For the last several years Dan Slott has been cranking out more than one issue of “Spider-Man” every month. It represented pretty much his entire comic output during that time. Now, as he winds down his run on “Amazing Spider-Man,” the writer has dialed back his prolificacy on that title to allow him to take on new projects. This new “Silver Surfer” title being one of them. While I don’t have anything against the character, he’s not one that inspires the kind of loyalty that would get me to check out his new series as soon as the first collected edition hits. Fortunately he’s being drawn by an artist who does: Mike Allred. It’s Allred’s work that makes this title sing as an enjoyably quirky cosmic spectacle.
Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfer, has seen many incredible things in his travels through the cosmos. Yet the spectacle of the Impericon may yet dwarf them all. An impossible city that caters to its inhabitants wildest dreams, it’s ruled by an alien known as the Incredulous Zed who is in a dire predicament. You see, the Impericon is threatened by the Queen of the Nevers and he needs the Silver Surfer’s help to fend her off. Being a stand-up cosmic entity, the Surver agrees. However Zed’s also a guy who likes to hedge his bets and he has used a device he calls the Motivator to bring the person that matters most to the Surfer in all the universe to use as leverage just in case. That person happens to be one Dawn Greenwood, who has never left her hometown of Anchor Bay, Massachusetts, before this. Problem is that the Surfer has no idea who she is and why she would be of any importance to him.
So we’ve got an ordinary Earth girl teamed up with a cosmic entity that has just about seen it all at this point, and they go on to have crazy adventures together. Yes, there’s certainly a little “Doctor Who” in the setup for this new series. Slott actually mines the dynamic between Dawn and the Surfer quite well, though. There’s a certain amount of bickering as their very different personalities clash, but it’s more good-natured than anything else and the humor that springs from it is quite welcome. Particularly the bit where the Surfer explains the power cosmic to Dawn. Things like that help make the title accessible and liven up what are effectively some standard issue plots. They get points for their cosmic and surrealist trappings, but the two main stories being told here are ultimately pretty conventional ones in the end.
What really makes them stand out is Allred’s art. As I’ve mentioned in the past, he’s one of the few artists out there who can really elevate a script with his distinctive style alone. In this case, he gets a lot of help from Slott who serves up lots of fantastic concepts for the artist to render on the page. The ridiculous splendor of the Impericon. The Surfer’s history being laid out in his body. The many potential futures from the Queen of Nevers. The secret beating heart of the Impericon. All of these are from the first arc alone and represent an opulent visual feast for the reader. As for the second, it has some great moments of nightmare logic from the room that gets decidedly mean to Dr. Strange and the Hulk’s battle against tentacle monsters that eventually warps the borders of the panels they’re contained in.
Allred’s style has an innate off-kilter quirkiness to in the way that his characters never seem like they’re standing still. They’re always pitched at an angle that makes them look like they’re either reacting to something or about to spring into action. It’s a distinctive look that makes his art feel just a little unreal compared to everyone else’s. When placed in this high-concept science fantasy setting and combined with the artist’s stellar design sense, the result is truly something to behold. Allred works a lot faster these days than he used to, but he’s still not a book-a-month kind of artist. What I’m saying is that there will be fill-ins at some point and I really feel for anyone who winds up having to do one for this title. Allred sets the tone and defines the look of the series to such an extent that I can’t imagine anyone pulling it off as well as he does.
Yeah, this is the very rare book where I’m more enthused about the art than the writing. Slott does fine work with the characters and the concepts in the stories, but there’s nothing in them that we haven’t seen elsewhere. It’s Allred that elevates the script and makes this title worth reading in my opinion. This opening volume of Slott and Allred’s “Silver Surfer” is easily a must read if you’re a fan of the artist or someone who appreciates strikingly off-kilter art in their superhero titles.