The Small Lebowski:
Silver Surfer #15-18
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #15, Silver Surfer #16, Silver Surfer #17, Silver Surfer #18
It's... not too bad. These issues are helped by a series of guest appearances. Issue #15 starts with an odd sequence where the Surfer decides he needs to get a jacket tailored for him...
...and then immediately discards the jacket as he gets into a fight with the Human Torch.
He went to the Fantastic Four to ask for help and of course wound up in a fight in a 'classic' Marvel misunderstanding. It turns out that the FF just wanted the Surfer to help the humans with their space program.
The next two issues are a fight with Mephisto.
After a battle in space that attracts the attention of Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan...
...Mephisto transports Shalla Bal to Earth where she is cold and starving, and says he'll let the Surfer know where she is if he'll destroy SHIELD. The Surfer complies, destroying SHIELD's base without harming any soldiers. But Mephisto doesn't feel that's sufficient, or maybe he was going to betray the Surfer anyway, so they fight again. SHIELD, armed with weaponry from Tony Stark...
...attack the Surfer while he's having the fight with the invisible-to-mortal-eyes Mephisto. The FF have a cameo as well.
The Surfer flees, and falls on the outskirts of Attilan. Unlike the whining, depressed Surfer, Mephisto is an upbeat, can-do sort of guy with a clear motivation and a lot of personality. Do you think he could sustain his own book?
The last issue of the Silver Surfer series is drawn by Jack Kirby instead of John Buscema, and as much as i love Buscema, it's a nice change of pace to see Kirby on the Surfer again.
It makes use of the renegade Inhumans used in the Fantastic Four and the Hulk.
Maximus has his group of Inhumans attack the Surfer and makes it seem like Black Bolt is their leader, tricking the Surfer into attacking Black Bolt's Inhumans. For a minute it seemed like there was going to be a reasonable resolution, with the Surfer and Black Bolt about to talk ("talk") to each other, but then the rest of the Royal Family attack the Surfer for no good reason, leading to Black Bolt making the gesture of.... Reproach!
Then Maximus attacks. There's a funny scene with the Surfer trying to get his board back from Lockjaw...
...but then he leaves, not interested in a fight between Inhumans. Seeing madness even in the Inhuman society, the Surfer decides that the Earth is hopeless and basically declares himself a villain. Unfortunately the series was then canceled (although in truth i doubt they would have kept him as a villain for long even if it wasn't).
I've read that this series was Stan Lee's 'pet' book, but it doesn't have the magic of Stan's earlier work. The Surfer is an inconsistent and annoying character, and nothing ever really happens in this series. Buscema's artwork starts off very nice, but it doesn't mask the fact that the book is basically treading water from day one, and the artwork actually gets sketchy as the series progresses.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Just needs to fit in between gaps in stories for the FF and Iron Man, which isn't difficult considering most stories were only one issue long at this point.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Silver Surfer vol. 1
Inbound References (2): showAireo, Black Bolt, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, Gorgon, Human Torch, Iron Man, Karnak, Leonus, Lockjaw, Maximus, Medusa, Mephisto, Mr. Fantastic, Nick Fury, Shalla Bal, Silver Surfer, Stallior, Thing, Timberius, Triton
Kirby's presence on the last issue is a bit of a mystery. I'm guessing Buscema was pressed for time on other titles and Jack was asked to step in.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 12, 2011 9:45 PM
According to Marvelmania #2, there was a deliberate Kirby/Buscema switch done with Thor in order to get Buscema acclimatized with taking Thor over. Herb Trimpe was supposed to do full art starting with #19, and more Inhuman appearances were announced.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 30, 2012 7:23 PM
As I recall, Trimpe did the cover to #18.
Posted by: Haydn | December 10, 2013 11:20 PM
Imagine the Silver Surfer as a villain. Oh well.
Posted by: A.Lloyd | December 18, 2015 1:17 PM
In case anybody is wondering, the ending of Silver Surfer #18 gets picked up again in the pages of Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man, and not only involves Silver Surfer and Spider-Man, but also Psycho-Man.
Posted by: D09 | March 28, 2016 3:55 PM
So the Psycho-Man is the reason the Silver Surfer goes nuts at the end of this issue? Does Psycho-Man's little box also have a "Self-Pity" setting? That would explain his behavior throughout the rest of the series.
Posted by: Andrew | March 28, 2016 5:27 PM
That gesture of reproach really reminds me of Right Said Fred!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | August 14, 2016 1:50 PM
Kirby's closing panel from #18 is stupendous - a full-page face in close-up - and I disagree with most of the criticisms of this run, although obviously it didn't sell well enough to keep going. From issue #1 to 17, Buscema's surfer gets gradually less muscular and virile and becomes more fluid and balletic, unlike most other comic characters (I think this was even mentioned in the letters pages). Clearly it's not difficult to find biblical allegories in the character and I've read that this was part of Lee's vision (and explicitly NOT Kirby's), but in any case it's hard to see how anyone can really get the better of Mephisto, so the surfer does a fair bit of losing in this run which probably also puts people off. The cover of SS #16 has Mephisto's hand clamped over the surfer's mouth in an uncomfortably brutal gesture, and the byline "See Mephisto as he wins at last!", which gives you an idea of the torture Lee was putting us all through!
Posted by: Kalessin | October 15, 2016 5:59 PM
I suppose the implication of that "deadliest one of all" line is the idea was to make the Surfer a violent character who lashes out savagely when attacked and considers himself answerable to no-one. I imagine he would've expressed contempt for humanity rather than bewilderment at it. When he saw a woman being mugged he might've punished the muggers out of hatred of predators and sympathy for victims. In other situations he might've refused to intervene to stop a menace because he thought no-one deserved it. An approach like that could've been interesting: a lot like the Hulk's series, but with an intelligent central character.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | October 12, 2017 4:10 AM
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