Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #1-33, Annual #1-2 (July 1987-January 1990)
Written by Steve Englehart (#1-20, 22-31, Annual #1-2), Jim Valentino (#32-33), Renee Whittersaetter (Annual #2)
Plot by Marshall Rogers (#21)
Script by Michael Higgins (#21)
Penciled by Marshall Rogers (#1-10, 12, 21), Joe Staton (#11, 13-14, Annual #1), Ron Lim (#15-20, 22-31, 33, Annual #1-2), Jim Valentino (Annual #2), Rodney Ramos (Annual #2)
Inked by Joe Rubinstein (#1-12, 14-18, 20, Annual #1), Dave Cockrum (#13, 21), José Marzan (#14, Annual #2), Keith Williams (#19, 31, Annual #2), Tom Christopher (#20, 22-23, 25-31, 33, Annual #2), Randy Emberlin (#24, Annual #1), Joe Sinnott (#32), Chris Ivy (Annual #1), Robert Campanella (Annual #2)
Coloured by Marshall Rogers (#1-12), Tom Vincent (#13-25, 27-33, Annual #1-2), Gregory Wright (#26)
Spoilers (from thirty-one to thirty-four years ago)
I’ve been wanting to revisit this run for a long time now, and I recently managed to retrieve the longbox that holds it. I remember when this series debuted, and while my young self was not previously aware of who Rogers was, I was intrigued enough by the house ads to grab a copy of the first issue. At the time, I was reading the Fantastic Four (this was just after the Byrne era ended), and had some familiarity with the Surfer and his story.
I remember being very impressed with this book, and some of the things that it introduced to me. I wasn’t too familiar with the Elders of the Universe before this book started expanding their ranks. I also remember being very interested in Mantis, who Steve Englehart (who I knew from West Coast Avengers) brought back. The thing that always impressed me the most though was the way in which Rogers portrayed scenes set in space, acknowledging that up and down are relative concepts. I loved the way that characters would interact at right angles with one another, or in other strange configurations. I’ve always wondered why more artists haven’t done that since (this same complaint applies to underwater comics).
Not too long after the book debuted, I remember seeing Rogers at a signing at the Silver Snail, which at the time was the premier comics shop in my city. It’s been cool finding his signature in these early issues (on page five, on the Surfer’s board in the first issue). I’d completely forgotten that event until I saw this.
I know that the Englehart/Rogers run has been eclipsed by the Starlin/Lim run that followed it (Ron Lim started on the book following Rogers’s departure, during Englehart’s time) and brought back Thanos and introduced the concept of the Infinity Gauntlet, but to me, Englehart’s Surfer was the definitive run with this character.
Is it still? Let’s find out…
Let’s track who turned up in the title:
- Champion (Tryco Slatterus, Elders of the Universe; #1, 3-4, 7, 9-10, 17-19)
- Ptakr (Skrull Emissary; #2-3)
- The Collector (Taneleer Tivan, Elders of the Universe; #3-4, 7, 9-10, 17-19)
- The Runner (Elders of the Universe; #3-4, 7, 9-10, 17-19)
- The Supreme Intelligence (#4, 6-8, 13, 28-29)
- Ripan (Skrull; #4-6)
- Kylor (Skrull Emperor; #4-6, 8, 13)
- Jemiah the Analyzer (Celestials; #4-5)
- The Grandmaster (En Dwi Gast; Elders of the Universe; #4, 7, 9-10, 17-19)
- The Possessor (Elders of the Universe; #4, 7, 9, 15, 17)
- The Gardener (Elders of the Universe; #4, 7-10, 17-19)
- The Contemplator (Elders of the Universe; #4, 7-9, 11-12, 21, 27-31)
- The Astronomer (Elders of the Universe; #4, 7, 9, 15-17)
- The Obliterator (Maht Pacle; Elders of the Universe; #4-6, 21)
- The Trader (Elders of the Universe; #4, 7, 9, 15-17)
- Ego (Elders of the Universe; #4, 22)
- Aptak (Skrull; #6, 8, 10)
- Councillor Phae-Dor (Kree; #6)
- Councillor Tus-Katt (Kree; #6, 31)
- Nenora (Skrull disguised as Kree, Supreme Kree Leader; #6-8, 10-13, 20, 26-30)
- Yorak (another Skrull Emperor; #6)
- Death (#10, 17)
- Clumsy Foulup (#11-12, 19-20, 25-31)
- Bartak (Skrull posing as the Silver Surfer; #11-14)
- Reptyl (#11-12, 19-20, 27-29, Annual #2)
- Ronan the Accuser (#13-14, 25)
- Krat (Skrull; #13-14)
- Malice (Dark Susan Richards; #15-16)
- Doctor Doom (Victor Von Doom; #16)
- The In-Betweener (#16-18)
- Motherboard 49.7 (#24)
- The Stranger (#27, 29-31)
- Midnight Sun (#29-30)
- Mephisto (#32, Annual #2)
- The High Evolutionary (Annual #1)
- The Dreaming Celestial (Annual #2)
- Ghaur (Deviant; Annual #2)
- Llyra (Lemurian; Annual #2)
- Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards, Fantastic Four; #1, 15-19, Annual #2)
- The Thing (Ben Grimm, Fantastic Four; #1, 10, 16)
- She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters, Fantastic Four; #1)
- Invisible Woman (Sue Richards, Fantastic Four; #1, 15-19)
- Espirita (Bonita Juarez; #3)
- Eternity (#10)
- Black Panther (T’Challa; #10)
- Crystal (Fantastic Four; #10)
- Human Torch (Johnny Storm, Fantastic Four; #10, 16)
- Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura, Fantastic Four #10, 16)
- Franklin Richards (#15, 17-19, Annual #2)
- Master Order (#17-18)
- Lord Chaos (#17-18)
- Firelord (Pyreus Kril; #19-20)
- Starfox (Eros; #19-20)
- The Living Tribunal (#31)
- The Impossible Man (#33)
- Thena (Eternals; Annual #1)
- Makkari (Eternals; Annual #1)
- Karkas (Deviant, with the Eternals; Annual #1)
- Sersi (Eternals; Annual #1)
- Ikaris (Eternals; Annual #1)
- Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange; Annual #2)
- Talisman (Elizabeth Twoyoungment, Alpha Flight; Annual #2)
- Galactus (#1, 9-10, 15, 17-20, Annual #1)
- Nova (Frankie Raye; #1, 9-15, 17-21, Annual #1)
- Shalla Bal (Empress of Zenn-La; #2, 6-9, 20-21, 25-31)
- Mantis (#3-7, 9, 20, Annual #1)
- S’byll (Skrull Empress; #13, 25-31)
- The Super-Skrull (Kl’rt; #20, 25-28, Annual #1)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- The issue opens with the Surfer flying freely through space, before backing up and explaining how he got there. He was once again hurtling himself against the barrier Galactus erected around the Earth to keep him prisoner over Antarctica. He’s greeted by the Fantastic Four (Mister Fantastic, Invisible Woman, The Thing, and She-Hulk), who are there investigating the depletion of the ozone layer. Norrin explains that he did this as a way of accessing cosmic energy; he wasn’t aware that this might cause problems for the inhabitants of Earth. As they talk, the Surfer is suddenly attacked by Champion, the Elder of the Universe who once put the Thing in the hospital. The Surfer is surprised that Champion would come after him, and as they fight, he tries to understand it. Finally, he defeats the Champion, which is a first for the Elder. He explains that he came to stop the Surfer from interfering with the Skrull race’s current play for power. He explains how since the Skrulls lost the ability to change shape, they’ve become increasingly concerned that the Kree will be able to destroy them. To protect themselves, they’ve captured Nova (Galactus’s herald – this was during the time when Richard Rider wasn’t being used as a character) in order to extort Galactus and have him destroy Kree worlds for them. As Champion talks, Norrin realizes that for him to be a threat to this plan, there must be some way for him to leave the Earth. Champion refuses to tell him more, and teleports away. Reed and Norrin start talking, reviewing how Norrin came to be trapped, and all the attempts they’ve made to get past the barrier in the past. It’s Ben who suggests that maybe the problem is Norrin’s surfboard, so they decide to try to leave without it. They head back to New York to get the Four’s spaceship. They pass right through the barrier with no problem. Norrin summons his board, turning it into energy so it can pass through the barrier too, and then he’s off, searching for Galactus, hoping he can negotiate a peace between them if he rescues Nova. He flies around for a bit, and locates Galactus in a Skrull system. They talk, and Norrin offers to help. He notices that Galactus seems to genuinely care for Nova. He also learns that she’s trapped in a facility surrounded by millions of fanatical Skrulls, and that it’s set to explode if anything happens to breach its walls. Norrin, who talks to himself a lot in space, decides to fly through the building and grab Nova at full speed, hoping he can outrace the explosion. He pulls Nova out of a chamber designed to amplify and reflect her powers back at her, causing her pain. He returns to space ahead of the explosion (effectively killing millions without giving it any thought). Nova is okay, and he returns her to Galactus. Galactus vows to destroy all Skrull worlds, but Norrin challenges him on that, insisting that if Galactus bows to the dictates of vengeance, he will disrupt the balance of the cosmos, and his place in it. Galactus raises his hand and it looks like he’s going to blast his former herald, but instead he acknowledges the wisdom of what he’s saying, and instead takes away whatever it was that made the barrier stop him. Finally completely free, Norrin flies off into space.
- The Surfer is excited to return to his homeworld of Zenn-La and see his love, Shalla Bal (whose name is sometimes hyphenated, and sometimes not) again. He surprises her in a forested city, and they embrace and start to catch up. A man from the crowd gathering around them insists that Norrin back away from her, calling him a traitor. Shalla tells the man to stop talking, and he surprises Norrin by calling her ‘empress.’ This leads to a recapping of the 1982 one-shot (see my last column), which ended with Shalla having the ability to regenerate Zenn-La’s natural ecosystem by walking on the planet. This led to the people making her their ruler. Norrin is proud of her, and declares his intent to stay on his homeworld. Shalla tells him she can’t talk further, but that they’ll spend time together in the evening. He flies to the part of the city that was once his home, and finds that it’s now a forest. He uses his power cosmic to restore his home as it once was, and reflects on how the planet is not as stagnant as he remembers it. Shalla Bal meets with Ptakr, an emissary of one of the Skrull warlords, Kylor, who has declared himself the Emperor of the Skrulls. Ptakr wants to open trade with Zenn-La, but implies a threat that if they don’t ally themselves, Zenn-La will be their enemy. Shalla lets him know that the Surfer is back on the planet and that they feel very safe against his threats. He sends a signal to his henchman, who sneaks away and meets with a spy living on Zenn-La. We learn that the Skrulls are very concerned that the Kree will learn they can’t change shape anymore, hence their grab for regional power. He tells the spy to take him to the Surfer. Norrin reflects on the differences between his planet and Earth, and it seems he’s a little wistful for his adopted planet. The Skrull shoots him in the back while he’s thinking, but the weapon doesn’t hurt him at all. He blasts the two Skrulls, and lets them know that if the Champion can’t defeat him, neither can they. He reveals that he knows Skrulls have lost their abilities, and takes the two to Shalla. In her throne room, she tells Ptakr that she will not get involved with the Skrulls. The Surfer makes it clear he will protect the planet, and tells him to tell all the so-called Skrull emperors to stay away. After the Skrulls have left, Norrin and Shalla talk. He proposes to her, but she turns him down, explaining that her duty to her planet comes first, and that so much of her sense of duty came from his lessons before they were separated. She also doesn’t want Norrin to rebuild the planet, because she thinks it’s important that Zenn-Lavians do that work. He considers taking the power cosmic away from Shalla, but realizes that would be wrong. She asks him to continue to protect the planet, and he agrees, but he also realizes he can’t wait for Shalla to come around. He decides to leave right then. First, he destroys the house he rebuilt, leaving behind a marker indicating it was where he was born. After some thought, he changes his name on the marker from Norrin Radd to the Silver Surfer, and flies off, recognizing that space is now his home.
