Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #-1, 125-146, Silver Surfer ‘97 #1 (February 1997 – November 1998)
Written by James Felder (#125), JM DeMatteis (#-1, 126-131, 134-135, 137-145)
Plot by Glenn Greenberg (#125), JM DeMatteis (#132-133, 136, Silver Surfer ‘97 #1), Tom DeFalco (#146)
Script by JM DeMatteis (#125), Tom DeFalco (#132-133, 136, Silver Surfer ‘97 #1), Glenn Greenberg (#146)
Penciled by Ron Garney (#-1, 125-129, 131), Bryan Hitch (#125), Rick Leonardi (#128-129), Cary Nord (#130, 136), Paul Pelletier (#132-133), Tom Grummett (#134-137), Roger Cruz (#138-139), Joe Bennett (#139), Jon J Muth (#140-142, 144-145), Denys Cowan (#143, 146), Bob Hall (#145), Val Semeiks (Silver Surfer ‘97 #1)
Inked by Bob Wiacek (#-1, 125-129, 131), Al Thibert (#125), Bryan Hitch (#125), Ralph Cabrera (#130), Matt Ryan (#132-138), Manny Clark (#139), Joe Bennett (#139), Jon J Muth (#140-142, 144-145), John Floyd (#143, 146), Al Milgrom (#145), Klaus Janson (Silver Surfer ‘97 #1)
Art Assist by Jamie Tolagson (#144)
Coloured by Tom Smith (#-1, 125-143, Silver Surfer ‘97 #1), Christie Scheele (#144), Ian Laughlin (#145), Michael Kraiger (#146)
Spoilers (from twenty-four to twenty-five years ago)
I’ve been reading these Surfer comics for months now, and it’s been interesting to see how writers approached the character, who is fundamentally kind of limited. I’d stopped reading the book during Ron Marz’s run, and didn’t pick it up again until towards the end of the run I’ll be talking about here, because Jon J Muth came on as the artist.
I’ve been a fan of writer JM DeMatteis probably from before his Justice League (International) run with Keith Giffen, but it was with that book that I became hyper-aware of him and his career. I always thought it odd that he could be such a funny writer on JLI, but then write such dark stories as his Gargoyle miniseries (I should revisit that for the great Mark Badger art). DeMatteis has been all over the map, writing just about every kind of comic there is over the course of his career. His name alone wasn’t enough to get me to pick up this book, because in 1997 I was just not buying very many comics, and had very little time. Once I saw Muth’s work, though, I was back, and stayed with the title until almost the end. The thing is, I don’t remember anything about these books other than the Moebius-influenced style that Muth used with his art.
Where we last left off, during an awkward transition from George Pérez’s very unique to this one, it was revealed that Zenn-La never really existed, and was kept stable and alive through an illusion of Galactus. The planet, Shalla Bal (and presumably the Surfer’s newly-found half-brother who was dating Shalla Bal) all ceased to exist. Around the same time, or because of that, the Surfer lost all connection with his own emotions, and decided that his best chance of recovering them would be on Earth.
It was a weird set-up that felt like it was taking us back to the earliest portrayals of the character. Let’s see if it led to good comics or not…
Let’s track who turned up in the title:
- Gangers (Sorrentino’s androids; #127, 129-136, 138)
- Sorrentino (#127, 129, 131-134, 136, 138)
- Clay Silver Surfer (made by Puppet Master; #127-128)
- The Other (#-1, 130, 132, 134-137)
- Alexei Ganger (#132-136, 138)
- Scrier (#134-137, Silver Surfer ‘97 #1)
- Mephisto (#135-137)
- The Cosmic Messiah (#136, 138)
- The Coroner (#139-145)
- Tenebrae (The Mergence; #140-145)
- The Mergence (#141-142, 144-145)
- Psycho-Man (#143-145)
- Hulk (#125)
- Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange; #125-126)
- Spider-Man (Peter Parker; #128-129, 132)
- Daredevil (Matt Murdock; #128-129)
- Stan Lee (#-1)
- Agatha Harkness (#135-137)
- The Thing (Ben Grimm, Fantastic Four; #135, 138, 146)
- Gargoyle (Isaac Christians; #139)
- Seetah (#139)
- Firelord (Pyreus Kril; #146)
- Thor (Avengers, #146)
- Captain America (Steve Rogers, Avengers; #146)
- Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards, Fantastic Four; #146)
- Alicia Masters (#126-146)
- Henrietta Rose (#-1, 126-127, 132, 134)
- Justice Rose (NYPD; #126-129, 132, 134)
- Richard (Justice’s husband; #126, 132)
- Puppet Master (Phillip Masters; #127-136, 138)
- Galactus (#-1, 129-131, 144)
- Jacob Reis (Alicia’s father; #130-131)
- Shalla Bal (#131)
- Sama-D (#141-142)
- Cy-Phyrr 4 (The Mergence; #141-145)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- The Surfer enters the Earth’s atmosphere, aware of the fact that he no longer feels the joy he once felt in doing this. As he descends towards Los Angeles, military jets pass him. He figures that their presence has something to do with some energy anomalies that caught his attention. He spots some destruction and approaches a police officer to learn what had happened. The officer blames it on someone like the Surfer. When the Surfer hears explosions in the distance, he flies off, soon coming upon a scene of battle between the jets and the Hulk. The last time we saw Hulk in these pages, he had Bruce Banner’s intellect and was working with the Pantheon, but now he seems to be back to his mindless brute state. He is about to lose all restraint when the Surfer approaches him from behind and asks to speak to him. Hulk thinks “the sorcerer” sent the Surfer, but the Surfer explains that he detected an energy flux coming from him. Hulk attacks him, not wanting to talk. He bats him away with a massive tree which he then throws at some oncoming jets. The Surfer disintegrates the tree, and again tries to talk Hulk down. He invokes their friendship and time together as Defenders, and notices how they both seem more detached from their human (or Zenn-Lavian) selves. The Hulk is angry, though, and attacks the Surfer again, while the Surfer notices that they’ve become polar opposites, one now nothing but logic, while the other nothing but rage. The Surfer unleashes on the Hulk, but Hulk grabs him by the ankle and swings him around. The Surfer’s board hits the Hulk in the back of the head, knocking him down. The Surfer mentions how, years before, he removed the gamma from the Hulk temporarily, turning him into Banner. He starts to do this again, which causes Hulk pain. As he writhes, he explains that Banner is gone, and then smashes his fists into the ground, distracting the Surfer long enough that he can jump away. The Surfer surveys the damage caused to the forest they were in by their fighting, and uses the power cosmic to extinguish the flames. The Surfer thinks about things, and flies to the Grand Canyon, where he finds the Hulk sitting on a butte, thinking. He approaches him again, offering to help him, but the Hulk lunges at him. As he stomps on the Surfer, he explains that he’s dying, and that without Banner inside him, he feels himself passing. The Surfer tries to console him with talk of everlasting energy, which offers him little. The Hulk leaps away again, and as he watches him go, the Surfer is aware of his own dispassion. He’s joined by Doctor Strange, who at this point in the 90s wore a different outfit. Strange talks about how he also tried to help the Hulk, and as they fly off together, Strange compliments the Surfer on being compassionate, and the Surfer denies that.
- Issue 125 has a backup story written by James Felder and drawn by Bryan Hitch. The Surfer catches a young woman who is running from people with guns when she falls from a fire escape in New York on New Year’s Eve. The people with guns open fire on them, but the Surfer protects her, and they fly out over the city, where they watch fireworks going off. The girl opens up about her father dying, and when the Surfer asks where he should leave her, she asks to be taken to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, where she breaks in and shows him Wakandan violets. She talks again about how great her father was, but then mentions that he had problems with alcohol, and ended up beating on her mother. The girl hit him to get him to stop, and ended up killing him. We learn she’s escaped from an institution, and that’s why there were cops shooting at her (which makes no sense, seeing as she’s a white unarmed teenage girl). The Surfer wants to take her to the authorities, but once she learns who he really is, and accuses him of killing billions, he agrees to take her one more place. She believes that her mother doesn’t want to see or talk to her, but she goes to her home, where she apologizes and is immediately embraced by her mother. The girl wants to go back to the institute now, and notices that the Surfer has left.
