Silver Surfer: Black #1 is a prime of example of why less can be more in graphic storytelling. Some comics feature such a brilliant singular artistic vision that the writing can often feel like it’s in the way, to the book's detriment. This isn’t to say Silver Surfer: Black #1 is bad, but due to some often heavy-handed narration, it doesn’t quite reach the sublime heights it could have achieved if it the writing was a tad sparser.
Donny Cates has done some phenomenal work over the last few years. He reinvigorated Venom, played with the idea of Thanos as something of a Shakespearean hero within his own megalomaniacal conquest for galactic genocide and breathed new life into horror's vampire subgenre with titles like Redneck and Interceptor. In short, Cates does a lot of good (and sometimes great) work. He also has a tendency to overwrite a comic script, which is something even the best of scribes will do from time to time. Silver Surfer: Black #1 is one of these comics which suffers from such an ailment.
The plot is pretty simple. During the events of Guardians of the Galaxy #1, Norrin Radd was cast out into a black hole only to later find himself weakened and stranded in unfamiliar cosmic territory. Only then does the real story begin. Unfortunately, it takes the bulk of this first issue to get to a rather familiar setup. Cates does an admirable job employing his often lyrical style of narration (similar to the Cormac McCarthy-esque cadence employed in his Thanos run), but it doesn’t fit the visual aesthetic terribly well. Which brings us to only real problem with Silver Surfer Black #1: Artist Tradd Moore (who co-plotted the issue with Cates) is something of a genius, but the narration reads like it’s trying to emulate literary brilliance to keep up.
Now, that might sound some serious shade being thrown at Donny Cates, but allow us to reiterate: Cates has done some fantastic work and we truly enjoy the vast majority of his output. However, when he stumbles, it’s noticeable. And when he stumbles while paired with the work of someone who draws like Jack Kirby if he decided to illustrate a Fist of the North Star comic while on hallucinogens and was told he wasn’t allowed to pick the pencil up off the page more than twice in any given panel, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Again, Cates' writing is by no means terrible, even if it is a little overstuffed at times.
Allow us to put this rather bluntly: Tradd Moore is one of most underappreciated artists working in the industry, and he's doing amazing work here (with the help of a beautiful color work by Dave Stewart). There isn't much we've seen that's comparable to his style. His use of repeating patterns in diminishing parallel line work is utterly hypnotizing. Very few artists can put something on the page that will make you do a double take each panel.
Artists like Geof Darrow, Frank Quitely, Ian Bertman and of course Moebius have a similar effect, but where Moore stands out from (and not necessarily above) his peers is in how fluid everything is on the page. It's as if the ink on the page had not yet dried before going to print. Yet, instead blots of black smudges coming out of the press, we get something entirely unique to the medium. Something special. Maybe Moore's art doesn't jibe with the current Marvel Comics aesthetic, but who cares? It's beautiful and should be embraced.
Silver Surfer: Black #1 is a solid comic that we can't recommend enough. While the narration can be a bit much, the set up is intriguing enough to pick up subsequent issues. Donny Cates knows how to navigate the cosmic craziness of Marvel Comics better than most writers, so we have no doubt he'll make this miniseries worth remembering. Of course, the main draw is the art work. Tradd Moore is doing brilliant work and each page -- no -- each panel should be cherished.