Silver Surfer #1 Spoiler-Free Review
Dan Slott (w), Michael Allred (a), Laura Allred (c)
From the moment I saw the two* covers for Silver Surfer #1, I was sold. The cover above, by series artist Michael Allred and his colorist wife Laura, immediately nails the Kirby-inspired appeal of the character. Bright colors, other worlds, an unearthly lead character and a partner along (however unwittingly) for the adventure. There is danger, but there is also beauty. More than beauty: Wonder. And they would see it, whether they wanted to or not, together.
Like all great covers, it tells you exactly what to expect from a comic without actually telling you what, precisely, is within the comic. After all, the particular planets we see on that cover never get visited; the particular monsters we see threatening our leads never make an appearance. Indeed, the two figures on the cover still haven’t actually met one another. And yet, you can tell from that cover exactly what kind of book you’ll be reading. It introduces our two leads, gives us a relationship between them – experienced adventurer and danger-prone companion – and lets our imagination fill in the blanks.
The Allreds’ art in Silver Surfer #1 does a great job selling that sense of lighthearted, character-driven adventure. In particular, look at the two page spread that highlights the differences between the Surfer’s experiences on the Impericon with Dawn’s at the bed-and-breakfast. While they have close to the same amount of space, the Allreds use panel layouts, perspectives, and color to tell us how to feel. Dawn’s life is cramped, forced into rigid boxes and samey routines, close-up shots filled with multiple characters giving us intimacy but also not letting us breathe. It is comfortable, warm even, but there’s no escape. The Impericon, on the other hand, draws us a picture of an odd, alienating, exciting world of expansive borders and immense energy. It’s too busy for character, too hectic for emotion, too blue for warmth, but its overpowering gravity sucks you in nevertheless.
The cover below, this one by Francesco Francavilla, tells a different story. In this cover, the Surfer is a man alone against the vast backdrop of space, a brief spot of light amidst an endless sea of darkness. Seen only in silhouette, he’s a figure of inherent mystery idly exploring one of the last places of genuine uncertainty left to us – and exploring it by himself.
Dan Slott’s script works that sadness in as well, subtly but bone-deep. Like Doctor Who‘s titular hero, the Surfer is a lonely character, a man who did something awful in the past. He has spent years trying to atone for it, but it is a mistake that can never be unmade. Those that don’t worship him fear him, but both kinds of treatment rob him of his (for lack of a better word) humanity. An impossible planet of exotic beauty and utopian zeal has been hidden from him for years, so fearful are its inhabitants of his past. He is disconnected from the universe around him, and there’s not much he can really do to change that.
Silver Surfer #1 is about dualities colliding. The Allreds’ bright pop-art depicting a lonely character attempting to prevent genocide; the woman who has done nothing paired with the man who’s done too much; the sister who constantly seeks and the sister trying to find contentment; the adventure and the mystery of two very different covers. The way its cartoonish exterior masks a mournful interior lets both aspects inform how we view the other. And while the issue is relatively light on plot, strong thematic work, deep characterization, and an incredible sense of design make Silver Surfer a must-read book.
*there are also two more Silver Surfer #1 covers, below; Skottie Young’s popular ‘Baby’ variant and Chris Samnee’s popular ‘Animal’ variant, both of which are adorable, but both of which are about themselves more than the issue.
Rating: 5 / 5