Silver Surfer #16-17

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Let’s remember what we know about Silver Surfer so far. He’s a cosmic powered alien who is imprisoned on Earth against his weill. He’s madly in love with a woman on the other side of the universe. Mephisto, the devil incarnate, not only fears him but wants to control his power. So in these two issues Mephisto uses Shall Bal as incentive to coerce the Silver Surfer into destroying S.H.I.E.L.D.

Yes you read that. The maniacal lord of the underworld wants the paramilitary organization taken out, most likely to make it easier for him to take over the world at some point. To get this done, he promises Silver Surfer he won’t eternally damn Shalla Bal in exchange for the Surfer destroying S.H.I.E.L.D. The best part of this is that Mephisto is lurking around in a trench coat and fedora looking completely ridiculous.

Anyway Surfer begrudgingly accepts and attacks S.H.I.E.L.D. I get the point and all, but it’s so odd to see a story that involves the Silver Surfer, Mephisto and Nick Fury. Eventually Surfer finds out that Mephisto plans on going back on his word and the two wind up fighting. It’s revealed that the Silver Surfer is indeed much more powerful than anyone ever imagined and after thoroughly beating up poor Mephisto, he gets jettisoned into space. And for those wondering, Shalla Bal winds up alright, as since both Mephisto and Silver Surfer reneged on their deals it pretty much cancels everything.

These issues were John Buscema’s last work on the series, and he certainly stepped up his art a lot. I think that from an artistic perspective, they might have been my favorite issues of the series. Stan Lee sticks around for the next issue and is joined by a certain king of an artist.

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Silver Surfer #13: Dawn of the Doomsday Man

silver-surfer-13Lee and Buscema find yet another way to dupe the poor Silver Surfer.That seems to be a recurring theme in this series.

This time Surfer gets duped by a mad scientist named Dr. Kronton who has created a one man army corps called Doomsday Man. Literally, this is a robot killing machine. It’s gone rogue in an underground silo and he needs Surfer’s assistance in tracking it down.

The diabolical plan is to have Surfer no only free the Doomsday Man, but to have the robot carry a cobalt bomb into the United States. If Dr. Kronton doesn’t get what he wants, well, there will be a hole lot of beachfront property in southern Canada.

And yes, there actually was a cobalt bomb. I thought it was a bunch of grandiose Stan Lee verbiage, but I was wrong.

Once Silver Surfer finds out Dr. Kronton’s plan, he is able to stop the Doomsday Man which is on a crash course to Manhattan, just like every other Marvel villain from this period. He does that by throwing the robot into the earth’s core and heaving the bomb into space where it safely explodes. During all this chaos, Kronton dies off panel. I assume it was a heart attack. It ends with everyone blaming Surfer for all the chaos and Kronton’s death as he walks away sad, thinking that these people are monsters.

Silver Surfer #10-11

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These issues somehow manage to tie the Silver Surfer/Shalla Bal love story into a Latin American revolution during the 1960s. And yes, this story arc is as amazing as that sounds.

One of the key points in this series has been how there is such a huge disconnect between the Surfer and humanity. The story starts out with Surfer saving a man attempting to commit suicide and the police officer who was literally trying to talk him off of a ledge. Unfortunately, it becomes a scenario that Surfer is all too familiar with: instead of being thanked for his actions, he is getting yelled at for being a pariah and a danger to mankind.

Silver Surfer winds up travelling to Latin America and winds up getting sucked into a revolutionary war. Siding with the “freedom fighters” instead of the country’s established government, Surfer sets out to rescue one of their leaders, a woman named Donna Maria.

I like the fact that they make no effort whatsoever to identify what Latin American country it was set in. I don’t think it was possible to make it any vaguer.

