Silver Surfer #5-6
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #5, Silver Surfer #6
It's identified as Jemiah the Analyzer and the Skrull leader, Kylor, floats up to address it. And as he does so, we get the retelling of the Celestial story that we know from their visits to Earth, where they created three branches of humanity, the Deviants, the Eternals, and the regular humans. On Earth, the Eternals basically kept the Deviants in check and allowed the humans to dominate the planet. But we learn here, i think for the first time, that the Celestials have performed the same experiment on other worlds, and the first thing that struck my interest is that the third branch - the humans on Earth - are called "latents".
That choice of word implies that that branch has the potential for something more, which supports the idea that the Celestials put something in humanity - call it an X-Factor - that allows regular humans to gain super-powers from radiation or as a mutation. That idea is possibly contradicted by the modifier "gene-oblivious", but this narration is coming from a Skrull, and we learn here that the Skrulls are one of two strains of Deviants from their world, and they exterminated their Eternal and latent strains.
The other strain of Deviants from the Skrull homeworld were the Dire Wraiths. We knew the Dire Wraiths were related to the Skrulls, but i was confused about the way the word "deviant" was used when that was revealed in ROM #50. This is a nice clear statement confirming that both the Skrulls and Dire Wraiths are "Deviants" in the Celestial sense. It's also worth noting that both the Skrulls and the Wraiths are more stable than the Deviants of Earth, but that may be the whole point of the Celestial experiments, to see which races in the universe best adapt to the changes that they create.
Englehart and Marshall then include a very funny scene of Kylor addressing Jemiah...
...and when that fails to elicit a response, he orders an attack.
The good news is that Jemiah's unknowable plans here don't involve retaliation for attacks. In the original Eternals series we saw Celestials respond devastatingly with much less provocation.
While all this is happening, we see a Kree landing party, spearheaded by Captain Tar-rell, landing on the Skrull planet to confirm the Supreme Intelligence's theory that the Skrulls have lost their shape-shifting ability. The scenes are designed as an homage to Captain Mar-vell's first appearance on Earth.
Tar-rell winds up getting himself captured, and the Skrulls then launch "the second Kree-Skrull War".
As for the Obliterator fight, the issue begins with a fight in space. Maybe there's no sound in space, but "sentients know ways to make their voices heard".
After an initial fight in space, the Obliterator is buried in a barren planet's core...
...and the Silver Surfer and Mantis flee. They use the reprieve to talk about the kisses they've been exchanging. The Silver Surfer claims that he gave up his humanity and emotions when he became Galactus' herald. Interestingly, he says that he worked for Galactus for centuries.
It's not specifically said that the people of Zenn-La are a long lived race, but that's the implication here. The fact that Shalla Bal hasn't seemingly aged a day since the flashback shown in the original Silver Surfer #1 has always seemingly implied that the Surfer wasn't Galactus' herald for very long, and that Earth was maybe the first world that the Surfer brought Galactus to. This is part of the inherent contradictions between Jack Kirby's original intentions for the Surfer and Stan Lee's version in the Surfer's solo series, along with the fact that in the Surfer's first appearance he seemed unfamiliar with basic human things like eating. The info that Englehart is dropping here, that the Surfer had actually been active for centuries, and also that he was suppressing his human side until Alicia Masters reactivated it, helps square those contradictions.
It's an important fix. There will be further revelations to come (i'm thinking specifically of J.M. DeMatteis' run in the 1990s), but with a few panels here Englehart basically settles a pretty big and longstanding problem with the Surfer.
After the rejection by Shalla Bal, the Surfer is trying to reject his Norrin Radd side again, but Mantis isn't letting him retreat that easily. She tells him that she likes him.
Englehart even makes sure to tell us that Mantis is not just throwing herself at him randomly, despite her prostitute past.
That's an awkward and clumsy thing to have her throw in (and reminds me of a similar scene in Fantastic Four #305 where he has Crystal say that she's not like Tigra), but i think it's a combination of Englehart's scripting style that allows him to throw in lots of extra background information into every line, and also 1980s Englehart's way of telling us that Mantis is truly attracted to the Surfer.
Their conversation is interrupted by the return of the Obliterator...
...but since they are on a planet with vegetation this time, Mantis takes the lead in the battle.
Unfortunately, the Obliterator has a way of dealing with plant creatures.
The Surfer responds by wiping out the Obliterator's weapons.
