Silver Surfer #29-31
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #29, Silver Surfer #30, Silver Surfer #31
This issue begins with the Kree engineering someone to stand up to the Silver Surfer. The Kree have Accusers and Pursuers and their powerful Sentry robots, and they're also responsible for the genetic manipulation that created the Inhumans, but instead of any of that, they've gone to Earth and exhumed the corpse of a kung-fu master. And not the Master of Kung Fu, either, but at least it's his adopted brother.
I believe that's the first time i've seen Earth's super-characters referred to as Marvels in realtime publication.
Midnight is rechristened Midnight Sun.
He's technically not resurrected, just "re-animated with hypertronics. The original personality is gone. But what we want are the motor skills". We'll see that Midnight Sun really does seem to retain the personality of the original Midnight, but he's also given powers well beyond his kung fu abilities.
After reviewing Midnight Sun, the Kree ruler Nenora goes to gloat over the captive Shalla Bal, saying out loud that Shalla shouldn't have spoken out loud herself when coming to the conclusion that Nenora is secretly a Skrull. The ghost of the imposter of the Contemplator overhears this and adds it to the scheme of his own planned takeover of the Kree empire, which involves faking the resuscitation of the Supreme Intelligence. Shalla Bal is subsequently telepathically contacted by the Cotati (via plant ingredients in the sedatives she's been given), and they tell her they want to help in order to restore the balance between them and the Silver Surfer, for their part in Mantis' death.
Meanwhile, back in Skrull space, the pirate Reptyl bosses around his servant Clumsy Foulup and gets into a verbal fight with the Silver Surfer over Reptyl's killing of the Super-Skrull.
Flying in space to clear his mind, the Silver Surfer notices the Stranger, but the Stranger disappears before Surfer can engage.
Then the Kree show up to begin the final battle against the Skrulls.
The Surfer is kept out of the main fight because he's battling Midnight Sun.
Midnight is able to generate a darkness that cuts the Surfer off from the energy that he absorbs for his Power Cosmic...
...but the Surfer is able to detect the energy of the discs that Midnight uses to float around...
...and blast his way out.
But even out of the darkness, the Surfer is occupied with Midnight Sun. Meanwhile, Clumsy Foulup stabs his boss in the back.
Issue #30 opens with the Silver Surfer doing what he can to defeat the Kree space fleet by himself, while Englehart goes on about reptile brains again.
The Surfer's efforts are mostly in vain since Clumsy's betrayal left the Skrulls without leadership, and all the Skrull warriors in S'Byll's faction have been killed.
S'Byll herself has survived, however.
And there is still the Contemplator to consider.
And Clumsy, who has become a hero of the pink-skinned Kree, in part thanks to the Contemplator's manipulations, and in part because the discrimination against the pink by the blue Kree has them seeing the value in promoting a non-blue Kree as a war hero.
And Midnight Sun, whose encounter with the Silver Surfer has left him conflicted, and remembering his "training in the arts and wisdom of Earth's Asia".
However, when the Surfer shows up again on his way to the Kree homeworld of Hala, Midnight Sun feels compelled to fight him.
The Surfer has an easier time of it this time, though.
The fact that he knows this time that Midnight is reanimated by robotics seems to have been a factor.
The Surfer and S'Byll move on to a two-person assault on Hala.
They then meet up with Shalla Bal, who tells them that Nenora is a Skrull.
When the three confront Nenora, the Stranger shows up again, this time preventing the Silver Surfer from attacking Nenora but allowing S'Byll to do so.
S'Byll defeats Nenora by returning the Skrull's shapeshifting ability, exposing her for what she really was.
Issue #31 again opens with talk about brains, wondering what could be left after reptiles, neanderthals, and artificial intelligence.
The answer, we'll learn, is god brains.
In the meantime, though, S'Byll negotiates a truce with the current ranking member of the Kree (who happens to be a pink), and then the Surfer flies both her and Shalla Bal to their respective home planets. Shalla Bal opens up the possibility of rekindling her romance with the Surfer, but the Surfer says he's more interested in roaming the spaceways and seeking knowledge. Shalla Bal thinks he's really just not over the death of Mantis. But for now, at least, the Surfer is interested in the Stranger's actions over the course of this storyline, so he seeks him out.
Before that, though, let's wrap up the situation on Hala. Clumsy is contacted by the now-corporeal floating head of the Contemplator, who tells him that he needs Clumsy to use his new status as a war hero to support the Contemplator when he shows up as the Supreme Intelligence.
Clumsy, however, has other ideas. He goes to his pink skinned supporters and asks them if they know a "wizard". They bring him to the Cotati.
Clumsy's plan is to take over the Kree empire for himself, with the promise that he'll be a patron for all the pink Kree. He needs the Cotati to counteract the schemes of the Contemplator. The Cotati agree because they find the Contemplator's presence "objectionable" and "we are always seeking to expand our circle of contacts".
So when (still mind-dead) the Supreme Intelligence reappears, the Cotati take control from the Contemplator and make him anoint Clumsy Foulup the ruler of the Kree.
The bean sprouts take care of the floating dead head.
And then once he's settled into his leadership role, Clumsy further betrays his associates.
And now he's acting just like
I don't know how far to extend the Foulup/DeFalco metapher. Should i really be thinking of Reptyl as a Jim Shooter stand-in? Does Reptyl's killing of Super-Skrull mean something? Do the pink skinned Kree generals represent DeFalco's inner circle of editors, Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio? Are the Contemplator and the Cotati executives from Cadence and/or New World? It's probably silly to look at it too much beyond "Incompetent guy betrays his boss and becomes the new boss".
