Let me tell you a story about the most irresponsible parents in the Marvel Universe.
You see, back in 1988, Reed and Sue Richards had retreated to the suburbs in an attempt to provide their son, Franklin, a chance at a ‘normal’ life. They did this because, by age 6, he had already 1) been threatened by cosmic radiation in utero, 2) been kidnapped by Annihilus for use as a power source (and then nearly exploded), 3) had his brain shut down by his own father, 4) aged himself into a superpowered adult, and 5) defeated and/or temporarily destroyed the devil himself on two separate occasions. All of this, plus Doctor Doom.
Clearly, the suburbs were the answer to all these problems.
This self-imposed super-person exile becomes altogether moot, however, when the Silver Surfer shows up in the middle of your badminton match to inform you that Galactus, a being of unknowable power that survived the collapse of one universe and the big bang of the next, is dying, and only you and your spouse might save him.
You know what a rational pair of parents might do in this situation? Call a babysitter. Perhaps, say, the incredibly magical nanny you had already hired for that purpose.
What do Reed and Sue do? They decide to take Franklin with them (on a surfboard, in the vacuum of space). Why? Because he asked real nice.
What follows is a family work trip involving ancient, immortal space beings, an alternate reality (with its own malicious gods), corruption by pre-Gauntlet Infinity Gems, and a moment in which Franklin, disobeying his parent’s wishes, steps unsupervised into the cold, vast emptiness of a cruel and uncaring universe.
Great parenting all around.
It’s with this mind-boggling example of stellar stewardship that Silver Surfer Epic Collection: Parable begins, and I’m not going to lie – it’s the whole reason I chose to review the book. I love how terrible the Richards are at. . . well, everything. I also love love love the 1987 volume of Silver Surfer, of which Parable is the second collection.
It’s perhaps important to note that the issues of the series collected here (15 to 23, plus two annuals) represent a very particular era for our shiny boi, one before the book became essential reading for anyone following Jim Starlin’s Thanos and Infinity stories. For the first 31 issues, writer Steve Englehart provides what amounts to a cosmic road trip, in which the Surfer drops in on major cosmic entities, military forces, and far-flung friends, as a sort of exercise in defining what the character could be in a post-Kirby and Lee cosmos (or even Englehart’s own Defenders work with the character).
The work done here might not be as definitive as the later Starlin/Lim/Marz stories, but it’s certainly foundational for those stories, as well as for later cosmic stories like Jim Valentino’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It inserted, finally, an ongoing cosmic experience into the geocentric Marvel Universe.
Also collected here are two short masterworks featuring the character published around the same time. In Lee and John Buscema’s Judgement Day, Buscema creates an epic story one full-page panel at a time—something unheard of at the time. It’s a beautiful showcase of bold artwork by one of the most definitive Marvel artists of the era.
Most importantly, however, is Parable by Lee and French master Moebius, which is one of the most incredible works containing Surfer and Galactus ever crafted. Set in an alternate world, it tells a story of false faith, and it features what might be Stan Lee’s least-verbose script. It’s hard not to wonder about Jack Kirby’s reaction to the story after having attempted Big Kirby God Questions with the characters previously, only to be undermined by Stan’s desire to keep it simple.
For anyone curious about the characters or the Marvel Cosmos, Surfer Epic Collection: Parable encapsulates all that wonder and all those big ideas. It might not be as monumental or memorable as the later, more famous stories (that era’s beginning will be collected in next year’s The Return of Thanos), but it nonetheless collects true works of genius.
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