This has a much greater effect on the Elder than i would have expected.
It also turns out that Mantis is still alive; she's able to regrow her body using any planet's vegetation - this is actually how she travels from world to world. Her hair seems to grow at a different rate than everything else.
With the Obliterator's weapons destroyed, he finds the fact that the Grandmaster has made it impossible to die a curse instead of a gift, and so he's willing to betray the other Elders and give up information on their plans.
I don't have any special love of the Obliterator (he was just introduced, and seems kind of goofy), but i find his immediate turn to dejection to be really disappointing. As we'll see in issue #6 (below), the guy started off Obliterating things and people without any special weapons. There's no reason to think he couldn't eventually get off this planet and get back to his "hobby". The fact that he despairs and turns on his brethren immediately makes the guy look like a real weenie.
Besides that and Mantis' expository prostitution line, i really like issue #5. Yes, it's very much a Handbook style explain & fix type of story, but the information that it imparts is cool and useful, and it's done with a nice sense of humor and worked into relevant plots. Issue #6, unfortunately, which gets into the origin of the Obliterator and also the details behind the Elders' plan, is less well done.
Let's start with the Obliterator's mundane goofy origin. It starts off cool enough. He's 1/3rd the age of the universe, and he first describes a Big Crunch of the prior universe...
...followed by a Big Bang that forms ours.
Then we learn that his particular planet happened to develop life earlier than, say, ours, but it followed a pattern almost identical to ours.
The Obliterator himself was identified as an immortal mutant, and his mutation was possibly tied to his obsession with hunting and killing. It eventually led him to kill everyone on his planet.
He then moved on to obliterate on other worlds, and in the course of doing that, he ran into the Gardener, who somehow identified him as a kindred spirit.
This really does take all the majesty out of the Elders. Maybe it makes a kind of sense for the Obliterator specifically, since he had to kill off the rest of his race to become an Elder. But i'd guess this means that each of the other Elders also came from a race of similar people, and they just all coincidentally died off. Considering their inexplicable behavior over the years, i hate the idea that they're really all just regular folks and that the only thing that makes them Elders is that they happened to be long-lived (not even actually immortal until the Grandmaster's recent schemes).
The Elders took pride in being the oldest beings in the universe, but then they found out about Galactus (or, per the "then came Galactus" panel, maybe Galactus emerged from his Incuba-Cell), who comes from the previous universe (or "reality"), and is therefore older than the Elders.
My reaction to that would be, ok, so? But to the Elders, this is apparently a major affront, and so they've decided to destroy him.
You can see that Mantis is unimpressed with this petty plan.
The Surfer protests that Galactus has a purpose in the universe, and the Obliterator describes the purpose in a way that is unfamiliar to me.
The idea, i guess, is that the universe would be in perfect balance between Eternity and Death, and would therefore stagnate if it wasn't for Galactus, who operates outside of their equilibrium. Not sure what to make of that. I actually prefer the explanation for Galactus from John Byrne's unfinished Last Galactus Story that says that Galactus is actually the cause of the Big Bang:
It's almost at the end of the universe; all the entropy has worked up to its full vigor and the universe is running down. In order to defeat the Rogue Watcher, Galactus finally consumes every last shred of energy that is in the universe. Galactus becomes the final repository of all energy in the universe. He then cracks the seal on his helmet, takes his helmet off, and all the energy that he's stored up explodes out of him. He becomes the big bang of the next universe, with Nova becoming the Galactus of that universe.
Mantis also makes the more important point that killing Galactus would bring about the destruction of reality (she says that's according to something Obliterator said, but i don't see it. I'm having a little trouble following this, you guys!). The Obliterator responds that this is indeed the plan, with the Elders therefore becoming "a race of Galactuses" in the next universe.
Well, that's the idea, anyway. As people have said in the comments for issue #4, this seems to be out of character for a few of the Elders, especially the kindly Mr. Buda (Contemplator) and the Gardener. If the Elders' origins weren't just revealed to be so mundane, i'd be willing to accept that as godly cosmic entities, their feelings about regular lifeforms are more complicated and that the good/evil dichotomy doesn't apply to them, and i guess that's still basically what i'm going to have to go with. I'm also not sure the Elders are thinking this through properly. From what we've seen of Galactus, his state of being is more of a curse than a blessing. And aren't the Elders already more or less free to pursue their hobbies? What do they actually hope to gain from this?