- The Collector is on his ship when his wife, Matani, returns from the dead (it’s been three billion years since she died). She is immediately overwhelmed with ennui and decides to die again, which leaves him very upset. As he stands there and mourns, the Surfer bursts through the hull announcing he’s come for him. This takes place after an Avengers and West Coast Avengers Annual crossover that featured the Surfer, the Collector, and the Grandmaster. The Collector explains to the Surfer that he’s not that involved in the actions of the other Elders, so doesn’t know why the Champion confronted him, but explains his involvement with the Avengers because Grandmaster promised to restore his wife to him. Espirita, who was formerly Firebird, comes out of hiding on the ship to tell the Surfer that she’s been there since the start of the crossover (she was the only Avenger that didn’t die when the rest drank poison), and she wants the Surfer to take her home. They leave, and The Collector immediately calls the Champion to let him know that the Surfer is on to them. A plant in his collection notices this. The Surfer arrives back on Earth with Bonita, who tells him that some on Earth saw him as holy. The Surfer doesn’t believe in the Christian god, but acknowledges that there might be a plan for the universe. Somewhere on the edge of the Milky Way, a Kree vessel patrols. They spot Ambassador Ptakr’s ship, and the Skrull immediately moves to attack. The Kree take some damage, but the Skrull ship’s engines are damaged. As the Kree move to board and take them prisoner, Ptakr orders the Skrulls to commit suicide, since they need to hide the fact that they can’t change shape. The Kree are surprised to find their bodies disintegrated, and a potted plant that didn’t seem to fit on the bridge provides a bit of exposition. The Surfer continues to fly around, thinking about the Elders, and how he’s only ever met three of them. That’s when he’s joined by a fourth, The Runner, a golden figure that runs silently through space. The Runner tells the Surfer that many thought they were related, and then attacks him. They have a visually interesting fight, and the Surfer is surprised to discover how powerful the Runner is. They blast each other, and the Runner is victorious. He flings the Surfer towards a planet and runs off. We see the Surfer at the bottom of an impact crater, in the most pain he’s been in since Galactus changed him. He thinks he’s dying, but then he is touched by Mantis, who suddenly appears.
- The Surfer is suffering from his injuries, but sees Mantis come to him in a vision. She wakes him up and he finds her sitting over him on the planet where he crashed. She explains that she used medicinal poultices on him, and that restored him. He’s met her once before, when the Avengers and Defenders clashed, but doesn’t understand how she can survive on the hostile planet they are on. He explains how he came to be in a fight with The Runner, and how he got involved with the Avengers teams in their fight, claiming that after leaving Zenn-La, he rested on a tropical world, and had a vision. Mantis tells him that she knows where the Elders are meeting, so she gets on his board and as they fly there, she recounts her whole history (Saigon, Swordsman, Priests of Pama, Moondragon, Cotati, Celestial Madonna, motherhood). Now she’s bored, since her son has gone into solitude, and now that she’s basically Cotati, she can travel around the universe, and learned that the Grandmaster and Collector were scheming. She fed the Surfer his vision on the tropical world, and wants to help the Surfer stop them in their scheme. On Kree-Lar, the central world in the Kree Empire, the Supreme Intelligence figures out that the Skrulls have lost their shape changing abilities. He calls for spies. On one of the Skrull worlds, the leader that Ptakr was working for learns of his death. His conversation with an underling is put on hold when they see a giant Celestial has turned up on their world. Surfer and Mantis approach a world with no plant life, and manage to sneak up on the Elders in their conclave. The Surfer knows the Grandmaster, Collector, Champion, and Runner, and figures out who the Possessor, Gardener, and Contemplator are, but doesn’t recognize three others. The Runner brags that he killed the Surfer, and everyone squabbles a little (this allows us to learn the names of the Obliterator, Astronomer, and Trader). The Grandmaster explains why he brought them all together, telling them that his recent gambit with the Avengers and Death paid off, and now the Elders are all immortal. This is only part of the plan though, and now he wants to kill the only being older than them; Galactus. Grandmaster is interrupted by the planet itself – they are standing on Ego – who alerts them to the presence of the Surfer and Mantis. There is a fight with the planet and some of the Elders, and the Surfer grabs Mantis and flies off. Mantis gives the Surfer a kiss, and they fly off.
- Issue five starts off with a pitched fight in space between the Surfer and the Obliterator, who Rogers draws as a cartoonish oaf who wears a weird harness that holds his weapons. Mantis drifts nearby while the two men fight, unable to get involved or propel herself. When Obliterator takes a shot at her, the Surfer gets very angry and flies him into a planet, leaving him beneath its molten crust. He flies to Mantis and as they continue their journey, they chat about what the Elders are doing. The Surfer points out that had they not attacked him, he wouldn’t have been in any position to help Galactus. On the Skrull world of Tarakar, (would-be) Emperor Kylor decides to fly up and speak to Jemiah the Analyzer, the Celestial that has appeared on their world. He talks about how the Skrulls were descended from offshoots of the Deviants of Earth. He talks about the strength of the Skrull people, but then admits that they’ve been defeated often, and have lost their shape changing abilities. Realizing that he’s probably not convincing the Analyzer, he orders him attacked. The various Skrull weapons do no good, and Kylor worries. At the same time, a Kree Captain, Tar-Rell, prepares to go undercover among the Skrulls to find out what is going on with them. The Surfer takes Mantis to a planet rich with plant life so she might recover. He asks her why she kissed him before, and she explains that she likes him. This causes the Surfer to think about the few times that Shalla Bal has kissed him in the centuries he’s been the Surfer (do we know how and why she’s still alive?), and to come to the conclusion that he’s supposed to always be alone in life. Mantis tries to break through his stoicism, but they are attacked again by the Obliterator. This time Mantis elects to fight him, using her martial arts. He counters with defoliant, and then blasts her. Captain Ta-Rell arrives on the Skrull planet and puts on a Skrull disguise (it probably would have been safer to do that before he arrived). He hitches a ride with a driver and learns about the Celestials. As they enter the city, a biobeam recognizes that he’s not Skrull, and he’s captured and taken to an interrogator. The Surfer is furious to see that Mantis is dead, and attacks Obliterator in a rage. The Elder is able to blast him into a crater, but then the Surfer uses the power cosmic to transform his weapons, rendering them useless. Without his tools, Obliterator loses his purpose, and collapses, expecting to die. He doesn’t though, thanks to the Grandmaster, and despairs. Mantis returns, having grown herself a new plant body. She tells the Obliterator that he’s going to help them, and he agrees, since he is furious with the Grandmaster. The Skrulls follow their emperor to launch a preemptive strike against the Kree.
- The Skrull emperor Kylor, his second Ripan, and his third, Aptak watch as their fleet attacks and devastates a Kree outpost. Aptak, we learn, is a male Skrull trapped in the shape of a female Waziliahan, having been sent to Waziliah to spy when the bomb that froze the Skrulls in their current state exploded. He’s pretty angry. On Kree-Lar, the Supreme Intelligence confers with his council – Phae-Dor, a blue supremacist, Tus-Katt, and Nenora, as well as Nullet, a monkey-like creature that runs his machines. They discuss the Skrull attack, and after listening to Phae-Dor’s racist rant, the Intelligence lays out a plan to lure the Skrull fleet towards a Kree planet that they will evacuate and blow up as a trap. The Surfer and Mantis question the Obliterator, who talks about how the present reality was birthed out of a previous one, and how his planet was one of the first to develop life. He grew into a passion for killing, and killed everyone on his planet before leaving it to hunt across the galaxy. He met the Gardener and learned that he was an Elder because of his singular passion. Once the Elders learned that Galactus was the sole being to survive the previous reality, they decided that meant they were vulnerable to life ending, and decided they needed to kill him. Their understanding is that this will hasten the end of this reality, allowing them the opportunity to replace Galactus in the next reality. Things get cosmic and weird, and the one thing I don’t understand is how Obliterator’s purpose is gone simply because the Surfer destroyed his weapons. Can’t he just get more? Anyway, Obliterator tells our heroes that the Elders are next meeting on Earth, since Galactus won’t go there. The Surfer is not happy to learn he has to return to Earth once again, and also doesn’t like it when Mantis calls him by his real name. They fly off, leaving the Obliterator behind. Phae-Dor oversees the Kree trap, and is unhappy to see the Skrull fleet turning away from the planet they prepared as a trap. The Supreme Intelligence calls him back to Kree-Lar, suspecting he has a spy. Kylor is pleased to foil the Krees’ plans. He gets a call from Yorak, another Skrull claiming to rule the Empire, who is furious to see him antagonizing their enemies. Mantis and the Surfer talk about how he is unhappy that Mantis keeps making him return to Earth. She points out that he’s just trying to push her away in denial of his feelings for her, and he resists for a bit, and tries to claim fidelity to Shalla Bal. They end up making out on the surfboard. The Supreme Intelligence speaks to his council, revealing that he knows one of them is a spy. He blasts Nullet, his simian-techno, since it can’t defend itself. We readers learn that Nenora is actually a Skrull, although she wonders if Nullet was too. Nenora is promoted to fill in for the creature, and she suggests that they pull together some of the non-aligned planets into their orbit before the Skrulls do the same. The Surfer talks to Mantis about how he’s not as demonstrative as humans are, but then they make out some more. They are interrupted by Shalla Bal, who is communicating through the power cosmic. She tells the Surfer that the Kree fleet is moving towards Zenn-La. The Surfer is torn between his two missions, stopping the Elders or protecting his homework, and decides he must keep his promise to Shalla Bal. He says he’ll leave Mantis on a world with vegetation so she can transfer herself to Earth.
