Monday, November 9, 2015


Story: Steve Englehart | Pencils: Joe Staton | Inks: Joe Rubinstein
Letters: Ken Bruzenak | Colors: Tom Vincent | Editor: Craig Anderson
Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: The High Evolutionary appears to the Eternals of Olympia and explains his plan to them, then asks that they map the Silver Surfer's DNA for him. Meanwhile, as the Surfer arrives at Earth, the Super-Skrull materializes before him in orbit of the planet. Surfer and Skrull fight briefly but are interrupted by the Eternals, who spirit them down to Olympia. There, the pair is placed into separate pyramid scanning devices. When the Eternals' probe harms the Skrull, the Surfer aids him in escaping his containment and a fight breaks out.

As the battle proceeds, Super-Skrull flees, but the Eternals give chase. They catch the Skrull but the Surfer catches them, and allows the Skrull to depart. The Surfer then makes peace with the Eternals and leaves as well.

Continuity Notes: The High Evolutionary explains that the Eternals and Deviants are offshoots of the same race, created by the Celestials on Earth. Later, we learn from the Eternals that the Skrulls are Deviants of their own race.

The Surfer and Galactus's herald, Nova, recently found the Contemplator in SILVER SURFER #12. The Surfer is headed to Earth to find the son of Mantis following her death, though oddly there is no footnote to explain this.

Super-Skrull materializes out of the Van Allen Radiation Belt around Earth, and spends a page recapping his history over the past decade of appearances: In MARVEL TEAM-UP #62, he was converted to pure energy by the cavourite crystal. His form was restored by Sasquatch in ALPHA FLIGHT #9 (at which point he learned he had cancer), but in the very next issue, #10, Sasquatch converted the Skrull back to energy and beamed him into the radiation belt.

Per the Surfer, the Van Allen Belt was "impregnated with anti-matter" in SILVER SURFER 14, and the Surfer was freed from his imprisonment on Earth by Galactus in issue #1.

Another reference that goes without a footnote is the fact that the Skrull homeworld was eaten by Galactus and that all Skrulls were robbed of their ability to shapeshift. (Both these things happened in John Byrne's long run on FANTASTIC FOUR.)

Circa 1988: Galactus's current herald is Frankie Raye of Earth, and she and the Surfer have some kind of a romantic relationship going on.

The High Evolutionary's Plot: "I intend to advance humanity the same way [the Eternals] were -- to open a glorious new chapter in the life of everyone on Earth -- but though I know all there is to know of human genetics -- and even Eternal genetics ... I need to know more about the genetics of humanoids!"

And to that end, he tasks the Eternals with analyzing the Silver Surfer. Why the Evolutionary couldn't do this himself is unexplained, save for the flimsy excuse that he will be busy with preparations for his main plan. Why he specifically chose the Eternals for this task is a complete mystery.

My Thoughts: First off, the title of this issue is practically undecipherable. I had to stare at it for about a minute, and then confirm it in the Omnibus' table of contents, to figure it out. I don't know what Ken Bruzenak was thinking, but I wish an editor had asked him to re-do the title in a more legible style. (I should note also that the remaining letters aren't much better. They're legible, yes, but they're also pretty sloppy and unattractive.)

Now, on with the story: Near the very end of Jim Shooter's time at Marvel, Steve Englehart, a celebrated scribe from the seventies, returned to the company and was promptly given a trio of titles to work on: WEST COAST AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR, and SILVER SURFER. I'm not a huge fan of Englehart, and I'll cover that more when we get to the FANTASTIC FOUR portion of "Evolutionary War", but I have to admit he handles this particular issue pretty well. For one thing, he has a great grasp of the Silver Surfer's dialogue: "For me, there is merely the power cosmic--! For the Silver Surfer -- that is enough!!"

Add to that a pretty strong portrayal of the Super-Skrull, as well. This version of the character is brash and aggressive, but also has some shred of honor in him as well; or if not honor then certainly a fierce loyalty to the Skrull Empire. For example, he learns that his genetic code may hold the key to restoring the Skrulls' shapeshifting powers, and the Surfer lets him go so he can deliver that key to his people. But the Skrull also finds out the Surfer is an enemy of the empire and briefly considers remaining to fight out of a patriotic duty, until the Surfer convinces him that returning the Empire will serve a greater good.

I don't really "get" the Eternals -- they've always felt to me like Jack Kirby's less successful attempt at the sort of stuff he had already done with the New Gods over at DC -- but at least they look pretty nifty. (I do have a fondness for Sersi, though, due to her time with the Avengers a few years after this issue.)

The artwork is terrific too, coming from Joe Staton. I haven't read much drawn by Staton, but I've liked his style for some time. It's very light and cartoony, almost Bruce Timm-ish. He gives the Super-Skrull some pretty goofy facial expressions, and he does an excellent Silver Surfer as well, so there' little to complain about on the artistic front.