Also, will someone please give poor Obliterator a gun and a jetpack? He is getting pathetic.
In his current state of mind, the Obliterator spills the beans that the Elders' next meeting will take place on Earth, since that's a planet that Galactus has pledged to avoid.
The Surfer isn't happy to be going back to Earth again, and he gets into an argument with Mantis about it that quickly turns into a continuation of their romantic discussion.
More interesting than all of that is the continuation of the second Kree-Skrull War. The Supreme Intelligence pulls together a war council that includes the racist Phae-Dor, perpetuating his Blue Kree / Pink Kree antagonsim.
His plan (after setting up a dreaded ethernet; the Skrulls must be using Microsoft software) is to evacuate the planet the Skrulls are approaching, and then blow it up when the Skrulls arrive.
However, the Skrulls turn away from the planet before it is detonated, which the Supreme Intelligence deduces is due to the fact that the Skrulls have a mole in the Kree organization. Supremor evaluates the potential suspects and eliminates his pet mouse-monkey!
For forcing Supremor to do that, i'm going to have to side with the Kree on this conflict. That's pure evil. Especially since it might not even have been the mole, or at least it wasn't the only one.
It's a bit convenient the way the Skrulls already have agents stuck in every form that they'd need. This basically negates the whole problem of the Skrulls having lost their shape-shifting abilities. At the same time, though Englehart has some fun with the idea that some Skrulls are stuck in unusual forms.
I should also mention that Kylor, the Skrull ruler that launched the attack against the Kree, is only one of several Skrulls claiming to be the rightful ruler of the Skrull empire after the destruction of their homeworld, and the other contenders are not pleased with Kylor's actions.
Mantis' plan to take the Surfer back to Earth is nixed when Shalla Bal manifests to tell him that Zenn-La is under attack by the Kree.
Despite romantic dialogue that would make a Harlequin novelist blush, a disappointing origin for the Elders, and a scheme for them that doesn't seem to make sense, i'm still enjoying this run. Marshall Rogers handles cosmic, humor, and romance all very well, and Englehart is much more at home here than his other 80s Marvel works.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #5 begins with the fight with the Obliterator already in progress. It's not said how long it's been since they left Ego; only that the Obliterator has hounded the Silver Surfer and Mantis relentlessly since then. For placement purposes i'm allowing an indefinite amount of space between #4 and #5 (the Celestial on the Skrull world could similarly be standing there an indefinite amount of time, as they tend to do, before the Skrulls engaged it). There's potentially also a (smaller) gap between issues #5 and #6 but since #6 begins with the Surfer and Mantis still on the planet with Obliterator, i'm keeping both issues in a single entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
There is some faulty HTML code surrounding the image of Surfer diving into the molten planet. It seems to try to show a second image.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 20, 2014 2:09 PM
Thanks, Luis. Fixed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 20, 2014 2:29 PM
As generic as it sounds, I actually seem to like the Obliterator. He just feels like a living 1980s action hero complete with rectangular head. Now all he needs is a Stallone or Schwarzenegger vocal track.
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 20, 2014 4:06 PM
between the vision and the surfer, Mantis sure likes going after the guys who are lacking a certain something down under.
Posted by: kveto | April 23, 2014 12:08 PM
I believe that Zen-Lavians are a long-lived alien race. They have conquered war and disease and have really long lifespans as a result. I can believe that Shalla-Bal has lived centuries and stay young due to their technology and medicine.
Posted by: Steven Printz | April 23, 2014 1:25 PM
You have to figure that based on being humanoid though, there would have to be a limit to her life-span of a few hundred years, at max
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 23, 2014 2:08 PM
Kveto, at this point the Vision was clearly... fully functional. In the first Vision and Scarlet Witch series, Wanda makes reference to lovemaking and in the second, there's a scene with Vision and Wanda in robes in the middle of the day. It wasn't until Byrne came along that the Vision was depicted as missing something.
Posted by: Michael | April 23, 2014 7:41 PM
I did not read these early Surfer issues. I am really disappointed that the motivation behind the Elders' plot was so weak. They should have been given a much better motivation (even if it was one later revealed to have been based on erroneous information or assumptions), preferably one initiated long ago in the past and they are just nearing culmination of it.
