- The Silver Surfer is frequently portrayed as a powerful hero, but he has a history of losing battles and being Marvel’s cosmic jobber.
- The latest miniseries, Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy, follows the Surfer’s attempt to rescue Captain Marvel’s son from a cosmic crime.
- The appeal of the Silver Surfer lies in his altruism, introspective stories, and emotional conflicts rather than his cosmic powers.
Since 1966, Norrin Radd has cruised the celestial seas as the shimmering Silver Surfer. Marvel’s spacefaring sentry has spent a half-century traveling the spaceways at lightspeed, moving from planet to planet to experience lifetimes’ worth of conflict and culture. His wisdom and the Power Cosmic, a fraction of the power available to the world-devouring Galactus, have made the Surfer one of the most distinguished allies of the Fantastic Four, Defenders, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel’s Sentinel of the Spaceways stands among the stars as one of the bastions of his company’s unique brand of Kirby-esque cosmic heroism and he’s frequently seen as one of Marvel’s most powerful champions — at least on paper. In practice, the Silver Surfer is kind of a wimp.
Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy is the latest miniseries focused on the former Herald of Galactus. The comic is helmed by Ron Marz and Ron Lim, who worked on the character in the ’90s. Readers can identify the pair’s familiarity with Norrin Radd based on the story’s historic Surfer-centric cast, its morality-driven story, its personal stakes, and the fact the Surfer’s first fight ends with him blasted to the ground. It’s the latest in a series of losing battles for Radd that extend back to the character’s first appearances. The Surfer’s history is filled with highlight-reel losses, but he’s always been defined by more than what he can communicate with his fists.
Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy Has A Familiar Ending
Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy picks up where its predecessor, Silver Surfer Rebirth, left off. Norrin Radd travels with Captain Marvel’s son Genis-Vell, regaling him with heroic stories about his father. This time, the Surfer suggests using the Time Stone to let Genis witness the former Captain Marvel in action. The pair travel back in time, but things quickly go awry. After Genis watches Captain Marvel save an alien race, Silver Surfer reveals himself to be Mephisto in disguise. The real Surfer, suddenly aware of what’s transpired, travels to Adam Warlock to warn him. However, as is his custom, the Silver Surfer is immediately knocked to the ground.
The Sentinel of the Spaceways has been beaten into the floor almost as often as he’s flown through the stars. In fact, the character’s recent miniseries almost always start with Norrin Radd losing a fight. Silver Surfer: Black #1 ends with Knull catching Surfer by the throat. Silver Surfer: Ghost Light #2 begins with him knocked down by the recently resurrected Ghost Light, and features cover art of the Surfer being punched out of the sky. Even Lim and Marz’s Silver Surfer Rebirth ends its first issue with the title character knocked back by an explosion caused by Thanos. No matter where in the universe Norrin Radd travels, he’s always headed for a beatdown.
The Surfer’s Biggest Bails
The Surfer’s follies in fisticuffs aren’t a recent development. Despite wielding Galactus’ fearsome cosmic power, the Devourer of Worlds’ former herald could always be politely described as a pushover. In fact, some of the character’s most memorable appearances were born from his most pathetic losses. The Carnage Cosmic, from Amazing Spider-Man #430 by Tom Defalco, Joe Bennett and Bud Larosa, menaced the skies after the Surfer was ambushed by a terrifying Carnage symbiote. Incredible Hulk #95 by Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan, Marshall Rogers, Tom Palmer, Jeffrey Huet, Chris Sotomayor and Randy Gentile saw Norrin Radd ambushed and fitted with an obedience disc, then forced into gladiatorial combat as the Silver Savage.
Then there are appearances where losing is Norrin Radd’s sole function since it shows how strong his opponents must be. Silver Surfer’s most powerful incarnation was the Fallen One, introduced in 2015’s Thanos by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Antonio Fabela and Clayton Cowles. This Surfer, stained black and wielding Thor’s Mjolnir, stood between Thanos and the annihilation of all life. In spite of his power, of course, he died horribly. In Marvel Zombies by Robert Kirkman, Sean Phillips, Gentile and June Chung, Radd doesn’t join the titular zombies but becomes their most important victim when eating him gives the zombies cosmic power. Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Mark Farmer’s Hulk #12 even had the Red Hulk kill a time-displaced Surfer to highlight Ross’s strength and arrogance.
The Silver Surfer’s Quest For Peace
While it may seem disappointing at first glance, none of the Silver Surfer’s extensive losses on the battlefield take away from what makes him great. At his best, Norrin Radd is a triumph of altruism and character in the face of seemingly unstoppable malevolence. Despite his considerable power, he’s not a fighter at heart, and that’s okay. More Star Trek than Star Wars, Silver Surfer’s introspective stories and tragic character use space to explore the depths of societal and emotional conflict more than the depth of his cosmic powers. Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy recognizes this, and quickly leverages those elements to create a tale founded on the character’s strengths.
Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy is a tale of temptation and matters of the heart weighed against right and wrong. Mephisto, disguised as the Surfer, has tempted Captain Marvel’s son into committing a cosmic crime by dangling a chance at connecting to his long-dead father in front of him. He has corrupted a hero through love, damaged the trust between Norrin Radd and Adam Warlock’s Infinity Watch, and will force the title hero to ally himself with Thanos in order to rescue Genis-Vell and clear their names. It’s bound to be action-packed but the fates of the Surfer and Genis won’t boil down to a simple fistfight.
Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy is a story written by veterans who understand what kind of stories bring out the best in this hero. That includes a cosmic scope, Shakespearean themes, and deeply human struggles. It does not, however, include the Surfer winning fights. If anything, Norrin Radd almost certainly needs to lose a few scuffles along the way. It’s all for the best, though, as the sense of humanity and mercy that lies beneath the Surfer’s otherworldly silver shell is what makes the character so endearing.
Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy is set to release five total issues through its run, building one of the most unforgettable Silver Surfer stories in recent memory. Ron Lim and Ron Marz have assembled some of Norrin Radd’s greatest enemies, allies and incarnations, and they have the skills needed to make good on their tale’s potential. Touting appearances from Mephisto, Thanos, Adam Warlock and the Surfer’s now-infamous Fallen One variant, this series is a wave that fans of the Surfer and cosmic Marvel will surely want to catch. Silver Surfer Rebirth: Legacy #2 releases on October 11.