to live happily ever after with her, since that would necessitate the kind of permanent change of status quo that is virtually unheard of in comics. Slott basically plays by those same rules, leaving Norrin as the solitary traveler we encountered at the start of the run, but manages to give us that “happily ever after” ending, too.

I have to agree that the previous issue was the perfect ending for Dawn Greenwood, the truest manifestation of “happily ever after” I’ve ever seen in a mainstream comic. But it hadn’t put Norrin back where he belonged. It might have been enough to simply transport Norrin back to the present day so that he could be used again by whatever creative team found use for him, but that would have certainly lacked the tragic beauty — and Silver Surfer-y wistful loneliness — of waiting the entire history of the universe in mourning for his lost love.

A ghost

But, of course, it isn’t just wistful loneliness. I mean, it most certainly is for the first 13.82 billion years, but Norrin makes a key exception for the Greenwood family, an exception he notes that he didn’t even make for his own family on Zenn-La. He notes that he’s “breaking the rules” by doing so, but his desire to be near the people he loved so dearly takes precedent — a remarkably emotional reaction from such a stoic character.

Which speaks to the subtle ways Norrin actually was changed by this story. Or, more specifically, by Dawn. It’s always dismissive to suggest that a story truly returns everything to its original state, as if it never happened, but that’s particularly true here, where a character that is typically defined by loss, remorse, and detachment is given a chance to reconnect and live without regret. He loses Dawn, sure, but only after a full, happy life with her. And actually, I think his story here might better be understood as one of creation, rather than loss. Spencer already mentioned the “break of day” sequence, but we can’t neglect the detail Norrin omitted from his story, the dedication he made at the start of the universe:

Red. With black dots.

The Kirby Crackle is such a signature of the character, this gesture feels perhaps even bigger metatextually than it does in-narrative. I can’t speak with any authority that “Red. With black dots” is now part of the official style guide for Silver Surfer’s power cosmic (though I suspect it probably is), but I guess it doesn’t matter. The point is that Dawn has profoundly changed Norrin — not just how he feels, but who he is and what he does. He may look as silver on the outside as ever, but now we know the true color of his heart.

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?

3 comments on “Silver Surfer 14: Discussion

  1. Geez. I can’t believe I didn’t mention Dawn also getting to live on forever in a kind of heaven-y afterlife where she never has to leave and her loved ones are always near her. It definitely has whiffs of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too, but it’s hard not to want an unequivocally happy ending for her, I kind of love that she got to both be a homebody and a space adventurer. I’d be curious to see how people feel about what that means for Norrin, though. Is he getting the best of both worlds, too, or is it different because he’s still alive and kicking?

    • I ended up reading the last arc of this book, because I felt like it was probably worth doing so, even as a guy who isn’t Slott’s biggest fan. And I really liked the arc – it was the Slott I always wish I could read, the one where Slott’s execution actual matches his always great ideas. And Silver Surfer 13 was truly beautiful and is defintely a contender for the best comic of the year

      Maybe it is because my relationship with this book is very different to everyone else’s – I would dip in and out, giving it a chance every so often by keep getting rebuffed by whatever it is about Slott’s execution that I struggle with – but this issue really didn’t work for me. I think a large part of it is the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too. The best parts, like the ‘Everyone has the same word for Dawn’ (considering the massive debt this book has to Doctor Who, was this inspired by A Good Man Goes to War? Very similar ideas) and the Power Cosmic, are beautiful. Norrin’s memorials to Dawn

      But things like Norrin has a constant guest of the love of his life as a child felt a little creepy, while a lot of the rest felt like an attempt to coddle and dilute the ending. If we say art is about the truth of the human experience, too much of this issue felt like trying to sugarcoat it. I really don’t think have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too is the right sort of ending for an issue about moving on after the love of your life is dead. It should have had the sad beauty of the memorials

      The rest of the arc was amazing, sensational. But this issue seemed to want to undercut the rest of it

  2. This was an amazing conclusion to an amazing run and I look forward to re-reading it.

    One thing that I think helped to shape the core of the love story in this run was the Allred’s care for each other. It really is about care more than it is about romance and we see that made manifest in both large and small ways throughout the series. That makes it feel much more powerful by the end of it.

    I love writing that feels like it is written by an adult but can be given to a child and this run exemplifies that flawlessly. I wish more comics could have this kind of commitment to creative story telling and fun. Also the Silver Surfer is a character that you can feel M. Allred’s love for in every illustration of him. The pallets his wife brings are everything a cosmic book should be. Rarely a black and dotted sky, instead we got nebulae and cosmic phenomena exploding with color filling lovely and lovingly crafted pages.

    Marvel Cosmic was insanely good between this series, The Ultimates by Ewing, the multiple Starlin Thanos mini series, the Star Lord Mini series, the Black Bolt series, The Ewing Rocket mini series, and the Mini Groot mini series. These last few years continue to shine light on and strengthen my love of Marvel Cosmic.

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