After returning to Earth from their first cosmic adventure, Norrin and Dawn have to fight an unexpected enemy when all they want is to rest in the highly enjoyable “Silver Surfer” #5.
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Michael Allred
The demon, Shuma Gorath, is ready to cast the Earth into Eternal Chaos! The problem is, if the Silver Surfer, the Hulk, and Dr. Strange CAN find a way to stop him… …it’s Dawn Greenwood who will have to pay the price… with her life.
As part of the cosmic realm of the Marvel Universe, the Silver Surfer has often played an intermittent role in the goings on of Earth-616. Past series have almost always emphasized the character’s tragic and intrinsically alien nature. He has often been cold and downright robotic after millennia in servitude as the herald of Galactus. Even after being freed from his master, the Surfer still wields the enormous power cosmic and can seem virtually god-like amongst the flawed heroes of the Marvel U. The new series from Dan Slott and Michael Allred has taken the seemingly unusual step of pairing the vastly powerful Surfer with a regular girl from New England, and as the first arc comes to an end the resulting book has been a tremendous enjoyment.
After returning Dawn Greenwood to her family-run inn, the Surfer realizes that he is trapped on Earth by some unknown means. Convinced that Dawn must have hexed his clam chowder, the Surfer flies back only to discover a strange sleep falling over the inhabitants of the town. Adding to the weirdness, the Hulk and Doctor Strange arrive to investigate a rare universal alignment that threatens to impose a permanent sleep on everyone.
At face value, it seems like nothing in this story should work at all. Hulk is based in science, Doctor Strange is a sorcerer, the Surfer is a silver guy on a surf board with cosmic powers, and Dawn is a just a regular person who sees superheros fly around. Dan Slott makes the assortment work by focusing on how the characters react to the story, rather than the minute details of the encroaching nightmare world itself. Slott doesn’t try to get an emotional response from the reader by placing the world in peril that happens every week, instead using the nightmares caused by the Lord Of Nightmares (great metal band name) to reveal more about the characters themselves. Using the nightmare to show a glimpse of Norrin’s origin was particularly ingenious, as it was a very elegant way to highlight some of his pre-Surfer history without shoehorning a long and clunky flashback into the story. While a certain large shadowy figure is clearly referencing towards Galactus, substituting in this story’s villain was a good blend of the past with these characters’ present.
As a result of four main characters featured in this issue, there is a ton of dialog. There are points where it does become a tad overwhelming, especially Doctor Strange’s exposition, but Slott is mostly successful in reining in the sheer amount of words. The conversations between Surfer and Dawn are actually quite important to the development of the pair’s relationship. Surfer speaks very stiffly, dripping with condescension and formality, clearly positioning himself as an alien, while Dawn is relatable and acts of the counterbalance to the Surfer’s pretension. She’s like the Marty Hart to his Rust Cohl. Slott positions Dawn as the real centre of the story, and that is really what makes the story work. Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, and the Hulk have no reason to team up with each other and represent disparate elements of the Marvel U. But here they are unified by their complete lack of effectiveness in combating the Lord of Nightmares (still a great metal band name). Dawn unites and surpasses the superheroes, and reaches a level of agency in the story that regular non-Bat dressed people rarely reach.
Michael Allred has been a beloved indie artist for years and years, and two recent gigs at Marvel have raised his profile even more. His run on the Matt Fraction penned “FF” brought an air of wonderment and adventure to the unlikely team, and helped make the book a cult favorite. He has brought that same tone and skill to “Silver Surfer”, and unifies the many different elements which occur into one complete package. Allred’s style could be characterized as retro with a bit of cartoon thrown in, but really should just be called good. His thick lines and harder angles, especially on character faces, make everything pop off the page and allow for detail without the trapping of hyper-realism. The book has a great flow to it, and just the way Allred chooses to draw panel borders diagonally instead of horizontal makes the dialog scenes feel just as exciting as the action ones. Allred keeps the character designs faithful to the traditional looks while adapting them enough to fit this style. The Hulk is still big and green, if slightly less veiny, and Allred’s Doctor Strange is very reminiscent of Chris Samnee’s, which makes the outlandish costume seem like completely reasonable attire.
The latter half of the issue features a series of nightmares, punctuated by attacks from the Lovecraftian forces of the Lord of Nightmares (so metal), and this is when the effect of Allred’s style is most obvious. The creatures are all tentacles and teeth, monsters to be sure, but the intent here is not to terrify or repulse the reader. These same creatures rendered by Travel Foreman or Rafael Albuquerque would have been grotesque and horrifying abominations, and make the book into something darker and more grim; that is not what “Silver Surfer” is about, at least not in this incarnation. Allred draws the monsters in a way that makes them clearly threatening and dangerous, but the reader expecting blood and guts to start flying. There are definitely stakes to the story, but Allred doesn’t resort to harsh violence in an attempt to make everything seem more important.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Slott and Allred have produced a great one-shot story for “Silver Surfer” #5 that also highlights their intentions to craft a highly enjoyable character based adventure comic.