When writer Dan Slott and artists Mike and Laura Allred launched their take on Silver Surfer in 2014, the creators brought a fresh shine to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s “Sentinel of the Spaceways.” Along with far-out humor and intergalactic romance, Slott and the Allreds imbued the Surfer with emotional depth — less aloof space messiah and more lovesick adventurer, navigating space battles and the in-and-outs of a new relationship. Faced with the prospect of bringing the series to a close, they pull off the improbable, exploding the series tagline, “Anywhere & Everywhere,” in a million directions while maintaining heartbreaking precision and pop art exuberance.
Plenty of creators have tapped into the celestial ennui of Norrin Radd — and it’s here, too as he grappled with his past abetting his former master Galactus’ innumerable genocides — but it’s his companion, the Slott and Allred-created Dawn Greenwood, who drives the momentum. Sporting ladybug spots, she is no mere sidekick, nor a manic pixie Earth girl. Raised in a coastal town in Massachusetts, Dawn wished on a shooting star — actually the Surfer himself — bonding her to the Power Cosmic. Slott cites the heroines of Miyazaki as a primary influence, and it shows. She’s curious and tough, with a fixed moral compass and abiding kindness. After an initial conflict with the Queen of Nevers, the universal embodiment of “the almost-now” and “yet to be,” Dawn chooses to join the Surfer and Toomie, her nickname for his flying board, on explorations of the galaxies.
For the Surfer, the expanses of Marvel’s outer space may be well-tread, but through Dawn’s eyes, it all looks and feels new. The Allreds are the perfect art team to illustrate Dawn’s exploratory desires. Mike’s clean lines and expressive faces take on a crackling energy combined with Laura’s electric colors. 2017’s final volume of the series, “A Power Greater Than Cosmic,” pulls out all the stops. Each locale the duo visits is more fantastic than the last, Star Trek-style: the Casino Cosmico is all flashing lights; the belly of the Jumbonox, a lumbering space whale which swallows them whole, turns out to be a populated world of its own. And then there’s Euphoria, where Dawn’s tempted to forsake the reality of her father’s death for a lifelike simulation.
However wonderful it is to have a superhero book filled with smiles, it’s not just the whizzbang fun that makes Silver Surfer zoom. It’s the swooning romance. In the closing chapters, Norrin and Dawn find themselves with the opportunity to rewrite history. Hurtled back in time, to the age before the Big Bang, they could destroy Galen, a young astronomer on the planet Taa, before he can become Galactus — thus preventing Norrin’s home planet Zenn-La, and countless worlds, from being destroyed. But doing so would also unwrite the events that lead to Galactus’ eventual evolution into a force for good (chronicled in The Ultimates), eventually doubling the lifespan of the universe. And it would unmake Dawn and the Surfer’s love story.
“You are a man of no possibility,” the Queen of Nevers tells Radd at pivotal moment, “Forever choiceless and locked onto one single path.” Confronted with the notion of whether or not people can change — if one singular path defines them — or if other potentials exist, the Surfer’s decision leads him to a lifetime of joy with Dawn, as the two share their lives in the cosmic blink before the universe is born. Eventually, it must end, just like Dan Slott and the Allreds’ run on Silver Surfer. But the even the close of the “Spaceman and Earthgirl” story feels like an introduction to a universe of infinite possibilities.
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