- Alicia Masters wakes from a dream and feels a connection to the Silver Surfer. She goes to her window and feels his presence just outside. The narration speaks to the fact that she’s felt connected to him for years. They don’t quite touch, and then the Surfer flies away, having not spoken to her at all (Alicia, of course, can’t see him). She returns to her studio and continues to work on a statue of him that she’s making. Doctor Strange sits in his home, practicing a difficult spell that he is unable to conjure. The Surfer has let himself into his home, and they begin to talk. The Surfer questions why Strange called him an ‘old friend’ as he no longer feels any emotional connection to the man. Strange looks at the Surfer with the Eye of Agamotto, and sees that his emotional core is gone. Strange wants to help him, and casts a spell that takes them both into the Surfer’s mind. It appears to look like outer space, and they fly together to a representation of Zenn-La, where they find, amid a number of gray-coloured citizens, the shade of Norrin Radd. Somewhere else, an older Black woman named Henrietta Rose wakes screaming from a terrible dream. Her daughter, Justice, comes to comfort her that the world is not going to end, and that she was just dreaming (although Henrietta doesn’t believe this). After Henrietta lies down again, Justice has a conversation with her husband, Richard, who wants to put the older woman back in a mental institution, something Justice does not want to do. We see Henrietta looking at her window, seeing the Surfer’s face reflected in it (it’s so nice to see a sub-plot develop in this book again). The Surfer and Strange speak with Norrin Radd, who wonders why his planet is now a ghost, and why he’s the only person who still moves and thinks. Shalla Bal comes to Norrin, explaining that his love is what makes her real. When they touch, she disappears. Norrin is sad, and the Surfer puts his hands on him, demanding Norrin return these emotions to him. Norrin agrees, but they can’t merge. Instead, a force pushes them apart, and Norrin dies. As the Surfer cradles his body, he turns into a ball of light representing his mental energy. Strange wants to figure things out but their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of the Watcher, or at least a psychic manifestation of him that remains silent. The Watcher points to a barrier in the sky, and while Strange wants to study it, the Surfer flies into it with full force. As he falls, he’s caught by Galactus (or a mental construct of him). Galactus tells him that the knowledge behind the barrier is not for him, and when the Surfer defies him, he tries to crush him. Strange blasts Galactus, and when Galactus retaliates, the Surfer grabs him and they fly away, choosing to leave the Surfer’s mind. Back in their bodies, we see that Strange has kept the orb representing Norrin Radd in his cloak. He places it on the Surfer’s forehead, and when it is absorbed into his head, we see the Surfer shed a single tear. The moment passes quickly, and again the Surfer feels no emotion. The Surfer leaves, saying he’ll hold on to this memory as he continues his journey to recover his soul. Alicia is just about finished with her life-sized Surfer statue when the Surfer appears in her studio. They hold hands.
- The Silver Surfer Annual, ‘97 (they stopped numbering them for a while) fits here. It has the interesting art combination of Klaus Janson inking Val Semeiks. The Surfer is contemplating his lack of emotion, and flies to the moon to think about the death of Zenn-La. We are given a better explanation of what happened here – when the Surfer learned that Zenn-La was an illusion, it put subconscious blocks in place that made it impossible for him to access his emotions and many of his memories. He returns to Earth and finds himself in India, where he observes its extremes of poverty, and in some areas, ancient way of life. He rests for a bit in the Himalayas, and notices a faint trail of energy. He follows it to an ancient temple. Entering, he realizes that there’s a stairway beneath a large statue of a seated figure. He descends into the long-sealed space, and finds a large rocky person in a state of suspended animation. He uses his powers to scan the being, which awakens it. This being, called Scrier, looks like a gentler version of Darkseid. He introduces himself and makes it clear that he’s a very ancient being, even compared to the Surfer’s long life. Scrier says that after sleeping so long, he needs energy, and proceeds to drain some from the Surfer. The Surfer fights back, invoking Galactus’s name in the process. Scrier knows Galactus, a being much younger than him, and throws the Surfer against a wall, entombing him in it. Scrier climbs to the outside world, and talks to himself about taking over the task of shepherding mankind again. The Surfer bursts from the rock and attacks. He creates a shell around Scrier, and plans to take him to a remote world, but Scrier breaks free. To show his power, Scrier breaks the Surfer’s board, and then reforms it. He tells the Surfer they shouldn’t fight, and encasing them both in an energy bubble, flies off with him. He talks about how he’s watched mankind forever, and is above being worshiped (although clearly he was in a temple devoted to him before). He says he shapes and manipulates mankind from the shadows, and asks the Surfer to become one of his servants, because of his nobility. The Surfer mentions that Galactus found him interesting too, and admits that he’s tempted by the offer, but won’t be involved in death and destruction. Scrier speaks philosophically, and then restores the Surfer’s emotions to him, and then takes them away again. He tells him that if he works for him, he’ll share the mystery of what happened to Zenn-La with him, even though those truths will hurt him. Scrier asks for the Surfer’s trust, also promising to restore Zenn-La. The Surfer, who can’t really feel emotion, weighs his options, and agrees to work with him. Scrier wants proof he can be trusted, and has a task for him. We cut to the home of a poor single mother in Chicago, Emily Cross, with three small children whom she loves very much. She has a lot of hope for her infant son Edward. The Surfer approaches her home, wondering what Scrier wants. We see that Emily is a drug addict when she goes to shoot up. As the Surfer gets closer, he’s suddenly attacked by a half dozen armored creatures. They fight briefly, and after he defeats them, they disappear. He enters Emily’s apartment and goes to the infant. As he lifts him, Emily finds them and freaks out. When the Surfer flies away with the boy, Emily holds on to his board, wanting to keep her child. When she falls, the Surfer catches her and takes her to a rooftop. They talk, and she speaks of how much she loves her children and how hard her life has been. The Surfer takes pity on her and uses the power cosmic to temporarily cure her of her addiction. He explains the feelings won’t last and urges her to go to a hospital and seek treatment. She agrees, and is happy to have her child back in her arms. Scrier appears, angry that the Surfer betrayed him already. He sends Emily and Edward away, and tells the Surfer that while he wiped her memory of what happened, he preserved her desire for treatment. We learn that the beings that attacked the Surfer were his repressed emotions. The Surfer says he envied Emily’s ability to love, and that’s why he gave up on saving Zenn-La. The Surfer flies off, and Scrier wonders if maybe the Surfer actually passed his test. He asks Emily, who is inside his cloak. I’m not sure why that would be or what it meant; it was a little ambiguous.
- The Surfer and Alicia walk the streets of New York together, in the hopes that it might help the Surfer recover a sense of humanity. He sees a panhandler whose sign announces he has AIDS, and sees a deadness in his eyes that reminds him of his own. When he puts his hand on the man to better understand his situation, it causes him pain. Alicia intervenes, and the Surfer sheds the human disguise he was wearing, seeing this approach as futile. They take to the sky together. Justice, the young woman we met the issue before, sees him fly off and describes it to her mother, who is blind. Henrietta explains she can picture the Surfer just fine, what with him being the person who rescued her from aliens when she was younger. She ominously warns that the Surfer is the only one who can save them from what’s coming. The Surfer flies Alicia upstate, to a place where she used to come with her parents as a child, but neither can appreciate its beauty. Alicia asks if the Surfer can let her see again, but he believes his power would destroy her eyes this time. Instead, he takes her into the quantum field, which she can see with her mind and on a cellular level. This helps her heal from her own grief at the loss of the Fantastic Four. In Wisconsin, a family is almost knocked off the road by a flying ship. Sorrentino, a science villain we’ve seen before (but her name was spelled with only one ‘r’ then), is with two of her Ganger robots, giving their ship a test run, and continuing her surveillance of the Surfer. Phillip Masters, formerly the Puppet Master, is working in his shop when he’s startled by the sudden appearance of the Surfer and his daughter. He’s happy to see Alicia, but angry with the Surfer for scaring him. The Surfer explains that they are there so Masters can use his special clay to make a duplicate of the Surfer, which he can give some of the power cosmic so it can access its own memories, helping the Surfer recover his. Masters is very reluctant to help, having given up using the clay and the way it affected him, but doesn’t want his daughter to touch it, so he agrees. When they go to his lab, he seems afraid of the clay, but goes ahead and forms a likeness of the Surfer. The Surfer can feel it trying to absorb his consciousness, and gives it some of his power. Clay Surfer comes to life, and is confused until he sees Alicia. He’s very confused by the Surfer’s presence, and at first rejects his explanation for his existence. Once the Surfer touches his forehead, he understands and agrees to help him. They fly into space together, and the Surfer tells him that Zenn-La is a dead planet. Again, the Surfer touches him and commands him to remember. Clay Surfer begs him to stop as the memories cause him pain, but he persists. Once the Clay Surfer has full memory, he turns on our Surfer, blasting him and sending him falling to the Earth before flying off, saying he wants all beings to share his pain. He starts randomly blasting at everything around him, while a naked Norrin Radd, our Surfer de-powered, lies unconscious in an alleyway.
