And the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series of 2007 goes to…
Title: Silver Surfer: Requiem
Author: J. Michael Straczynski
Illustrator: Esad Ribic
Original Publication Date: July to October 2007
Cover Price: Each issue priced $3.99 US, $4.75 Can
Past comic reviews can be found here.
The Silver Surfer is dying. What will he do, and where will he go?
First, some background: The Silver Surfer has been around for over 40 years now. He’s appeared in several issues of the Fantastic Four and the Defenders. I’ve read all of those. He had an 18 issue series that launched in 1968; I’ve read those, too. He then had his own one shot by John Byrne in 1982; I’ve also read that. In 1987, he had his second ongoing series, that ran for 146 regular issues, plus a flashback issue and nine annuals, all of which I’ve read. In 2003, his third ongoing launched and lasted 14 issues, which are also issues I’ve read. Add these all up, and I’ve read over 200 comic books featuring this character, whom Stan Lee has described as his “Magnum Opus.” It wasn’t easy getting permission to use Silver Surfer in the Defenders in the first place, as Stan Lee wanted to reserve the right to use the character for himself. When written properly, the Silver Surfer is Marvel’s greatest icon, representing the ideal hero. The Sentinel of the Spaceways formerly known as Norrid Radd is the very personification of hope, and is the perfect tool to use when revealing what people should aspire to be. He is completely and utterly confused by why any living thing would choose to harm another. He has the power to tear solar systems apart without effort, and yet he chooses to use that power only in the protection of the innocent. Some say he’d be vegan if he needed to eat; I say he’d have as much difficulty sacrificing plant life for his own sustenance as he would animal life. Ultimately, a properly written Silver Surfer is an icon and an example of what mankind can and should be.
That being said, the “high point” of the series isn’t a specific moment, even though there are so many wonderful moments, including (but not limited to) the speech at the end of issue three, Dr. Strange’s speech of the measure of a man, and the actions of Galactus. Rather, the “high point” of the series is that this is the best written Silver Surfer I’ve ever encountered. Straczynski understands what makes the character great, and delivers exactly that. (He’s also recently turned in a script for a potential film based on the character, presumably to Fox. Based on what I see here, I’d guess it’ll be the best script they’ll receive, but they’ll buy someone else’s because readers will have to think about what they see in a comic movie, rather than just sit back and enjoy the explosions. Remember, that’s just my guess, and I hope they buy and produce Straczynski’s script, but given the Fox track record, I wouldn’t bet on it. I hope that, should my guess prove correct, Straczynski continues his established relationship with Cafe Press to publish scripts to both this series and his movie script.)
In short, if you or anyone you know has even a passing interest in this character, they need to read this series.
The existence of Zenn-La and Shalla-Bal, though so effectively used in this story, aren’t consistent with the post-Perez history of the character. Frankly, I’d rather throw the George Perez issues out of continuity and use this instead.
The main original element of the series is the manner of Norrin Radd’s imminent death. Everything else is not really what’s new with the character, but instead what’s been at his established core and made him so great for over 40 years, done better than it’s ever been done before. The frequently used elements are here, but they don’t feel stale. Instead, they feel comfortable, in a return to the character’s core. As wonderful as it is, it’s not terribly original, so I can’t justify scoring it more than 3 out of 6, but this will not hinder your enjoyment of the series in any way.
The artwork was painted by Esad Ribic. He captures the emotions of the characters perfectly. I’ve already mentioned that this is the perfectly written Silver Surfer. As such, typical pencil and line art couldn’t possibly convey the majesty required by the character. The painted canvas was the only option available, and Ribic delivers. The power and emotions available are incredible, brought to life with a colour palette with the perfect mix of spectacle and grief to tell this story. I give it 6 out of 6.
The story score should be obvious by the time you’ve read this far. I give it 6 out of 6.
Why is the story so good? Because it is centred on a letter perfect characterization of Norrin Radd and the lives he has influenced. This also receives 6 out of 6.
The emotional response is fantastic. I’d estimate that I’ve read over 5000 issues of various comic books in my lifetime. A grand total of two of them have managed to bring a tear to my eye. One was Pedro and Me, a true story about one person dealing with the loss of a very real and inspiring friend. This is the second. These characters aren’t real. I find it difficult to completely identify with an individual who can travel faster than light on a whim as he traverses the galaxy. Yet, the power of the writing still hits me. This is not a character that represents people as we are now, but rather as we should be. I don’t claim mankind should have the power to tear apart planets. Instead, I claim that we should choose to use what power we have as this fictional character from the funny pages would. If everyone in the world lived their lives by the ideals of this figment of some overactive imaginations, it would be a far better place to live. I give it 6 out of 6.
The flow is marred only by the unexplained recreation of Zenn-La. This minor issue will only bother those who read the later, lesser issues of his 1987 series. I give it 5 out of 6.
Overall, I recommend this title to anyone and everyone without hesitation or reservation. I give it 6 out of 6.
In total, Silver Surfer: Requiem receives 38 out of 42.