When you think about the comics that have made the Silver Surfer an icon in the superhero genre, they all feature an equally iconic artist: Jack Kirby, Moebius, John Buscema, Michael Allred. There’s something about this specific character that draws out the best in artists. So it should come as no surprise that Tradd Moore’s take on the character is nothing short of stunning. Moore is already recognized as one of the preeminent talents working in comics today, but Silver Surfer: Black #1 feels like a step forward from an already impressive oeuvre. Whether or not one is a fan of the Surfer or current cosmic stories at Marvel, Silver Surfer: Black is a must-read for its dynamic storytelling and powerful designs.
Before delving into Moore’s ample contributions with collaborating colorist Dave Stewart, it’s worth noting that writer Donny Cates has laid a potent foundation on which to erect this visual monument. Spinning out of the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy, the plot is already in motion as almost all of Marvel’s cosmic heroes are sent plunging into a black hole. Beginning in media res allows readers to be swept off their feet by action that is fast-paced and morphed in the pressures of constantly compressing time and space. This stirring start allows Cates to engage the Surfer in a tradition began by Stan Lee. He takes a more introspective stance on the character, delivering inner monologues filled with well-earned angst and philosophical tangents. It’s the sort of purple prose that could go awry elsewhere, but is perfectly situated to the character, circumstances, and presentation at hand. It also helps to pace a reading experience where each new page is hungrily sought.
Moore emphasizes the alienness of the Surfer in these pages. He is a fluid being, pulled apart and reformed in the forces of a black hole. Rather than appearing as a man who was given power, he looks like amorphous power choosing the shape of a man. This serves to highlight his immense abilities before they take shape in an awe-inspiring gesture near the end of the issue. Even when he is simply surviving, Norrin Radd is clearly more than he once was, a cosmic entity who focuses on maintaining a fragile humanity (one enhanced by Cates’ monologue). Moore regularly alters perspectives on the Surfer, providing splashes that make him loom large and scattered panels filled with darkness to remind readers how small he is in scale to the vacuum of space. It’s in this way that Moore illustrates the contradictions that make the Surfer so compelling. He might speak directly to his guilt in the introductory pages, but readers are made to feel his strife on every single page.
Dave Stewart offers a new lens on Moore’s work, as well. His colors enhance the fluidity of the Surfer and the twisting panels of space-time that buffet him throughout the first half of the story. There is a softer sensibility to Stewart’s approach, one that presents these complex forms as wholes. Even as he defines a complex musculature with darkening shades of blue and grey, there’s never any separateness within the Surfer’s form. This enhances the sense of the Surfer and his surroundings as cosmic forces, unbound by human constraints and easily disconnected from humanity.
Moore and Stewart’s approach also makes the three antagonists presented halfway through the issue all the more frightening. They are strictly defined by harsh, dividing lines. Their outfits are austere and inhuman, presenting a different sort of alienness, one that seeks to be apart instead of together. Before the action proceeds, these faceless beings are already intimidating for what they might represent based on the stunning designs of their costumes and surroundings. It also makes the final page feel like something of a mixed bag, as it offers a very familiar visage, one that threatens to end this wondrous odyssey into the unknown.
That is a thread to be played out in future issues, however. In Silver Surfer: Black #1, it merely represents a cliffhanger. Wherever this miniseries goes next, it has established itself both as a visual spectacle and poignant, sensory examination of isolation, guilt, and power. Cates’ monologue provides the Silver Surfer a specific perspective, as Moore and Stewarts’ present his being and world with additional complexity. It is a comic that is read as much in the visuals as the words, where the feeling of a sequence is every bit as important as its explanation. There are few better compliments to be paid to a comic and, if the rest of Silver Surfer: Black maintains this momentum, readies this story to join a pantheon of classic Silver Surfer tales and artists.
Published by Marvel Comics
On June 12, 2019
Script by Donny Cates
Art by Tradd Moore
Colors by Dave Stewart1comments
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Tradd Moore