- Norrin wakes naked and without any memories on some trash in an alley. He feels compelled to climb to the roof of a building, where he feels the need to reach up to the stars. Just as Officer Justice Rose and her partner pull up on the scene, they see him fall to the ground. Surprisingly, he’s unhurt and has cracked the sidewalk where he landed. They lead him to their squad car. At the same time, the Clay Surfer is flying around in a rage, lashing out at the Earth. He blows up an abandoned building, and continues his rampage. At the police station, Norrin talks to Justice and Officer Arnie Helfer, but can’t explain why he doesn’t belong there. He touches Justice and she sees a vision of stars. Just then, there’s an explosion on the street as the Clay Surfer’s rampage brings him to this neighbourhood. Norrin, now wearing some clothes, rushes out to the street. Spider-Man prepares to try to stop the Clay Surfer (he thinks it’s the real guy, of course), and is joined by Daredevil. First they talk about being some of the only heroes left in New York, and how they know they don’t stand a chance against a threat like the Surfer. They swing in, ready to fight. The Puppet Master sits in his basement talking to his magic clay, apologizing for ignoring it, until Alicia comes down and interrupts him. She wants him to stop the Clay Surfer, but Phillip doesn’t want to get involved; instead he wants to head back to the basement. Alicia angers him, and in a moment of clarity, he apologizes and agrees to go with her. Justice finds Norrin in a crowd, watching as the Clay Surfer holds both Daredevil and Spider-Man by their necks. They try to fight their way free, and momentarily appear to be winning, but then the Clay Surfer solidifies energy around them, trapping them. Clay Surfer talks about how he wants to kill them out of mercy, and wishes he could join them. Norrin yells at him from the ground, surprising him. Norrin starts to float up to him, pointing out that Clay Surfer has so far not killed anybody, and Norrin says it’s because he doesn’t want to repeat the tragedy of Zenn-La, a word he doesn’t even know in his amnesiac state. Clay Surfer gets angry, and admits that he knows he’s a short-lived being of clay. He says that he knows the answers the Surfer was seeking, but that the answers are too much for them both. The Clay Surfer frees Spidey and DD, and tells them to evacuate the area because he can’t contain the energy that’s about to come from him. As everyone runs, we see Norrin and Clay Surfer touching one another, and then there is a massive explosion.
- The Surfer, restored to his Surfer form, finds himself inside the explosion caused by the Clay Surfer. He’s surprised to see that Alicia is there with him, and he wakes her up. He tries to fly her out of the wave of energy, which he recognizes as being chronal in nature. The wave catches up to them, and they find themselves in an older version of New York City. In the current time, Phillip Masters worries about his daughter, until he sees the body of the Clay Surfer, which is now lifeless. He cradles it and tries to figure out how to get it out of there when he’s confronted by Spider-Man and Daredevil, who don’t believe that he’s there innocently. They are interrupted by the sudden arrival of something that shocks them. In the past, the Surfer and Alicia learn that they are in 1947, and that Alicia can see. The Surfer figures that this is because she’s in an era before her eyes stopped working, but by that logic, she’d also not have gone through puberty or developed from a fetal state. She’s excited to see the past, and wants to explore, but the Surfer is in a hurry to return to their own time. He takes her into orbit and starts flying around the Earth very quickly to enter the timestream, but finds that he can’t get past some kind of barrier within him that prevents him from making this trip. Now he wants to stick around and figure things out, and he disguises himself and Alicia in period clothing. He takes her to a diner. Spidey and DD are curious about the arrival of Sorrentino’s vessel in the present. Four of the Ganger synthezoids emerge and attack the two heroes, while two others, including Ganger-7, grab Phillip Masters and the body of the Clay Surfer. They return to the ship while the others self-destruct. Sorrentino speaks to Masters, telling him that she’s keeping him with her. In the past, Alicia is not able to pass a $20 bill from the 1970s, and when the cook at the diner is rude to her, the Surfer snaps, threatening the guy in a rage. Alicia points out how angry he is, and the Surfer realizes that his emotions have returned, and then gets kind of giddy. He transmits a napkin dispenser into gold, and they leave. The Surfer is overcome by the emotions he’s feeling, and kisses Alicia. Then he tells her that he has to leave, and will return for her in a few days. He intends to fly to Zenn-La, but as he flies, he comes across the floating unconscious body of Galactus, which concerns him, as he doesn’t remember this ever happening. He’s both bothered and touched to see that Galactus is gently holding his own unconscious body. He decides to continue on his mission, wondering why his memories haven’t returned as easily as his emotions have, but when he arrives on Zenn-La, he finds nothing but ruins.
- Issue -1 was published at this point in the sequence. This was when Marvel tried to show the stories before heroes became heroes, and while many were narrated or introduced by Stan Lee, this is one of the only ones that featured him as a character involved in the story. Something is shown flying towards the Earth, and entering its atmosphere. Henrietta Rose, still mourning the death of her husband two years prior, and worrying about her teenage daughter Justice is on her way home from work when she sees a bright light in the sky and is approached by little gray men who bring her to their ship. The Surfer, back at a time when he still worked for Galactus, returns to his master’s ship. He and Galactus speak of the world the Surfer has found, and the Surfer shows a glimmer of conscience about condemning the primitive life on that planet. Galactus erases his memories of their conversation, and then tells the Surfer that he views him as his companion. Galactus wants the Surfer to go investigate some strange energy he’s found, so the Surfer heads out. Henrietta is experimented on by the aliens, who never speak. She finds herself in a room with three other humans, only one of whom speaks – it’s Stan Lee. He explains how he was working at Atlas Comics when he saw the alien vessel and was teleported aboard. He talks about how he doesn’t really remember what the aliens have done to him, and then the aliens appear and teleport him home. They do the same to the two other humans, having decided that there is something about Henrietta that makes her perfect for their experiments. The Surfer approaches an energy matrix that changes shape as he looks at it (which explains why Henrietta and Lee saw the alien ship differently). He manages to phase into its interior, and finds Henrietta being experimented on. Despite not recognizing her kind (which looks like a Zenn-Lavian, unless there aren’t any Black people on his world), he makes eye contact with her and feels compassion for her endeavour. He frees her, fighting back against the aliens on a psychic level. Their energy matrix/ship dissolves, and the Surfer flies off with Henrietta, who is now blind, in his arms. He knows he can’t take her home, as he has to attend to Galactus, so he wraps her in a quantum-sphere that will take her home, and goes about his duties. To finish off the issue, Stan Lee mentions that the alien consciousness is set to return to Earth…
- Issue 130 is the first with a gatefold cover that provided a recap, and identified the alien race we saw in #-1 as The Other. We watch as the Surfer descends into the atmosphere of Zenn-La, expecting to feel joy, but instead discovering that his world (in 1947, remember), is dead. With his feelings newly restored, the Surfer lashes out, and then prays for release from the pain he’s feeling. This prayer gives him a sense of deja vu, and almost restores his memories, but he’s distracted by the sudden appearance of the three gray aliens we saw in issue -1. Assuming they are the ones that killed his world, he attacks them, but they seem completely immune to his energies. They identify themselves as Other, and touch his mind, making him feel great pain. Back on Earth, Alicia has to pawn her earrings so she can have some actual 1947 money. She wanders the city a little, reveling in her restored sight. She decides to go watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, one of her childhood favourite movies, but is shocked to see her father walk out of the theatre. She of course confuses the man, Jacob Reiss, who is about her age, when she calls him “Daddy”, and then she realizes that he’s with Phillip Masters, her future step-father. In the present day (by which I mean 1997), Phillip is being held by a number of the Ganger artificial beings, who tell him that they won’t hurt him, but need him for their cause, which involves the Silver Surfer, whom they call the ‘Awaited One’. On 1947 Zenn-La, the Other sense something coming, and as the Surfer recovers, they walk through a portal and leave. Galactus arrives with the 1947 Surfer, and they survey the damage done to the world. Galactus tells his herald that he’s still weak from whatever attacked them, and wants him to stay on the ship, but the Surfer feels connected to this world. He feels some memories of it, and then all of his memories return, especially of Shalla Bal. He asks Galactus to take away his burden, using the same words our Surfer spoke just before. Galactus takes his memories from him again. Alicia talks to her father, making up an excuse that she thought he was her brother (who, I guess, she calls Daddy, because that’s not weird). They chat, and end up inviting her to dinner. Back at the apartment that Jacob and Phillip share, Jacob talks about their scientific work, and describes the world he believes will exist in thirty years. Alicia doesn’t like Phillip, and decides to warn Jacob will one day kill him. She slaps Phillip. On Zenn-La, Galactus transports his unconscious herald back to his ship, and then talks to himself about what happened to the planet. He feels that he has a duty to the Surfer, since he promised that Zenn-La would live, and he uses his power cosmic to create a massive illusion. As our Surfer watches, Zenn-La is restored to life, but he also hears Galactus talk about how it’s all an illusion. Galactus then addresses our Surfer directly, and tells him that by coming from the future, he’s endangered this time. He grabs the Surfer in his fist and says he’s going to pay for his actions.
