Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chronic Review: Silver Surfer # 1!

Silver Surfer # 1 of 5
Marvel Comics
Script:     Grek Pak
Pencils:   Steven Segovia
22 pages for $2.99

Let's face facts - Silver Surfer is a great high concept, because he can do almost anything, go almost anywhere, and the stakes can go higher for that character than almost anybody else.  When the cosmos is going to crack in half - you can bet the Surfer is going to be nearby, loaded for Ursa Major.  Plus, he's got a real good look, does the Surfer.  My favorite comic book cover of all time?  That would be Silver Surfer # 4, by the incomparable John Buscema.

But he's boring.  Yeah, I said it.  You know it, and I said it.  Norrin Radd is dull.  He's too virtuous, he has no sense of humor, and he never appears to have any motivation or plans of his own.  You know what Somminex is? You take the pill and Norrin Radd whines at you about Shalla Bal and his unfair lot in life - clunk! - out like a light, commence with the snoring.

And in this new five issue mini-series by Grek Pak and Steven Segovia, Norrin Radd is still really goddamn boring.  The closest thing we have to personality is Surfer letting sand slip between his fingers and observing that it never sticks.  God, he must kill at parties!

But there are some things I rather liked about this comic, and here they are in no particular order:

Galactus Is Not A Villain, He's Just Top Of The Food Chain

OK, maybe that's not an unprecedented concept, but I like that treatment of the big purple headed warrior.  Listen, nature is a giant dick.  Things kill and eat other things to survive.  It aint pretty, but it's how the game is rigged.  You know what the best thing for a forest is?  It needs to burn down randomly every couple of centuries, so that the new growth can profit from the ashes of its parents.  If you want some healthy growth somewhere, something else generally has to die an excruciating death. 

That's all Galactus is.  He's the excruciating death part of this nutritious breakfast.  That's a lot more interesting to me than a selfish prick on a power trip with a really big hat.

The Power Cosmic:  Really Good Crack Without Side Effects

Usually the power cosmic is depicted as nothing more than really big laser blasts, which is total bullshit.  The Silver Surfer is tied more directly into the fabric of reality than other people.  He's got access to a lot more latent energy, and has far more direct control of it.

I tend to think of "God" as everything, the only thing.  The implications of the power cosmic to me are that Norrin Radd got something akin to a direct line to God.  Being around that power could easily be construed as a religious experience, if you will.

And that's pretty much how Pak is approaching Surfer in this installment, although he attaches no overt religious connotations, which is just as well.  Being that close to a pure universal energy produces a kind of narcotic reaction in Carla, which I thought was outstanding.

It's the little things that count, as always.  Paying attention to the way his powers work tells me that Greg Pak is not just mailing this in, he's exploring the implications of things, and that's fun for me.  It's also interesting to me that Norrin doesn't experience that bliss at all.  You can acclimate to anything if you're swimming in it all the time.  I think Pak is implying that Silver Surfer is a dead fish of a character because once you've gotten used to pure joy, what's left outside of apathy?

But how do you fix that and make the character interesting, then?

You Take Away His Power Cosmic

Pretty simple, huh?  It certainly makes him more vulnerable, the threats become more real, the personal stakes get higher.  Hell, we might even get to see a version of Norrin Radd that doesn't instantly produce a nap!

I don't know if any of that will happen, but I like the fact that Pak is going to give us a chance to see Norrin come out of his shell, literally.  I like the fact that Steven Segovia is on this book, because he makes it look good.  All of it.

It's not all perfect notes, of course.  I really don't like the whole naval-gazing Silver Surfer stumbles onto a situation while sitting idly routine.  Just once I'd like to see this character with an agenda, instead of playing the wandering little bitch.  I don't care a white about Angel, Carla, or any of that nonsense.  I don't find it particularly likely that the High Evolutionary could just show up instantly with the tools to neutralize the Silver Surfer.  How could he possibly have the tools to do that without a similar subject to study?  It would seem to me that he would be a tough nut to crack.  I know, I know, it's comics.

So yeah, there are problems.  Hell, I think I know how this ends already.  I think it's going to book end itself.  The story begins with Silver Surfer bailing out his old boss with a little star energy.  I'm guessing Galactus pays it forward at the end of the story and helps him back.

But whatever.  The point is that in the interim, Pak has set this thing up with at least the possibility that Norrin Radd might do something interesting, and that is a feat of cosmic proportions.

- Ryan

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