Over the last few years, many have tried to turn the Silver Surfer into an engaging character with varying degrees of success, but no-one has yet managed to redefine the character definitively. This time, Greg Pak has decided to approach the task literally, transforming the Surfer back into Norrin Radd, allowing him to experience all the doubt and passion traditionally denied him as the Surfer.
Issue #2 sees the newly-depowered Radd escaping a hi-tech prison in the company of Suzi Endo, a rare example of a new potential love interest for the character. It’s immediately clear that Harvey Tolibao’s artwork is well-suited to this chapter of the story, which is filled with large set-pieces and melodramatic interactions. Although co-penciler Stephen Segovia’s work is of a similar quality, his odd camera angles and expressions don’t quite match Tolibao’s, giving the book an uneven feel.
Furthermore, while generally enjoyable, there are glitches in the artwork with this series that cause it to stumble. On at least two occasions, the visuals drastically fail to match the text, whether it’s indecipherable storytelling (Radd “hitting his head”) or outright contradictory images (Radd claims to have split his knees open, but the artwork doesn’t show it.)
Pak’s writing is where the series is at its strongest. Under his pen, Radd is turned into a more relatable character than ever, and yet his sensibilities still inform the Surfer. It offers greater insight into why the Surfer is who he is, now that we’ve seen the man at the center of him.
Pak’s dialogue is occasionally a little forced, however. The amount of rather expository first person narration makes it feel like Pak had to go in and do corrections because the visuals didn’t quite match up to his script, and when the Surfer — even in human (Zenn-lavian?) form — refers to “cracking his butt” it pulls me right out of the story. Would he really say that? It’s nitpicky, yes, but it was enough for me to put the mental brakes on, which means it’s a question worth asking.
It’s also very easy to feel a little frustrated with a Silver Surfer book that doesn’t actually feature the character’s signature tropes. It’s a bit like reading a Wolverine story where he doesn’t use his claws or healing factor. The prominent use of Galactus anchors the story in the Surfer’s world, but without the board, or the detached philosophical musing, or the insane cosmic powers, it lacks the aesthetics of a traditional Silver Surfer story.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, for a change, but it does mean that those of us (and I include myself in this) who picked up the story hoping for Pak’s take on the Surfer as continued from his various guest appearance in Hulk are going to be slightly disappointed. This is all about Norrin Radd, the man, and for better or worse, that’s a subtly different story than what I was hoping for.