Posted by: Chris | April 23, 2014 9:44 PM
Byrne's Vision wasn't missing anything but color: there's a scene in which USAgent remarks on Vision's post-reconstruction frontal nudity and Vizh responds by getting a costume. He was only, uh, gelded when he was dismantled on the table.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 24, 2014 7:59 PM
When the Vision switched bodies with anti-Vision, he got his missing part back. He later used it to have sex with Mantis.
Posted by: Steven Printz | April 24, 2014 10:27 PM
Didn't mean to start a conversation on the vision's lad, lads. Was just a joke:-)
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 25, 2014 2:52 PM
God, the Obliterator looks terrible.
Posted by: Berend | April 25, 2014 9:36 PM
Did Englehart come up with the regeneration idea before Moore (Swamp Thing)?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | May 6, 2015 6:38 PM
No, Moore's last issue of Swamp Thing was September of 1987.
Posted by: Michael | May 12, 2015 8:19 AM
"the Obliterator spills the beans that the Elders' next meeting will take place on Earth, since that's a planet that Galactus has pledged to avoid."
At least until Galactus changes his mind again. He must have reneged on his promise at least two times that I can recall.
Posted by: clyde | June 11, 2015 10:45 AM
"Stop speaking of yourself in the third person!" Thank you, Surfer, for saying what we've all been thinking for years.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 22, 2015 11:51 AM
When discussing when the Silver Surfer became a Herald of Galactus it's important to remember that, according to the Official Handbook, Galactus initially was sustained for "many centuries" by each feeding but "as ages passed" the length of time he could go without feeding decreased until he eventually needed to feed about once a month. With that in mind, it follows that for much of his life Galactus didn't need a herald and could find planets suitable for his consumption on his own. So, the idea that Galactus created his first herald, the Fallen One, only centuries or millennia ago is quite plausible.
Also, although Galactus may have existed since before the Big Bang, he has not actually been active for most of the history of the current universe. By the time he first emerged from his starship the race of Watchers had already evolved, become immortal and adopted their policy of non-interference (meaning that the Prosilican race had to have evolved to intelligence and destroyed their homeworld by misusing the knowledge given to them by the not-yet-Watchers some time before the Watcher Ecce first observed the being who would become Galactus). And then, Galactus spent some more time within his Incuba-Cell until an interstellar war near Archeopia led to an attack on the Incuba-Cell that caused it to open prematurely, releasing Galactus unto the universe. So, since the Elders are members of some of the first intelligent races to evolve in this universe and they are all about 4.5 billion years old, it follows that Archeopians couldn't have evolved before then. And that, in turn, implies that Galactus has probably only been active for the last 4-to-5 billion years. Or is there a flaw in my reasoning?
Posted by: Don Campbell | April 24, 2016 12:59 PM
@Don Campbell, your calculations do seem to work out. Obviously there has been so much contradictory information given about Galactus over the decades, as well as retcons of various significance, that it's difficult to come up with a totally cohesive timeline that makes sense of everything.
I suppose that problems with Galactus' chronology goes all the way back to Stan Lee giving the Silver Surfer an origin that was completely different from what Jack Kirby intended, and subsequent writers having to find ways to explain how Norrin Radd could have become the Surfer so long ago if Shalla Bal is still alive, and just how long has he been the Surfer anyway, stuff that you wouldn't have to worry about if Lee had simply gone with Kirby's idea that Galactus had created the Surfer from nothing.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 24, 2016 1:17 PM
The notion that Galactus created the Surfer from nothing is new to me, but I do recall getting the impression that once upon a time, he didn't have to eat a planet every month. It's a big universe, he could eat a planet a month and not run out, but he'll have to settle for gas giants and Pluto and things like that more often. Next Galactus-time, next Galactus-channel.
Otherwise, he eats a planet and then settles back into whatever else he does, for hundreds if not thousands of years. Galactus doesn't just find a planet and eat it. Neither is he a universal omnivore who needs regular feedings. Planets with sentient life die all the time. Can't throw a dead cat without hitting one of them. But when Galactus shows up, that's when it's a truly important event.
And, this may contradict anything else I've said, I have no real objection to Shalla Bal still being alive and young, no matter how long the Surfer's been the big "G"s herald. I have no rational explanation, but also no objection to the idea. It's possible that the people of Zenn-La are extremely long-lived, which might explain why an otherwise unimportant planet keeps appearing in the greater scheme of things.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 25, 2016 1:50 AM
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