In fact if I have any complaint about this issue, it's that the High Evolutionary's plan for the Surfer is extremely muddy. He wants to know about "humanoids", so he needs the Silver Surfer's DNA analyzed? What, exactly, is a "humanoid" by his definition, and how will the Surfer's DNA, specifically, help him to learn about them? This stuff is completely glossed over for some reason.


  1. I'm a big fan of Englehart's work from the 1970s. He went downhill by the 1980s, as a writer, but he was still pretty good on the cosmic books where strong characterization wasn't as big a factor.
    His FF run was a dismal failure, but I have a soft spot for his West Coast Avengers, just because he brought in a lot of forgotten continuity. The dialogue was painful at times though.
    His Silver Surfer run fell in to the "good" catergory, for mine.

    1. My experience with Englehart is pretty limited, I will admit that up front. Outside of this annual, I don't think I've ever read any of his SILVER SURFER, which is why I skipped my thoughts on him here. I'll get into why I dislike him in better detail when I cover the FANTSTIC FOUR chapter.

      I've read some of his seventies material, and while I don't hate it, I generally find it kind of a slog. I have a trade paperback of the "Celestial Madonna" storyline, and I found that thing a chore to get through. So... many... words! But at the same time, he wasn't as wordy as Roy Thomas, whose work from that period I really have trouble with.

      That said, and I will mention this in the FF review as well, I adore Englehart's short DETECTIVE COMICS run. Maybe since he came on board to do a set, finite number of issues and then leave, but it's just way tighter and better written than most anything else I think I've read from him (which, again, isn't exactly a ton). I wish DC would collect his contemporaneous JLA, because I'd love to read that someday too.

    2. . I wish DC would collect his contemporaneous JLA, because I'd love to read that someday too.

      Ditto. I wish DC would collect, really, any of their pre-Crisis, Bronze Age material in some kind of comprehensive manner. Or at least some kind of comprehensive Justice League reprint (and not just the Silver Age stuff, which gets reprinted pretty regularly).

      There's a lot of DC stuff I wish they'd reprint (or just launch a Marvel Unlimited type service). They're getting better (there's a lot of 90s era trades out or coming out soon, an era DC has traditionally ignored when it comes to collections), but for a company as obsessed with its internal history as DC, they have a really shoddy and inconsistent approach to collections, especially compared to Marvel.

    3. There's plenty of Bronze Age DC I would read, but there' so little of it out there in collections. I'm happy they at least put out NEW TEEN TITANS. I think my "Holy Grail" of pre-CRISIS DC to see collected would be the full Gerry Conway run on BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS. As I understand it he treated both books like one biweekly series all the way through. It was his run that brought back Englehart's Rupert Thorne storyline and introduced Killer Croc, among other things. I've read bits and pieces of it here and there, but never the whole thing.

      I'd also love to see the full Doug Moench run, which directly followed Conway's, collected. I believe he followed Conway's lead as far as serializing the two books into one ongoing saga.

  2. I think Joe Staton did some work on Englehart's FF. I like it too - it has a retro/animated style to it that works really well for certain characters.

    I have some fondness for Englehart's FF, simply because I'm a sucker for atypical FF lineups, but his tics are in full display in that run (and it's mucked up by editorial interference as well).

    His AVENGERS work I do really enjoy (though Mantis does absolutely nothing for me, and yes, I know how contradictory that makes these two statements), though for me, it's marred by some really lackluster/subpar art. Bob Brown just doesn't do it for me, and I feel like for much of AVENGERS in the early to mid-100s (which include stories routinely cited as some of their best) the art is barely above fill-in quality (and not even that, at times), which really detracts from some otherwise great stories.

    But Englehart is definitely a very tic-y writer (similar to Claremont in that way), and I can see how that can turn someone off his work.

    I haven't read any of the Silver Surfer solo series (aside from a few random "Infinity Gauntlet" tie-ins); I'm actually really excited about this month's Epic Collection, which collects the first chunk of issues of that series.

    1. I agree, I'm not a big fan of Bob Brown either, though for me that's due mainly to his suffering by comparison -- he drew Batman comics around the same time as Neal Adams, and, well... Adams on Batman makes almost anyone else look bad. (Though Irv Novick did some pretty underrated Batman work around the same time. He somehow managed to keep up with Adams.)

      I'm considering the Surfer Epic, but I didn't pre-order it. I run hot and cold on the character. I think he's fine as a guest-star in FANTASTIC FOUR or something, and I love Jim Starlin's run which led up to INFINITY GAUNTLET, but that's about it. Knowing those early issues are written by Englehart and feature Mantis has kind of turned me off of checking them out.