- As the Surfer approaches Zenn-La, one of the three Kree vessels headed to that planet breaks off to engage him. He flies right through it, destroying it. The other two ships enter the atmosphere and reconfigure to look like giant robots. The Surfer destroys one outright, and then engages the other in a brief battle before taking its weapons apart and grounding it. Shalla Bal calls to him from the roof of her government building, but he ignores her and enters the Kree ship. He speaks to the vessel’s Captain, telling him that if either the Kree or the Skrulls attack his world again, he will side with their enemy in their war. The Captain explains that he doesn’t speak for the Empire, so the Surfer tells him to prepare his ship to be towed back to Kree space on his way to meet the Supreme Intelligence. He flies over to see Shalla Bal, and is pretty cold to her. He also lets her know that he’s met someone new, even though he recognizes that to tell her like this is childish. He leaves, and she is upset (even though she was the one who turned him away before). On Earth, Mantis emerges from a cocoon in a new body that grows clothes as she climbs through the jungle. She approaches the meeting of the Elders of the Universe (minus Obliterator, the Contemplator, and obviously, Ego). The Gardener starts to speak of their plan to kill Galactus, thereby causing the end of reality, and ensuring they are reborn in the next one as immortal gods. He also talks about the soul gems (now known as the Infinity Stones). We get a recap of how Thanos tried to use them to destroy a bunch of stars, but was stopped by the Avengers and other heroes. After, Captain Marvel left Adam Warlock’s gem on his grave, where the Gardener later retrieved it after a fight with the Hulk. The rest of the Elders have been tracking down the other gems. The Collector got one after he was restored to life in the Contest of Champions, Champion got one, and the Trader got two more, leaving only one gem left for them to acquire. This is why the Contemplator isn’t with them at this conclave. At this point, the Gardener reveals that he knows Mantis is spying on them, and he commands the plants to capture her. Unable to use her own powers to control them, or to move to another place, she sends out a signal to Zenn-La, but Shalla Bal, hearing it faintly, ignores it. The Surfer arrives in Kree-Lar space, where he is given an escort to the Supreme Intelligence. He asks the SI to leave Zenn-La out of the Krees’ plans, and he agrees. Next, the Surfer also asks them to stay away from Earth, but the Intelligence, citing Earth’s involvement in the first Kree-Skrull War, refuses. The Surfer says this forces him to join the Skrulls in this war, and the Intelligence blasts him, knocking him out. The Intelligence explains to Nenora that he’s just absorbed the Surfer’s soul. He further explains that he started absorbing the minds of pink Kree a while back, since blue Kree are evolutionarily stagnant, but that the conflict between the two people was making him go crazy until he got a soul gem. We see that the Contemplator is also in the Intelligence’s chamber, and the Intelligence explains that this is why he can’t give him the gem he was wanting. As they speak, the Surfer is removed from the room via an elevator hidden in the floor.
- Trapped inside the Supreme Intelligence, the Surfer’s soul finds itself in a weird Surrealistic domestic situation (complete with an oversized pipe, and slippers he tries to smoke), with an amalgam of Shalla Bal and Mantis living with him. He’s attacked by blue-skinned Kree, and runs. This conflict has an effect on the Supreme Intelligence. Nenora recognizes that somethings wrong, and slips away to contact Aptak, her contact among the Skrulls (and, apparently, her boyfriend), to tell him. Nenora also lets the Skrulls know that the Contemplator wants the SI’s soul gem. Kylor wants her to steal it, but she knows she can’t, and has to hang up before their conversation ends. A Kree scientist comes to tell her that they can’t seem to figure out the Surfer’s board. In the Supreme Intelligence, the Surfer wanders in a desert, talking to a silver coyote. The Contemplator comes to speak to him as an astral form, but can’t maintain communication. The Intelligence asks the Contemplator what he’s doing, and explains that he needs to assimilate the Surfer’s soul as he has the blue and now pink Kree. All these soldiers in the Intelligence attack the Surfer, but the plant life in the desert dreamscape helps him escape. He decides he has to be true to himself, so he returns to fight them all, with the help of the plants. On Zenn-La, Shalla Bal wanders in the forest, thinking about the voice she heard. She decides she needs to try to contact Mantis the way she did the Surfer, and sends a message using the power cosmic. The Surfer comes across a silver eagle, and they are attacked by a giant flying spider squid dragon thing, that is, I think, the manifestation of the Supreme Intelligence. The Surfer rides on the eagle, and does his best to fight the creature even though he can’t access his powers there. His board responds to him from outside the Intelligence, and flies right into the Intelligence’s soul gem, manifesting inside him to help the Surfer. He flies back out through the gem, taking it with him, and heads for space. The Intelligence starts to collapse into madness, and the Contemplator worries that the game is up for the Elders now. On Zenn-La, the Gardener answers Shalla Bal’s summons.
- The Elders meet again (absent are the Obliterator and Ego) on a platform in space. With them are Shalla Bal and Mantis, trapped in an energy orb by the Gardener. The Contemplator tells them about how the Surfer took the soul gem from the Supreme Intelligence, rendering him insane. The Possessor shares that Nenora is really a Skrull, although they all see the new Kree-Skrull War as inconsequential, since they plan to end reality that day. The Surfer flies through space, having figured out that Mantis was captured, and receives a message from the Gardener, telling him that he has both of his women, and that he’ll get them back in exchange for the soul gem. The Surfer flies quickly to the cone nebula, where the Elders are, ready to make the trade. Both Mantis and Shalla Bal try to tell him not to do it, but he quickly gives up the gem. The Gardener sends the orb with the women in it flying away, and the Surfer gives chase. When he reaches it, it explodes, and as quickly as he can move, he is only able to save one woman – Shalla Bal. He’d intended to save Mantis, and is distraught. He speaks with Shalla Bal, letting him know he didn’t choose her. She talks about how she was jealous of Mantis, and impressed that she kept trying to escape the Gardener. The Surfer talks about how his love for Mantis (this feels kind of quick) was way more passionate than what is typical on Zenn-La, and he vows to get his revenge after dropping Shalla Bal off somewhere safe. Somewhere in space, Nova scouts a planet for her master, rejecting it. She sees her signal go off somewhere else, and realizes that someone is luring Galactus away. She rushes to the signal, and finds Galactus confronted by the Elders on their platform. Nova tries to talk the Elders out of killing Galactus, but they use their gems to create an energy web connecting six planets around their platform, and channel it through a big antenna thing, to start draining Galactus’s life force. Nova flies into the beam, hoping to disrupt it, but is hurt. Galactus starts to dissipate, but the Surfer comes flying in and deflects some of the beam with his silver skin. He tells Nova to destroy the six planets by blowing up the local sun, and once she does that, the sun starts to become a black hole, and starts drawing in the Elders. Galactus is too weak to escape, and the Grandmaster points out that this will kill the Surfer too. An energy surge hits Galactus, re-energizing him. The Surfer’s noble actions cause Nova to reassess him a little. We see the gems get drawn into the black hole ahead of everyone else, but then Galactus extends an energy web of his own, and stabilizes the black hole. He begins to draw everyone out of it, promising a reckoning…
- Galactus has rescued only five of the Elders from the black hole – The Grandmaster, Champion, Runner, Collector, and Gardener – and turns his wrath upon them. He eats them like he does worlds, and then turns to the Surfer and Nova to talk about how the Contemplator escaped him. He wants Nova to go find him and bring him to him. The Surfer, who mourns for Mantis, tells Galactus that they owe one another nothing, and Galactus is angered by this. He wants the Surfer, who he made, to go with Nova to help her. He agrees, so long as Galactus promises to never feed on Zenn-La. Galactus agrees, and the Surfer wonders if this is because he cares for Nova. They leave together, after Galactus assures Nova that he won’t hunger again for a while. The Surfer stops Nova a little ways distant, telling her that he could tell Galactus was about to do something he didn’t want them to see. They watch as Galactus changes shape, resembling pure star stuff, and meets with Eternity, the embodiment of all of reality. These two beings speak, and we learn that Eternity knew of the Elders’ plan, and that he knows a Celestial stands on the main Skrull world. Eternity reveals that everything hinged on the Silver Surfer’s actions. Truthfully, it’s not clear that their meeting had any purpose other than to reveal to Nova how much bigger Galactus is than he appears. The two heralds depart, and the Surfer thinks about the Fantastic Four and how they must have influenced Nova. We see that the FF is now the Thing (in his mutated form), Crystal, the Human Torch, and Ms. Marvel (I’m pretty sure Englehart was writing this book at this time too). On Kree-Lar, Aptak, posing as the ambassador from Waziliah, comes to see the new Kree Supreme Leader, Nenora. After the guards leave, they embrace, and talk about how fortunate it is that Nenora is now in charge of their enemies. Aptak wants her to move quickly to destroy the Empire, but Nenora has other plans, and poisons Aptak. Galactus struggles to digest the five Elders, and floats away, not seeing that Death is manifesting behind him, and she is angry.
- Issue eleven features the guest art of Joe Staton, which is a lot more classic Buscema Surfer than what Rogers was doing. The Surfer and Nova are fighting off pirates in space, and arguing a little about how Nova is still growing into her role as herald. They refocus their attention on their battle, and the pirates flee. They talk about how the pirates hide in something called the Coalsack, an area of space that is hard to navigate due to think space clouds or something. They prepare to enter the coalsack, to continue their mission of looking for the Contemplator. Earlier, we see that the Surfer and Nova went to Kree-Lar, looking for the Elder there. In discussion with Nenora, she told the Surfer that she was extending protection to Earth as well as Zenn-La, so that the Surfer won’t side with their enemies. He agreed to stay out of the war, and then asked if Nenora knew where the Contemplator went when he left. It is Nenora who told them about the coalsack. Entering this dark region, Nova gets engulfed in the dark clouds. The Surfer figures out how to track the pirate ships by shifting his visual spectrum. They follow a route, and discuss how often alien species are humanoid in shape. When they are through the ‘sack’, they find the place where the pirates hang out. To fit in among the diverse species, they steal some clothes and decide to split up to look for the Contemplator. Nova thinks about how she’s been wrong about the Surfer (he’s more likeable than she thought), and about how she thinks Galactus has feelings for her). She’s approached by a big guy who invites her to “the boss’s” party that night. She claims she’s already going, and then gets the details from the guy. Somewhere else, the Surfer is welcomed aboard a Kree base, and then sets about destroying it with a grin on his face. Nova wonders where the Surfer is, and then he joins her, wearing a different, more pirate-presenting outfit than the one he stole before. Nova brings up Mantis, but he doesn’t want to talk about her. They go to their party, and when the guy Nova met before asks her to dance, she instead starts dancing with the Surfer. He realizes he’s enjoying it when the big guy tries to cut in, and ends up hitting the Surfer, who has hard metal skin. The guy, named Foulup, gets his friends to attack, and there’s a brief powerless fist fight, until they find themselves trapped in an energy cage of some sort. The ‘boss’, a big reptilian pirate recognizes the Surfer (because Nova said his name), and tells him that he’s been expected (the Contemplator is behind him, although it’s a little hard to tell.