- Galactus no longer seems concerned with killing the Surfer, and instead tells him that when “the time comes” to deal with The Other, he should seek him out and he’ll find him. The Surfer can’t figure out this simple message, and is annoyed when Galactus flies away. He looks down at Zenn-La, now understanding that it was always an illusion (this creates so many continuity issues), and flies towards it. In New York, Alicia tries to convince Jacob that Phillip will cause his death. Jacob assumes she’s mentally ill, so Alicia flees. She sits in a park crying, until Phillip Masters comes to her. He believes that there is a darkness within him, except for when he sculpts his clay puppets (which aren’t really puppets). He believes that Alicia has knowledge of the future, and listens to her advice to fight his darker urges. He promises that he’ll be good, and as he leaves, Alicia’s sight leaves her again. The Surfer goes to see the illusory Shalla Bal, and they fly around Zenn-La together for a while, kiss, and then separate. The Surfer sheds some tears, and turns them into a spectacular light show above his former home. He leaves the planet. In 1997, Phillip Masters is upset to see that the Gangers have created a river of his radioactive clay. He feels it calling to him, and tries to run away, but is stopped by Sorrentino, who needs his help to save the world. Freaked out, Alicia runs blindly through the park, until the Surfer comes to her. The two prepare to go home, now that the Surfer’s subconscious has found peace with itself. They enter the timestream, and as they pass events from different parts of human history, they both sense a dark consciousness. They emerge in 1997, and the Surfer takes Alicia home. He’s about to leave her, but she feels they should spend some time together to process what they’ve been through. We see them embrace.
- Phillip Masters is being kept in a pretty nice prison, but he still doesn’t know what Sorrentino wants from him, and he’s confused as to how his fate has become entwined with the Surfer’s. He is gathered by one of the Gangers, who brings him to Sorrentino, who in turn takes him to a large cathedral-like space, where an altar has been built to the Surfer, with the Clay Surfer positioned in front of it. The real Surfer flies through New York, feeling sorrow for his lost Zenn-La, and accepting that Earth is as much his home as anywhere now. He returns to Alicia’s apartment, and wakes her up with a kiss to the forehead. At first, Alicia thinks he’s Ben, and the two talk about how they have feelings for one another, but these are coloured by their respective losses. They are about to kiss when Spider-Man interrupts from the window. He saw the Surfer and wanted to let them know that Puppet Master was taken along with the Clay Suffer. The Surfer immediately wants to go investigate, and turns down Spidey’s offer to help. Alicia also insists on coming with him, and he’s not able to deny her. They go to the site of their fight with the Clay Surfer, where NYPD officers draw their weapons on them. The Surfer puts up a protective shield, and detects an energy signature he can follow. At Justice Rose’s apartment, the family is eating breakfast. Richard gets annoyed that Henrietta is talking about ‘the silver man’ again, and after he leaves, she suddenly recovers her memories of what happened in issue -1. She has a vision of The Other aliens floating through her kitchen, and when they touch her forehead, she collapses, leaving Justice to fear she’s had a stroke. Phillip Masters is joined by Alexei Ganger, an old man who he knew in his youth. Ganger explains that the day he first saw the Surfer and Galactus come to Earth made him realize that the Surfer was a galactic messiah. He built his biotechnic Ganger clones, and worked with his granddaughter, Sorrentino, to put together a hidden base full of scientists working to improve the world. The Surfer and Alicia follow the energy trail over the Atlantic, where it seems to stop. A massive fortress rises out of the ocean, and our heroes enter it. They are met by Ganger, Sorrentino, Masters, and some Gangers, who welcome them to Satori. Phillip is happy to see Alicia, but she’s angry with him. The Surfer asks why they’ve been brought there, and Sorrentino introduces him to the people who live there and worship him. Sorrentino asks that the Surfer lead them, and this kind of freaks the Surfer out. He tells them that they need to save their world on their own, and Ganger is upset to learn he’s been refused. At that, the Gangers attack the Surfer, angering him. He starts trashing their citadel, and when he spots the Clay Surfer, he prepares to blast it. Masters jumps in front of his blast, claiming it’s his ‘greatest creation’, and gets hit by the Surfer’s energy. This immediately causes the Surfer to stop his rampage, as we see that Masters lies wounded and unconscious.
- Phillip Masters, whose body is dying, finds himself alone inside his own mind. He sees Alicia as a child, but she turns from him, calling him a murderer. In the outside world, Alicia is concerned to learn that her step-father is dying, and that helps spur the Surfer to take action. He lays his hands on Phillip’s head, and the two are bathed in light. Inside his mind, Phillip finds his childhood self, alone and taking solace in sculpting his clay. Phillip shows empathy for himself, until he sees that the child has sculpted Jacob Reiss, and then the young Alicia returns to hit him with a stick and speak ill towards him. The Surfer arrives on Phillip’s mental plane, and tells him that he’s there to help him return to life. Phillip rejects him, saying that he deserves punishment for all the terrible things he’s done. At that point, Mephisto appears, ready to take Phillip. The Surfer recognizes that this is a mental construct, and not the actual Mephisto. He tries to fight it, but Phillip’s demons are too strong for him. The Surfer comes to the realization that it’s pointless for him to keep fighting, as it is Phillip’s decision to fight for his survival, or to give in. At the last moment, Phillip realizes that he wants to live, and the Surfer carries him on his board, telling him that he needs to focus on the good aspects of his soul. Phillip wakes up a new man, and wants to talk to Alicia about what he’s learned, but she rejects him with a slap across the face. She tells him that she always denied the truth about him, and that she can’t love him anymore. Phillip takes this pretty well, and then talks about how the Surfer showed him the extent of his potential. Alexei Ganger, witnessing this, points out to his followers that this is further proof that the Surfer is their ‘cosmic messiah’. Again, the Surfer is not happy to hear this, but when he asks Alicia to leave with him, she talks about how he helped cure her fear and loneliness, and since he’s just done this for Phillip, maybe he can do it for everyone. Surprised by what she said, the Surfer flies up into orbit to think about things, and decides to use his power cosmic to try to heal the world. He extends his power across the entire planet, giving everyone on it a few minutes of peace and joy. Everyone on Earth feels his love for a few minutes, but then he is drained of his power and falls through the atmosphere and into the ocean. He’s retrieved by one of Ganger’s subs, and brought back to Satori. When he regains consciousness, he’s with Alicia, Phillip, Alexei, and Sorrentino. They discuss whether or not his gift changed anything, but the Surfer is realistic in thinking he’s only planted a seed. He asks Alicia to leave with him, and she agrees, but Phillip announces he’s going to stay. He feels hopeful that he can do some good working alongside the other scientists and philosophers. Alicia tells him that she can’t forgive him yet, but she wishes him well, and our heroes depart. As they return to New York, they talk about their shortcomings. Back on Satori, Phillip learns that Alexei has siphoned off some of the Surfer’s power cosmic and is running tests on it so he can replicate it, so he can create his own messiah (for which he needs Phillip’s help).
