From the fantastical story to the psychedelic art, Silver Surfer Black #1 balances between a mind-bending space romp and a touching exploration of a beloved character.
Silver Surfer Black #1
Story: Donny Cates and Tradd Moore
Art: Tradd Moore
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Warning: the following article contains spoilers for Silver Surfer Black #1. Reader discretion is advised.
Though Silver Surfer is one of Marvel’s most powerful cosmic characters, he hasn’t received many chances to show why he’s a beloved hero in recent years. Fans of the character were likely disappointed when he literally fell into a black hole in Guardians of the Galaxy #1. But Donny Cates, the writer of this Guardians series and Silver Surfer Black, clearly has important plans for Norrin Radd. In the span of one issue, the Surfer saves the other heroes from the black hole, pulls himself back from the brink of destruction, fights alien gods and meets the “big bad” in Cates’ Venom series. That’s all in a day’s work for Silver Surfer.
With just a few lines, the narration from Radd’s perspective Cates and co-writer Tradd Moore help readers unfamiliar with the Surfer understand the character’s classic struggles. From describing Radd’s guilt over his role in Galactus’ destructive feeding to showing his preference to use non-violent methods, the writers construct an accessible starting point for new readers and an entertaining reintroduction for those who already know the character.
By using eloquent prose, Cates and Moore make the narration the strongest element of the issue; a number of the lines make the reader stop and dwell for a moment on the passionate words. “I listened and played deaf to the sounds of the dying, pleading and screaming of [these] people,” the Surfer says. “I heard their songs. And I did nothing but shine my light down upon the dying.” Radd’s guilt is devastatingly tangible and his remorse makes him even more sympathetic.
Logically, this issue focused on the Surfer as an individual; though the writers show how Radd saved the other heroes from the black hole, they spend too much time on this plot thread. Instead, the majority of the story focuses on the Surfer’s fight to survive his own journey through the metaphorical and physical darkness. After he uses the last of his strength to rescue his allies, he tumbles through space, where he’s “unmade” while reality distorts around him.
The journey nearly brings Radd to the end of his rope; “I drown [and] I am lost,” he says. Of course, no matter the circumstances, the Sentinel of the Spaceways doesn’t give up. In just one issue, Cates and Moore break the Surfer down and build him back up again. After a brief healing process, he answers the call when a killer must be brought to justice.
Radd’s search for the killers bring him to a foreign planet and, when he’s attacked by some sentries, the Surfer demonstrates the full extent of his powers when they refuse to peacefully yield. Once again, though the Radd finds himself in a no-win situation, he perseveres. Cates and Moore make the hero’s brave tenacity shine as bright as the silver that covers his skin. “Though weakened, I am far from helpless,” he says. “Though outnumbered, I am unafraid. And, though far from home, without a soul in the universe to come to my aid , I never battle alone,” he continues. The Surfer has regained his place as one of the most impressive characters in the Marvel Universe.
Part of that journey back to the top can be credited to a mysterious black goo. The substance tips the scales in Radd’s favor during his fight with the sentries, who turn out to be alien gods. After touching the goo, Radd’s hand turns black. The Surfer unloads with a massive burst of energy that enables him to defeat the gods. The mystery of the black goo is one of the few unanswered questions left at the end of the issue. Hopefully, the rest of the miniseries will explain the Surfer’s transformation and the power that fueled it.
When trying to describe the artwork, one word keeps coming to mind: trippy. During Radd’s trip through the black hole, Moore warps the Surfer’s body in bizarre ways that enhance the story’s fantastical tone. Similarly, the alien gods look like they’re creatures from Alice in Wonderland, which adds to the dream-like quality of the art. Likewise, colorist Dave Stewart uses bright, vibrant and unusual hues of many colors, including celestial pinks and purples.
Throughout the issue, the artwork complements the story by elevating its emotional impact. When the narration suddenly shifts from talking about himself to discussing a discussion of Galactus’ violent feeding habits, Stewart uses blood red for the background to augment the jarring juxtaposition. Moore makes Galactus’ face look demonic and, in some panels, like the classic version of Frankenstein’s Monster. Moore and Stewart combine with the narration to make the Devourer of Worlds and his destruction horrifying. This excellent cooperation, between the story and the art, can be found on each and every page of the issue; few comics can claim that.
With Silver Surfer Black #1, Marvel delivers an exceptional introduction to a new miniseries and it also functions fairly well as a standalone issue. The art is consistently a sight to behold and the narration deserves to be reread multiple times for its heartfelt expressiveness.
What’d you think of Silver Surfer Black #1? Do you plan to continue reading the miniseries?