- The Surfer is strapped to a machine that drains his power and leaves him feeling nauseous and kind of out of it. Reptyl, the pirate that has captured the Surfer and Nova (who suffers a similar fate) brags about it to the captain of a ship he’s just captured, and explains how he feels that Galactus will never venture into the Coalsack, since there are no planets within it. The Contemplator joins Reptyl, and they talk about how Reptyl permits him, a hated human (he has a broad definition of human) to stay with him because the Contemplator was also originally from the Coalsack. A plant overhears their conversation, and sends word to the Cotati, who feel duty-bound to help the Surfer, seeing as how Mantis loved him. The other pirates are carousing, and Clumsy Foulup, the guy who tried to hit on Nova before, has a strange reaction to a leaf he eats. The Cotati use it to try to influence him to go rescue Nova. The Contemplator figures out what’s going on while meditating, and rushes to warn Reptyl. One of the pirate’s men doesn’t let him go to the sleeping Reptyl, fearing reprisal for waking him. Nova, like the Surfer, can’t figure out how to escape. She has a vision of Nenora learning that the Surfer has broken the agreement they made, and calls for his death. Clumsy Foulup comes and frees Nova, and then collapses. The pirate finally goes to wake Reptyl just as the alarms sound. Nova is attacking the pirate ships. Reptyl gets to the bridge and commands his crew to use the Surfer’s power to stop Nova. Nova recognizes that ship must have the Surfer on it, so she attacks it. Reptyl orders his crew to leave the Surfer behind, recognizing they won’t survive otherwise. Dumping him, they flee, leaving some other crewmates to float in their spacesuits, including Clumsy. Reptyl’s ship heads back into the Coalsack, and when the Contemplator criticizes his plan, Reptyl bites him in the neck, and starts eating him.
- With issue thirteen, Marshall Rogers is officially off the book, and Joe Staton returns for a second issue. Without Rogers’s colours, the book already looks a little drab. Three Kree colonels attempt to sneak into Nenora’s chambers to kill her, but they are stopped by Ronan the Accuser, who kills them before she is able to interrogate them. She sends Ronan off to destroy the Silver Surfer, since she believes he hasn’t been keeping to his part of their bargain. After Ronan leaves, she goes to check on the Supreme Intelligence, who is still insane and basically catatonic as the two Kree colours within him fight. She places a call to Kylor, the Skrull Emperor, letting him know that she’s arranged to have the shields disabled on the Kree ships he plans on attacking. When he asks after Aptak, she lies and says he’s still working with her, but we see his body in the trash. The Surfer and Nova fly through the Coalsack, and discover the Contemplator’s severed head. They figure that Galactus and Eternity made it possible for the Elders to die again. The Surfer excuses himself to fly into a space of darkness and momentarily mourn Mantis. He finally admits to himself that he loved her, and appreciates how she helped him open up. He returns to Nova, who asks if he’s going to return to Galactus with her. He says he wants to go find Mantis’s child, but they agree to go get a drink together before they separate (I think Nova is developing feelings for him). They end up on a Kree world where the locals (who are not Kree) revere the Surfer for sparing them from Galactus ages ago. When they arrive, the locals flee, and the Surfer wonders why the place looks trashed. Ronan appears, accusing the Surfer of perpetrating terror. Ronan freezes Nova so she won’t interfere, and he and the Surfer fight until the Surfer knocks him down with his board. He frees Nova and they fly off together to try to figure out who has been impersonating the Surfer. Kylor’s fleet enters into battle with a Kree fleet, and discovers that the Krees’ shields are intact. Kylor is killed and his fleet destroyed. The Kree report to Nenora that they were victorious, and she is pleased that now there is no one alive who knows about her treachery. On a Skrull world, another Skrull who claims the throne, S’byll, learns that Kylor is dead, and dispatches a Skrull named Krat to Earth on a mission for her. The Surfer has been able to locate the energy trail of the being that is posing as him, and he and Nova follow it. When they reach the end of the trail, they find a being claiming to be the “true” Silver Surfer.
- The two Surfers both claim to be the original, and their argument quickly turns to blows. They seem evenly matched, and both insist that Nova sit out the fight. Both demonstrate mastery of their surfboards, but finally, one falls, and the other blasts him. Nova is not sure that the victor is her Surfer, and as they talk, she tries to get a sense of his identity. She goes to the fallen Surfer and sees that he is still alive. The Surfer says they should leave, and notices when Nova tries to trick him by mispronouncing the name of her hometown, Brooklyn. The Surfer postulates that he just fought a new Super-Skrull, who incorporated a power receptor into his body to mimic the Surfer’s powers. The Surfer distracts Nova and then blasts her, trapping her in a refraction matrix. He then starts to explain that he is, indeed, a Skrull. He attended the gathering of heroes who went to pay their respects to Mar-Vell when he was dying, disguised as the Devil-Slayer, figuring that the sometime Defender wouldn’t attend. When he did show up, the Skrull changed into the Surfer, figuring that the real one was still trapped on Earth, and trusting that no one would figure out that he shouldn’t be there (I’m guessing that the Surfer is in the Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel, and will have to check that out). After this event, the Skrull went through some procedures to duplicate the Surfer’s abilities, figuring that many in the galaxy didn’t know he was trapped on Earth. He got stuck in this form, and is now working for Emperor Karza, another would-be leader of the Skrull Empire (and weirdly named after the Micronauts villain?). The Skrull identifies himself as Bartak, and has his gloating cut short by the sudden appearance of Ronan the Accuser, who has enhanced himself to be prepared to fight him. Bartak is about to tell Ronan who he really is, but then decides it’s not worth the effort, and instead fights back. Ronan kills Bartak and then frees Nova, who also doesn’t tell him that it wasn’t the Surfer he killed. She flies away, and is soon joined by the Surfer, who recovered because Nova gave him some energy when he was lying on the planet. The Surfer kisses Nova, surprising her. She asks about Mantis, and he says it was Mantis who taught him to be more expressive. On Earth, some good ole boys spot an alien ship crash. A Skrull tries to run from them, and they shoot him. As he’s dying, Krat fires a beam into the sky. He dies content in the knowledge that the Earth will be destroyed.
- The first Annual is also part three of the Evolutionary War crossover that ran through the 1988 Annuals (I hated when they did this). The High Evolutionary appears on Olympus to speak to the Eternals, represented by Thena, Makkari, Sersi, Ikaris, and the Deviant Karkas who hung out with them. He explains how he is like the Celestials that made the Eternals, and how he wants to use his genetic knowledge to usher in a new chapter for humanity, and to help him, he wants the Eternals to map the Silver Surfer’s DNA (which seems like a weird reason to make this part of the storyline). The Surfer says goodbye to Nova with one more kiss before turning to Earth to search for Mantis’s child. As he approaches Earth, he’s surprised by the sudden appearance of Kl’rt, the Super-Skrull, in front of him. The Skrull has just been reformed by an injection of anti-matter into the Van Allen Radiation Belt, where he was dispersed by Sasquatch (we know this to be the last act of Krat, although I’m not sure why he had to land on Earth to fire his beam into space). The Skrull attacks the Surfer, and as they fight, they are both attacked and imprisoned by the Eternals. Ikaris explains their task, and the Surfer objects. The Eternals also want to scan Kl’rt’s DNA for even weaker reasons. The Eternals take them to Olympus, which the Surfer didn’t know existed, despite his having spent time exploring the Earth. They are put inside two glass pyramids, and while they prepare, Thena brings Kl’rt up to date on what’s been happening with the Skrulls. The DNA scanner hurts Kl’rt, since it’s designed for Deviants, not Skrulls. The Surfer decides they need to work together to escape, and so they both use their powers on the insides of the pyramids and break free. They fight against the Eternals together for a bit, but when everyone pays more attention to the Surfer, Kl’rt flees. The Surfer grabs his board and also flies off. Makkari and Thena catch up to Kl’rt, but the Surfer again helps him. The Surfer explains that he thinks Kl’rt, the only Skrull left with shape-changing powers, can help his people. Kl’rt is surprised that the Surfer is so noble, and leaves. The Eternals think he was foolish, but the Surfer thinks they are confused. They decide to part ways, with the Surfer wanting to figure out what the High Evolutionary is really up to.
- In Ron Lim’s debut on this book, Nova is on her way to meet up with Galactus, and is thinking about how much she likes both Galactus and the Surfer. She is surprised to see Galactus’s ship, and is even more surprised to find him writhing on the floor in pain. He explains that the Elders he ate are killing him, and that he needs the Surfer and Sue Richards. Nova flies off, and manages to communicate with the Surfer through the electromagnetic spectrum. The Surfer agrees to stop looking for the High Evolutionary and to come help.
- Mantis wakes up in her home with no memory of anything that happened after she married the Cotati. She tries to meditate and to ask her plants what’s happened, but she’s not able to communicate with them. She remembers she has friends in the Avengers. This short story was clearly designed to bridge her appearances in West Coast Avengers at the end of Englehart’s run on that book.
- Ron Lim took over with issue fifteen, launching his career with this book. His first issue looks great. The Surfer arrives in the backyard of the Richards’ family, where Reed, Sue, and Franklin are playing badminton. He explains that they are needed to help Galactus, and the family agrees to go with him, even deciding to bring Frank (as he wants to be called) with them. They don’t bother with a ship – the Surfer protects them and whisks them to Galactus’s ship. They find him writhing on the floor in pain. Nova is with him, and lets him know what’s happening. Galactus needs them to go into the black hole and retrieve the soul gems so he can remove the souls of the Elders inside of him, which will allow their bodies to die. He warns them that no one can touch the gems, as one will remove their souls, and they can’t tell which. That’s why he needs Sue. The plan is for the Surfer to navigate the black hole, and for the Richardses to follow, while Nova looks after Galactus and Frank. They head out using a ship Galactus had made for them, and the Surfer leads them through the hole. They emerge into a surrealistic landscape that they feel has more to do with magic than science. The Surfer has a feel for one soul gem, and leads them on its trail (Sue mentions how dark it is, but no one else perceives things like that). The Surfer leads them to a building, claiming that there were two gems there before, but none now. The Possessor emerges from the building with a large group of beings he calls Sinalinas. They attack, but Sue pushes them all back with her force field. The Possessor explains that he has been given to the beings by the Trader, who traded him away so he and the Astronomer could take a ship and pursue the other gems. As our heroes prepare to leave, Sue starts yelling at some of the Sinalinas, and Reed is reminded of when she was manipulated into becoming Malice (a Byrne classic I need to revisit). They leave, and soon find the other two Elders. The Trader has all the gems in a ‘bodycase’, an aura that can only be shut off with his death, which is no longer possible. There is a brief fight, but Sue knocks down the Trader. Reed is taken out of the fight by the Astronomer, who Sue defeats by making parts of his body invisible. She offers to trade with the Trader. It becomes apparent that the only thing he wants is the Surfer, and Susan turns and shoots him with a blaster she’d been invisibly holding. The Trader accepts the change, and places the Surfer in his bodycase. Sue refers to herself as Malice.