- The Surfer watches Alicia sleep for a bit before flying off to space, thinking about how he lost Shalla Bal and has gained a new, but different love for Alicia. He flies to the sun so he can fly through it (what a lost opportunity for Tom Grummett, who is now the artist of this book I guess, to show him surfing plasma waves instead) as an act of purification. He returns to Earth, planning on leaving self-pity behind, and notices some strange energy in a vortex over an apartment building. He recognizes the energy as belonging to The Other, and investigates. Inside the apartment, we see Justice sitting over Henrietta, who is writhing in pain. Justice cannot see that the Other are standing over the woman, but the Surfer, entering the room, can see them. He blasts them away, causing Justice to freak out and block him from accessing her mother. He walks around her and puts his hand through Henrietta’s head. Justice realizes that he’s helping, and is pleased to see her mother return to her senses. Henrietta, though blind, knows that “the silver man” is there with her, and Justice finally realizes that the stories about aliens her mother has been telling for years are all true. Alicia continues to mourn Ben Grimm, but also wants to put her trust in the Surfer and their future together. In Satori, Phillip Masters continues to work with his psychogenic clay, but we aren’t able to see what he’s making. Alexei Ganger and Sorrentino like it, and Phillip is happy to be doing something positive. Alexei starts to explain his plans to Phillip. The Surfer takes Justice and Henrietta to a park, and the Surfer reveals that he met Justice when he was trapped in his human form. He uses the power cosmic to somehow share Henrietta’s memories, restoring his own memories of their meeting (in #-1). Henrietta is convinced that The Other want to destroy the Earth, so after taking them home, the Surfer heads into space to deal with them. He tracks their energy signature, recognizing it as belonging to the entity he saw in the time stream. He crosses into another dimension, looking for the entity, which he sees as a giant hand with eyes in the palm. A number of The Other aliens emerge, and attack him, ripping the silver skin off his body. He falls into the palm/eye, and emerges back in Earth orbit. He falls through Alicia’s skylight, startling her, and mumbling about how beyond him The Other is. Alicia doesn’t know how to help, but Scrier (from the ‘97 annual), looking a little different in a gold face mask, shows up saying he’s the only one who can help the Surfer survive.
- The Statement of Ownership for 1997 reports an average press run of 100 000, with average newsstand returns of 40 000.
- The Surfer continues to writhe on Alicia’s couch, delirious and feverish. Scrier tries to put Alicia at ease, showing her his appearance through her “inner eye” and explaining the role he’s played across the Earth’s history. He claims he knew the Surfer would wake him, and that he is part of his grand plan, which he cannot explain to her. Scrier says that had the Surfer worked with him, he wouldn’t have this problem right now. He says there is a soul virus planted by The Other in the Surfer that is killing him and will erase him from the memory of everyone in the universe. Scrier is going to stop the virus, but Alicia stops him, questioning his involvement. Scrier doesn’t like this, so he leaves. Alicia thinks about summoning Doctor Strange for help, but Agatha Harkness appears before her. Suddenly Alicia and the Surfer are in Agatha’s house, and she puts a mystical pyramid around him to contain the virus. As she tries to study the virus, she has a vision of The Other, and it tries to recruit her. She feels that there is no way to stop them, but a one-panel pep talk from Alicia strengthens her resolve and she conjures a spell, banishing The Other from her home. Agatha tells Alicia that she doesn’t know if she can save the Surfer though. In Satori, Phillip Masters calls Alexei Ganger on the videophone to tell him that he’s finished his masterpiece, a clay statue of a good looking man who Ganger’s people can worship. In New York, a big figure wearing a trench coat and hat (who is obviously The Thing, back from the Heroes Reborn universe) stands outside Alicia’s building in the rain and loses his nerve, walking away. Agatha continues to work on the Surfer, worrying that the soul virus is going to spread to her and Alicia. The Surfer starts to use his power cosmic unconsciously, fighting against Agatha’s barrier. Things seem to calm down, but that’s because Scrier has appeared. Agatha knows him from long before, but she thought he died. He asks Alicia once again if she’ll accept his help, and gets mad when she asks Agatha what to do. Alicia asks Scrier for help, and he touches the Surfer. The women watch as The Other’s virus is expelled from the Surfer, and then there is a bright flash of light. Scrier holds The Surfer in his hands and lays him on the floor. Alicia worries that he’s cold now, and Agatha has to explain to her that the Surfer is dead. We see the Surfer’s spirit flying above the Earth, but he looks back, feeling drawn to Alicia. He flies towards Agatha’s home, but a barrier keeps him from entering. An unseen being offers the Surfer help, acknowledging that he’s a ghost now. It’s Mephisto!
- Mephisto takes some pleasure in explaining to the Surfer that he’s dead, and to prove it, he takes him into Agatha Harkness’s house (despite the fact that last issue it clearly didn’t allow spirits like him inside). Agatha consoles Alicia, who is deeply in mourning. The Surfer tries to touch her, but can’t. The Surfer leaves with his foe, unable to bear Alicia’s sadness. As he leaves, Agatha senses him, and once he’s gone, Scrier reappears, since he thought it was better to not reveal his presence to Mephisto. Scrier wants to bury the Surfer, which upsets Alicia. Agatha tells them there’s a graveyard behind her house. The Surfer asks Mephisto why he hasn’t passed on to the next world, and the demon explains that there are many afterlifes, and that many souls don’t move on immediately. He further explains that he’s dead, at his son’s hands (remember that the last time Mephisto was in this book, the Surfer was made to believe he killed him, and the guilt of that led to him wanting to renounce his power cosmic – strangely, the Surfer doesn’t remember this at all). Because his soul is barred from his former home, Mephisto has nowhere to go. He wants to stay with the Surfer, and fight against him for eternity. He stabs him, and drags him deep into the Earth. Somehow, the Surfer’s ghost gets really dirty as he fights back, and then decides to just walk away. Mephisto is not prepared to let go of his intended companion, and turns into a giant dragon. On Satori, the Gangers and Sorrentino gather around Puppet Master’s statue. Sorrentino and Alexei explain that they have the power they siphoned from the Surfer, and their Gangers fire this energy from rifles into the statue, which brings it to life. Scrier carries the Surfer’s body and inters it. The Surfer fights back against Mephisto, figuring out that he two can use his spirit form to get big and powerful. The Surfer refuses to fight forever, and plans to fly towards the doorway to the next life. Mephisto blocks him, and sends his “limbo army” into his body to eat his spirit or something. Scrier tells Agatha it’s time for a seance, so the two mystics and Alicia join hands. The Surfer feels the summons, and is drawn away from Mephisto. He follows. Alicia learns that Agatha intends to be a conduit for the Surfer’s spirit, but instead it is Mephisto that enters the old lady’s body, while the Surfer’s spirit floats in front of Alicia.
- Mephisto gloats, and blasts energy that knocks down Scrier and Alicia, before he expels the Surfer from Agatha’s home. The Surfer’s spirit is attacked by the souls of beings that follow Mephisto, engulfing him in their dark whorl. Scrier recovers and attempts to fight back, while Mephisto points out that he can’t do much or he risks killing Agatha, which he knows Scrier won’t do. Alicia is worried, and sends her love towards the Surfer’s spirit. This frees him from his attackers, and he goes towards Alicia, merging with her body. He joins in Scrier’s fight with Agatha, and then pleads with the older being to not hurt Agatha. Scrier is annoyed by this, and storms off. Mephisto is thankful that his enemy left, and attacks the Surfer, He plunges his hand into Alicia’s chest, and removes the Surfer’s soul. He boasts for a bit, but then feels Agatha fighting back against him, not realizing that Scrier snuck his way into her body. He plucks Mephisto, who now resembles a toothy worm, from Agatha and crushes him in his fist. He acknowledges that Mephisto is not truly gone, but that they are free of him for now. Scrier makes it so Agatha and Alicia can see the Surfer again, and that gives him a chance to say goodbye to his love. She does not want him to journey on to his next life, especially so soon after losing Ben Grimm, and it’s only then that Scrier suggests that the Surfer maybe doesn’t need to die. He takes them to the grave he buried the Surfer’s body in, and talks about how he’s basically made of energy. Agatha and Scrier each use their abilities, and the Surfer is resurrected. Scrier explains that he helped him as a way of keeping The Other from Earth, and they decide that it’s time to go stop that entity by building a dimensional blockade to keep it in its home dimension. Scrier and the Surfer prepare to journey, and Alicia kisses the Surfer good-bye. After they’ve left, Agatha admits that there’s something she needs to tell Alicia. Scrier and the Surfer enter a dimensional nexus and emerge in front of The Other. It attacks, and the Surfer protects Scrier from the little grey men. With the Surfer feeding the power cosmic into Scrier, they create a barricade around The Other. They return to Earth, and Scrier talks about how the Surfer has a significant role to play in the universe, before leaving him with a vague warning about the next time they meet. The Surfer returns to Agatha’s, and is surprised to learn that she’s gone. The Surfer comes to the realization that Ben Grimm is alive again. Alicia stands in her studio processing when the Surfer comes to her. He wants them to continue their relationship, but Alicia wants to go to Ben. The Surfer puts her on his board and says they should spend some time together, as it might be their last.
