The Silver Surfer often suffers from a sort of disconnected narrative history, with each creative team storming off in new directions that abandon supporting cast members or even plotlines in favor of keeping our Sentinel of the Spaceways unattached, aloof, and alone.
The Surfer’s longest run started in 1987 and ran for eleven years, and it’s that volume where a wide part of the major players of Jim Starlin’s cosmic Infinity epic were introduced and developed. The run began with a who’s who of creators, including Surfer-defining artist Ron Lim before Starlin took over with issue #34 and began the book’s strongest stretch — a stretch taken over by writer Ron Marz not long after and continued for a good 70 more issues.
That’s a lot of solid Silver Surfer stories, with no other volume ever reaching the length of Lim and Marz’s run here. That’s also a lot of pedigree with a character, which means that Lim and Marz helped define the character — not only for a generation of readers, but in the long-term history of the Marvel Universe. No other creator save Stan and Jack could be considered to have the sort of definitive experience of the two Rons.
This brings us, finally, to Silver Surfer: Rebirth, which returns us to that era, a time before Donny Cates or the Allreds. The Surfer is returned to that grim, dutiful stoicism that typified the character after his escape from Earth. He’s not quite robotic in his actions, just shy of unfeeling; he’s willing, for instance, to introduce himself (in the third person) twice in three pages. He’s got a sort of grandiosity to him, with his self-expository dialogue, but also a carries a sense of genuine openness — a cold sort of wonder. He gives Genis-Vell advice; he wonders aloud at his peculiar situation.
It’s Genis-Vell’s inclusion that gives us our only frame of reference as to when this story takes place, particularly as the book goes on into confusing realms of time and reality. Marz created the character with artist Joe Philips, for 1993’s Silver Surfer Annual #6, and he changed his codename from Legacy to Captain Marvel in 1996. That’s a three-year window of Silver Surfer — the tail end of both Marz and Lim’s run on the book.
This makes this story disconnected from that ’90s book in both time and narrative, the pair’s chance at a sort of coda, along the lines of what Marvel is providing X-Men creative teams over in X-Men Legends. But where that book has a lot of visionary teams from any number of old titles to turn to, Surfer only has this singular opportunity.
By its big-reveal final page, this first issue doesn’t provide the reader (or the Surfer himself) much in the way of clarity, but it goes out of its way to drop in major players, from Genis-Vell to more surprising — and more iconic — characters by the issue’s end. Those inclusions, and the novelty of their appearance, is what draws us into this oddity. It makes this issue feel like empty-calorie hoers d’oeuvres before the dense feast to come.
Little 1993 me couldn’t be more excited to dig in.
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