Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Classics - Silver Surfer #4

There was something special about this issue of The Silver Surfer, but it was difficult to define.

Many years later I read a review that helped clear it up. It seems artist John Buscema decided that he'd really cut loose on this issue. Instead of doing another comic in the Kirby style, he'd make it more his own version of a Marvel comic.

However, when "Big John" brought the finished art in, he was disappointed when writer and editor Stan Lee said he didn't care for the issue.

One can only assume that Stan was having a bad day, or just really preferred John's version of Kirby, because this may be the best art of any issue Buscema drew - and that's saying something.

For most (if not all) of his run at Marvel, Buscema was the best artist in the bullpen. His layouts were dynamic, his figures were stunning and heroic (reflecting his Hal Foster-influenced style), and his storytelling was among the best.

With this issue he also benefits from one of his best inkers, his brother Sal.

Cover dated February 1969, this issue pits the cosmic-powered Silver Surfer against Thor in Asgard. Loki plots to use the Surfer to attack his brother, and the two heroes battle in the classic Marvel manner.

The story features the usual outstanding dialogue by Lee, but the story itself is a pretty standard case of the bad guy manufacturing a misunderstanding in hopes the two heroes would fight.

The Surfer is a figure who never seemed to fit into the comic book hero mold - although he's a powerhouse of cosmic energy, he's more interested in introspection, peace, love and understanding (and all that '60s jazz) than in going out and fighting the bad guys.

Someone always had to bring the fight to him, and as a result he always seemed to be the victim. Perhaps that's why his comic (at least in the first incarnation) never really caught on. Or maybe it was the 25-cents cover price.

But the thing that sells the issue is the artwork - 39 pages of amazing work, followed by a 10-page Tales of the Watcher by Lee and artist Howard Purcell.

Perhaps this issue was a try-out for Buscema's future run on Thor's own comic, but it's also a great look at what that artist was really capable of when he was allowed to work in his own style. A shame he didn't get more opportunities like this, but his work over the decades still shines brightly, and should inspire comic artists for years to come.

Grade: A-

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of those comics that I
can still remember picking up...and
it just knocked me out!
Jack Kirby created The Silver Surfer,
visually. Stan Lee gave him a back
story. But it was John Buscema that
brought him to new powerful heights!
One of the great Marvel comics of all
time, it saddens me that the series
wasn't a success in its time. Only
18 issues? Man, this should've gone
on forever!

Surfin' Sam Kujava