Marvel’s latest iteration of the Silver Surfer draws to a close with Silver Surfer Vol. 5: A Power Greater Than Cosmic. The trade collects issues #7-14 of the 2016 series, written by Dan Slott, drawn by Michael Allred, and colored by Laura Allred. A rarity in terms of modern comics, each issue feels complete in and unto itself, while still flowing out of and into the others around it. With that said, how is the story when presented as a whole?
Hoo, boy. This volume tricked me. The first two issues drew me in, and gave me the impression that the volume would consist largely of feel-good one-offs with solid writing and stellar art. The volume is a refreshing read from the very beginning, as the focus is firmly on the characters (the Surfer and his companion, Dawn). Their escapades are merely the backdrops against which they grow. No events get in the way, no crossovers, no needless decompression slowing down their development. Instead, the reader gets to follow two people very much in love exploring the vastness of space together, and it’s a lot of fun. From besting a gambler by wagering the ability to gamble, to getting swallowed by a giganormous (the book’s own descriptor) space whale, Silver Surfer and Dawn encounter all manner of strangely delightful happenings. This is a book that draws upon space’s vastness not as a source of terror but as a source of hope and endless possibilities.
The volume’s trick is that one doesn’t immediately realize the heartache to come from delving further and further into it. That’s not to say that the series loses its optimism–rather, it clings onto it even while exploring the subjects of death and grieving bluntly, without false pretenses or sugarcoating things. There was a point where I found myself wondering what sort of comic booky science or miracle would reverse certain major plot events, but no such reversal ever came. The characters simply had to face life head-on as it happened, painful aspects and all. Slott’s writing throughout is simply impeccable. Each issue is a satisfying and moving complete piece of art, while also generating a need to read the series’ next installment. Various aspects of the Surfer and cosmic Marvel’s mythos are integrated in fun and creative ways, delivering stories that I didn’t know I wanted until I read them. Galactus’s past life as Galan is long-established, but actually getting to see that life? Awesome.
Art-wise, the Allreds’ work grew on me more and more with each issue. The constantly bright color palette matches the tone of the book very well, lending a sense of hope to even the plot’s most depressing moments. In terms of conveying emotions, the line-art here is fantastic. There are a few moments here and there where characters’ facial expressions border on goofy, but for the most part they are captured beautifully. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the visuals is the way (Michael) Allred manages space in some of the volume’s most narratively important scenes. Ends of the universe move, and large white gaps convey the unfathomable distances between faraway locations. At one point, Eternity (a personification of the universe itself) brings these impossibly distant settings together by pressing his two pointer fingers against one another. This visual representation of the seemingly impossible is as well-rendered as it is conceptually strong.
Silver Surfer Vol. 5: A Power Greater Than Cosmic impressed me from its first issue onward, and surprised me by delivering something very different from what I initially expected. A fun, refreshing read quickly turned into a fun, refreshing, heartbreaking read, with character work that only grew stronger and more celebratory as it approached harsher and more difficult subject matter. This is the fifth and final volume of a series for which I haven’t read any of the previous installments, but it made me want to read everything that came before it, regardless of the fact that I now know how it all ends. This volume’s cons are all fairly minor–there’s a wonky face here and there, and one of the eight issues borders a bit too much on just recapping past events. Overall, though, this volume is too good just to read about; I highly recommend buying and experiencing it yourself.