- The recap page at the start of issue 138 shows us that Alicia, the Thing, and the Surfer saw each other in an issue of Fantastic Four. Now, in this book, Ben is waiting for Alicia to meet him at a diner. He discovers that the Surfer is there too, in disguise, and they both find it unlike Alicia to not show up. They are surprised to see that their presence has caused everyone to flee the restaurant, and when they walk outside, talking about going to see Alicia and talk things out, they find a number of police waiting to arrest the Surfer for the actions of the Clay Surfer a while back. Ben tries to calm things down, and then rips up some of the street to knock the cops over. They open fire, so the Surfer flies Ben away. They head to Alicia’s, but find she’s not there. The Surfer uses the power cosmic to peel back some quantum layers, and we see that some Gangers came to collect Alicia. The Surfer explains that she’s on Satori. That island has relocated to some mountains, and we see Alicia with Phillip, Alexei, and Sorrentino. They are looking at the Cosmic Messiah they created (he looks a lot like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, in a tiny speedo). Alexei intended him to be a new spiritual leader for mankind, and they want Alicia to “awaken his heart”, like she did for the Surfer once. Since the Messiah is made of power cosmic, they figure he’ll respond to Alicia like the Surfer once did. He does recognize her. The Surfer takes Ben to Satori’s last location, so he can track it to its present one. When they arrive, they find the whole place burning, and everyone dead. The Messiah appears with Alicia, surrounded by dots of glowing light. We learn they are Alexei, Phillip, and all their followers. The Messiah talks a lot about his decision that mankind should be reduced to their pure soul. The Surfer disagrees, and Ben punches him, sending him flying. He follows and starts beating on him, but the Messiah stops him. He’s about to turn him into a pure soul too, but the Surfer stops him, surprising the Messiah. He tries to reason with him that he doesn’t understand mankind, while Ben checks on Alicia. She comments how the Messiah is part of the Surfer, and therefore couldn’t hurt her; this makes Ben sad. The Surfer and the Messiah fight, and the Messiah is about to kill him, but this time Ben jumps in and saves him. The Messiah turns both of them into pure energy, leaving only Alicia in a corporeal body. He prepares to turn everyone on Earth into energy, and Alicia begins to transform. She speaks to the Messiah while this happens, explaining how previous spiritual leaders embraced their humanity, and she gets through to him with a platitude (angels and wings and stuff). He realizes that he was wrong, and there is a flash of light. Everyone is restored to normal, and they are in Satori, which has been fixed. Alicia explains that the Messiah has left to find himself in space, which upsets Alexei. Later, Ben comes to talk to Alicia. He tells her that the Surfer is preparing to leave. Ben tells her that since returning from the Heroes Reborn world, he doesn’t know where he fits in the universe, and that he can’t be in a relationship with her. He encourages her to find happiness with the Surfer, so she goes to him, stopping him from leaving. They kiss.
- The Surfer and Alicia are enjoying their time together, flying into space and making out before returning to her apartment where the Surfer sheds his silver skin, and they go to bed together. Later, they go for a driving trip, but when the car suffers a breakdown, the Surfer uses the power cosmic to make it fly. They almost hit someone in the air – it’s Gargoyle, the Surfer’s former teammate in the Defenders. Gargoyle attacks, and the Surfer protects Alicia while trying to figure out what is wrong with his friend. Gargoyle says he has to rip out the Surfer’s heart. When the Surfer blasts him, some dark energy escapes from him, and Gargoyle collapses. They take him to a local inn, and wait for him to regain consciousness. When he comes around, he talks about how a woman named Seetah recruited him to help some group of ancient gods protect mankind. They instructed him to seek out “the heart of silver”, which he interpreted as belonging to the Surfer after some demon things possessed him or something. The Surfer wants them all to go for a walk (this is uncharacteristic), and as they ramble through the small town they’re in, they notice that the place seems deserted. A clock tower collapses, and Alicia detects some dark energy. There’s an old man who calls himself the Coroner who confronts them. Alicia can “see” the evil pouring out of him, and Gargoyle recognizes him as his attacker. We learn that the Coroner wanted Isaac to destroy the Surfer for him, and while Isaac assumes he’s connected to the evil he’s supposed to be fighting, the Coroner denies it. The Surfer asks what he wants, and he explains that he is connected to some otherworldly entities that want the Surfer and the Earth. Coroner explains that he has all the townsfolk, and to prove it he takes off his glove, revealing that his fingers eah have faces. The Surfer says that if he lets the townspeople, Alicia, and Isaac go, he’ll do what he wants. Coroner frees the people, and then Isaac attacks him, although his bio-mystical blast doesn’t do much. He turns Gargoyle into stone, and then blasts the Surfer. There is a weird vortex of energy, Alicia hits her head, and much of the town gets destroyed. It looks like the Surfer and Alicia are carried up into the vortex, and then things calm down. We see the Coroner walking away, and learn that the people of the town don’t remember what happened and assumed a tornado hit. This Seetah woman (who only ever appeared in a short story before this and never again) appears and restores Gargoyle to his usual self. He assumes the Coroner is the evil he was sent to fight, but she says he wasn’t. She comments that the Surfer is having to fight a battle in his soul. The last page of this issue shows Norrin Radd petitioning Galactus to spare Zenn-La, suggesting that the past has something to do with the present or something.
- Jon J Muth took over as artist on this title with issue 140, which also marked my return to the book. He drew (inking how own pencils) this book in a style that is a clear tribute to Moebius’s Surfer, and things looked good, although I feel like the story was not effective for an artist of his caliber. We see Norrin Radd turned into the Silver Surfer by Galactus, but when he wakes up, Norrin is a regular person, living with Shalla Bal, the love of his life on Zenn-La. She worries that his recurring dream is pulling him away from her, but he insists that she is his whole galaxy. We realize that the Surfer is the prisoner of the Coroner and Tenebrae, a woman dressed like a praying mantis, and looking at the Surfer and Shalla Bal in a box. Through their conversation, we learn that the Coroner is working for something called The Mergence, and that Tenebrae is an agent of this same group. Coroner insists on being treated like an equal, and doesn’t like that Tenebrae is toying with the Surfer instead of killing him. Inside the box, Norrin and Shalla Bal learn that a massive threat is coming to their planet, but the people of Zenn-La have the ability to phase their world out of phase, thereby escaping Galactus’s notice. After Galactus has continued past, Norrin feels like his grip on reality is slipping. He calls Shalla Bal by Alicia’s name, and doesn’t know why. Norrin walks around the city, thinking, and when his reflection shows him with silver skin, he has access to his power cosmic, and blasts a security drone. He runs as alarms sound. In reality, Tenebrae finds it interesting how the Surfer is controlling her false reality. Coroner is angry about this, but Tenebrae believes in her system, especially since she combined Alicia with Shalla Bal, thinking that love would keep the Surfer docile. The two villains argue, and Tenebrae spits up a red ball that she gives to the Coroner, so he can control the Weaver that is creating the Surfer’s reality. He puts it into his mouth, and then collapses. Tenebrae returns to the Surfer, and watches as Norrin uses old Zenn-Lavian tech to create a small spaceship for himself, so he can leave his planet. Shalla Bal comes to him and claims that they should travel together, which makes Norrin happy. They leave the planet, and soon find Galactus’s Worldship. They enter and talk to the planet eater. He starts to turn Norrin into the Surfer, which the Coroner (who I guess woke up?) finds to be a disaster, but Tenebrae takes a more sanguine approach. Shalla Bal turns into Alicia, which causes the Galactus construct to be confused. The Surfer realizes they are in a false reality, and manages to work his way back to the real world. The Coroner blasts him with his staff, and now the Surfer finds himself alone falling down a “tunnel of worlds”. He worries that he is lost and alone.