Regardless of the satirical intentions, it's the weak part of this conclusion. I guess it's a good move to leave the Kree crippled by internal factors. But surely that could have been done without a rhyming goofball (ok, he drops his rhymes at the end) named Clumsy Foulup taking control of one of the Marvel Universe's most powerful alien races. If you don't know about the satirical elements, it's just a really weird choice, an oddly comedic (but not exactly funny) beat in an otherwise serious space epic. If you do know, it's just obtrusive.
I'll say this, though: it beats having an Earth boy generate illusions of Golden Age comic book characters as an ending for a Kree/Skrull War.
But on to more cosmic stuff. The Stranger refuses to tell the Silver Surfer the point of his actions during this second War. When the Surfer persists, the Stranger repeats his "my people are... interested in mutations" line, but the Surfer calls him on it, saying it's a contradiction of the origin that he once told Mr. Fantastic.
At this point the Stranger starts getting angry, but then the Living Tribunal shows up.
It gets kind of above my pay grade at this point, but the Tribunal says that he's a Living Trinity...
...and that on the fourth side of his head, that's where the Stranger was supposed to go.
The Tribunal then asks the Silver Surfer if he would briefly like to be part of the godhead...
...and yes, yes he would.
Whee! Well, it's definitely a cosmically happy ending. I don't really know what any of it means but i can't deny the normally sullen Silver Surfer that moment of glee.
One of the advantages this Englehart title had over his other books was the nice art, first by Marshall Rogers and then by Ron Lim. So while this is a good ending for Englehart, it's nice to know that Lim will remain on the title. There is a complaint in the lettercols that Lim's Surfer is too muscular, and i agree with the sentiment behind that, but Lim is still great with the cosmic stuff while balancing splash pages with some nice story telling.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): show
If the martial arts Mantis learned were Kree, then why do they need an Earth martial artist?
Posted by: Michael | October 30, 2014 7:54 PM
The Cotati do acknowledge that they can't actually kill the Contemplator. They say "death is not part of your destruction" and then "He is a creature of the mind - it is the mind which must go", so i assume that they do drive him insane or comatose or something.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 30, 2014 9:01 PM
This is the first issue of Silver Surfer that I ever bought, and I was automatically hooked. Having Clumsy Foulup become emperor was a lousy conclusion to an otherwise great story.
Posted by: Steven | October 31, 2014 8:04 AM
I liked the Clumsy Foulup storyline. He was annoying in the earlier issues, but grew more interesting later on, and it was very interesting to see him as a puppet who out-maneuvered his puppet masters into a position he's way out of his league for. I assume he's long since been removed.
By the way, I'm not familiar with the Legion of Superheroes, but aren't some of the pinks in that last Clumsy scene wearing LSH outfits? Definite Jim Shooter reference, even though it doesn't really make sense of whatever metaphor Englehart was trying. [Shooter wrote LSH, then moved over to Marvel and became Mort Weisinger? I would even agree with that metaphor, but considering Defalco was EiC starting with "Silver Surfer" #7, it seems far-fetched.]
Posted by: ChrisW | November 3, 2014 7:43 PM
He was killed in his next appearance after this, in the Infinity Gauntlet crossover.
Posted by: Michael | November 3, 2014 7:53 PM
I think I remember that, now that you mention it. Not saying Clumsy deserved better, but at least they cared enough about continuity to rub him out on-panel, instead of just pretending he never happened. "Infinity Gauntlet" is where I really gave up on following Marvel. [And, because God has a sense of humor, is why I am so looking forward to future "Avengers" movies. A villain I've never cared about, with a stupid weapon, and he's facing the Avengers? Dude, I am so there!!!]
Posted by: ChrisW | November 3, 2014 9:53 PM
In no other appearance of the Living Tribunal is it suggested there's a fourth, blank side to his head. That just makes no sense to me. Also, I have to point out that tribunals don't have three members. The etymology of the word is from "tribe", as in a tribunal represents a tribe, not "tri", as in three.
Posted by: Andrew | January 25, 2015 9:50 PM
The hilarious thing about Clumsy Foulup's later death in one of the Infinity Gauntlet tie-in issues is that it should have been undone when Nebula got the Gauntlet and undid everything Thanos had done in the prior 24 hours. But, no: nothing else had happened, but Clumsy Foulup was still gone.
Posted by: Darth Weevil | June 25, 2015 3:18 AM
While the satire may have remained dubious no matter what, I wonder if the Clumsy Foulup stuff would have been more palatable if he didn't have a name that was so stupidly on the nose.
The "brain" stuff seems to be Engelhart's very 70s "cosmic evolution" stuff, the same sort of theme that, for example Roy Thomas drags in for Rick Jones at the end of the original Kree-Skrull War or that Kirby was playing with in his New Gods, 2001, and Eternals work.
It's illustrative to see how Jim Starlin's themes have shifted compared to Engelhart's. While I like Engelhart's Surfer run a lot better than Starlin's, I like Starlin's 70s cosmic stuff a lot better than Engelhart's Celestial Madonna saga or the Trial of the Watcher. But I'm just not that into the version of Thanos that Starlin brought back, which definitely puts me in the minority of superhero fans.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 3, 2015 5:14 PM
No-one's ever followed up the idea that the Stranger was/is a potential fourth aspect of the Living Tribunal. What would that fourth aspect be? Given that the other three are necessity, equity and vengeance, perhaps number four would be curiosity? That would fit the Stranger.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 28, 2017 6:05 PM
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