We all deserve second chances, right?
That’s what I thought when I heard that Marvel Comics was relaunching the Silver Surfer in a new ongoing series. I wasn’t referring to the Sentinel of the Spaceways, however, as he’s had a number of volumes over the years. I was referring to his new writer, Dan Slott.
I knew I wanted a copy the minute I laid eyes on the striking cover art by Mike Allred (with coloring provided by his wife Laura), one of my favorite artists in the industry for his classic yet hip visual style, but when I first noticed Slott’s name, my feelings changed from elation to anger. “Are they going to let him kill the Surfer too?!” I shouted at my computer screen. Thankfully, it didn’t answer back, as I would have felt really weird then.
You see, Dan has stirred up some mixed emotions amongst fans over the last few years. After killing off the consciousness of Peter Parker and having his arch-nemesis, Dr. Octopus, take over his mind and body to become the Superior Spider-Man last year, some readers praised the startling shift in direction while others cursed Slott for messing with a character he supposedly loved so much. The premise is as silly as it sounds, but it did boost sales and deliver 31 issues that were praised by critics and fans alike.
From the beginning, I was against the idea mainly because it felt like another stunt to sell books and make headlines, generating the kind of publicity money can’t buy. No one stays dead in comics, either, so I knew it would be reversed anyway, and it was just recently. At the urging of a friend, I read the first issue and didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would – it was the writer himself who was bothering me. Some fanboys reacted poorly to the whole thing and resorted to name-calling and death threats, but Slott, in interviews, at conventions, and on Twitter, responded just as childishly to the backlash and even to legitimate criticism, picking apart fan blogs and outright insulting those who didn’t enjoy his work.
While you can’t always agree with your audience, I’m a firm believer in respecting it. I’m thankful every day that I can write for a living and do not take the opportunity for granted, so I welcome any feedback from readers, good or bad. Not everyone treated Slott fairly, but the way he acted made him come off like the self-righteous nerds he disparaged.
What I can respect about the man, however, is his willingness to take chances, and the new Surfer series is doing just that. In the vein of Allred’s “FF” and “X-Statix,” it looks to embrace the quirkiness of the characters and deliver something light and entertaining with poignant moments strung throughout. After just reading “Silver Surfer” No. 1, I can honestly say it delivers just that.
Unlike carefree California surfer dudes, Norrin Radd is typically portrayed as a tortured soul full of angst and philosophical exposition, but with his practically limitless cosmic power and ability to travel to universes Earthlings could only dream of, he can’t be such a downer all the time, can he? As much as I love philosophy and anything questioning our place in the universe, I also appreciate the fun and imagination of stuff like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Dr. Who,” so I immediately liked the idea of letting the Surfer hang loose and be a little less reflective – mentally speaking, of course.
I don’t think I’m the only Whovian here, either. In the opening pages, we’re introduced to Dawn, a young woman who lives and works in the house she grew up in, unlike her world-traveling sister, setting her up to serve as a companion to the our favorite metallic alien. This is juxtaposed with the otherworldly explorer saving a planet from destruction and refusing any praise for doing so, as he still hopes to make up for his time serving as the herald of Galactus.
While he never helped this world-devouring force of nature willingly, he still feels guilt for his participation, leading him to agree to help the Impericon, an incredible world that kidnaps Dawn as leverage in case the Surfer decides to back out of his promise. The funny thing is, however, he has absolutely no idea who she is.
The bright and colorful visuals and distinctive character designs are what initially sold me on this book, and they did not disappoint, but it was Slott and Allred’s story that kept me interested. New readers can easily jump on and dive into this series while diehard fans can kick back and enjoy this fresh and wild ride.
The next issue is due out on April 23, so I suggest gliding into your nearest comic shop to pick up a copy. If you’re a scorned fan like me, I suggest you learn to forgive, forget, and give Mr. Slott another chance. Don’t make me regret that, Dan – we both know how fickle fandom can be.
-Rich Howells is a lifelong Marvel Comics collector, wannabe Jedi master, and cult film fan. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.