The Silver Surfer faces his last days in Silver Surfer: Requiem.
Jack-jack has a disease and it’s giving others Superpowers in Incredibles: City of the Incredibles.
And the Marvel Universe is rebooted…sorta in the 2015 Secret Wars.
We take a look at Silver Surfer: Requiem, The Incredibles: City of the Incredibles, and 2015s Secret Wars, straight ahead.
Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
Alright, well we’re going to start our review looking at Silver Surfer: Requiem, a mini series written by JMS, the creator of Babylon Five and a writer on a wide variety of comic books series both for DC and Marvel as well as Indie Work. This is a kind of What If… story dealing with the potential death of the Silver Surfer that was released back in 2007.
For context, it’s important to remember that Grant Morrison had launched his series, All-Star Superman, back in 2005 which focused on Superman trying to make sure that his loved ones and his adopted planet were safe once he was gone. So you can see how this story may have come about. It’s also worth noting that from here Marvel did do several books featuring the last stories of popular characters, usually titled something like The Ant. But just like in Silver Surfer, it was essentially a What If story rather than a situation where they were actually killing off the character.
So, again, this one is a What If story. I’ll comment first of all on the art. It’s by Esad Ribic and it is amazing. Just absolutely beautiful, gorgeous painted artwork that’s stunning, and it really gives emotional weight and power to really every scene in this book. And so, the art is just incredible throughout, and it drives home the power of the story by JMS.
Issue One features the Surfer going to the Baxter Building. He clearly senses that things are not right and he wants Reed Richards to examine him. And so Reid examines him and what he finds is that slowly but surely the protective layer that allows him to go through space as the Silver Surfer is beginning to fail, and because it’s tied into his nervous system his body is going to fail and he’s going to die in three weeks to a month. And we also get flashbacks into the Surfer’s past and how as Norrin Radd he had agreed to be Galactus’ herald in order to save his own planet, and he’d hoped to lead Galactus to planets without life on them, but the infusion of the Power Cosmic overwrote a lot of his personality until he came to Earth and the Fantastic Four with the help of Alisha, Ben Grimm’s girlfriend, were able to jar that back into being, and he stood and fought Galactus and saved the world at great personal cost. And so it was appropriate that he went back there; and he’s facing death and it really does capture all the emotion of that as he’s coming to terms with that, and also putting it into perspective. At one point he says, “The Monarch butterfly has a lifespan of two weeks, and that’s a generation to the Monarch butterfly so I’ve got two generations left.
In Issue Two the Surfer runs into Spider-Man. He assists Spider-Man because he sees some innocent people are in danger and he’s just passing by; but Spidey notices something is wrong and follows him and gets him to tell him what’s going on. In many ways this story works a lot better than you would think it was because Spidey is not really a typical major part of the Surfer’s life or vice versa. JMS at the time had been working on The Amazing Spider-Man. But in many ways Spider-Man represents a sort of average Joe, average person’s perspective on Earth; and before the Surfer leaves Earth he wants to do something for the people on Earth. And he offers to give Spidey a taste of the Power Cosmic, but Spider-Man says, “Maybe another day”, but then he tells him there’s not going to be another day. So instead, Spidey brings Mary Jane and she gets a taste of the Power Cosmic and rides off on the Silver Surfer’s board.
And it’s worth noting that Spidey and the Surfer have a really good discussion where Spidey asked, “What about the surfboard?” And Surfer explains, “It’s not a surfboard”, that it’s a case of form follows function because he needs something to ride around the cosmos on. And when Spidey asks, “Why not a car or a plane?”, either…once you felt the feeling of traveling through space, why would you ever want a barrier around you? But when Mary Jane gets back she talks about what it felt like and it was definitely a very emotional experience, and the emotions of it gives Spidey an idea. And it’s beautifully written.
I’ll read extensively from this – hopefully not too much: “If he could extend the Power Cosmic to MJ and let her feel what he feels, let her experience the kind of freedom he has experienced, let her see the world as he sees it – whole, beautiful, with a prospect of peace always at the center of it, then might it not be possible for just a moment to let the whole world feel what’s that like. Assuming of course that the effort doesn’t kill him first in prison cells where light could not penetrate, in cities and villages where the gnawing ache of hunger was eternal and tangible, in torture camps and war zones and the Parliaments of tyrants, in distant places where hope had become a mockery and tomorrow was only a promise of continued pain and suffering; in the thoughts of those who caused violence because they knew no other way, whose own minds were as torn and tortured as those they harmed – for five minutes they knew what it was to be at peace, to be free.” And five minutes had been all the Surfer could afford spread across the whole world but despite he said, “Who knew what would come of that”. And the Surfer starts to leave and that gets Spidey even more reflective as he goes “As he rose in the sky I thought ‘How sad that we didn’t know him better, that his voice was heard so little when he had so much to say. Why do we always realize these things when it’s too late to do anything about it?”