As this is going on, Shalla Bal is being courted by Yarro Gort, who can’t stand that she still pines for Surfer even though he is no longer really a Zenn-La-ian. So Yarro decides that he’s going to break Shalla’s heart by taking them to Earth so she can see for herself that the Surfer has moved on with his life and that she should as well. Yarro has totally lucked out, as when they get to earth Surfer has just rescued Donna who is smooching him as a thank you. Yarro really is a dick.

Shalla doesn’t seem to be to worried about that and is more concerned by the fact that they’ve been captured by the evil army. Yarro shows his true colors and makes a deal with his captors: if they let him go, they can use his space ship’s weaponry to not only put down the rebellion but the Silver Surfer as well. Ultimately it comes down to an all out battle between Yarro and the government against Silver Surfer and the rebellion. Yarro gets killed, but Shalla is mortally wounded during the melee. Surfer then repairs the space ship and sends her back home to Zenn-La, as no Earth medicine could save her.

Stan Lee and John Buscema really get across with the words and art is how much sadness there is in the Silver Surfer’s life, not to mention that he always does the right thing, even when he has nothing to gain from doing so. He saved those men at the bridge only to be treated like a monster. He’s reunited with his beloved Shalla but has to send her to the other side of the universe so she can survive. It sucks being the Silver Surfer.

Silver Surfer #8-9

 

silver-surfer-9Silver Surfer #8-9 brigs the legend of the tormented soul of the Flying Dutchman into the Marvel Universe via the evil machinations of Mephisto. And boy, didn’t that last sentence sound like something Stan Lee would have written.

At this point, Mephisto is pretty much Silver Surfer’s recurring arch nemesis. The demon lord fears the Surfer and is trying to find a way to stop him. The latest involves finding the evil spirit of the old Dutch pirate Joost van Straaten and empowering him into his new “Flying Dutchman” state. And by that, Mephisto made him into a cyborg looking a lot like Deathlok. He also has these really lame looking grappling hooks for hands.

Any way they fight back and forth until the Silver Surfer is finally able to defeat the Dutchman. There’s a few really cool panels where Mephisto is getting involved unbeknownst to either the Surfer or Dutchman, but to no avail. The end of the story has the Surfer showing remorse for the Dutchman, who only teamed up with Mephisto in an attempt to free his soul. Silver’s empathy is enough to void the Dutchman’s deal and freeing him.

This wasn’t the best of Lee and Buscema’s work on this title, but the story worked. They all can’t be classics I guess.

Silver Surfer #6

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Well the streak had to end sometime. So far, Silver Surfer #6 is my least favorite issue in the run. It’s not that it’s a bad issue or anything; just compared to the rest.

In typical fashion, Stan Lee and John Buscema (who is joined by his brother Sal Buscema on inks) have Silver Surfer being depressed. He’s still reeling from the loss of his newly found friend Al in the last issue, and he still pines for Shalla-Bal back on his home world.

Thinking that Galactus’ intergalactic barrier will probably not be keeping him trapped on Earth forever, Silver Surfer tries to move at the speed of light in order to travel to the future in a method similar to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Unfortunately, the future he travels to a really terrible future.

It wasn’t explained if it was the near for way future, but the universe has been conquered by the evil Overlord of Dakkam. Both his home of Zenn-La and Earth have been destroyed.  So Silver Surfer does the only logical thing: he travels back in time to prevent the event that caused the Overlord to come to power and thus never conquer the universe. Unlike Captain Kirk, the Silver Surfer has no qualms about violating the space and time continuum.

Rules are meant to be broken, after all. Anyway, poor Surfer returns back to present day Earth, only to be lonely and trapped. Poor little guy.

Silver Surfer #4

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In this issue, Silver Surfer almost let’s his altruistic nature almost take the best of him when he encounters Loki.

The Asgardian’s story is pretty typical for this time. Loki really really hates his brother Thor and is always looking for new ways to destroy him. His latest plan involves using the Silver Surfer to do his bidding, with a little treachery.

