Review by Karl Verhoven
For all his being such a cult character, the Silver Surfer has never achieved commercial success commensurate with his artistic acclaim. He was introduced as a hero with a conscience, and under Stan Lee’s writing tortured, tragic and introspective while given to florid self-evaluation. Over decades this very much became a thematic dead end, and the foundation of the creative success under Dan Slott and Michael Allred is in largely dispensing with the past. They partner the Silver Surfer with someone who can make him appreciate the wonder of the universe, Dawn Greenwood, citizen of Earth, abducted because she’s important to the Silver Surfer, even though he doesn’t know her.
She’s a fantastic character, cheerful and loyal, beyond belief at being able to travel to places she never imagined, able to prod the Surfer into action when he otherwise might have remained aloof, and unafraid to tear a strip off him if she feels it’s needed. Theirs is a classic odd couple partnership.
Don’t get the impression this is comedy central, however, as while Slott and Allred introduce some pep to the Silver Surfer, he still has to deal with some major issues, such as reforming the universe, and someone who wields the power cosmic is always going to attract unwanted attention. A joy of re-reading the series in this oversized format is realising how completely Slott has plotted it. There’s plenty of room for diversions and interludes along the way, but when the Surfer is told in the second chapter “I see the length and breadth of your existence” and “this will not end well for you” it just reads as the usual hollow threat from a villain. In fact it has substance and meaning, and when the final chapters begin to reveal all, those comments come home to roost. So much more is so well used. Slott is brimming over with ideas for alien races with some peculiar capacity, and in the final evaluation so many of them have a specific purpose.
It’s not just the writing providing the wonder. Allred matches Slott’s imagination and trumps it. The insane noodling of the sample art is one example of how he conveys strange environments, and assorted goofy aliens are another, something we know he’s well capable of from Madman. His cartooning presents a universe of wonder and joy, a gestalt completed by the vibrant colours of Laura Allred, who shows just how well old-fashioned flat colour can work in an era of computer toned miasma.
There are a few experimental misfires along the way, one a story conceived as a moebius strip being clever at the cost of coherence, the occasional easily rectified shock ending and stories lacking Dawn are weaker for her absence. As an entire run, however, this is a series packed with ideas, emotion and intelligence, lacking any cynical gloss and re-evaluating what the Silver Surfer could be in the 21st century. He’s never previously been fun, and that’s what Slott and Allred make him.