- Malice flies off with the soul gems. She figures they will help her get back through the black hole, and she laughs at the thought of allowing Galactus to die. The Surfer, trapped in the Trader’s bodycase, is of course not too happy to find himself trapped again. Reed recovers (actually, he was faking being injured) and lets the Trader know that he’s figured out that the Elders can die in this magical universe. He points out that the only way back through the black hole would require them to free the Surfer (he can’t touch his board in the bodycase). The Astronomer decides that there is no point trying to deceive Richards. The deal is that once Reed and the Surfer get Sue back, they’ll return to take the Elders home. The two heroes fly off, and it’s clear that the Elders are pleased with the arrangement, despite having behaved to the contrary. Reed and the Surfer talk about how this dimension is ruled by Lord Chaos and Master Order, and he mentions that the force that balances them is called the In-Betweener. They catch up with Sue’s ship, but aren’t able to get past its defenses. Reed remembers that Sue perceives this dimension as being very dark, so he gets the Surfer to shine as brightly as possible, blinding her. They enter the ship, but Sue/Malice prepares to use the soul gems against them. The Surfer blasts her to distract her as Reed stretches his arm behind her, hoping to knock her out. Just then, they are distracted by another ship passing them, and they see the Thing, Human Torch, Ms. Marvel, and Doctor Doom standing on its bridge (I love when writers do things like this – Englehart was writing Fantastic Four at the same time). Momentarily confused, Reed touches one of the gems by mistake, and starts ranting about the odds of having touched the gem that would steal his soul. The gem sticks to his forehead and it seems that the gem takes him over. The gem wants to steal the Surfer’s soul next, and he references the time Mephisto tried that (there’s an editorial note referencing a graphic novel that I’m not sure ever came out). The Surfer fights back, but Malice realizes that they are drifting towards the black hole, and things get chaotic. Reed knocks her out and keeps blasting away at the Surfer through his gem. The Surfer prepares to destroy him. Next, the gem/Reed grabs Malice and drains her soul. The ship shakes as it enters the black hole, and the Surfer notices that Reed refers to the gem as a separate entity. The In-Betweener emerges from the gem, talking about how he used chaos and order on the Richardses to gain freedom.
- The Surfer’s powers are no match for the In-Betweener, who has the soul gem on his forehead now. He also can’t be stopped by the reawakened, and returned to normal, Richardses. The In-Betweener tells them that he intends to enter their dimension and leave them behind. The three Elders – Trader, Astronomer, and Possessor – join them and explain that they’ve planned all of this. They gather the remaining soul gems and warp away, leaving Reed, Sue, and the Surfer on the damaged ship. They start effecting repairs, because Reed has a plan. The In-Betweener and Elders emerge from the black hole and head straight for Galactus’s ship. Franklin Richards sees them coming and alerts Nova. She ends the Punisher, a defensive living robot of Galactus’s out to stop them, but the In-Betweener quickly destroys it. The In-Betweener and his allies enter the ship and head straight for Galactus. The Trader knocks out Nova, and while Franklin watches, the In-Betweener blasts Galactus, who is still unwell. He is surprised to realize that he can’t hurt Galactus, and decides to renege on all he promised the Elders. The personification of Death arrives at his bidding, and she blasts the three Elders. The In-Betweener then orders Death away, and sends Galactus’s ship hurtling towards the black hole. It emerges on the other side, where Reed and Sue see it. The Surfer and Reed enact his plan, which involves shining brightly to summon Master Order and Lord Chaos. Those two floating heads listen as the Surfer tells them what happened. Reed and Sue go to Galactus, where the Surfer soon joins them, with Order and Chaos looking over him. They bathe Galactus in light. Inside Galactus, the five Elders – Grandmaster, Gardener, Runner, Champion, and Collector feel things changing and see a path out. They emerge from Galactus’s mouth, as does Nova and Franklin. It seems that Franklin had a vision and led Nova inside Galactus to keep them safe. Galactus starts to recover, and demands that the In-Betweener must die.
- Galactus, flanked by the Surfer, Nova, the Richardses, and the five surviving Elders, comes at the In-Betweener in the regular universe, having been sent there by Order and Chaos. The Richardses find themselves back on their ship, and Reed assures Frank that Galactus will survive the fight. Grandmaster and Champion bet their soul gems on the outcome, and we see the two giant cosmic beings punch each other. The In-Betweener believes that he’s more powerful because of how he was created, but Galactus seems to be doing better in the fight. Nova wants to intervene, but the Surfer convinces her to wait the fight out, as Galactus is fighting for his identity. The fight rages on. Frank asks Reed what the ultimate nullifier is, having dreamt about that device. Reed is firm that Frank is not to get involved, even if he thinks he could safely use it, but as Reed and Sue discuss whether or not Reed was too harsh, Frank slips into a spacesuit and exits the ship, heading for Galactus’s. The In-Betweener starts to get the upper hand in the fight, having realized that he is Galactus’s opposite. Some of the Elders think they should help Galactus, since the In-Betweener convinced Death to kill three of their group, but the Grandmaster is adamant they keep watching. Reed notices that Frank is gone, and heads his ship towards Galactus’s. Sue uses her powers to render the nullifier invisible just as Frank finds it. They catch up to the boy, who keeps his hands behind his back. The fight moves towards the black hole, which leads the In-Betweener to believe he’ll be even more powerful at the mid-point between the two dimensions. Nova now feels she has to act, as her identity as a herald demands it. Nova goes to the Richardses, while the Surfer approaches the Elders, each of whom have a soul gem now. The two cosmic beings notice the ship passing them in the black hole. Nova emerges from the ship, getting ready to put their plan in action. The Surfer blends his power cosmic with that of the Elders’ gems, and they fire energy into the black hole, which Nova starts to absorb or pull on or something. That this energy is flowing in one direction bothers the In-Betweener, who gets pulled into his home dimension. Lord Chaos and Master Order appear and destroy him for having disobeyed them, and they expel Galactus and his allies from their dimension. Pleased that their plan worked, the Surfer and Nova embrace while Galactus smiles.
- Galactus demands that Nova go find him a planet to eat after his ordeal, and both the Surfer and Nova suspect that it’s because Galactus wants to separate them. Reed reminds the Surfer that he and his family need to return to Earth, and the Surfer agrees to take them. The five remaining Elders use their soul gems to disappear. Nova wants to track them down, but Galactus prefers that she do what he’s told her to do. As the Surfer flies the Richardses home, Sue asks about him and Nova, but he shuts down the discussion quickly. A while later, in the Coalsack, Reptyl is upset to learn that two fiery figures are making their way towards his base. He threatens to eat Clumsy Foulup in his rage. The two are Firelord and Starfox, who are searching for the pirate Nebula. Starfox wants to learn the truth about whether or not Nebula is the granddaughter of Thanos, while Firelord wants to avenge his homeworld, Xandar. Reptyl doesn’t much care about any of this, and isn’t a very collegial pirate. Starfox isn’t able to impact Reptyl’s pleasure centers with his powers, but the situation gets calmed down when Clumsy asks if Firelord is related to Nova. This leads to him telling his origin story (he became a herald of Galactus after his best friend, Air Walker, also a herald, was killed). He blames the Surfer for his misfortunes, because had he never left Galactus’s employ, he wouldn’t have needed to worry about his friend. He wants to know where the Surfer is, and he promises to leave Reptyl alone in exchange for information, which goes against Starfox’s wishes. Later, the Surfer rides around space by himself and locates Nova’s trail. He catches up to her and talks briefly about the feelings he’s developing for her. Nova points out the planet she’s selected for Galactus, but the Surfer objects, given that there’s life on it. They begin to argue, but are interrupted when Firelord attacks the Surfer from behind. They begin to fight, but the Surfer doesn’t know why. Starfox pulls Nova out of the fight and uses his mind powers to influence her. The Surfer learns why Firelord is mad at him, and that Reptyl had something to do with them coming after him. Firelord’s heat is so intense that he needs to fly away from it. Their fight continues, as the Surfer rejects having any responsibility for Air Walker’s death. The Surfer sees that Firelord is absorbing a ton of ambient energy, and decides to give him more power, overloading him. Firelord floats helplessly, until Nova swoops in and kisses him, restoring him to health. Starfox comes up to the Surfer and tells him to let the two flame-based people attract one another. Starfox also lets the Surfer know that after leaving Reptyl, it was Galactus that led them to the Surfer. Starfox is impressed with how calm the Surfer is, but wonders what will happen after he leaves.
- The Surfer is in a remote region of space, smashing asteroids with his fists out of anger at having been manipulated by Starfox. He’s also very upset that Firelord kissed Nova. This adds to his general sense of not being all that important so far as the universe is concerned. Elsewhere, Nova asks Galactus to allow her to go see the Surfer. Galactus feeds on the planet she found him, and then gets upset when Nova repeats her request. He says she can go, but she’ll have to give up the power he gave her. Nova senses again that Galactus has feelings for her, and unhappily agrees to stay. Starfox and Firelord fly through space, continuing their search for Nebula. Eros feels badly that he manipulated the Surfer, and wants to turn back to talk to him, but Firelord is still blaming the Surfer for his friend’s death (really, this is a weak rationale). Somewhere else, Reptyl drops off a cache of weapons on a small planetoid, charging Clumsy Foulup with guarding them. He decides to leave his crew behind too, putting Clumsy in charge. The other pirates start to put away the weapons while Clumsy goes for a walk. He thinks he hears someone in a cave, and runs off. We see a figure with a purple cape who talks to themself about how Clumsy will return. There is a battle between the Kree and the Skrulls somewhere in space. It’s clear that Nenora is monitoring all ships when one of the Kree says something sexist, and she has him arrested. The Skrulls (they are part of S’byll’s forces) appear to flee, but then the Kree are attacked from behind. The Super-Skrull, powered up beyond normal limits, tears through them. Learning of this, Nenora decides to speed up her plans. She heads personally to Zenn-La, where she meets with Shalla Bal. She’s there because she wants to apologize to the Surfer for the business with Ronan and the Skrull imposter, and doesn’t like it when Shalla Bal refuses to summon him. Nenora leaves, and a plant whispers the word “Skrull”, which confuses Shalla Bal a little. On Earth, Mantis comes out of the cargo hold of an airplane and attacks a couple of airport cops. She wishes a plane could take her to space, so she could find the Surfer. Out in space, the Surfer still feels like he makes no difference to anyone, and then flies off.
- Issue twenty-one features the return of Marshall Rogers, not just on the art, but plotting the book as well (with a script by Michael Higgins). The Obliterator is still on the world where the Surfer left him, drowning his sorrows in booze. The Contemplator appears to him (this issues opens a while back in terms of our timeline) and asks him why he can’t just get more weapons and continue his purpose in life, something he hadn’t thought of since the Surfer destroyed his original weapons. The Contemplator wants to get the Obliterator to help him with the Galactus plot, given how badly that turned out. He promises to send a shuttle so the Obliterator can return to his ship, which is in orbit. After waiting a while (during which time Reptyl ate the Contemplator), Obliterator gets a ship on his own and heads out to look for revenge on the Surfer. The Surfer, meanwhile, basks in cosmic rays and thinks about Mantis some more. Nova joins him, but before they can talk much, he receives a message from Shalla Bal, asking that he come home and deal with a threat against Zenn-La. The Surfer figures out that she’s talking about the Obliterator, and races off, telling Nova to not come with him. As he flies, a trio of Kree ships spot him, and not knowing that the Empire has made peace with him, attacks. The Surfer maneuvers around and destroys the ships, before heading home. He finds the Obliterator going around killing people and destroying things, and he attacks him. The Obliterator holds the Surfer off for a bit with his blasts, but the Surfer knocks out the ground beneath him, dumping him into some catacombs. There, they fight some more, until the Obliterator realizes that neither of them can defeat the other, and starts to get bored. He says he’ll go ahead and kill everyone else on the planet. The Surfer traps him in a bubble so they can talk for a bit, and points out to him that if he kills all the Zenn-Lavians, then the Surfer will be the last of his kind, which will make him an Elder. This makes the Obliterator decide it’s better to kill the Surfer, but he flies off, while the rather stupid Elder keeps ranting about destroying him.