Loki explains to Silver Surfer that his brother Thor is a huge miscreant and is a danger to Asgard. Silver Surfer, for all the cosmic power he wields, is a bit of a rube and believes Loki’s story. The two make a deal: if the Silver Surfer goes to Asgard and kills Thor (who is planning on taking over Asgard), Loki will remove the enchantment that keeps the Surfer imprisoned on Earth. He is a god of sorts, after all.

This plot really is textbook Loki logic. He has a problem that he himself can’t solve, so he manipulates someone into doing it for him. Surfer is transported to Asgard and is on a mission to kill Thor. Eventually the two meet, and Surfer attacks him as he thinks he is a liberator to the Asgardians. The whole fight sequence by John Buscema is filled with so much energy and kinetic-ism that it rivals something that Jack Kirby would have done during this period.

Surfer has the advantage in the fight and realizes that Loki is doing something to not only augment his powers, but control his body. He also notices that the Asgardians are coming out to protect Thor; if he was as villainous as Loki described, no one would be doing this. Surfer confronts Loki, who does admit that this has been a more villainous plan all along and sends Surfer back to Earth as he wasn’t able to live up to his end of the bargain.

Poor Surfer. He gets duped into doing Loki’s work and gets beaten up by Thor. But on a positive note, Thor wasn’t too mad at him as he knows the lengths Loki would go to in his diabolical schemes. The book ends with Silver Surfer still upset that he’s still trapped on a planet that he really doesn’t understand and had been tricked by someone he had trusted. The moral of the story: don’t help strangers.

Silver Surfer #3: The Last Temptation of Silver Surfer

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In Silver Surfer #3, the Silver Surfer bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste and a flannel for his face. No, those are the lyrics to that Squeeze song.

This tale from Stan Lee and John Buscema is all about making a deal with the devil. And in this case, Mephisto. The demonic lord of Marvel’s underworld makes his debut in this issue and does everything but formally say that he is the devil or Satan himself. Being that the Comics Code Authority was still in effect during this era, I’m assuming that might have had something to do with it.

With a theme of power and control permeating the story, Mephisto is introduced as being someone who has a keen interest in the Silver Surfer. His altruism–not to mention cosmic power–is seen as a threat to Mephisto.

Being that he is an all-knowing demon, Mephisto tries to tempt the Silver Surfer with the one thing he loves most in the universe: Shalla Bal. After attempting several other ways to trick (and in some cases, physical violence) the Surfer into submission, Mephisto gives one final offer of Shalla Bal in exchange of assistance (or at the very least, the allowance) of him collecting and corrupting souls throughout the universe.

Before the Silver Surfer can announce his decision, Shall Bal interrupts and pleads to not accept the offer. Their love isn’t worth the damnation of millions. Silver Surfer agrees that the good of the universe far supersedes their own love and rejects the Faustian deal. And the issue ends with Shalla Bal back on Zenn-La and the Surfer alone and still trapped on earth.

The story is pretty powerful and really is a morality play with Surfer having the weight of the universe on his chrome shoulders. Ultimately his (and Shalla’s) decision makes perfect sense. Sometimes making the right decision isn’t necessarily the best personal decision.

Silver Surfer #2: The Badoon Strikes Back

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I’m continuing my fun look back at the old Silver Surfer series. The second issue not only helps set the main themes for the series, but it also introduces a new villain to the Marvel  Universe that will play a big roll in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film next year.

The Badoon–a reptilian alien species–has targeted Earth as its net conquest. After a brief encounter with the Silver Surfer, they explain that they have come in peace and are only interested in ending all evil. Surfer can kind of agree with that, as during his brief time on the planet he has grown greatly disenfranchised on how mankind treats one another.

This opinion on the Badoon is changed when an imprisoned Earth woman shares their true intent: enslaving the planet. This doesn’t jive well at all with the Silver Surfer, and the rest of the issue has him fighting off the Badoon spacecraft and monsters that are attacking Manhattan. Eventually they give up on their conquest, only to return in the future of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Silver Surfer may have gotten rid of the Badoon, but his reputation took the worst of it. The aliens were using some sort of cloaking technology straight out of Star Trek that made them invisible to the world, making it look like it was the Silver Surfer attacking the city on his own.

