Written by Joel T. Lewis
After his first dramatic clash with the Fantastic Four in 1966, Silver Surfer’s first series focused on the plight of a cosmic being trapped on earth. Plagued to remain among a violent humanity prone to misunderstanding, the Surfer desired to break the bonds of his exile and return to his home world Zenn-La and his love Shalla-Bal. The first series of Silver Surfer attempted to ground the character by shackling him to earth and pitting him against familiar heroes like Spiderman and the Mighty Thor and earth-bound villains like the Abomination and Mephisto.
I began reading Silver Surfer for the very first time a little over a year ago and though I loved the character and those first 18 issues, I was slightly disappointed that the Sentinel of the Spaceways had been grounded. Norrin Radd wasn’t surfing among the stars as I knew he did in later series and his string of interactions with the people of earth were frustrating and a bit repetitive. The second Silver Surfer series of 1987 finally allowed the hero to break away from Earth and return to the space lanes and I really enjoyed seeing Norrin Radd in his element. One of the most interesting issues I’ve read from the 1987 series of Silver Surfer depicts a man-on-planet conflict between a board-less Silver Surfer and Ego the Living Planet.
Any complaints I had about an earthbound Silver Surfer from the first series were quickly silenced by issue 22. The cosmic scale of pitting Norrin against an Elder of the Universe was instantly satisfying. From the first splash page revealing artist Ron Lim’s massive rendition of Ego to the final panel of the Surfer zooming away to stars unknown, issue 22 captures everything I love about this series. Ego, who has to devote the majority of his might to combating the propulsion unit that Galactus attached to him in a previous adventure, has now become a devourer of worlds in his own right and plans to make the Surfer his next meal. Learning from the mistakes of the other Elders of the Universe, Ego separates Silver Surfer from his board and writer Steve Englehart sends the Sentinel of the Spaceways on an exploration of the planet-being’s anatomy. With magma coursing through his veins and crude oil pumping through his lymph system, Ego fights Silver Surfer the way a body would fight off infection. Using Protozoids in the shape of bizarre tiger sharks, Ego tests the limits of the board-less Surfer’s power and resolve.
Ron Lim’s artwork really shines as Silver Surfer wields the power cosmic through magma and stone, demonstrating how massive Ego is while showcasing the wide range of the surfer’s powers. There's something about a single issue from the 1980’s that's really special. Maybe it's the quality of the colors, or the feel and smell of the ink on your fingertips as you flip the pages, but reading those comics will always feel special to me. You can feel the age of the comic in your hand in a way you can’t with the glossy modern issues that hit the shelves now.
If you’ve never read a Silver Surfer comic before, his massive back-catalog of issues can be a bit daunting. With a character whose first appearance (Fantastic Four #48) can fetch thousands of dollars, it can be a little intimidating trying to start from the beginning. But thanks to a Marvel Unlimited subscription and the Marvel Essential TPB series, I was able to fill in the early history of the character without shelling out a lot of money. Silver Surfer can also be difficult to approach because of the alien stoicism that has been written into his character in recent years, but the Norrin Radd of the 1987 series is a lot of fun. As the Surfer hurtles through space there are great one-off issues that you can jump into without a whole lot of context, which is nice considering there are 146 issues in the second series. Strange colorful creatures, cosmic forces, and amazing exclamations like, “Nebulae Unfolding!” are just a few of the elements you can expect when you pick up a Silver Surfer comic, and issue 22 is a great showcase of how unique and profound Norrin Radd is. Until next time, Geek On!