- Englehart and Lim return for issue twenty-two, which feels a little like a filler or inventory story. The Surfer is somewhere in space when he’s approached by Ego, the living planet. Ego attacks and manages to drag the Surfer to his surface, separating him from his board, which he captures in his magnetic field. Ego talks to the Surfer, telling him that Galactus has put a propulsion engine on him, and that fighting it takes up a lot of his energy, so now he has to consume beings of power to keep himself powered up. He wants to ingest the Surfer, and traps him inside a chasm. The Surfer fights back, making things more difficult for Ego than it’s been before. He has the Surfer in his lymphatic system, which is full of crude oil. Some fish-like protozoids attack the Surfer, and he struggles against them. The Surfer manages to fly out through a geyser, and uses his power cosmic to propel himself into the atmosphere, hoping to reach his board. Instead, Ego smacks him back down, but he lands near Galactus’s engine, which Ego is not able to expel. He adds to its power, so that Ego is not able to counter its force. He starts pushing the giant planet towards a star, and only when it becomes too hot does Ego agree to a truce. He frees the Surfer, who then refuses to remove the propulsion unit. The Surfer surfs off, and then feels a shockwave that suggests to him that a planet in the Sol system has been moved. He flies off to investigate. The next issue box leads readers to Fantastic Four #325.
- I’m not sure what happened in that issue of FF, but now the Surfer is just flying around again, not doing much. He notices that a planet appears to be on fire, and he recognizes it as one he rescued from Galactus decades before. He investigates, and notices that there are fires surrounding active volcanoes. The inhabitants tell the Surfer that they have risked their planet in the hope of summoning him or another cosmic being to help them. They are being hunted by a dragon, which has killed thousands. The Surfer, who feels a kinship with these people, agrees to go and hunt the beast. As he flies around, a beam is fired at him. He swoops down to investigate, but sees nothing. His assailant continues to fire at him from different angles, and the Surfer gets lucky firing at the clearly invisible being. He discovers some ruined teleportation tech, but can’t find his enemy. Using his infrared vision, he can find the trail, and is able to fire off another shot that makes the being visible. He does look like a dragon, and they start to fight. The being objects to being accused of spreading terror, and explains how he was part of a race that had to flee its homeworld when their sun went nova. His race travelled in a large armada, but all their engines were damaged when the sun’s radiation altered the Cazalyte that powered them. They set down on the planet they are now on, and negotiated with the locals, who provided them with something called Kortilon, which they claimed was the same as Cazalyte (this is nonsense). The Kortilon causes their engines to explode, and killed all of the dragon-race, except for the one talking to the Surfer (wouldn’t that make him an Elder of the Universe, by Englehart’s own rules?). He learned that the people of the planet did this on purpose, out of xenophobia, and so the being (there are no names given) decided to exact revenge by killing them, which it’s been doing now for fourteen years. The Surfer tries to talk the being out of more killing, but it attacks him and they fight some more. Its flames hurt the Surfer, and while he doesn’t want to hurt the being, he has to fight back. He tries to use the power cosmic to take away the being’s power, but it kills him. The locals who have been watching from a distance cheer the Surfer. Later, at their main city, the Surfer yells at the leaders for their blindness and bigotry. He flies away, angry at himself for having believed in the people he once saved.
- The Statement of Ownership for 1988 lists this title as having an average press run of 390 000, with average newsstand returns of 168 000.
- Okay, so it would seem that the Surfer saw Mantis get killed in that issue of Fantastic Four, and now he’s flying around feeling sorry for himself. He’s gone to a very remote region of space, and notices that four ships are launched from what appears to be a crystalline planet towards him. He blows up one ship after it fires on him, and notices that some bombs emerge from the wreckage, tracking him. He evades them, and leads them to destroy one of the other ships, but whoever is piloting it is so quick that nothing happens. The Surfer destroys the remaining ships, and then sees a larger fleet coming towards him. He flies towards the planet’s surface, where he engages the ships, and finally notices an opening leading inside the planet’s structure. Once inside the crystalline structure, he has to change his vision to see through the bright reflections. He starts to follow an energy trail he perceives, and gets attacked by what is basically a giant black Pac-Man. He flees through the structure’s corridors until he finds a dark area, where the construct runs out of power. The Surfer finds himself in front of a viewscreen showing a large blue-skinned woman, who identifies herself as Motherboard 49.7, the computer that runs the planet. She identifies the Surfer as the herald of Galactus, and blasts him with energy that appears to split him in two, although he can still control his lower half and feel his board under his feet. He tries to argue that he is no longer Galactus’s herald, explaining what happened. Motherboard wants to know how long ago this happened, but does not understand when the Surfer claims it was twelve months ago, although it’s not clear if he means when he left Galactus’s service (impossible to fit that much Marvel history in one year) or since he was pardoned by him. Motherboard starts firing on the Surfer again, and with each blast, she cleaves him and drains some of his energy. He tries to perceive where her information comes from, and tracks it to her crystalline data storage space, which looks like a giant coiled snake. He uses the last of his power cosmic to rewrite the data about him. Now that Motherboard recognizes him as not being a herald, she agrees to restore him. Revived, the Surfer promises to find another computerized world that could feed her more up-to-date information, and then flies off. As he leaves, Motherboard recognizes that the Surfer edited her data, and reboots it.
- Now I understand it – Englehart spun his wheels for a few months so issue twenty-five could be double-sized. The Surfer is still flying around a remote region of space, having decided that, after Mantis’s death (in another book, which is annoying), to remove himself from everything. He is surprised to see a space battle taking place, and recognizes that the Skrulls are involved. He is also surprised to see that they are fighting the Badoon, not the Kree. He moves to leave, but the Badoon shoot him. He announces (by yelling in space, so of course it doesn’t work) that he has no fight with either side, but again comes under attack. He turns to leave again, but is addressed by the Super-Skrull, who comes to see him. Kl’rt explains that the Skrulls tried to make an alliance with the Badoon, but were attacked, and now are in danger of all being killed. The Surfer explains that he doesn’t care, so Kl’rt attacks him, and they begin to fight. The Surfer stops the fight, and agrees to help drive the Badoon away. He tells the Badoon to depart, but they fire on him again, so he engages with their ships, to the pleasure of Empress S’byll. The Surfer destroys a number of Badoon ships before the others pull back. The Skrulls thank him, and S’byll addresses him. Kl’rt mentions that the Badoon had already made an alliance with the Kree, and this makes the Surfer realize that he was played, and that he has put Zenn-La in danger by engaging in the Kree-Skrull War again. He turns and flies as quickly as possible towards his homeworld. He passes the world where Clumsy Foulup is abusing the power given to him by Reptyl. When one of the pirates objects, he shoots him dead. Clumsy sees the purple-robed figure he saw once before, and that guy tells him that he should make a deal to work with the Kree so that, when Reptyl starts working with the Skrulls (as he’s never going to side with a humanoid), Clumsy can save himself. Clumsy sees the Skrull armada passing the planetoid, and gets scared. The Surfer keeps flying towards Zenn-La, and arrives in time to see it surrounded by Kree warships. The Kree send Ronan the Accuser to fight the Surfer again, and once again, he defeats him. The Kree ships begin to attack the Surfer, while three make their way towards the planet’s surface. He fears for the odds, but then the Skrull ships arrive (it’s odd that they can travel at the same speed he can), and they join in the fight. The fight lasts for hours, and the Skrulls are victorious. The Surfer rushes to the surface to check on Shalla Bal, and is pleased to see that she is fine. They are joined by Kl’rt, who justifies lying to the Surfer to bring him into the war. He presents S’byll, who explains, in a rather convoluted way, that the only way to restore the Skrulls’ shape-changing abilities, Kl’rt must pass on his mutations to a female, her, but to do that, they need the power cosmic channeled through a device like the one the Eternals used on the Surfer. In return, the Skrulls will protect Zenn-La from the Kree, and not bother the planet after the war is over. S’byll agrees, and since she brought the large device with her, they immediately go about channeling Kl’rt’s natural abilities into her. Both Skrulls are in pain, and then S’byll basically explodes in a burst of goo. Her shape changing abilities are so potent she can’t keep any one shape. They learn that the Kree have returned, so S’byll, who is still a pile of talking goo, flies into orbit with the Surfer and attacks the Kree ships. The last Kree ship flees. The Surfer is left wondering how his new alliance with the Skrulls will impact Zenn-La.
- The second Annual for this series came out between issues twenty-five and twenty-six, and featured the beginning of the Atlantis Attacks crossover event. Under a mountain in California, the Dreaming Celestial stirs. The Surfer is flying through space, as most issues begin, and finds that his board starts maneuvering on its own, even dumping him off and flying away. The Surfer is able to call it back, but is surprised to find something like bacteria attached to its bottom. The board takes off of its own accord again, and the Surfer rides along, until it reaches what looks like a cloud of dust. Really, this is the decorporealized body of Ghaur, the self-styled ‘godlord’ of Deviant Lemuria. Ghaur explains to the Surfer how he came to be there (something to do with Iron Man, the Dreaming Celestial, and the Eternal Uni-Mind). Ghaur attacks the Surfer, and they fight for a bit, until Ghaur realizes just how much more powerful the Surfer is at the moment, and flees, heading for Earth. The Surfer decides that his time is better spent on the Kree-Skrull War, and figures Earth can look after itself. Ghaur arrives on Earth, heading straight for the other Lemuria, cousin to Atlantis. The soldiers there fire on him, but he trashes part of the city and frees Llyra, the former leader. He has a plan involving the Serpent Crown, which requires him to talk a lot about it, and Llyra agrees to work with him. The Surfer doesn’t feel right doing nothing about Ghaur, so he sends a message with the power cosmic that is heard by Doctor Strange (in the eyepatch era), and Talisman. The Dreaming Celestial dreams some more.
- The rest of Annual 2 is filled out with some pretty dull backup stories. There’s one that explains the Surfer’s powers, and another that shares his thoughts on a variety of powerful characters. Mister Fantastic and Franklin Richards talk about the universe. Captain Reptyl attacks a ship and ends up killing a princess or something. The final story has an alien woman talk to the Surfer and then Mephisto. Or something; I didn’t read it. Finally, there’s a Saga of the Serpent Crown backup story, that I also didn’t read.