Issue Three finds the Surfer heading back up into space, and you actually think he’s going back into space and that’s all for scenes on Earth that’ll really get you. But before he leaves, Stephen Strange appears in his astral form. Of course Strange was the Surfer’s longtime teammate on the Defenders, and that farewell moment is just another moment where I cried reading this book. I think I cried reading every single Issue of this book; so well done I guess. This story does kind of go in another direction which I think almost derails it, but the Surfer comes across two planets that discovered each other and then went to war because of religious differences. They’d been at war for fifty generations and they ask the Surfer to see if in his wisdom he could pick one side to get on and to win, and the Surfer said he didn’t really see a difference between the two sides, and the people on the planet were like, ‘Oh well, OK, we’re not in a hurry to end the war.’ But he saw the devastation and he flew out and destroyed both sides’ capability to make war, even though they were actually able to hurt him because of the sickness. And then he flew to each of their planets and destroyed their shrines. And the alien narrator who was describing the Surfer’s visit said he proved that there was no greater hand than ours at work, and I guess there’s a couple ways you could take that. One is just as an absolute cosmological statement, or the other is the fact that whatever their deity status they were not behind the war. The people were, which is a more reasonable viewpoint. And while I think that having the Surfer after most of these first two Issues and the final Issue really focus on him more as familiar people and places, having him visit some random aliens is kind of iffy, but it does show the Surfer’s overall heart and compassion and desire for peace. And the Surfer said, “If sacred places are to be spared the ravages of war then make all places sacred, and if the holy people are to be kept harmless from war then make all peoples holy.” And that expresses so much what the Surfer is about.
Issue Four sees his return to Zenn-La in order to die – and I won’t give away a whole lot of details. It’s very emotional. As I said I cried in every Issue, this was no exception. And then the story takes a very interesting turn when Galactus shows up as the Surfer’s dying. And when I was reading I’m like ‘Oh no, he’s going to have to confront him again’ but it didn’t go quite how I thought, and I was really pleasantly surprised. Overall this is just a great graphic novel, and in many ways I think it’s better than All-Star Superman. Now, don’t get me wrong, All-Star Superman is wonderful but this is a better story. I think All-Star Superman is a more fun story because it deals with a lot of the fun parts of Superman’s mythology and is able to play around with that in way that this book doesn’t. It’s a lot more straightforward.
The big illustration, I think, in the difference in depth between the two books comes down to what the heroes’ main concern is. In All-Star Superman, Superman’s concern is about the physical safety and security of the Earth. In Requiem the concern is about the people of Earth and about their need for peace within themselves and on the planet. And I would argue in a superhero-based universe like either the DC or Marvel Universe that that becomes more obviously the bigger concern; because at the end of the day, even if the hero is great as Superman or the Silver Surfer leaves the world, it is still a world full of heroes. The DC Universe has Wonder Woman, the Marvel Universe has Thor and a lot of others. So odds are that somebody will be able to protect the planet from major cosmic threats, but that need for peace with yourself and with others – that large looms, and the lack of that could destroy what asteroids or invading alien demigods couldn’t. So, I think as a focus it definitely is more profound than All-Star Superman. And in some ways as you’re reading it, it can be a bit gloomy and a downer, but it’s also quite beautiful. It’s written as a reflection on life and death, and the power of a life well-lived. The combination of words and fantastic art makes this just a great read, even at less than 100 pages. It’s just incredibly fine and moving graphic novel, and it earns my rating of Very Classy.
Next up we have The Incredibles: City of the Incredibles, and I should say that this book was originally released in 2009, and it followed the miniseries, All in the Family. The events of these books have got to be considered non-canon since the release of The Incredibles II. But, that said, let’s take a look at the book. City of Incredibles collects Issues Zero through Three of the ongoing Incredible series. Issue Zero actually tells about the birth of Jack-Jack and that there was this very specific doctor who provided services to supers including baby delivery. However, the Confederacy of Crime had broken in and was intimidating the doctor, and one of them – Shifty – is able to change shapes and he tries to trick Mr. Incredible, but he sees through it and he and the family go in, overpower the Confederacy of Crime, and save the doctor so that Jack-Jack can be delivered with a diagnosis of not having any super powers at all. However, they had been seeking a cylinder containing a virus and Jack-Jack is exposed to the virus and Issues One through Three focus on what happens when that virus develops – because the effect of the virus on Jack-Jack is that he gives his powers to anyone who’s nearby and catches it from him. It makes super powers communicable.
