Silver Surfer annual #2
Issue(s): Silver Surfer annual #2
It's not an auspicious start when the writer of the first issue of your big crossover event asks to have his credits removed. It's true that Englehart's problems with this issue are a little obscure and are wrapped up in a larger conflict that he was having with Marvel's editors at this point, but it a perfect symbol of the fact that Atlantis Attacks was an editor driven event. Virtually half of the fourteen issues that comprise Atlantis Attacks were not written by the regular series' writer (it's exactly half if you include Englehart in the "no" column). That includes an Avengers issue written by editor Michael Higgins (who had exactly one Marvel universe writing credit to his name so far), and the first X-Men annual that was not written by Chris Claremont since he began writing them with #3. By contrast, all but one of the eleven Evolutionary War annuals were written by the regular creative team, and that one issue was written by Steve Gerber and prominently featured the Man-Thing.
Evolutionary War was surely an editor driven event, and at first pass Atlantis Attacks would seem to be a very similar type of event. Both take place in annuals, and both draw from Marvel's deep history and even include Sagas in the back that recap that history for new readers. But with Evolutionary War, the structure of the story allowed individual writers to go in their own directions without having to move a larger plot along. That format did make the High Evolutionary's plans seem disjointed, but it allowed for some good individual stories. By contrast, this story is much more plot focused and there is no time available for character development. It's a decent overall plot - although at 14 issues it is stretched a bit thin - but the plotting and scripting of the individual issues is so by the numbers it's a dreary bore of a read.
It should be noted that despite - or perhaps because of - the editorial control of the plot, this storyline is riddled with continuity errors. The multiple writers surely didn't help, but it's worth noting that when i say this story was driven by editorial, i'm mainly thinking of the Mark Gruenwald/Ralph Macchio/Tom DeFalco faction. The individual books were still edited by the regular series editors. So when you have Craig Anderson approving this issue or, say, Bob Harras approving the plot of the New Mutants issue, they may not have been as clued in to know if it makes sense to show the Dreaming Celestial, or, say, Atlantis getting destroyed. That doesn't explain all of the problems - some just relate to the coordination of when this story should take place relative to the regular series - but in retrospect it seems if you're going to have something tightly plotted and you're not going to have a single writer, you might at least consider a single editor.
This Silver Surfer issue might best be thought of as a prologue. The Silver Surfer accidentally wakes up the Deviant priest, Ghaur, whose molecules had been dispersed into space after his attempt to control the Dreaming Celestial on Earth.
The Surfer battles Ghaur for a while...
...but then Ghaur decides that there's no point in fighting further and heads to Earth.
The Surfer decides that fighting Ghaur and protecting Earth is none of his business since he's wrapped up in the Kree-Skrull War (never mind that he's the one that woke up Ghaur!), and decides not to follow.
But then he later feels guilty about it and sends a signal to Earth that is noticed by Doctor Strange and Talisman.
Meanwhile, Ghaur heads to the Lemuria that is populated by mer-men (i.e., not the Deviant one that is currently controlled by Kro, who does not appear in this event at all), and frees the imprisoned Llyra.
Ghaur explains to Llyra that while he was floating in space, he was contacted by the Elder God Set and told to recreate the Serpent Crown.
Lyra is to be Ghaur's "prime agent" for reasons not really explored.
The main story ends with the Dreaming Celestial's dreams taking a turn for the worse.
There seem to be a few misfires here, which may be related to the fact that Englehart took his name off of this. The first is the undue focus on the Dreaming Celestial, who appears at the beginning and end of this story but has nothing to do with it or the larger Atlantis Attacks event. I guess he's just there because it relates to Ghaur's last adventure, but a flashback panel could have covered that. There's also the inclusion of Talisman despite the fact that Alpha Flight does not get involved in Atlantis Attacks at all. And i also find the absence of the current Deviant leader, Kro, who was recently seen in Avengers annual #17 ruling Lemuria, to be odd. This story makes sure to make the distinction between Homo Mermanus' Lemuria and the Deviant version, but the fact that there are two Lemurias is such a weird thing that it could have used some further clarification or even consolidation. Kro's absence is highlighted by the blurb on the cover declaring the return of "the" Deviant, and inside the book Ghaur similarly corrects the Silver Surfer's exclamation of "A Deviant---?" with "One could better say... the Deviant, Silver Surfer!". I think Kro would beg to differ; he can get pretty deviant when he wants to.