- That Annual didn’t exactly fit in continuity, as issue twenty-six has the Surfer and S’byll in Zenn-La’s orbit, talking about their victory, and what it might mean for Zenn-La. The Super-Skrull joins them, bringing Shalla Bal with him, and they talk some more, recapping what happened before, and showing that the Surfer respects these Skrulls. Nenora learns of the new Skrull weapon (which is S’byll, assimilating her shape changing powers). Nenora decides it’s time to take out all of Zenn-La, and insists on leading the attack herself. Clumsy Foulup goes to that cave again, looking to talk to the robed figure. He agrees to work with the Kree, and asks to see who he’s been talking to. The figure takes off his hood, scaring Clumsy, but we don’t see who it is. The Surfer and Shalla Bal are alone for a bit, and address the Surfer’s loss of Mantis. One of the plants whispers the word ‘Skrull’ to Shalla Bal again, although she’s not able to explain before they learn that the Kree armada has arrived. They rush to join the Skrulls, leaving Shalla Bal to command the Zenn-Lavian defenses. The others fly to space and face a massive number of Kree ships. The battle begins, and we see that Nenora is using some kind of interface suit to command everything that’s happening, while laughing at the irony that she is a Skrull herself. The Surfer notices Nenora’s flagship, and decides to attack it directly. Flying at full speed, he’s not able to crack through the ship’s hull (I’m not sure why he doesn’t use his powers to alter it, or blast it). He tries again, and again can’t get through, so on the third try, he fires the power cosmic ahead of him and boards the ship. The Kree soldiers firing at him are ineffective, and he finds his way to Nenora’s chamber. He can’t get through the door, which starts firing arsenide micro-lasers at him. Using more power, he disables the door, then pushes it in. He finds a large empty room, but then Nenora appears on a vid-screen. She explains that she is nowhere near the battle. The Surfer explains that he was tricked into fighting on the Skrulls’ side, and she believes him. He asks that she leave Zenn-La alone. She has him close the door so no one can hear them, and then explains that because of the code of the Kree, she can’t let him off for his crime, but agrees that so long as he never goes to Zenn-La again, she’ll spare it. The Surfer agrees, so Nenora orders her men to let the Surfer go, but after he leaves, the Kree will hunt him down. Nenora is pleased with her compromise, as she sees Zenn-La as being worthless to her. The Surfer explains things to Shalla Bal, Kl’rt, and S’byll, who is mostly back to her original form. They agree that Nenora’s compromise doesn’t sound like a typical thing a Kree would do, and again Shalla Bal hears the word ‘Skrull’ whispered to her. A soldier comes to tell Nenora that they were contacted by Clumsy Foulup, who claims to be able to help them defeat the Skrulls.
- The Surfer accompanies S’byll and Kl’rt back to Satriani (a cute nod to the musician who recorded the Surfin’ With the Alien album), the seat of her power. She has regained much more control over her shapeshifting abilities, and starts transferring them to some of the other Skrulls, who clearly love and worship her. Clumsy Foulup goes to see Nenora, and while I don’t see how he could be much help to her empire of thousands of worlds, she agrees to work with him. We see that the mysterious figure that has been influencing Clumsy is the Contemplator, whose astral self is watching over him invisibly. We learn that he was able to regenerate his body after being killed by Reptyl, and now he’s dedicated himself to wanting to rid the universe of reptiles. At the same time, Reptyl is on his ship, tracking something through space. On Satriani, the Surfer and Kl’rt talk about S’byll and what a good leader she is. The Surfer senses something approaching, and they are surprised to see The Stranger appear. He explains that he goes around collecting mutants for his people to study, and that he’s there for S’byll. He captures her in a ball of light and goes to leave, but the Surfer attacks him. He traps the Surfer in a black ball that drains his power cosmic, but then Kl’rt attacks the large Stranger. He sends him flying, and Kl’rt discovers that he is surrounded by previously invisible Badoon, who are there independently of the Stranger, to fight the Skrulls. A huge fight starts, which Reptyl watches from his ship. The Stranger starts to fly away, and this frees the Surfer, who goes after him and starts to fight him again. The Surfer is able to evade the Stranger’s first defenses, and even when the Stranger disintegrates his board, he is able to form it again. Their fight is disrupted by the arrival of Reptyl’s ship. Reptyl offers to trade his crew, including a mutant with the ability to navigate space mentally, in return for S’byll. The Stranger agrees, much to the dislike of Reptyl’s crew. He takes off, and the Surfer insists that Reptyl release S’byll. On the ship, the pirate offers his services as a privateer to the Empress, because he would rather ally himself with a reptile than a mammal. S’byll accepts, and lets the Surfer know they are now partners, which leaves the Surfer feeling suspicious. Nenora informs her general of what has happened, and decides to put Clumsy into play on Reptyl’s weapons cache world. The Contemplator seems pleased. On Zenn-La, Shalla Bal talks to Norrin, and when she mentions Nenora’s name, she hears the word ‘Skrull’ again. She finally figures out that Nenora is actually a Skrull, and realizes that she holds the “most dangerous secret in the universe.”
- The Surfer interrupts Kl’rt and S’byll, who are making out, with news that Reptyl is reporting back from the Coalsack and will be ready to join them ahead of schedule. The Surfer apologizes for interrupting them, but Kl’rt explains that reptiles don’t worry about such things. S’byll wants to know what the Surfer doesn’t call her by her title, and he explains that she’s not really the Empress yet. Reptyl has his men load his ship and calls Clumsy to tell him to have his weapons ready on the planetoid. Clumsy reports back that he’s the only pirate still alive, and after they hang up, he’s very pleased with the fact that he deceived his boss while on a Kree warship. The Surfer sits on an asteroid pondering how he’s always the odd man out everywhere he goes (remember that not too long ago, he wanted to stay away from everyone, so this doesn’t really fit). He tries to call Shalla Bal on a Skrull telebeam, but is told that she’s out walking through the desert, since plants still grow wherever she walks. We see her out wandering, thinking about her belief that Nenora is really a Skrull. She’s surprised when a Kree Sentry (those big robots) emerges from the ground in front of her and takes her prisoner, bounding her mouth so she can’t call to the Surfer. The robot flies off with her. Nenora was watching through her VR stuff, and now talks to herself out loud about how it was foolish for Shalla Bal to talk to herself out loud about Nenora being a Skrull, given the Kree leader left bugs in her palace. Nenora doesn’t realize that the Contemplator is watching her. He explores her headquarters, and comes across the Supreme Intelligence, who still looks collapsed on himself and mad. Reptyl arrives on Satriani with his crew and weapons, and S’byll asks why he’s so horrible to his crew. He explains that there is always worse, and then picks an argument with Kl’rt over how he talks to the Empress. After Kl’rt walks off, the Surfer talks to him about reptile evolution, and how he views Kl’rt as being more like a Neanderthal than a reptile, explaining how the Neanderthals of Earth developed the back part of their brain, making them the first creatures to know love. He advises him to stop pretending to be so cold, and to acknowledge his love for S’byll. Reptyl and S’byll talk about how they don’t let emotions control them (although really, Reptyl is clearly driven by anger since his first appearance). They embrace, and that’s when Kl’rt returns. He’s angry, and when he pushes Reptyl, they end up fighting. Their fight is pretty intense, with Reptyl mocking Kl’rt for emulating the human Fantastic Four. When Reptyl knocks Kl’rt down, he dives in and pulls out his throat with his teeth. The Surfer arrives, and seeing his friend dead, prepares to fight Reptyl, but S’byll stops him by literally coming between them. She gives Reptyl a promotion, who in turn promotes Clumsy to be his vassal. The Surfer lifts Kl’rt’s body and flies into space, where he gives him a “Neanderthal funeral” by letting his body burn in the atmosphere, before flying off. We see he is pursued by a ship of some sort.
- Nenora is shown a new operative available to her. The former Shang-Chi villain Midnight was recovered after his death, and has been restored and enhanced by Kree science. They are hoping that his ability to create darkness will block the Surfer’s absorption of light, which is what powers his power cosmic, and change his name to Midnight Sun. Nenora is pleased, and next goes to see Shalla Bal, her secret prisoner, still being held by the Sentry that captured her. Nenora admits everything to her, and orders her taken to a dungeon. Nenora doesn’t know that the Contemplator is watching her, and then he goes to see the Supreme Intelligence again, before taking over the body of a pink Kree, and using him to stir up other pink Kree. On Satriani, Reptyl berates Clumsy Foulup, and then talks to the Surfer about hatred. They are about to fight, but the Surfer doesn’t rise to the bait. He does, weirdly, admit to Clumsy and Reptyl that he hates the Cotati. Shalla Bal, in captivity, and drugged, hears the Cotati speak to her through the components of the drugs. They intend to wake her up and help her as a way of fixing things with the Surfer. Nenora prepares for battle, sending her fleet towards the Skrulls. The Surfer patrols, and briefly sees the Stranger again. He tries to catch him, but instead discovers the Kree armada. The Skrulls and Reptyl’s people head for their ships, while the Kree release Midnight Sun. He flies right at the Surfer, who fires at him, but he dodges it. Midnight Sun uses his space kung fu to land a good blow, and soon the two are fighting. The Surfer doesn’t notice as he’s enveloped in darkness (the Kree are releasing some kind of dust from their ships), and soon he’s not able to see Midnight Sun’s blows. By looking for electricity, he is able to shoot him, grab him, and fly him out of the darkness. He sees that the battle is raging and moves to get in it. S’byll argues with Reptyl over video monitor about how to continue the battle, and she notices that Clumsy is wearing a space suit. As Reptyl orders his helmsman to bring them in beneath the Kree ships, Clumsy stabs him in the back with a laser sword, and then flees the Skrulls. He leaves through an airlock and jumps towards the Kree ship that is waiting for him. The Surfer gets shot by a Kree ship, and when he drops Midnight Sun, they retrieve him and fly off. The Surfer worries that the Kree have just won the war.
- The Surfer is getting tired, but he keeps up the fight against the Kree warships on his own until they appear to be gone. He discovers that S’byll is still alive, and has disguised herself as part of the wreckage of her fleet. They talk, and agree to work together to continue to fight their war. The Kree fleet returns to Hala (it’s interesting that earlier issues referred always to Kree-Lar, but here we are). One ship carries Clumsy Foulup, who is surprised to learn of the racial animosity between blue and pink-skinned Kree. When the ship lands, a large crowd of pink Kree are there to greet and cheer for Clumsy, the hero of the war. This annoys the blue-skinned officer, but it makes Clumsy very happy. The Contemplator is responsible for this strange turn, having manipulated the pinks into loving Clumsy, as part of his grander scheme. He’s made it look like the Supreme Intelligence has been restored, but he in fact intends to take over the Surpremor and rule the Kree Empire himself (although to what end, I’m not sure). Shalla Bal is wandering the secret corridors of the Kree headquarters, and she hears the Contemplator’s thoughts, due to the influence of the Cotati who are inside of her. She’s used their help to escape her cell, and discusses with them again their desire to restore balance between themselves and the Surfer. The Midnight Sun patrols the border of Kree space, thinking of the Surfer just as he appears. The Surfer tries to goad him into fighting him, knowing that once he crosses a barrier, the Kree will come after him unless he’s fighting one of their agents. He reminds the Midnight Sun that it is his duty to kill the Surfer, and that does it. With the fight on, some Kree ships come to watch. Once the Surfer is declared victor, they prepare to open fire, but then they all explode. It seems that S’byll has sabotaged all of their vessels, unseen. The two of them head towards the surface of Hala, where they receive heavy resistance to their advance. As they fly, Shalla Bal yells out to the Surfer, bringing him into the secret corridors. She quickly explains that Nenora is a Skrull, and that she’s working with the Cotati. Shalla Bal leads them to Nenora’s chamber, where she is meeting with Clumsy. He explains to the Kree leader that his childish rhyming speech is an affectation he’s always put on to convince people that he’s smarter than they think. Guards try to warn Nenora that they’ve lost the Surfer, but she’s confident he can’t find her. That’s when he blasts her. Clumsy moves to defend her, but then he’s hit from behind by the Stranger, who has shown up out of nowhere. He stops the Surfer from grabbing Nenora, but then lets S’byll take a crack at her. Nenora shoots her, but can’t get another shot in before S’byll grabs her and uses her powers to restore Nenora’s shape changing ability. Nenora collapses, and S’byll declares the war over, with the Skrulls victorious. We see that this is exactly what the Contemplator wanted to have happen.
