“For Stan” reads the dedication for Silver Surfer: Black #5. In its final chapter, the epic tale of Norrin Radd’s struggle with the forces of darkness comes to a head, and in doing so it perfectly distills the spirit of Stan Lee’s vision for the hero. Having gone through trial, tribulation, and existential crisis, Surfer comes out on the other side with one simple creed: “I am a noble light in the unending darkness.” This unwavering heroism is at the core of not just the Silver Surfer, but of every heroic creation of the Marvel universe spanning its 80 years. Armed with this thesis statement, Donny Cates, Tradd Moore, and Dave Stewart tell a heart-wrenching tale about the universe and everyone’s place in it.
The issue opens on madness: Norrin has lost his form and everything has gone just a little crazy because of it. As the story develops, however, we find that he has voluntarily broken himself down and given his life to the universe. In his struggle with Knull, he comes to the realization that nothing can ever banish darkness, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be kept at bay. This is a poignant reminder, as everyone struggles with their own darkness in their own way — it doesn’t need to be defeated, rather there is a daily struggle to keep it confined. As the world chips away at one’s spirit, as one battles their own flawed perceptions, there is hope in the idea that each person has a light at their core that, if nurtured and allowed to grow, can stave off whatever darkness they need to rid themselves of.
Every creator who works on Silver Surfer seems to bring their own vision to the character. Whether that be cosmic action hero, stoic overseer of the balance of life and death, or gateway to the mesmerizing corners of the universe, this vision shines through and adds to the lore of the character in incredibly meaningful ways. With Silver Surfer: Black, Cates, Moore, and Stewart have contextualized his connection to the universe at large with his history of death and destruction. In another affirming sequence, the creators posit that life is a cycle, with all life being connected. Despite what he has done, and what he will do in the future, Norrin has given himself totally into this web of life and has tried his hardest to bring his light to it, which is all anyone can be expected to do.
In a series that has been, to a large extent, driven by art, Silver Surfer: Black #5 stands a cut above in its visuals. Moore and Stewart have collaborated to make something truly special in the last few months and the latest issue is no exception. Breakdowns are abundant as we see the story come to a head, the universe itself fighting back against the darkness of Knull. Every scene feels alive, and with Moore’s incredibly stylistic pencils, every scene feels epic. Glorious scenes of battle are juxtaposed with reality bending fluidity, and every appearance of the Surfer highlights the raw power that his personal realizations have bestowed upon him. Nothing about the art feels static or standard; the issue opens with cubist splashes and goes on to master its own style that has been forged over the series. The work of Tradd Moore and Dave Stewart is nothing short of masterful, and it complements the heavy tones of the story in an incredible way.
With an enriching message and the skillful mastery of three top creators to back it up, Silver Surfer: Black is a modern classic. Having stuck the landing with #5, the creative team has made something truly special, and that feeling will undoubtedly persist, as the story will surely be recommended for years to come as one of the definitive Silver Surfer stories. It forges its own path ahead into a bright cosmos, but it also never loses sight of its roots in classic Marvel storytelling and the morals Lee and Moebius instilled us with so long ago.