In the world of comics, legends don’t get much bigger than Stan “The Man” Lee. Beyond comic shops, people who’ve never even read a Marvel comic can tell you who Lee was. The visionary creator changed the pop culture landscape, so when he passed just over a year ago, the world mourned.
Writer Donny Cates was among those affected. Cates had already started scripting the mini-series that would become Silver Surfer: Black when he learned that Lee had passed away. But Lee’s death changed everything. Cates proceeded to delete what he’d written so he could start fresh with a new purpose. This story, about Lee’s most beloved creation, had to be perfect.
This story comes from Cates’ Silver Surfer: Black afterword, which is one of the extras included in Marvel’s new Silver Surfer: Black Treasury Edition. Whether Cates or readers actually deemed the five-part mini-series “perfect” when it was available in single issues, this gorgeous, oversized collection certainly makes a very strong case for it.
Why, you ask?
Well, I’m sure Cates won’t mind me saying that artist Tradd Moore and color artist Dave Stewart’s work here is well worth the $29.99 price of admission. This is cosmic Marvel on acid (Disclaimer: I’ve never dropped acid, but I’ve seen movies and TV shows). Don’t get me wrong, it’s visually brilliant from beginning to end, but really kicks into high gear once Ego the Living Planet (the real deal–not the Kurt Russel version) joins the party and Moore gets to cut loose with all sorts of otherworldly excitement.
Stewart’s colors are turned up to 11 and, really, any one page–or even panel–from this book could be framed in a modern art museum. While Cate’s story is far from kids stuff, I couldn’t help but think back to those oversized children’s books I read when I was younger. It makes for a unique comics-reading experience and one I’d love to see more of from the big two. More experimentation, please!
Of course, art is only half of the comic book equation, and Cates delivers on his end as well. If you’ve read the superstar creator’s other Marvel work, you know the writer likes to aim for the fences. That’s definitely true here, as he repositions the Silver Surfer as one of the most important beings in the history of the Marvel Universe–with help from some temporal hijinks.
Now, I haven’t read Cates’ Guardians of the Galaxy run, but Silver Surfer: Black picks up where that story left off with Norrin Radd and his fellow cosmic heroes traveling through a black hole. Turns out it’s true what they say–black holes are bad for your health, as the Surfer winds up billions of years in the past. There, he encounters a number of (much younger) famous faces, including a still-forming Ego. Oh, and Knull, from Cates’ Venom run. You know, Knull–the god of the symbiotes.
It’s these ties to Cates’ other Marvel work that might scare some readers away if they aren’t caught up on Guardians and Venom. But fear not–I’ve only read the first Venom story arc and I can confidently tell you those other series aren’t required reading for you to enjoy Silver Surfer: Black. Will they enhance your reading experience? Sure. But you won’t be lost.
Now, what I am familiar with is Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s now-classic Silver Surfer run, so I was a bit disappointed to see the more whimsical Surfer from that series has reverted back to his more serious self. But, I’m also aware there have been plenty of Surfer appearances since then that I’ve missed. Also, it’s comics, right? Cosmic beings change!
While Cates does a great job of coming up with great situations for Moore to breathe life into, what really appealed to me about this story is the Surfer’s constant guilt over the pain he inflicted on the universe while serving his former master, Galactus. Even if readers and our hero don’t realize it, this regret plays a role throughout the series and helps its resolution carry extra weight.
Like the House of X/Powers of X hardcover–also on sale today–Silver Surfer: Black makes for an excellent holiday gift. Marvel was smart to put these two collections out so close to Christmas. These will likely pop up under many Christmas trees. But really, this is just all-around good comics, in the tradition of the classic Silver Surfer: Parable. It’s the kind of book you can leave out on your coffee table for non-comics fans visiting your home to pick up and flip through. They’ll be converted in no time!