Hello and welcome to another week right here in Ye Olde School Café! In this week’s edition we’ll be checking out a story that long time readers of Marvel Cosmic can remember easily, and also one that is cherished by anyone who is a fan of the Silver Surfer! In 1982, John Byrne (and Stan Lee) gave us a tale of heroics and heartbreak all in one stand-alone story that pushed the Surfer to the edge of madness! This was one that resonated with fans for a long time, and still holds water to this very day. So, without further adieu, I give you Silver Surfer #1 (1982)!
Our story begins with the Surfer as he is alone atop the Himalayas, pondering his life. He recalls his time on Zenn-La, and his beautiful woman Shalla Bal. It was a time of peace, but then one day a giant ship entered their atmosphere. The ship was that of Galactus, the World Devourer. As we all know, when that ship is near death and destruction is nigh. The man once known as Norrin Radd, now called Silver Surfer, took it upon himself to approach the mighty Galactus and beg him to spare his home-world. He offers himself as a herald to find worlds for him to devour, and Galactus agrees. Norrin Radd is then imbued with the power cosmic, and forever changed into the Silver Surfer!
He next recounts his first visit to Earth, and how he was swayed by the Fantastic Four to revolt against his master and save the Earth. Together, they did stop Galactus, but then the giant uses his technology to bond the Surfer to the planet that he saved. Keeping him from his love, Shalla Bal. He then summons his board to try and free himself from this curse and return to his home. It only takes a few moments, but he realizes that he cannot break the atmosphere. He does, however, see a blinding light that is emanating from Earth, which he then investigates. The beam was created by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, who is attempting to breach the barrier that Galactus set for his former herald.
After the Surfer and Reed converse, they try to break the barrier using a device Reed has created, plus a certain planetary alignment that only occurs every so many years. It takes a Herculean effort, but it actually works! The Surfer then takes off for his home planet, and reaches it in record time. He’s stunned to see that the planet has been ravaged, and left a smoldering mess. He travels to the other side of the planet and is knocked out of the sky by an unknown spacecraft. He catches up to it eventually, and discovers that it’s a native to the planet. He then finds a spot that actually is still thriving (somewhat), and asks the people what happened. Instead of answering his question, they attack him, and spout that he’s a traitor. He doesn’t hurt them, but does hurl them away. He is next approached by Shalla Bal’s father, and he tells the Surfer about how after he and Galactus left, not long after, Galactus returned and told them that the Surfer reneged on their deal, and that meant that his home planet was fair game.
Once he clears his head from that news, he immediately asks for Shalla Bal. Her father tells him that she was taken against her will by Mephisto! This infuriates the Surfer, and he then heads back to Earth faster than ever. On the way, he recounts the first time he encountered Mephisto and Dr. Doom. The Surfer heads directly for Latveria, and wants answers from its monarch. He finds a woman that resembles his lover, but she tells him that she doesn’t know him. Just as he’s trying to coax her into coming with him, Mephisto shows up and whisks her away to his hellish domain.
This sets up a serious showdown between these two, and the Surfer wastes no time getting down to the fiery depths to battle his adversary. Once he gets there, he’s attacked by some of Mephisto’s minions. It initially appears that they pulled him under the surface and killed him. A moment later, though, the Surfer blasts his way out of the quagmire and confronts the devilish villain. You’d think Mephisto would easily win, but the Surfer is so pumped up between the love of his life being tortured, and his planet being decimated, he begins to overpower the dark lord.
Seeing that he might actually get beaten, he turns his eyes towards Shalla Bal, and blasts her. She falls to the ground, lifeless. The Surfer flies to her side, and sobs at the sight of her motionless body. Mephisto laughs incessantly, and then Shalla Bal turns into a ball of energy, and is whisked away. She’s returned to Zenn La, and with the Surfer back on Earth, he’s now once again unable to be with the woman he loves. This causes Mephisto to laugh and to believe he’s won. But the Surfer knows that he’s saved the life of his lover, and that he’ll one day see her again. So he has claimed victory this day!
Well, that’s it! Anyone that’s read this book knows what a classic it is. Marvel Cosmic is awesome for many reasons, and one of them is because it has such deep roots in books like this. Creators like Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Stan Lee, and so on, are responsible for laying the ground work that allowed others (Abnett & Lanning, Keith Giffen, etc.) to keep it at a high level. See you next week!