This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on August 28, 2014.
Why is it that new series about The Defenders always struggle to find an audience? The combination of characters like Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, and The Hulk allow creators to touch upon a diverse array of big ideas. The cosmic, the supernatural, and the bigtime fisticuffs of superhero comics are all found in this team up and it can make for some incredibly imaginative stories. Silver Surfer #5 is technically about its titular character, but Dan Slott and Michael Allred have managed to squeeze all of the creativity and variety of a Defenders comic into this series, including appearances from both The Hulk and Dr. Strange.
Michael Allred doesn’t need much of an excuse to make comics exciting though. FromMadman to X-Statix, Allred is a consummate comic artist who is constantly pushing the medium’s boundaries. Even in the quietest of pages, readers can find some hook in the art, a quirk that catches the eye. Sometimes it’s simply an odd angle used to create an interesting effect. More often, it involves panels being broken, characters striking bold, Kirby-esque poses, and surreal ideas put to paper. The cover of Silver Surfer #5 speaks to how Allred approaches comic art, The Hulk flying directly at the reader from a surfboard punch with strange effects coating the background. It’s dynamic, creative, and lots of fun.
The highlight of the issue is a series of six pages, all connected by three parallel rows of panels where Allred tells two stories simultaneously. The top two rows focus on the Surfer and Dawn Greenwood, while the bottom row details the battle between Dr. Strange, The Hulk, and some nightmarish monsters. As reality contorts and a deadline approaches, the rows twist and apply pressure to one another. The composition of these pages is used to emphasize the urgency of the situation and its absurd nature. It’s an exceedingly effective sequence.
Allred’s style has always been dazzling, but it also requires a certain tonal fit. His art is fun, dynamic, and entirely original. To have it tell a story that is anything less than that would be a disservice to both Allred and the reader. Together Slott and Allred have crafted a story that is absolutely up to the task. Together, the Silver Surfer and Dawn have had to help save universal entities and the human race. Although the stakes are high and the situations dire, the tone never becomes overly grim or dark. There is an overwhelming sense of optimism that surrounds this comic instead. The heroes are capable and determined. That’s enough to confront even the greatest of threats in this version of the Marvel universe.
What sells this tone is the nature of the conflicts. Silver Surfer is a comic that features brawls, but the real solutions don’t rely on violence. It is really a book about problem solving. For every time a punch needs to be thrown there are two instances where a conversation or a quirky idea would prove much more helpful. Allred makes sequences focused on non-violent problem solving every bit as engaging as an epic brawl between The Hulk and his villains. Slott is a noted Who-vian and his emphasis on creativity and non-violence in Silver Surfer are certainly thematic links to the beloved television show.
Silver Surfer is one of the most fun comics being published right now. It’s helmed by two creators with bold voices and confidence to spare. Together, they’re telling stories filled with imagination and joy. Silver Surfer #5 holds as much potential as even the best Defenders comic, filling every panel with new wonders.