Silver Surfer: The Best Defense #1
Silver Surfer, again shackled to the service of Galactus, is sent to to an unnamed world. On this world, Earth's Roxxon Corporation had been setting up some sort of operation, only to have abandoned it, leaving a young Centurian (think: Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy) to steal a battery from it to trade to the local warlord.
The young boy's attempts at barter are met with dismissal from the warlord, then the boy is set upon by thieves, two of whom want his boots and a third, an Earthman, who wants his battery. The Surfer, clad not too differently from the Man With No Name, arrives and saves the boy from the thieves. In the process, his identity is revealed, and the onlookers flee in terror at the sight of Galactus' herald.
We then learn that Galactus sent Surfer to the planet to try to glean information on a so-called "cosmic train" that is barreling through the universe, with so much destructive power that even he is afraid. The Surfer believes this is actually some sort of game Galactus is playing to toy with him; Galactus then makes an offer: if Norrin Radd finds life deemed worth saving on this or any other planet in the near future, he will stave off his hunger and spare the planet. But in doing so, he will be weakened, and may not be able to confront the "conductor god" steering this so-called train. The entire exercise, then, is revealed as the Surfer learning what he can in a short amount of time to judge whether an entire planet's worth of people is worth saving.
Shifting out of flashback, we now see that the Surfer brought Galactus to this world, inspired to do so after he witnessed the young Centurian kill one of his would-be thieves. The Surfer offers some recriminations to the boy, and the boy, cynical beyond his years, keenly observes that the Surfer isn't a servant of life like he wants desperately to believe, but rather a cold reflection of Galactus himself. The Surfer leaves, somber and contemplative, and arrives at a void, into which he sends his board.
Unfortunately, this is a comic that has no idea what it wants to be about. It spends about half the issue (far, far too long) following the misadventures of the unnamed young Centurian and spending entirely too much time diving into the also-unnamed planet’s barter system, run by the unnamed warlord. A possibility exists that leaving everything in the story unnamed except for the Silver Surfer himself, Galactus, and the Roxxon Corporation is supposed to mean that everything else is supposed to be symbolic of… something, but it could just as easily be lazy writing. Latour gives no clues as to his intention here, if he has any at all. I’d say it’s open to interpretation, except I don’t know what exactly the reader is meant to be interpreting.
There’s an attempt at philosophy in detailing the Surfer’s brief journey in judging the inhabitants of the planet worthy of salvation or not. And it’s a good idea on paper, but in practice, simply too much time is spent focusing on the boy and the barter system and the thieves and the warlord… and good lord, why was Roxxon part of the equation at all? It feels more like a name-drop than any salient piece of the story. I believe Latour was trying to give us a microcosm of life on the planet, but there were any number of other storytelling methods that would have been more efficient.
There are too many vaguely-defined ideas at play. The big cosmic crisis is called a train? Given the context and scale, what does that even mean? The picture sure is pretty, though:
Similarly, Latour’s art tries to have it both ways, too. It’s maddeningly uneven. Scenes in space are lush, vibrant, and bursting with color – think Mike del Mundo crossed with a Kirbyesque design sense – but the planetside scenes are all pencils, and sloppy-looking ones at that (I’ll concede those scenes’ colors pop quite well, though). I assume Latour is trying to create a juxtaposition between the grandeur of space versus the grime and grit of the planet’s life, but the gap between the two styles is just too great to be anything but jarring. Then there’s his take on the Silver Surfer: I get the feeling Latour just really doesn’t know how to draw reflective surfaces, because our man Norrin is a hot mess of way-too-heavily-inked linework:
And ultimately, all it amounts to is maneuvering the Surfer to a place where he sends his board into a void so that it can rescue Namor. It’s a slog to get through, and by the end, the reader isn’t even really rewarded with anything meaningful or new. Silver Surfer is a morally gray character, is he? And he struggles with the choices he’s had to make as the herald of Galactus? …You don’t say. I’m pretty sure that was on his resume from his very first appearance.
Sometimes creators misfire. It happens. Jason Latour is plenty talented; I’ve read enough by him – both as a writer and artist – to know this for a fact. I don’t want to come off like I’m running him down, even though this has unfortunately been a pretty merciless review. But for whatever the reason, he just seems to have been utterly out of his depth with this issue. And that may not even be his fault – it may have been a case where an editor gave him an assignment, and he did the best he could. But that doesn’t mean I have to like the end result.
Well-intended but ultimately disconnected and scattershot, this issue has easily been the weakest of Marvel's Best Defense miniseries of one-shots. Although the art occasionally shines, that alone isn't enough to get this entry up to snuff. Recommended for completists only.
Silver Surfer: The Best Defense #1 – Searching for a Friend At the End of the World
Writing - 3/103/10
Storyline - 4/104/10
Art - 5/105/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 6/106/10
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