“Read a Damn Book – 127: Silver Surfer – New Dawn”
I’m a Mike Allred fan, which is quite apparent, if you judge by how many of Allred’s projects I’ve already reviewed. (Madman, X-Force, The Atomics, iZombie…) One of my biggest regrets (I may be being slightly hyperbolic here) is NOT taking the time to stand in line at the Emerald City Comic Con that Allred was at to get a chance to say hi to him (but the show was almost over and my friend and I were rushing to see as much as we could before getting kicked out.) In addition to my Allred fandom, I’m also a HUGE Silver Surfer fan, having run into him in the pages of The Defenders, which I read semi-religiously as a kid. (Silver Surfer, who is a Jack Kirby creation, originally appeared in some early issues of Fantastic Four, but I haven’t read those, yet, nor have I had the chance to read the late-60’s Silver Surfer solo comic.) Oddly, however, when I first got this book, Silver Surfer – New Dawn, I wasn’t that happy with it. Let’s see if my second read through is any better than the first one…
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Dan Slott & Michael Allred – Silver Surfer – New Dawn (2014)
At the risk of being anti-climactic, I’m just going to say it. I liked the book a lot better this time. I’m not sure what my problem was the first time: Maybe I had such high expectations that they couldn’t possibly have been met? Maybe I was a bit bothered by the MCU film connections? (More on this in a bit…) Maybe I was just in a bad mood? Whatever the reason, I found the book much more enjoyable this time around. I know I enjoyed Allred’s art when I read the book before, because I ALWAYS love Allred artwork, so let’s start with that...
For those unfamiliar with the Michael Allred style, he draws simplified, almost 1960’s cartoony style figures, with lots of thick, black lines and very active and dynamic character designs. He also includes tons of wonderfully kooky extra bits in nearly every panel. (Quirky facial expressions, funky hand gestures, or some weird thing going on in the background.) His pages are a joy (for me) to look at, with those wonderful details, and an “INDIE” flare that comes from his years of making underground comics, like Madman (which is fantastic---highly recommended.) Whether he’s drawing weird monsters or simple human facial expressions, Allred is always right on. (Okay, I’ve gushed enough about the art.)
So if the art wasn’t my issue, is the STORY unsatisfying? This time through, I thought the story was pretty fun. It’s set in the Marvel “Cosmic” framework, which isn’t that weird, considering Silver Surfer is a space character, a former herald of Galactus (a gigantic, planet eating space god,) and the Surfer now roams the stars looking for good deeds to do to try and wipe some of the guilt from his conscience for all of the planets he helped destroy (and the lives he snuffed out.) In this book, the Surfer is contacted by a strange character, The Incredulous Zed, who asks him to come save a hidden galactic vacation complex, The Impericon, which is being threatened by a cosmic entity, called The Never Queen.
Although the setting and talk of “cosmic” this and that would suggest that this was a science fiction story, it actually reads more like a Neil Gaiman tale than Isaac Asimov. If we remember that Silver Surfer’s co-Defender was Dr. Strange, who works more in magic than in super-science, then the mystical connection isn’t much of a stretch for a Surfer story---and it could easily be argued that Kirby’s “Cosmic” stories were really more “MAGIC IN SPACE” than true science-based fiction, anyway. (God-like characters, such as The Celestials and Eternity, the latter makes a brief appearance in this story, are less sci-fi and more mythological, in my opinion.) And I am not complaining about this, at all. I love fantasy and mythology and magic, so I’m good here.
Anyway, Silver Surfer is asked to protect The Impericon from The Never Queen, but the underhanded Incredulous Zed decides that he wants more than the Surfer’s WORD that he’ll stay and fight, so Zed kidnaps an Earth woman, Dawn Greenwood, and says he will kill her if the Surfer flees from the battle before The Never Queen is defeated. The odd thing is, the Silver Surfer has NO IDEA who this Dawn Greenwood is or why she’s being used as leverage against him… (For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’m not going to say…)
The book has, essentially, two storylines, the battle with The Never Queen and then the weird things that happen as the Silver Surfer tries to return Dawn to Earth. Both of these stories are clever and funny, with silly jokes and absurdist bits throughout. (Why didn’t I like this the first time? Maybe I thought the Silver Surfer needed a story with more GRAVITAS? It wasn’t serious enough??? I don’t know. Maybe…) The one thing that does seem particularly clunky about this book is the inclusion of a number of characters from the MCU. They aren’t so much shoe-horned into the plot, often without much need or consequence, as they are JAMMED into the plot with a jackhammer. The Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Dr. Strange, and The Hulk all show up in this book---and although the Dr. Strange and Hulk cameos aren’t completely nonsensical (they were all Defenders together in the early 1970s,) the Guardians and Captain Marvel appearances seem pretty pointless and unnecessary. They don’t ruin the book, by any means, but I can’t see any reason why they are in here beyond trying to tie in with the movies. (And THIS book came out in 2014, which means they’ve been planning the MCU and planting little connecting nodes for YEARS! Captain Marvel, who isn’t given ANYTHING to do but say a couple of throwaway lines here, won’t have her MCU debut until March of 2019---about five years after the New Dawn collection was published! That’s deep planning!)
So, blatant commercialism aside, this book is fun. It’s got a clever, irreverent, absurdist tone, fantastic artwork, and two complete storylines in one fairly slim volume. It’s also mostly kid friendly. There is some stylized violence, but nothing too extreme; there isn’t really any bad language, and no sexual naughtiness. I wouldn’t say that this is a kid’s book, though, as it has too many sly jokes and references that youngsters probably wouldn’t get. (How many pre-teens have even SEEN The Wizard of Oz anymore?) There is a bit of a contrast between Jack Kirby’s (and Jim Starlin’s) treatment of the Cosmic side of the Marvel Universe and this book, in that Kirby seemed to treat this stuff rather seriously, and his cosmic characters (like The Celestials and Galactus and other god-like figures) were deadly threats to life and, sometimes, existence itself, whereas Slott and Allred seem to be primarily playing for laughs here. They’re using Kirby’s cosmic context but without seriousness or straight-faced respect for the “power” these characters supposedly embody. This book isn’t as scary as Neil Gaiman’s treatment of cosmic weirdness, nor as serious as Kirby’s galactic explorations, but it’s a fun book, especially if you’re looking for something weird with a slightly mythic flavor. I’m glad I reread the book (maybe in a slightly better mood this time) because it was a more enjoyable experience than the first time. (Rereading is a good thing. I hope I’m making that point clearly!!!) I wouldn’t say it’s the best comic in the world, but it’s pretty dang good, if you go in with the right frame of mind!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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