Trade Waiter – Silver Surfer (New Dawn Vol. 1)
Michael Allred’s art is completely distinct from that of the rest of the comic world. Though it would seem impossible, somehow Allred’s art both closely resembles the classic comic art of the 60s while looking completely original and unlike anything else in comics. The work of colorist, Laura Allred, contributes a big part of what makes the art in this book so great. The husband and wife team have long standing partnership and that continuity means their work supports each others styles and never clashes.
For readers who might be unfamiliar with what a colorist does, the nature of work is contained right there in the name. The colorist takes outlines from the penciller and inker and fills in the colors of the art. If this sounds like a mechanical or simple job, it absolutely isn’t. For evidence, compare the work of this book with that of the classic Vertigo comics of the early 2000s. It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong, it’s that the choices of the colorist completely change the tone and feel of the book. A muted pallet can suggest ambiguity or uncertainty; a brighter higher-contrast pallet makes a book feel more exuberant. Beyond style, there’s a simple issue of skill. Colorists can obscure the detail of the original pencils if they don’t work carefully, golden age comics often suffer from this.
If I’ve focused on the art first, that’s because it’s really fantastic and it’s worth knowing a little about the process so that one can appreciate why it’s so cool. The story itself has some great ideas and it’s more than enough to keep the reader’s attention.
The Silver Surfer is one of those characters whose origin story is so iconic and powerful that any other Silver Surfer story exists in the shadow of that first story. It’s difficult to know what to do next with it. Silver Surfer acts like a cypher in that first story. He looks like an expressionless cyborg for a reason. This one-dimensional treatment can make for an entertaining side character, but it also makes for a challenging character to build a book around.
Dan Slott’s story is mostly up to that challenge. He provides the audience a surrogate character in Dawn Greenwood and makes the Surfer her foil. Dawn makes the humor and wonder in this story about exploration work. She can play straight man to the weird world around her and give the story a way to expose some of its funnier ideas. This is a super hero book that’s as much about exploration as it is about fighting bad guys. More Star Trek than Star Wars, and with the Allreds’ art, the Sixties feel of the sci-fi world comes through. The story hits stumbling blocks when it encounters the sprawling continuity that sometimes slows down the story with references that are bound to lose, or simply not interest, some of the readers. A brief crossover with Guardians of the Galaxy lacks conflict and consequence, even if it is cool to see Allred draw Groot, the crime-fighting tree of the Marvel universe.
For the most part, this story is a quick-moving and beautiful story that makes use of a sprawling Marvel cosmic universe that sometimes seems and after through in the Marvel universe. Dan Slott’s story is good, Michael Allred’s art is even better.