It's not a fault of this story, but this is as good a time as any to note that Atlantis Attacks is also a bit of a misnomer. It's true that Atlantis will Attack at some point during the course of this event, but you can already see that the big players are Ghaur and Llyra and their Lemurian Deviants and mer-people, and of course Set and the Serpent Crown. Atlantis (and Attuma) are bit players and dupes.
This issue is basically a non-story; a set-up for an event that Englehart won't be participating in further. It's not a bad set-up, although as noted a couple of the things seemingly set-up turn out to be irrelevant.
All of these annuals also have a maddening number of back-up features. The vast majority are disposable filler, although there are a few that will serve as continuity fixer-uppers. None in this issue, though.
As to Englehart's stated problems with this issue, it seems to be largely that he didn't get to include some dialogue that he liked from his previous Serpent Crown saga:
What happened in Annual #2 was more revealing, though. First, from the department of simple facts, a story where the Surfer explained the universe became a story where Mr. Fantastic explained the universe, and evidently Reed doesn't know, as the Surfer did, that Uranus is not the farthest planet from the sun. The hot spot, though, was in the lead story: the Serpent Crown originally remembered the story in Avengers #148 where the Beast (my first alter ego) explained the world in his guise as President: "We run your lives, and you don't know it, since so few of us ever step out from behind the scenes. Even then, all you see is an image -- a carefully crafted image, like any products. We talk a lot about honesty, and pride, and team-spirit -- but all we really want is power. The talk's just to get you to give it to us. And you do! We commit the most outrageous acts--turn completely around on everything we've never claimed to stand for--and you go right along, pretending not to notice." Not bad for 1976 (just before I left Marvel the first time), but much too hot for 1989.
The scene about Mr. Fantastic that he's complaining about is included below and does seem to be inaccurate (Mr. Fantastic seems to be thinking of Neptune). His "hot spot" though, doesn't seem like it can possibly be the only real reason he had a problem with the issue. It may very well show the changes in political climate between 1976 and 1989, but we're talking about reprinting a line of irrelevant dialogue in a flashback panel. It seems perfectly within editorial discretion to cut it. That said, Englehart was fighting with his editors on multiple fronts, so this may have been enough to cause him to withdraw his credit again.
The first back-up promises to tell us "How the Silver Surfer's powers work" but doesn't really. The second is a two-page spread of the Surfer describing the relative "cosmic awareness" of various characters from Mantis to Professor X to Galactus. The third is "an informal tour of the universe" starring Mr. Fantastic and Franklin Richards which has a little actual science...
...as well as some representation from Marvel's various alien races.
The fourth feature shows Reptyl doing his pirate thing.
The fifth, written by Renee Witterstaetter, shows Silver Surfer encountering what appears to be a woman of Terrax's race...
...and unwittingly convincing her not to sell her soul to Mephisto.
And then there's the Saga of the Serpent Crown feature, which for this part recaps and expands on the origin of the Elder Gods from Thor annual #10.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part one of Atlantis Attacks; part two takes place in Iron Man annual #10. The MCP has the Silver Surfer appearing here during Silver Surfer #28 (although the next issue blurb points us to Silver Surfer #26). Talisman's cameo must take place after she and the rest of Alpha Flight get back to Earth in Alpha Flight #76. We'll be ignoring Dr. Strange's eyepatch throughout Atlantis Attacks as well as in his New Mutants appearances; it's obvious that the implant from Silver Dagger did not take well at first and Strange had to hide a nasty infection. I'm not really concerning myself with the back-ups. Reptyl probably shouldn't be appearing here and doing old school pirating during his stay on Satriani in Silver Surfer #28 but i don't think it's the end of the world if he does (the guy obviously has multiple irons in the fire), and the Surfer's secondary appearance can fit in the same gap in #28 as the main story. I'm not counting Mr. Fantastic and Franklin Richards's little science feature as appearances, and i'm similarly not including the Watcher and Gaea. Avengers West Coast #50-52 has to take place after this since Llyra is freed in that story, but before Avengers annual #18 which shows the Golden Age Human Torch among the Avengers.
Crossover: Atlantis Attacks
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showDr. Strange, Dreaming Celestial, Ghaur, Llyra, Mephisto, Reptyl, Silver Surfer, Talisman
Or Strange could be finding the new eye disorienting after not having one for so long and is using the patch whenever he has to go into action...?
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | October 16, 2014 5:04 PM
The reason why Llyra is Set's prime agent is because the Lemurians were ruled by Set's servant Naga for centuries, and Llyra is the most cunning and evil Lemurian. This is something that Englehart COULD have shown us in flashbacks.
Posted by: Michael | October 16, 2014 7:50 PM
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