It starts when someone who is just a henchman gets Jack-Jack’s fire shooting power and then you have all sorts of super powered henchmen ready to assume their place in the world before the Confederacy of Crime moves in. Overall this is a fun story. Writer, Mark Waid, seems to have envisioned this as a really, a very Silver Age world. There’s some fun fights and just some good action. A little bit of mystery as to why Agent Dicker is acting so weird; but other than that it’s a perfectly fun and perfectly fine story. If I had a problem…well, I guess there are two problems: one, it doesn’t have a whole lot of emotional depth, it’s just fun, it’s definitely made for kids, while I think, The Incredibles movies are more made for both kids and adults. Also, the idea that the Confederacy of Crime comes back when supers comes back kinds of suggest that these super criminals are only doing what they’re doing in order to fight the supers, which is not a viewpoint that I would generally find agreement with, but it’s a minor point. I think that the book is fine, particularly for kids. If you want some more Incredibles adventure this is worth checking out, even though again – as I said – it’s non-canon. I’ll give it a rating of Somewhat Classy.
Next up we have Secret Wars. Now this is not the original Secret Wars from the 1980s, rather it’s the one written by Jonathan Hickman in 2015. Just like in Requiem, the art is by Esad Ribic who does another great job and really the art throughout this just looks fantastic. The plot is that the end of the Multiverse has happened and it is shown that this is the end of both the main Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe. That happens right in the first Issue and there’s kind of a notation ‘Marvel Universe 1961 to 2015’, ‘Ultimate Universe 2000 to 2015’. And what we have after the destruction of all things is a world where Doom has made himself God and King on Battle World, which is essentially a hodgepodge of different worlds and dimensions and territories taken from each. And, in fact, many of these battle[?] worlds would be the subjects of their own mini series.
The one that was the most interesting and has had the most lasting impact is Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows which, given the stated goal of changing it so we just have one whole Marvel Universe technically shouldn’t exist, but I’m glad that it does. And you have some other things – it’s almost a fantasy setup. You have policemen in this world are known as Thors. There are multiple versions of Thors who are policemen and do Doom’s bidding. However, a ship from the old universe survived and several years later it comes to rest and its occupants come out. And somehow Mile Morales ends up surviving and from the Ultimate Universe. I was a little confused as to how he got there but I guess that wouldn’t match my confusion as the story goes on because Reed Richards is on this world, and in many ways Doom has stolen Reed’s life. When he rewrote the universe he rewrote himself as married to Sue, he gave himself Reed’s kids and eventually everything is heading towards a confrontation – because the idea is that even with all that has, Doom is still afraid of Reed Richards. And of course Reed Richards went in the end because he’s better. That’s at least what I can gather.
The story really does have a lack of coherency as he starts introducing all of these elements. You have T’Challa and Namor off somewhere and all of these different elements of the battle world that it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on and follow the narrative in any convincing way. I also think that other than Doom we weren’t really given a character who had a compelling true narrative. We see a lot of characters who are fan favorites, but there’s not really an arc for what’s going on. And the story, I think, is hurt because it does compare itself to the original Secret Wars which not only had great art but a compelling storyline with arcs from different characters. You didn’t just have everybody being there to be there. I mean, the way this is written Reed Richards is the ultimate hero and I think we really needed more time with Reed, and more of an emotional reaction by Reed to what Doom has done. We actually get more reaction from Doom as to what he fears Reed’s reaction will be.
It also under-delivers when you see the end of both the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe, I think it’d be reasonable to expect that you’re going to have something like a crisis on Infinite Earth situation where you’re going to get a brand new universe. And that doesn’t really happen. You end up essentially with the same Marvel-616 Universe, but with Miles Morales in it; and because he was nice to the Molecule Man the Molecule Man goes ahead and resurrects his dead mom, his dead uncle and brings him into the new Universe. It’s really implausible for what they’re trying to do, but I think if that’s the reboot you’re wanting to do, something less universe-spanning is indicated. The only other thing is that this effectively wrote the Fantastic Four out of having their own Marvel comics with Reed deciding to stop being a superhero after the events of this story, and for him and his family just to focus on science. And this is ultimately a pressure tactic to get the rights back to the Fantastic Four from Fox, which has kind of worked out and now you do have the Fantastic Four returning to the Marvel continuity.
Overall, I’ll give this book a rating of Not Classy. Despite the great art work the plot just falls apart. We’re never given a real reason to connect with any of these characters or their quest. The plot is convoluted, Doom is so overpowered it’s really hard to understand how Reed wins. I think we more get the impression that Reed wins because he’s awesome, rather than us understanding why and how he was able to defeat and dethrone Doom. It’s a story that over-promises and under-delivers. The best, I think, that can be said for Secret Wars is that the Battle World ideas can be pretty neat and some of them are well executed. But as for the event itself it’s just overblown and not really any different than any other superhero event, and I think it’s well worth skipping.
Alright, well to sum up, we gave a big Very Classy rating to Silver Surfer: Requiem; we gave a Somewhat Classy to City of the Incredibles, a nice Silver Age comeback; and then we went ahead and we gave a rating of Not Classy to Secret Wars. It’s an overblown Marvel event that invokes but doesn’t really capture the charm of the original Secret Wars story.
Well, that’s all for now. If you do have a comment email it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Twitter @classycomicsguy and rate and review the show on iTunes. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.