The Silver Surfer here is treated with importance and deference due to a being of his stature. But the Surfer has always been problematic. Trying to reconcile the different versions of the character has put writers in a bind, especially if they adhere to the whiny Stan Lee version of the character. Kirby’s take on the Surfer in the FF was of a being that had lost his humanity out there among the stars, and would start to find its way back while trapped on earth. Stan’s emo Surfer was already human, so achingly so, that he needed, no matter what, to get away from it all. All later writers, Englehart and Starlin included, have tried to reconcile the different versions.
But here is something different. In the surfer’s four issue series, the Surfer doesn’t wish to fight Annihilus until provoked by Gabriel the Air Walker’s destruction at the hands of his negative zone counterparts, Ravenous and his seekers. But once provoked, we see how far from the former Norrin Radd this Surfer is. An experienced citizen of the cosmos, he marshals his forces, makes plans with the other heralds that haven’t been rounded up yet and starts to take his place in the cosmic scheme of things.
Because, of course, it is not just Annihilus that we have to worry about. (Since, really, Annihilus and his kind would not really be able to stand up to the combined power of three heralds of Galactus.) The Kiln, a prison built in a collapsing star by an architect unknown even to Galactus, has let loose the elders Tenebrous and Aegis, and they have a fight to pick with Galactus.
The Surfer makes the decision to talk to Galactus, and to take his part in the fight. And here is the interesting part. As they talk, we realize that the Surfer is the favored herald of Galactus, that here was an ordinary man given power by a God from beyond this universe. And for all that power, he had still suffered his God’s displeasure.
The Surfer that we’ve been used to seeing, with the Power Cosmic, was not the being of Fantastic Four #48. That was a different Surfer, one in full favor of his God and Master. And with a few pages of dialogue, the Surfer returns to work with Galactus.
And is forgiven.
Say it with me. The Surfer has been forgiven. Because if the Surfer’s story is one of finding his humanity after his fall, this is his story reconciliation with God, with his sacrifice, this time without the moral manipulation that was masterminded by Starlin as a retcon, and power of that submission and reconciliation. It is a moment when Ravenous realizes that he’s screwed. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he knows it.
And really, in the other two mini series collected here, we begin to understand that reconciliation is the true theme here. Super Skrull and Ronin both take part in their own stories, pawns to set up like pieces on the Grandmaster’s cosmic chess board, and they both seek their own reconciliation among their people. It is a powerful theme to exert as the key character component since it leads us to see that there should be real and fundamental changes to the characters in the finale.The Surfer stories, which are the rirst four of the book, and clearly the strongest part, are by Keith Giffen and Renato Arlem. Giffen, for all the Ambush bug goofiness, has the strongest grasp on what makes space opera work since Jim Starlin. This was clear years and years ago by the Legion of Superheroes #50, where 6 or 7 of the Legionaires were kidnapped by the Time Trapper and taken to the end of time. For a comic of it's era, it was as bleak and brutal in its treatment of its heroes as it could be. And considering how the Legion writers had pretty much put themselves in a bind over the years with the Trapper, Giffen came up with a more than novel way to finally end the Trapper and his danger. It was a brilliant ending, and showed Keith's gift for the inventive plotting and use of continuity. Here, we have the same thing. Including Thanos again introducing himself into the proceedings.
True science fiction has operated as an outside view in the character of man, and instead of the obvious, the path tread here is far more interesting. I'm fascinated, intrigued and ready for the final volume in the series.