- The Surfer finds himself in a new reality, wondering what happened to Alicia, but also tempted by the promise of a whole new universe to explore. He comes across what looks like a humanoid figure in a large geometric crystal, whom he is able to communicate with, although that communication is odd. Alicia, meanwhile, finds herself in a cell of some sort. A robot, identifying itself as Cy-Phyrr 4, roughly injects her with nutrients and checks on her health. He explains that she is a prisoner of the Mergence, and then leaves her. Tenebrae and the Coroner appear to be in a Mergence facility in a desert on Earth. The Coroner wants to join the Mergence desperately, and is annoyed that Tenebrae is frustrating his wishes. He heads outside with the goal to contact them himself mentally, but she comes to stop him, explaining that she is the Mergence’s agent, and his only conduit to them. He’s annoyed. The Surfer talks to the entity he’s found, who identifies himself as Sama-D (as in Baron Samedi? Or just the French word for Saturday?). He has a very annoying way of talking, but basically explains that they are in the Macroverse – a level of reality where each thought or idea is a universe unto itself. The Surfer still wants to return home, and learns that the exit to the Macroverse is a large green space where reality ends. Sama-D warns him that entering this space will destroy him, but the Surfer decides it’s worth the risk. He enters, but has to return. Sama-D starts to tell him his story. He was from a peaceful world that was attacked by another race. He was the only survivor, and decided to wander the universe (I guess his space-journeying abilities are innate). He talks of being reborn after years of wandering, and had his perceptions changed. The Surfer decides he should explore this universe, and says goodbye. Alicia knocks on her cell door, and Cy-Phyrr 4 comes to attend to her. He explains that he doesn’t know where they are, besides being on a Mergence ship. Their ship is suddenly attacked by some kind of space insects. Cy-Phyrr 4 puts Alicia in an escape pod and goes to fight the creatures. She is ejected, her last glimpse of the robot showing him engulfed by the bugs. The Surfer rides around the Macroverse, feeling content. We see that in reality, Tenebrae is still controlling the Surfer, having realized that the things he claimed to desire (love, home) are not really what he wants; exploration is. The Mergence contacts Tenebrae, and she tells Coroner that it’s time for the invasion and absorption of Earth to begin. Alicia’s ship crashes on a snowy mountain. She wanders around, blind to her surroundings, and therefore not able to see an alien world rising on the horizon.
- Alicia, lost on a strange world, hears a crash, and finds Cy-Phyrr 4, badly damaged, has crashed and is burning. The Surfer is enjoying exploring the Macroverse, even though he’s still determined to make his way back home as well. In the ocean of one planet, he finds an entity, Brahmanes, who tries to explain to him how she feels the sorrow of worlds, and grabbing the Surfer, decides to share her pain with him. The Coroner narrates for a while, and we learn of the depths of his dislike for Tenebrae, whom he believes is keeping him from the Mergence. We learn that he called the Mergence to Earth two hundred years ago, and it’s taken until now for his plans to come into action. He tries to use the linking technology that Tenebrae is using to commune with them, and this enrages her. She makes it clear that while they need him to absorb the Earth, she doesn’t like him. She shows him a holographic representation of the Mergence, and he thinks about how all life on Earth will be gone once they arrive. Alicia talks to Cy-Phyrr 4, who is able to repair itself. It’s confused by her compassion for it, and explains that while they have no way home, it’s instructed to protect Alicia until Tenebrae recalls them. They realize that the space bugs are coming their way, so Alicia convinces it to give her a gun so she can help him fight them off. The Surfer can’t handle all that Brahmanes shows him, and she apologizes, explaining that she was simply answering his request. The Surfer thinks for a while, and then decides that no matter what, he must return to Earth and Alicia. He returns to the end of the Macroverse, finding Sama-D waiting for him. He asks him to enter the zone that almost destroyed him before, but that strange alien declines. The Surfer enters the zone, insisting that he survive the ordeal. On Earth, Tenebrae has Coroner strapped to a machine to help anchor the Mergence, which arrives as a cloud of blackness across the sky. The machines start up, and Coroner finally feels a part of the Mergence. As darkness begins to spread across the desert, the Surfer erupts out of it, and begins to blast at the Mergence. It knows he’s the only being who can stop it, and as the Coroner begins to have second thoughts about sacrificing his homeworld, the connection between him and the otherworldly consciousness breaks. There’s a big explosion as the Surfer unloads his powers, and soon Coroner, Tenebrae, and the Surfer lie unconscious next to each other.
- Denys Cowan drew issue 143, but tries to make it look like Muth’s art, so it barely looks like his work. The Surfer wakes up, realizing that he’s on Earth and that the Mergence are gone. He doesn’t know where Alicia is, though, and can’t find Tenebrae anywhere. He tries to read the Coroner’s mind, but finds that he’s lost it. He starts to explore Tenebrae’s complex, hoping that he can find some trace of her mind in its machines. Tenebrae, for her part, is suffering now that she’s cut off from the Mergence. She’s gone after Cy-Phyrr 4 and Alicia, and we learned that she’s stashed them in the Sub-Atomica region of the Microverse. Alicia continues to shoot at the insect things. Because she’s blind, she can only shoot where she hears them, and can’t really tell if she’s holding her own or not. She’s determined to not give up, and eventually, the swarm moves away (she realizes that they are not interested in organic things). She finds Cy-Phyrr 4, which is badly damaged. She tries to give the machine comfort. The Surfer, carrying Coroner’s staff, enters the inter-dimensional funnel that Tenebrae used to send him to the Macroverse, and channeling the Coroner’s energy, descends to Sub-Atomica (I always have a problem with how people in the Marvel Universe access the Microverse from all over the place, when in reality, it’s probably all inside a drop of water on a leaf or something). She starts to search, again feeling the allure of new worlds to explore. Tenebrae detects an alien craft much larger than hers approaching. As it uses a tractor beam to bring her ship onboard, she is overcome with waves of fear and collapses. We see that she’s the prisoner of the Psycho-Man, who recognizes Mergence tech in her ship. He realizes she’s been cut off from them, and he schemes to absorb the Mergence’s power for himself. Alicia believes that Cy-Phyrr 4 stops functioning, but in truth his repair functions require a reboot. Restored, he tells her that he detected Mergence tech searching for him, and plans to leave Alicia behind. The Surfer can detect Tenebrae’s energy trail, and follows it to the Psycho-Man’s ship. A probe leaves the vessel and clamps itself on the Surfer’s head. He fears Alicia dying, and falls unconscious. Later, the Psycho-Man gloats over his two captives while Tenebrae begs him for help.
- Psycho-Man continues to gloat over his new prisoners, while Tenebrae begs the Surfer for help. Psycho-Man’s machines do something to the Surfer, so he thinks once again that he’s reverted to his human form and is being confronted by Shalla Bal, who is upset that he abandoned her. The Surfer can see through this (finally), and frees himself. He manages to turn the Psycho-Man’s abilities against him, making him collapse in fear. He then frees Tenebrae, who immediately turns on him and attacks. She explains, while still referring to herself in plural, that she has learned to be an individual, separate from the Mergence, and it’s made her stronger. Cy-Phyrr 4 has crafted a suit of flying armor for Alicia, which allows her to see things on a quantum level, as a means of keeping her safe with him while also flying towards Tenebrae. Alicia believes she can see Cy-Phyrr’s soul. He informs her that he can also detect the Surfer in the Microverse. On Earth, Coroner recovers, but feels bereft. He’s contacted directly by the Mergence, which is offering him a second chance. Tenebrae feels that the Surfer is an unworthy foe, and wonders why the Mergence was afraid of him. He lashes out, and gains the upper hand. He’s seriously considering killing her when she says she knows where Alicia is. This gives him pause, and that’s when Psycho-Man strikes, having recovered from his own fears. Tenebrae offers Psycho-Man her congratulations and to share the wisdom she gained from the Mergence in exchange for an alliance, so they can subjugate all reality together (although, why?). Somewhere else, we see Galactus. It looks like he’s eating a nebula or something. Alicia and Cy-Phyrr 4 continue to travel through the Microverse, finally catching up with Psycho-Man’s ship just as it’s about to leave for the ‘Equiverse’. Cy-Phyrr 4 pours on the speed, and catches the ship as it crosses the dimensional barrier, but Alicia is left behind. Everyone else arrives on Earth, and Tenebrae is unhappy to see Cy-Phyrr 4, but then gives him orders. Just then, Coroner appears, wearing a new suit of armor and a strange facemask, claiming to be the voice of the Mergence. He says that she must die, but first they’re going to absorb the Earth.
