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Reintroducing the Silver Surfer, Sky-Rider of the Spaceways!,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Essential Silver Surfer: v. 1 (Paperback)
When the Silver Surfer was given his own comic book, a bi-monthly oversized title, there was a rather significant retooling of the character. When the Silver Surfer first came to earth in "Fantastic Four" #48 he was the herald of Galactus, zipping around the universe finding planets for his master to eat. After his first battle with the F.F. the Surfer encounters the blind Alicia Masters who hears a certain nobility in his voice. However, the Surfer declares that "nobility" has no meaning for him. Alicia, who has never sensed "such unimaginable loneliness in a living being," convinces the Surfer to challenge Galactus, who is defeated. But for effrontery Galactus removes the Surfer's space-time powers. The surfer will roam the galaxy no more.
Stan Lee and John Buscema reintroduced the Surfer by revealing his origin in the first issue and for the first time we learned of how Norrin Radd had lived a troubled life on the planet Zenn-La, with his beloved, Shalla Bal. The planet had lived in peace for generations and Radd despairs over the idea of paradise unearned. Then Galactus shows up and Zenn-La proves defenseless before his power. Norrin Radd flies to meet the invader and offers to be his herald, thereby solving the problem that Galactus eats inhabited worlds because he does not have the time to find planets where no intelligent life exists. Transformed into the Silver Surfer, Radd says a farewell to Shalla Bal and heads off on the path that will lead him to be exiled on Earth.
This origin makes some radical changes in the Surfer, because if you take this issue as gospel and apply it retroactively you have to wonder why the Surfer was no longer looking for planets without intelligent life when he landed on Earth (What about Mars? Venus? Jupiter? Or would Jupiter give Galactus gas?). But the main addition is the whole back-story of Norrin Radd, which adds another layer of tragedy to the Surfer being trapped on Earth. You also have John Buscema as the Surfer's artist, and while it might be heresy his version actually looks cooler than Jack Kirby's.
Including in "The Essential Silver Surfer, Volume 1" are the first eighteen issues of "The Silver Surfer" and a Lee and Kirby Surfer adventure form "Fantastic Four" Annual #5. In the mix are the Surfer's first encounter with Mephisto (#3), a battle with the Mighty Thor (#4), a brief reunion with Shalla Bal (#11), an encounter with Spider-Man (#14), a battle with the Human Torch (#15), and a two-part return engagement with Mephisto (#16-17), who ended up being the Silver Surfer's main enemy in these comics (Mephisto is behind the villains in issues #8-9 as well). Jack Kirby draws #18, where the Surfer fights the Inhumans.
There are a few less than stellar issues, such as the encounter with the Frankenstein monster (#7), but overall this is a good series, especially the early ones where the stories are 40-pages long and where the crossovers where more limited. Keeping the Surfer out of the mainstream Marvel Universe was one of the things that made him so special, which is why the longer this series went the less special he became. That is why Volume 1 is the one most worth having, even if these comics are reproduced in black & white (and why Volume 1 of the Marvel Masterworks series devoted to the Surfer which reprints the first six issues in color looks so attractive to fans of the character).