Propaganda: Silver Surfer and silver bullets – a little Defenders reunion
This is Propaganda, I’m Richard Bruton and this is what I’ve been reading lately:
Silver Surfer – Requiem issue 1 of 4
Written by J Michael Straczynski, Art by Esad Ribic
How can anyone not have a little love for the Silver Surfer? As a character he’s possibly one of the more delightfully stupid designs you could ever see. Naked, sexless, silver bloke from outer space flying on a giant silver surfboard. Bonkers. As a concept; brilliant. As a character; looks fantastic. As a lead role in a story; not so good.
Marvel Comics have been looking to exploit the huge popularity of the Silver Surfer in comics for as long as he’s been around. But despite all of the attempts, including a series that ran over ten years in the 80s and 90s, the character somehow seems to be destined never to be a major player.
But with the Surfer taking a leading role in the latest FF film, Marvel have decided to push the old boy into centre stage again for another try in Michael J. Straczynski and Esad Ribic’s Silver Surfer: Requiem. Now, am I the only one who thinks this isn’t exactly the sort of story that the fans of the film are going to be looking for?
Without ruining anything that hasn’t already been put across in a thousand Marvel solicitations this is the big Last Silver Surfer story. The Surfer is dying and this is his final story, which is why it seems insane for them to publish it now, effectively as a movie tie-in. However, Marvel, perhaps realising the silliness of the situation, have gone to great lengths to make it known that this is a completely out of continuity series, but surely it would have been better to have held off and published this next year?
The Silver Surfer turns up at the Fantastic Four’s place and after 22 pages of dismal, over-bearing, self indulgent writing we get the not very shocking at all revelation that the Silver Surfer is dying, which has been obvious not only throughout the preceding 21 pages but also for months when reading about the forthcoming Death of the Silver Surfer series.
(panel from Silver Surfer: Requiem #1, art by Esad Ribic, (C) Marvel)
And if you couldn’t tell from the last paragraph, I really hated this comic. From the very first page it’s obvious that Straczynski is tapping into his 16 year old inner voice to write deep, meaningful, poetic drivel. Nearly every page has some new bit of awful sixth form poetry tripping from the mouth of one or other of the characters. One of many Surfer monologues:
“Here is the cycle of life writ large.
To be born in fire and live in the bright flame of our passions,
illuminating the world around us.
We live and die in fire, knowing that when we die,
we are reborn in the minds and spirits
of those who will follow the path we have lit for them across the ages.
The path that one day calls us home
… at the dying of the light.”
(panels from Silver Surfer: Requiem #1, art by Esad Ribic, (C) Marvel)
Human Torch, describing Sue Richard’s reaction:
“She was crying.
Crying in the way where it just falls, like water.
Like she’d been crying all day
… like she might never, ever stop crying again.”
It’s really badly written, with page after page of dialogue like that where the FF and the Silver Surfer whine and moan and reflect on how terrible the situation is. And based on just this first issue, I really can’t see where they’re going with this – What’s Straczynski going to do? Have the Surfer mope his way to his death, or concoct some stupid Deus ex Machina to save the day? Either way I don’t really care. And I’m not going to be around to find out.
The art doesn’t help the dismal nature of the story either. Veering from very occasional delights (such as the Surfer on page 16) in full flight to absolutely bloody awful. Ribic’s figurative work and his lack of detailing is desperately in need of a good inker. Or maybe just a better artist.
(one of the panels from Silver Surfer: Requiem #1 that Richard did like, art by Esad Ribic, (C) Marvel)
All in all, bloody awful. A comic that really, really wants to be all grown up but in the end reads like a child playing at serious adult stuff.
Written by Brian K Vaughan, artwork by Marcos Martin
And from one under-performing superhero incapable of reaching the great heights always expected of them to another. Doctor Strange, like the Silver Surfer, has always been side-lined in the Marvel Universe; always a bit player, rarely given centre stage and despite a devoted fanbase, never really translating that fan-favourite status into a popular and long running series.
But when Brian K Vaughan announced this new mini-series, a lot of people I knew were expecting great things, such was the fondness for the character and the expectations of Brian K Vaughan. The story itself is a simple one, yet Vaughan manages to work it well, throwing in enough good creative touches to make it an enjoyable book. Even though it runs out of steam towards the end it’s still a fine read and well worth a look, particularly for those of us who like the character.
Doctor Strange is involved in a grail quest for Otkid’s Elixir, a universal panacea, the cure to all disease known to man. He’s searching for it in an attempt to save his loyal manservant Wong from an aggressive brain tumour. After snatching it from a mystical realm, it’s wrenched from his grip, stolen away and Strange is left near death. The combined might of the pharmaceutical companies have decided that suddenly having every disease eradicated is not something they want to see. The elixir could save millions of lives, but it would also mean their companies would become irrelevant overnight and big business takes action to protect its future revenue streams.
(panel from the graphic novel collection of Doctor Strange: the Oath, art by Marcos Martin. Got to love the fact that although they are indoors and soaking wet Strange’s cape still billows around dramatically. (C) Marvel)
So Doctor Strange starts the story carried into the emergency room of the Night Nurse, Marvel’s resident superhero doctor, with a silver bullet fired from Hitler’s P38 embedded in his chest. The explanation that the gun and silver bullet provide enough negative mojo to get through Strange’s mystical defences is a little trite and silly perhaps, but it serves the purpose of throwing us straight into the story so we’ll skate over it here.
After being patched up, Strange, Wong and the Night Nurse go in search of the elixir, the thief who shot Strange and face the might of the big drug companies. From then it’s a race to get to the elixir, with Vaughan cleverly interweaving the events of the search with scenes from Doctor Strange’s past and even tying his current predicament into the circumstances that caused him to give up his previous life as a surgeon and become the world’s Sorcerer Supreme.
But it’s the artwork that really makes this a book to pick up; simply stunning throughout. Marcos Martin, formerly known for his great work on Batgirl: Year One, has produced something lovely here. There’s obviously a huge debt to pay to Steve Ditko, creator of Doctor Strange and Martin pays it handsomely, his Doctor Strange is a cleaned up version of Ditko’s beautifully strange lines.
(the classic image of Doctor Strange by the legendary Steve Ditko, (C) Marvel)
All in all, this is nothing more and nothing less than a superior example of straight superhero comics. Nothing particularly original, nothing to appeal particularly to non-comic readers, but a pleasant enough tale designed to key into the nostalgia for a great character. If, like me, you’ve fond memories of the good Doctor from your earliest comic memories, there’s an awful lot to enjoy here.