Friday, January 11, 2008

Hello Cosmic Part 22: Silver Surfer Vol. 3 Part Two

[In which I discuss Silver Surfer vol. 3 #44-50 as part of my larger look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work for Marvel. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday despite the fact that this is the last of Starlin's Marvel work to discuss. Whatever shall I do next.]

The first thing worth looking at is the cover to issue 44, which is a visual cue to issue 34, which began Starlin's run. Take a look right here. Not that the compositions are basically identical with Thanos looming in the background, the Surfer in the foreground, the only difference is that 34 shows Surfer soaring above Thanos' fist, while 44 has him squeezing the Surfer and Drax, Infinity Gems on his glove-of course, that's a mistake since Thanos wore the Gems on his left hand, not his right. Ooops, way to fuck it up, Ron Lim.

Seven issues in which, again, little happens. These issues bridge The Thanos Quest and The Infinity Gauntlet, but you'll note that up until reading these issues, I didn't notice a gap really. The only real difference is that, at the beginning of The Infinity Gauntlet, Mephisto is there. That and the Surfer's awareness of Thanos' newfound powers are the only things that need to be told here. Seven issues to do that. Wow.

Issue 44 has a very Starlin-like bit where Thanos demonstrates the power of each Infinity Gem to the Surfer and Drax, one per page. Each page is divided in two, one large area of one to four panels where the demonstration occurs and one small, at the very bottom, where Thanos is identical each time, holding up his fist and saying: "BECAUSE I NOW HOLD THE POWER OF THE INFINITY GEMS WITHIN MY GRAP. / WITH THEM IN HAND, I HAVE BECOME THE MASTER OF WHATEVER SPECIFIC GEM HE'S TALKING ABOUT!" It's a little cheesy and clunky, but does fit into Thanos' melodramatic persona of the time. What actually makes it come off poorly is the fact that, if you read The Thanos Quest, he already did the litany and did so MUCH better there.

During this issue, Thanos steals the Surfer and Drax's souls using the Soul Gem, which sets up the return of Adam Warlock, Gamorra and Pip the Troll as issues 46 and 47 feature the adventures on Soul World. Issue 45 has the beginning of Mephisto's "devotion" to Thanos, including an attempt to steal the gauntlet. That is a very interesting scene as Mephisto convinces Thanos to touch the universe and become one with it, leaving his body--at which point Mephisto steals the gauntlet, but it turns out to be an illusion as Thanos never left his body (so we get a nice image of Mephisto choking himself, which is then replaced with Thanos choking him). The irony here is that this is how Thanos loses the gauntlet eventually: he becomes one with the universe and Nebula steals it. The inclusion of this scene lays the groundwork for the idea that Thanos wanted to lose the gauntlet, that he subconsciously didn't feel worthy of the power, demonstrating that he lost it in a manner he already sidestepped easily.

Issue 46 and 47 take place on Soul World and mostly feature Drax trying to escape to kill Thanos and Adam Warlock beating him up, eventually setting them both free since, even inside the Soul Gem, Warlock commands power over it.

Issue 48 has the Silver Surfer confront Galactus over the guilt he should feel in the deaths of countless worlds and Galactus reveals that he did alter the Surfer's soul so he wouldn't feel guilt. That tampering is undone and the Surfer is nearly crippled with guilt.

Issue 49 is a padded out issue of the Surfer facing a creature Thanos created just so Thanos could delay the Surfer from reaching Earth.

Issue 50 has the Surfer facing off against the Thanos statue that was once Thanos' body, with Thanos in control of it. In this issue, we see flashbacks to the Surfer as Norrin Radd on Zenn-La as a child and his relationship with his father. It's an interesting play on Jor-El on Krypton. Where Jor-El fought to save his world from certain destruction in the face of scorn and ridicule, Norrin's father does the same, except it's to save the world from a life of meaningless comfort. Technology has progressed to the point where ingenuity is a rare commodity. Eventually, Jartran Radd is disgraced when an invention of his is discovered to have used another inventor's ideas for a small component (the equivalent of a writer stealing a sentence during the course of a novel) and Norrin pretty much disowns him. Then, Jartran kills himself.

Thanos forces the Surfer to confront this memory, which he himself had blocked out, not Galactus--and the fact that he could not muster up one word that could have prevented his father's fate.

Starlin is obviously comfortable within the realm of the psychological as this issue and the revelation of Galactus' tampering both place emphasis on the Surfer's mental state. It's interesting how the primary focus of Starlin's work usually is the mind and, almost always, guilt. He pushes characters into situations where they feel overwhelming guilt. Warlock feels guilt for stealing the soul of Kray-Tor, Thanos feels guilt for most of his life, the Surfer feels not just guilt for his time as herald of Galactus but also for his life as Norrin Radd.

In the end, the Surfer crashes through Dr. Strange's window, leading right into The Infinity Gauntlet #1. Starlin's run on The Silver Surfer was unremarkable and mostly mediocre. There were some nice moments of humour, but usually in places where it didn't work. The run itself was padded out to accommodate the larger story. Ron Lim's artwork, as well, was mostly mediocre and shows a talented artist at the beginning of a career where he grows a lot.

On Monday, we'll see if I can't give an overview of this entire thing.