- Alicia floats in space, thinking about things, and decides she needs to go help the Surfer. She figures out how to follow the trail of Psycho-Man’s vessel out of the Microverse, and using the abilities of the suit Cy-Phyrr 4 made her, she opens a portal to Earth. We see that the Coroner, now part of the Mergence, prepares to punish Tenebrae while she, Cy-Phyrr 4, and Psycho-Man, as well as the Surfer, lie on the ground. Coroner/Mergence boasts that the only thing that could have stopped them was the Surfer, and now he lies unconscious. Tenebrae tries to negotiate for herself, but the fact that she speaks in first person enrages the Mergence. Psycho-Man’s ship fires on them, and that’s when Alicia arrives. As Tenebrae and her crew try to escape into the ship, taking the Surfer with them, Alicia swoops in. Tenebrae sends Cy-Phyrr 4 to stop her. Alicia tries to appeal to his nobility again, and he prepares to blast her. Psycho-Man’s ship launches, and since it contains energy siphoned from the Surfer, Tenebrae and her partner figure they can take over the Earth. The Mergence attacks them again. Cy-Phyrr 4 shoots Alicia, but because of the suit he gave her, she survives and fights back. As Tenebrae tries to figure out her next move, the Surfer regains consciousness. He drags himself to the quantum core of the ship and dives in. The Mergence is struggling with itself, being subjected to Psycho-Man’s weapons. They reject the Coroner’s body, and drop him. The Surfer’s power is restored to him, and he breaks through the Psycho-Man’s ship. He believes Tenebrae and Psycho-Man dead in the explosion he caused, and tells the Mergence to leave the Earth. They agree, and hint that he’s actually so powerful that even Galactus fears him. Alicia calls to the Surfer and they embrace. Now that Cy-Phyrr 4 has lost his master, he does not have to follow his programming anymore. He takes Alicia’s suit away, and rejects her offer of help, flying off into space. She tells the Surfer that she thought the robot had a soul, and they decide to go home.
- Issue 145 has a backup by DeMatteis, Bob Hall, and Al Milgrom, in which basically nothing happens except to reiterate that the Surfer likes flying around in space, but he also likes Alicia.
- So it seems that issue 145 was JM DeMatteis’s last, and then issue 146, written by Tom DeFalco and Glenn Greenberg, was the end of the series. Muth was also out, replaced again by Denys Cowan for what is definitely a filler issue (although why end a series with a filler?). Firelord has come to Earth, specifically the Asian nation of Kakistia, to hang out with a bunch of animals on what looks like an African savannah. What he doesn’t know is that the country is about to test its newly developed nuclear bomb, under orders of a woman named Doctor Nital. Firelord notices the animals behaving strangely, and then the bomb explodes, killing many creatures around him, and enraging him. Alicia wakes up in Manhattan, and she and the surfer talk about how happy they are. Firelord figures out where the command bunker for the nuclear explosion is, and attacks it. Doctor Nital knows that she is responsible for this happening. The Surfer and Alicia walk around Manhattan, and the Surfer spies Firelord’s rampage on a TV in a store window. At Avengers Mansion, Captain America talks over video screen with Mister Fantastic about how they all need to go stop Firelord, but they worry it will take them too long to get to Asia. Reed has an idea. Off-panel, Reed calls Alicia, and now the Surfer prepares to go deal with his fellow former herald. He’s not happy that Alicia wants to come with him, but he agrees to take her. Firelord keeps rampaging, destroying military equipment but not killing anyone. He’s angry to see the Surfer throw up a shield around the bunker he wants to destroy, and pretty quickly the two of them are fighting. Alicia looks like she’s still standing in Manhattan, but she can hear their fight, which is over an empty field. As the two aliens fight, Doctor Nital feels judged. Firelord keeps ranting, and blows apart the Surfer’s board. Alicia feels guilty for bringing the Surfer there, while Nital feels more guilty. The heralds’ fight continues until the Surfer gets Firelord on the ground and appeals to him to calm down and deal with what’s happened. Firelord hits him with a blast and is about to take him out when Alicia runs up, offering herself instead. Then Doctor Nital does the same thing, saying she’s willing to pay the price of her country’s actions. Firelord raises his staff, but the Surfer tries to talk him out of it. He blasts Nital anyway, but Alicia points out she’s not dead. Instead, Firelord has shown her an image of all the animals she killed, and she feels worse than before. He flies off into space. The Surfer restores his board, and as he and Alicia flies off, another man comforts Doctor Nital.
- The letter’s page announces that the Surfer will soon return in a 12-issue series written by Louise Simonson and drawn by Jon J Muth that will also feature Galactus (maybe explaining why he showed up a couple issues back). I’d never heard of this, but some internet research tells me that what ended up coming out was a series called Galactus The Devourer, that was six issues long, with only the first drawn by Muth. I think I’ve got one more Surfer column in me…
- The Statement of Ownership for 1998 reports an average press run of 74 000, with average newsstand returns of 28 000. Those are pretty low numbers for that time, so I can understand why this book got cancelled.
This run ended up being pretty disappointing. I’m not sure just what JM DeMatteis wanted with his Silver Surfer. He brought him to Earth and set him up in a relationship with Alicia Masters, but then didn’t have him interact with very many established Marvel characters. Yes, we saw the Puppet Master take on a supporting role, and he had a run-in with the Psycho-Man, but that didn’t originate on Earth. As these stories started in the era where the Fantastic Four and Avengers were dead, it would have been a lot more interesting to see the Surfer try to fill a more conventional hero role on his adopted homeworld.
Instead, DeMatteis kept introducing incredibly powerful beings, like Scrier, the Cosmic Messiah created by Alexei Ganger, and the Mergence, only to have them all never get used again in comics (okay, it looks like Scrier showed up in some Spidey comics at one point).
The whole thing involving Ganger, Sorrentino, and their enclave of philosophers and scientists who worshiped the Surfer was just odd. Why would they revere him so much? And what would have happened to them after he rejected them, and their Messiah took off as well?
The focus of this run is on the relationship between the Surfer and Alicia, yet it wasn’t portrayed as very believable. I get it that Alicia was in mourning for Ben Grimm, and that she likes guys who are unconventional and physically different, but it seems that throughout the entire run of this series, be it with Shalla Bal, Mantis, Nova, or Alicia, the Surfer best expresses his love by declaring it a lot, and doing nothing to show it. I’d have liked to see more time spent on the triangle caused by Ben’s return to life, and I also wonder if the eventual end of the Surfer/Alicia relationship is documented anywhere, or if she just reverted to type at some point.
The revelation that Zenn-La was an artificial construct continues to bother me, especially as it invalidates so many previous stories built around Shalla Bal. It never made sense to me that Zenn-Lavians were basically immortal, living out the centuries of the Surfer’s servitude to Galactus (or that in hundreds of years, Shalla Bal wouldn’t have moved on), but this didn’t really fix that. I’m pretty sure this story element got reversed somewhere in the last ten years, but I’m not actually sure.
The art in this series was often pretty interesting, especially after the long periods of it being pretty conventional and bland. Ron Garney was clearly referencing the Moebius miniseries with his sleek and shiny Surfer. I remember being pretty excited that Jon J. Muth was going to be drawing this book, and while his stuff was cool, it was less spectacular than what Garney did in his issues.
Towards the end of DeMatteis’s run, he started setting up something about the extent of the Surfer’s powers, and I’m assuming that is getting picked up on in this Galactus the Devourer miniseries, especially with the Mergence warning that Galactus has reasons to fear the Surfer. I am going to cover that series in my next column.
This brings me to the end of the Surfer’s eleven-year run. Like with most comics of this era, it was definitely a case of diminishing returns, with the best comics in the run being the ones by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, back at the very beginning. They had a plan and goals for the Surfer, but I feel like after Jim Starlin’s tenure was over, this book probably should have just ended. This last stretch had a lot of potential, but because of this weird and poorly defined villains, and the general listlessness of Norrin’s life, the stories generated in the later years didn’t stick with me, or connect with me.
The sad truth is that, just perhaps, the Surfer is a boring character. He’s noble, but that’s because the narrator or other characters keep saying he is. He loves exploring the cosmos, but we never really see him do that. He loves the woman of his dreams, but they are never together (and then it turns out she’s not real). The Surfer is at his best when involved with cosmic events, like the Kree-Skrull War, or the Infinity Gauntlet stuff, but in those cases he’s rarely a principal actor. He’s best as a supporting or ensemble character, which is why he maybe worked best in the Defenders, and could be a part of an expanded Guardians of the Galaxy, but as a solo character, there’s just not enough to hold onto.
Next time we’ll look at this Galactus series, and that will wrap up my Silver Surfer reading.
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