- The double-sized issue thirty-one marked Steve Englehart’s last. S’byll addresses all of the Kree, exposing Nenora’s treachery, and offering peace. She suggests that her army and the Surfer could destroy them, which is a bluff, and brings Tus-Katt, the most senior Kree on Hala (and notably, pink-skinned). He accepts her peace as a truce, and then S’byll asks the Surfer to take her and Shalla Bal home. After dropping off S’byll, the Surfer and Shalla Bal talk about their love again, and the Surfer turns down her offer to return to Zenn-La; instead, he wants to figure out why the Stranger was so interested in the conflict that just happened. He figures out a way to track the Stranger, and enters into warp. On Hala, the floating head of the Contemplator goes to Clumsy Foulup, restoring his memory of all that’s happened. The Contemplator wants Clumsy to help him restore the Supreme Intelligence, which will actually be the Contemplator, as leader of Hala in exchange for riches. As soon as their conversation is over, Clumsy goes looking for his pink skinned friends, hoping they can take him to see a wizard. The Stranger confronts the Surfer, who accuses him of lying about his intentions regarding mutants. He also reveals that he believes the Stranger lied when he explained himself to Reed Richards long ago, and he demands to know the truth. The Stranger is angry and is about to fight the Surfer when they are interrupted by the appearance of the Living Tribunal. A Kree soldier takes Clumsy to meet with some Cotati, who learn that Clumsy wants to turn the tables on the Contemplator and install himself as the leader of the Kree. The Cotati agree to help him. The Surfer speaks of dualities, and the Tribunal explains his role in the galaxy, while also talking about reptile, neanderthal, and human brains. The Surfer learns that there is always an ‘other’ for each being, and the Trinity suggests that he exists as the opposite of Galactus, and offers the Surfer a moment of godhood. On Hala, Tus-Katt addresses the Kree, echoing elements of George HW Bush’s speeches (thousand points of light). He begins calling for rooting out undesirables who might be Skrulls, but is interrupted by the appearance of the Supreme Intelligence. The Contemplator speaks through the Supremor, at first, but is surprised when the being starts to speak on its own. It tells the Kree it needs to rest, and appoints Clumsy Foulup to be the new Kree leader. The pinks rally in support, and the Contemplator is informed by the Cotati what they have done. The Cotati effectively kill the Contemplator. Clumsy accepts his new position, and immediately heads to his chambers. He turns on a jamming cloak, and orders his general to raise taxes for everyone except the military. He realizes that he can never leave the presence of the jammer, or the Cotati will get him, but he’s content. The Surfer accepts his moment of godhood, since the Tribunal deems him unique, because he’s always going to be trapped between “ego and space”. The Surfer sees all of reality, smiles, and soars off.
- Between the end of Englehart’s run, and the start of Jim Starlin’s, which will be the focus of my next column, there were two fill-in issues written by Jim Valentino which I’m just going to tack onto the end of this column. The first was drawn by Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott in the Kirby style, and it was not terribly interesting. While flying around, the Surfer passes through an energy cloud which is some kind of malevolent being that is being encouraged by another unseen malevolent being. It causes him to hallucinate, so he destroys a refinery in space and ends up passed out on an alien world. Some little cute Ewok-like pink aliens look at him, but he thinks they’re monsters so he attacks them. The aliens that owned the refinery investigate, and find him blasting away at asteroids that he thinks are his enemies. The aliens capture him and try to explain that he has Hlavac’s Disease, which can be cured by going to a particular planet to retrieve a radioactive ore. He busts out of the ship that’s holding him, and flies towards the world the aliens mentioned. There, he’s contacted by the inhabitants who offer him their planet’s energy, even if it destroys them (I have no idea why it would), but the Surfer rejects them, and instead drifts, thinking about the heroes of Earth, specifically Doctor Strange. He meditates and manages to expel the energy being inside of him. He encases it in something solid and sends it flying through space. Cured, he goes about his business, while we see that it was Mephisto who manipulated things, and he’s upset.
- Lim returned for Valentino’s second fill-in issue. The Surfer is flying around, enjoying space when he gets flown into by the Impossible Man. After an annoying and sight-gag filled conversation, the Surfer learns that the Impossible Man is being hunted by the planet Ergonar. The Surfer decides to defend the Impossible Man, and things come to a head. The Surfer ends up disabling all the alien vessels, and then promises them that the Impossible Man would never return to their planet. When Impossible Man disagrees, the Surfer lectures him, and then gets fed up with how obstinate he is, and flies away. The Impossible Man sits on an asteroid, where the leader of the aliens turns up, and pulls a gun on him. It’s actually the Surfer though, there to show him how practical jokes aren’t always funny. Impossible Man promises to stop playing them, but after the Surfer flies off, we see he was crossing his fingers.
With the exception of the two Valentino issues, this was a very solid run. Prior to this series launching the Silver Surfer really hadn’t appeared in all that many comics, and it seems that Steve Englehart had pretty wide latitude to do what he wanted with the character, and the Kree-Skrull corner of the galaxy. He was able to expand and then kill off the Elders of the Universe (although the most established ones all managed to survive), played around with Galactus, giving him some personality for once, and engineered a second Kree-Skrull War that restored the Skrulls’ shape changing powers, and left an absolute idiot in charge of the Kree Empire. On a cosmic level, a lot got done during this run, but as always, it was some of the character stuff that is most important.
The Surfer had never been developed much past the tropes that make up his character. He was noble, and he hated being trapped on Earth. Englehart fleshed him out a lot more, largely through his relationships with three women: Shalla Bal, Mantis, and Nova. I liked that once they were finally able to be together, it seemed that both Shalla Bal and Norrin Radd decided that they barely knew each other, and that her duties as Empress of Zenn-La were more important than their relationship. It was kind of a slap in the face, but it gave him the opportunity to grow and develop beyond the confines of his former life.
I had a hard time buying the Surfer’s relationship with Mantis. It was cool that Englehart brought her back (he created her, and she showed up in his West Coast Avengers and Fantastic Four runs too), and I like that it was her that tipped the Surfer off to what the Elders were up to, but I never really bought into their relationship. Likewise, when she was killed off (for the second time), in an issue of Fantastic Four, the Surfer’s grief felt performative and a little out of proportion, especially given that they were only together for a couple of weeks.
The Surfer’s relationship with Nova made a lot more sense, seeing as they share in their servitude to Galactus. I like the slow development of the love triangle aspect as well, with Galactus showing a romantic interest in Nova himself, and working to keep her apart from the Surfer. I don’t remember if Starlin picked up on that in his run, so that’s one thing I’m looking forward to reading about.
I like the work that Englehart did to flesh out Nova’s character in this book, as I’d only read a few stories about her in John Byrne’s Fantastic Four (which I think needs to be a column topic soon). I also really liked the way he worked on The Super-Skrull, turning Kl’rt from a kind of boring villain into a noble patriot and defender of his people. Later writers continued this with Kl’rt, and have made him into a character I look forward to reading about (I’d hoped he’d have been more prominent in Al Ewing’s too-short recent Guardians of the Galaxy run).
Englehart did start to lose me with all the reptile vs. human stuff that came out during the Kree-Skrull War. I never understood what he was going for there, with the speculating about the different stages of brain evolution from reptile to neanderthal to human. It’s mildly interesting, but a strange thing to transfer to alien civilizations. Like, the Kree aren’t human, and neither are Zenn-Lavians. The Skrulls might be cold-blooded, but they aren’t exactly reptiles in the way that word works in English. It’s a very Earth-centric way of looking at things, especially for a whole group of characters that aren’t from Earth. The notion that Kl’rt was a more evolved type of Skrull was notable, but I’m not sure that ‘neanderthal’ would be the right word for that.
In that context, I did get pretty tired of Reptyl, and Clumsy Foulup. It’s too much of a stretch to think that S’byll, even if she hadn’t consolidated her power over the Skrull Empire, would need Reptyl to help her fight. Nor does it make sense that his apparent death at the hands of his bumbling assistant would be the thing that turns the Kree-Skrull War in S’byll’s favor, especially when she hasn’t any vessels or soldiers left.
Reading this run again, I think that the Surfer might be a very difficult character to write in a compelling way. He owns nothing, has largely abandoned relationships with others, and has no real goals in life other than to be ‘free’. He needs to get involved in inter-galactic wars, as there is no real drama inherent in him now that he’s been freed of the Earth. He works best as a foil for stories to happen around him, as with his level of power, there is very little that actually threatens him, or gives him purpose. I wonder how later writers Jim Starlin and Ron Marz addressed that.
The main reason why I wanted to revisit these comics was to look at Marshall Rogers’s art again. Like a few other artists of his caliber – Michael Golden and Paul Smith both come to mind – Rogers is one of those artists who never drew all that many comics (Comics Vine gives him 290 credits, but many of those are reprints) before his death in 2007, but whose work is spoken of with reverence. While his run on Detective Comics with Englehart (where, among other things, he gave us the classic Deadshot look) is his most respected, his work with the Surfer is actually his longest run.
I like how he took a loose approach to the Surfer and his environment, giving some characters a more cartoonish appearance. You could tell he really enjoyed drawing the Obliterator, and Reptyl. I especially like the way he played with perspective and the way he oriented his characters in space. The scenes in his later issues with Nova, Galactus, and the Surfer were really cool, and have stuck with me as I’ve questioned the choices made in movies, TV, and comics ever since.
Ron Lim’s run was also very good. I remember being excited by Lim’s art when he first got started, but there was a point in the 90s where I started to really dislike him, largely because of how ubiquitous he became. He was somehow drawing the Surfer and Captain America at the same time, something you couldn’t imagine happening today. Lim brought out a certain shiny optimism in this book, and it worked for me.
Another thing that I love about this run is the very late-80s logo that the book has. The classic Silver Surfer logo was definitely a good, solid one, but this one has a playfulness that paired nicely with the looseness of Roger’s artwork. It gave the book a different feel from the very beginning.
I was a little surprised as I read through the end of Englehart’s run, and the two forgettable fill-ins after it, to see no discussion in the letters page of the changes in creative team. It makes me wonder if there was some kind of drama involved in Englehart leaving, that his editors couldn’t thank him for his service. Even more strange is that there is no mention of Jim Starlin taking over. I remember that being a bit of a big deal at the time, and it’s clear now that the Infinity Gauntlet event was in the works from the beginning of his run, so you would have thought Marvel might have done more to promote it.
I remember being excited by the stakes in Starlin’s run, so I’m curious to see how that holds up today. That’s next time for us.
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