Silver Surfer #40-43
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #40, Silver Surfer #41, Silver Surfer #42, Silver Surfer #43
The Silver Surfer is tracked down by a robot that is from a world that Thanos was supposed to have been a citizen of. The planet now wants to investigate the death of its citizen.
Surfer is lured into going along with the robot by the promise that Thanos' recorded last will and testament will be played. But the whole thing turns out to be an elaborate trap. The Surfer finds that his powers are drained the moment he lands on the planet. The Surfer therefore expects that the trial of Thanos' murder will be a sham, but the ruling is that the Surfer shouldn't be held responsible for the death, given the circumstances. So he's free to go. And yet Thanos' last testament indicates that something is up.
And it turns out that the Silver Surfer can't leave because he has to pay an exit tax.
And of course the Surfer has none of the local currency, and can't use his powers.
What follows are three issues of a satire on bureaucracy and income inequality as the Surfer tries to find some way to get a job on the planet to pay for his exit tax.
At one point the Silver Surfer goes to a company that buy dreams from people. He negotiates to be paid enough to get himself and a few other people off the planet. But after selling his dreams, he winds up not making any money due to various bureaucratic deductions and taxes. He similarly gets a job later manipulating energy as a form of entertainment. If you wanted to get meta about it, both scenarios seem a little bit like commentary on a comic book creator working for a big publisher. But i could be overthinking it.
The other notable event is when Drax shows up, having determined that Thanos is still alive. But Drax is too dumb to realize that the Silver Surfer can't leave the planet.
The Silver Surfer's problem is resolved when he commits enough offenses on the planet that he's scheduled for termination. And termination is performed by ejecting people off the world. And once he's off world, he gets his powers back.
A friend of his that tags along warns him not to turn around and attack the planet, because many innocents will die in the conflict. So he's forced to just accept the fact that he was able to escape.
I have mixed feelings about this story. I was definitely outraged when i first read it, years ago. The Silver Surfer is cosmic! Powerful! Some random planet can't just drain his energy! But at least Starlin cites a precedent for the power drain (Dr. Doom) and we know that Thanos had associated with the planet, so he might have helped develop something that could drain the Surfer's powers. But beyond that kind of fanboy complaint (which i still harbor, deep inside) it's just a question of tone. Is the Silver Surfer the sort of book for a comedic, satirical story like this? Marvel definitely thinks so. We've had a couple of Impossible Man appearances, the second of which was basically Starlin's announcement that this book needed to lighten up, and last issue's fill-in, which was along the same lines as this but even less subtle. And the story here follows the basic original Star Trek style format of a space explorer going to some planet that's a metaphor for some aspect of our own lives (again, as was last issue). And this isn't just goofiness, there's a lot to say about someone trapped in a hopeless economic situation and the bureaucracy and greed that traps him there. On balance, this was good, but i hope we get back to ultra powerful cosmic entities trading energy blasts soon. *checks next issue* Ok, we're cool.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This issue starts with the Surfer delivering the body of "Thanos" to Mentor and Starfox (Drax is also there, and he doesn't believe it). It's actually a little odd that the Surfer waited until after Silver Surfer annual #3 and last issue to deliver the body, but last issue references the annual, and the annual has Silver Surfer telling Captain America that Thanos is dead.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showDrax the Destroyer, Geatar, Mentor, Silver Surfer, Starfox
Wow, I forgot this arc lasted three issues! I had one of them as a kid but thought it was just a one-shot piece of comedy amid the Thanos stuff.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | June 19, 2015 5:41 PM
I couldn't stand that Dynamo City was able to drain the Surfer's powers. The same thing happened in Englehart's run, when Reptyl's device was able to drain the Surfer's powers. I didn't mind when Doom was able to drain the Surfer's powers, because Doom's intellect has proved a major challenge to cosmic beings like Galactus and the Beyonder. But the Reptyl and Dynamo City stories make it seem like cosmic power drainers were on sale at the outer space equivalent of Wal-Mart. How is it the Surfer never encountered this problem in his centuries of servitude to Galactus? I realize this is necessary if you want to put the Surfer up against a non-cosmic threat but then maybe writers should stick to cosmic opponents for the Surfer.
Posted by: Michael | June 19, 2015 7:17 PM
I'm going with fnord and assuming Thanos was behind the power loss.
Posted by: AbeLincoln1865 | June 20, 2015 12:00 PM
I unreservedly love this arc, maybe because I was never a Silver Surfer fanboy or whatever. Like you said, it has a Star Trek vibe, which is great, but what I love about this is Thanos's role in it. It's a brilliant trap that took a lot of preparation, and it even indicates a subtle sense of humor. This is why Starlin's Thanos was so memorable for me.
Posted by: Andrew F | June 21, 2015 11:57 AM
I too hated seeing theses issues. They would have been fine for a Warlock story--this is the kind of absurdity Starlin's half-made anti-hero could have made work. But the Surfer is just the wrong character for the tone: when a guy like him is powerless before a bureaucracy, he just seems whiny and wimpy. This is unfortunately the start of a years-long trend of the Surfer being demoted and just killing gime in his own book while Starlin's Thanos/Warlock/Infinity books take center stage.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | June 29, 2015 5:51 AM
I didn't mind these in theory, but at four issues the arc was just way too long. It definitely felt like Starlin/Marz were treading water while the important stuff was going on over in Thanos Quest. And then the same thing happens again once Infinity Gauntlet starts, but it's even worse since Silver Surfer went biweekly for some reason, so we get 10 filler issues where nothing important happens (oh, wait, I'm sorry, we get that important "Death of Clumsy Foulup" issue...).
I really love this era of Silver Surfer, but it definitely suffered from "neglected child" syndrome during some of these events.
Posted by: Darth Weevil | July 31, 2015 9:06 PM
Interesting how dependent Norrin Radd is on his powers. Tony Stark without his suit would have been able to adapt better. Further supports Thanos's comment during his fight against Champion which was happening concurrently that the Brain is the strongest muscle. Poor Surfer is now so reliant on his power cosmic to survive.
Starlin makes adverse comments on government that support (unintentionally) libertarian views. He shows the cruelty of taxation on the populace. Why the many inhabitants would come willingly to Dynamo City for work/live when you have to wait 14 hours in an employment queue just to cop a 50% tax plus 25 % union fees is a question that I wish Starlin would attempt to answer.
Thanos being the consummate political entrepreneur manipulates the law to his advantage. I got the impression Starlin was more of a lefty after reading Thanos espousing the population explosion views a few issues previously.
Great arch overall in how the ideas were presented and credit for Starlin in attempting to tackle some contemporary issues. I felt Ann Nocenti in the shadows while reading this one.
Posted by: Grom | August 13, 2015 9:30 AM
Starlin's viewpoint was shaped fairly early on by his responses to Vietnam (where he served as a Navy aviation photographer), Watergate, and a Catholic upbringing. (He once said: "the nuns, who taught the majority of the classes, were sadistic John Birch lunatics.") His question-authority stance is very apparent from his 70s work. And if you want to see him get quite specific in terms of a critique of the American right-wing establishment, check out the graphic novel "Kid Kosmos Kidnapped" (Dynamite, 2006).
Posted by: Instantiation | August 13, 2015 11:30 AM
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