Between 1996 and 1998, Silver Surfer was a man roaming, unable to find himself. The main series for the hero ran from #123 through #138 and was largely written by J.M. Dematteis, which helped focus the character’s stories into one sharp-edged run. This is a great Epic Collection in part because it lays out elements that pay off later (which took years at the time) and makes the collection feel cohesive.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A new beginning! The Silver Surfer is back on Earth, but the world he’s returned to is not the same one he left. The Fantastic Four and Avengers have fallen to Onslaught — and with the Surfer cut off from his memories and emotions, can he even grieve for them? Perhaps he can with the aid of the first Earth woman who taught him compassion: blind sculptor Alicia Masters! A brutal battle against the rampaging Hulk leads to an eye-opening encounter with Doctor Strange — but as Alicia and the Surfer begin a journey through time and space, mind and soul, can the Surfer cope with the return of a long forgotten foe and a startling revelation about his home planet, Zenn-La? Or will the demonic Mephisto finally claim his silver soul? Guest-starring Spider-Man, Daredevil and Alicia’s father, the villainous Puppet Master!
Why does this matter?
Silver Surfer may be more popular than ever seeing as he’s got a hit comic book from Donny Cates and Tradd Moore in Silver Surfer Black. A major character in this collection is Alicia Masters, who most notably married the ever-lovin’ Thing recently over in Fantastic Four. The stories here very much feel important to both characters’ legacies.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
These are great Silver Surfer stories, in that they capture the whimsical traveler that is the Surfer in all his somewhat emotionless but also caring self. The collection opens right after Onslaught sent many of the major heroes off to another dimension (where Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee spun new stories for them in Heroes Reborn). Silver Surfer has lost a part of himself and can’t seem to connect to anyone and can’t remember his past. Over the 18 issues collected here, Silver Surfer discovers himself via time travel, meeting new god-like creatures like Scrier (who even claims to be older than Galactus and more powerful) and even overcome death itself. Through all of this, Silver Surfer learns new things about himself and confirms for others that he may have the purest heart in the galaxy.
I had no idea what I was getting into when reading this, so I ended up being quite surprised to find Alicia Masters playing a huge part. There’s a subtle romantic element with Alicia and Silver Surfer and it actually makes quite a bit of sense seeing as she tended to Silver Surfer when he was first introduced in Fantastic Four #48. Because of this they have a bond and go on adventures of their own here. Not once but twice Silver Surfer gives her the ability to see (though in different ways) and they look out for one another.
Utilizing Alicia to the fullest, DeMatteis does well to bring in the Puppet Master Alicia’s father. In a major arc within this collection, the Puppet Master actually creates a clay version of Silver Surfer in which is given his cosmic powers allowing Norrin-Radd to walk freely in his humanoid form. This leads to a second, clay Silver Surfer being made by a cult that follows the Silver Surfer (you can imagine how that goes) and there’s quite a bit of development of the Puppet Master. He’s written as a sympathetic character who wants to do good, but the clay he forms seems to manipulate him and turn him evil. He’s much more complex in this story than what you may be accustomed to.
A large portion of this book is drawn by Ron Garney with Val Semeiks, Cary Nord, Paul Pelletier, Tom Grummett, and Roger Cruz taking on a lot as well. Garney does a fantastic job making Silver Surfer look incredibly relaxed, even as he’s pulling off impossible gravity-defying stunts. He’s otherworldly and incredibly powerful, yet is usually so casually standing. It’s an impressive way of showing a character so filled with power. The shiny nature of the character is never lost and that too makes him seem god-like. When Galactus shows up, he also seems relaxed yet epic in scale and technology that envelopes him. There’s a fun cameo by Stan Lee himself as well, that Garney pulls off splendidly.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The Scrier character is an interesting addition and brings the very required unknown cosmic element that makes this corner of the Marvel universe work so well, but late in this collection, he pops up again to help bring Silver Surfer back from death. His inclusion is convenient since he only popped up briefly early on and then again in this later story. Also utilizing Agatha Harkness, the story is very convoluted and slim on stakes since it’s never quite sold how dead Silver Surfer is, so you never believe he’s really in danger. He’s also put in this state thanks to some cliched-looking space aliens, further making this arc feel lacking. This was right before Heroes Reborn ended, so one might surmise they needed to take Silver Surfer off the board (heh) so that the big heroes could come back.
Is it good?
Silver Surfer is the kind of character you’ll love if you like big ideas, philosophical trials, and the limitless opportunity the cosmic side of the Marvel universe can bring. He’s an obtuse sort of character that always seems to be enwrapped in stories that inspire wonderment. This collection is no different.