By: Dan Slott & Michael Allred (Storytellers), Laura Allred (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
The Story: The Silver Surfers battles the Never Queen, while Dawn is breaking through the Impericon
The Review: Here’s a test — If you can summarize a story and it looks like it comes from the lyrics of a trippy 70s’ rock ballad, chances are you are reading a great Silver Surfer story. In this issue we have the Queen of Nevers whose heart makes the impossible possible, Mr. Plorp whose hyper-acid reflux literally makes the sound “plorp,” a sword called the Edge of Reality that cuts “into the fabric of existence itself,” and the saving power of wishes.
The Allreds are a perfect choice to present all of this weirdness. Their designs are pure imagination, such as the variety of alien types and willing to explore the z-axis when drawing in space (both of which many artists fail to do in such settings.) I enjoy the playful touches, like Zed looking through a telescope via his third eye. I could question some of the artistic choices, such as the layouts during the “motivator cubes” prison scene. And why choose to have the walls of the prison the same width and color as the gutter space of a comic book panel? Visually confusing. As is Dawn’s first encounter with the Surfer’s board. Maybe the staging could have been exaggerated to show how it’s mirroring-not mirroring her?
The scripting is just as imaginative, containing many clever turns of phrase that are enjoyable to read and to twist your brain around. You’d expect it from the Never Queen and from the Surfer, but even Dawn manages to get a few good lines in, like “it’s beautiful … it’s every song you’ll never hear, every hope and dream you’ll never have.”
As fun as that is, there is a bit of a danger in being so figurative, of course. There is a key plot point in fight between the Surfer and the Never Queen that is so nebulous as to be essentially hand-wavy. Part of the problem is that it relies on very specific wording of Dawn’s wish for the Silver Surfer in the previous issue, and it’s merely referenced here. If the story hinges on the specificity of such a wish, it’s unfortunate that we don’t get a repeat of that specificity.
In much the same way, the Surfer’s Power Cosmic has always been a bit vague in what it can do, which could be a problem for readers. After all, can you truly buy into a conflict when the protagonist can just do, well, anything, with his magical wishing powers? I can’t remember if I’ve seen the Surfer’s board acting so independently as it does here, nor do I think the Surfer has switched from his non-Silvery form into his Norrin Radd self as if it’s an alter-ego costume change. So far, these kinds of “new” powers don’t threaten the story, but it makes me wonder if it’s sustainable or if the Surfer will end up a character so abstract as to become meaningless.
Perhaps this is why Dawn Greenwood is a great choice for a new character. She is the dramatic opposite of the Surfer, as established in the first issue, and once again her adventures in space have been balanced by some down-to-earth flashback of her as girl. That scene also prefigures Dawn’s encounter with the “magic mirror”/surfboard, but otherwise I’d be hard-pressed to say I really want more of those kinds of scenes. Will we see more of these kind-of-related-to-some-plot-point flashbacks, or is there a greater story purpose in returning to childhood Anchor Bay? I hope Slott/Allred can pull off both.
The Bottom Line: Embracing the weirdness of story and design, Slott/Allred create a fantastically trippy space adventure. Slott is showing some new sides to his writing repertoire, while the Allreds bring their signature strengths. The character of Dawn Greenwood is certainly bursting out as a great new addition, although the Surfer remains largely a reactive character to this story.
The Grade: A-
— Do most Allred-style leading ladies have short cropped hair and wear polka-dot dresses? Seems like I’ve seen this before…
— Otherwise, Dawn Greenwood is inverting a lot of typical tropes we usually find in adventure stories. But has a character who inverts tropes become a trope itself? Meta-tropes!