Stan Lee does such a great job writing the character. He’s an outsider, cursed to live among a world that completely fears and distrusts him. Even when he does the right thing (in this case dealing with the Badoon) it only winds up hurting him in the end. That is combined with the fact that Surfer continually brings up the fact of how hypocritical human nature is. Oh yeah, and that John Buscema who drew this is pretty sweet too.

Silver Surfer #1

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With summer right around the corner, its beach season. To celebrate, I’m going to read about the premier surfer in comics history–the Silver Surfer. Granted, the chrome-domed hero never actually steps foot on a beach, but go along with me.

Silver Surfer #1 expands the character’s back story, showing what makes the man formerly known as Norrin Rand tick and why he made the choices in his life. It’s pretty clear that this is a continuation from his debut appearances in Fantastic Four, which is one of the things that I really like about the Stan Lee-helmed Marvel books of the early 1960s. The continuity really works, as he was co-scripting and editing everything the company was releasing.

Norrin lives on the far off planet of Zenn La, which is a perfect utopia. Unfortunately for him, he finds that society around him has become weak, if not ambivalent to the world around them. They overly rely on their technology and no one has the ambition to do anything out of he ordinary.

This lack of purpose is really evident when the world devouring Galactus comes to destroy Zenn La. Once their defense systems have failed, they whole civilization has pretty much given up.

So to save the planet (well mostly to save his longtime fiancée Shalla-Bal), Norrin makes an offering to Galactus. If the cosmic destroyer would spare this planet, he would serve as a herald of sorts, searching for planets that are less civilized for Galactus’ feeding. Norrin gives up everything that is important to him (Shalla-Bal’s love) in order to save his home planet.

Before you completely applaud Norrin’s nobility, he does look at this heraldship as an opportunity to explore the universe, as living in a Utopia is fairly boring. Now that we have a better understanding of his character, we have a better sense on why he was so upset to be imprisoned on Earth for defying him.

The writing on this (and the subsequent issues) is some of Stan Lee’s best. There is a fine mix of high-concept science fiction mixed in with his best Shakespeare-styled dialogue. It might be a little silly, but at the time no one was doing anything like this in comics. On the art side, John Buscema is just great

Magik #1-4

magik-4The Magik mini-series has a simple purpose: it’s to flesh out what happened to poor Illyana Rasputin when she was pulled into the other dimension known as limbo.

In story-line, Illyana was missing for only seconds. But while in Limbo, she experienced the events of several years of her life. She was a small child at the beginning of the story but returned as a teenager. What had happened was the evil  sorcerer Belasco pulled her into his dimension in an attempt to make her his dark apprentice. Fortunately for Illyana, that dimension’s version of Storm (who is an elderly sorceress in this reality) and Kitty Pryde attempt to keep her safe from Belasco. The villain’s plan is to use her teleportation powers so he can leave limbo and conquer the Marvel Universe.

And as much as Storm and Kitty want to save Illyana from Belasco, it is up to the young girl to save herself. There is an extra element of difficulty, as if Belasco dies, his soul will wind up possessing Illyana’s body.

Magik is a lot of fun. The story is filled with swords and sorcery, and it makes it pretty different from a lot of the Marvel comics at the time. It’s kind of like the X-Men are hanging out in the He-Man or Thundercats universes. While this isn’t “required reading”, it’s worth reading.

It was written by Chris Claremont, who pretty much did most everything involving any X-Men related character during that time. The art is fine; it’s by John Buscema and Ron Frenz, but what makes it sticks out is all the detailing that inker Tom Palmer put into it. There are all kinds of Easter eggs hidden in the pages that don’t affect the plot, but add nice touches.