A Retrospective on Silver Surfer Annual #1 (2018)
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Original publication of this article can be found here, on ComicsVerse.com.
We have all dreamt of exploring the secret pockets of our galaxy. We have all dreamt of searching for new stars, moons, and planets. Of course, those dreams are quite difficult to obtain when we can’t go up into space as easily as we would like to. For Silver Surfer though, those dreams comprise his life, dreams we dive into in 2018's Silver Surfer Annual.
Through this work, from writer Ethan Sacks and artist Andre Lima Araujo, we come to understand that Silver Surfer too dreamt of exploring the vastness of space, a dream he actually fulfills. However, his story also reminds us of the sacrifice that often accompanies one’s ambitions, and, sometimes, how those sacrifices are not worth the dream.
The Tragedy of Norrin-Rad
At times, it is hard to fathom that an individual with the power and might of Silver Surfer was once a powerless child. Like any one of us though, he did indeed have a childhood, one abundant with naivety and dreams of exploring the universe. Thus, Silver Surfer used to go by a different name, that of Norrin-Rad.
Norrin used to live on the planet of Zenn-La amongst loved ones, including his beloved Shalla-Bal. Unfortunately, his time on Zenn-La came to an end when the mighty Galactus arrived to consume Zenn-La. Before Galactus could do so though, Norrin made a deal with the cosmic being. He offered to serve as Galactus’ herald throughout the universe, searching for planets ripe for consumption, if Galactus would spare his homeworld.
Galactus accepted the deal and ultimately fulfilled the dreams of young Norrin-Rad. Though, one cannot help but wonder if that young boy’s dream was polluted by the vices of Galactus.
Yes, Norrin now spends his life exploring the universe but at the cost of worlds whose fate lies with Galactus’ hunger. If Norrin had known the price of his dreams, would he have still pursued them?
We may never know.
The Curse of the Power Cosmic
Consequently, Norrin-Rad’s childhood dream manifested in a life of servitude to Galactus.
Therefore, Norrin’s decision to serve Galactus may be perceived as a sacrifice. He left behind an orthodox life in addition to his beloved Shalla-Bal in order to protect her and the rest of his planet’s occupants. On the surface though, his sacrifice does not seem all so terrible. Galactus grants him the power cosmic so that he can traverse the galaxy. This power is undoubtedly mighty and magnificent.
However, it is only so powerful. The power cosmic Silver Surfer obtains cannot end his servitude. It cannot free his loved ones from the potential of Galactus’ hunger. It cannot release him from his horrific duty, that of finding planets that will satiate the hunger of his master. So, one may argue that the Silver Surfer merely has a semblance of power. He is a slave to the duty his master has imposed onto him. As a result, the power cosmic Silver Surfer possesses is really only ever used for the benefit of Galactus himself.
The Cost of Existence
Now, in his duty, Silver Surfer witnesses the fragility of life that we so often forget about. His
obligation to locate planets for Galactus ultimately forces him to skew his perception of life. Silver Surfer struggles to perceive his own existence as a worthy one since his obligation truly disgusts him. Additionally, his duty forces him to assess the value of others’ lives, granting him an authority he does not wish to possess.
Thus, Silver Surfer perceives his own existence as a curse. His childhood dreams have been cursed by the evil ambitions of his master. His loved ones have been cursed by that same master, living under Galactus’ looming threat. Also, Silver Surfer’s own perception of the rest of the universe has been cursed.
He no longer views life the way he used to. Now, he must force himself into apathy in order to assess the value of a planet that may be Galactus’ next feast. Of course, all of this is for the survival of Shalla-Bal, and the cost of her survival has only gotten pricier.
Silver Surfer used to attain uninhabited worlds for his master. Unfortunately, Galactus’ hunger has now run too high. Now, Silver Surfer must find a habited world suitable for his master, one abundant with billions of lives ripe for the taking. One cannot help but wonder how Silver Surfer manages such an impossible decision. How does one determine whether or not a world deserves to perish? Most importantly though, how does one
assume the authority to make such a decision?
In this Silver Surfer Annual, Silver Surfer locates a planet he finds to be worthy of
consumption. He believes the planet to be overridden by corruption and hate, overtaken by insects who corrupt the very purpose of life. In fact, Silver Surfer believes that their eradication would be a mercy to the rest of the universe. Of course, there is an irony in Silver Surfer’s mentality. He believes that the eradication of this specific planet would prevent its citizens from polluting other worlds with their corruption.
Yet, Silver Surfer cannot protect other worlds from the gluttony of Galactus. In fact, he is facilitating it. So, in reality, Silver Surfer is not protecting anyone from anything. Rather, he is only putting planets across the galaxy in more danger; robbing planets, that may be perceived as corrupt, of their hope for redemption.
Again though, what can Silver Surfer do? His greatest fear is failure, not because of his personal pride but because of the consequences his failure would warrant. His duty is rooted in impossible decisions. The authority Galactus bestows upon him forces him to live by those decisions. Thus, there is no choice Silver Surfer can make that can save everyone in
need of salvation.
The Sound of Music
Alongside his fear of failure, Silver Surfer fears an unfulfilling demise, one that would mitigate the value of his servitude of Galactus. Additionally, his demise would result in the death of Shalla-Bal and Zenn-La. Consequently, in the context of this SILVER SURFER ANNUAL, Silver Surfer does not seek personal gain.
In fact, he does not maintain much individuality because he serves Galactus. As aforementioned, Silver Surfer serves Galactus so that Shalla-Bal may live, which is why Silver Surfer finds himself in the following moment.
Upon discovery of what Silver Surfer perceives to be a depraved world, he summons his master. As he does so, the beings of the world attack Silver Surfer and take him into custody.
In the duration of his custody, Silver Surfer becomes overwhelmed by melancholic music that
pulsates throughout the planet. As he listens to the song, he becomes aware of the existence of others within the planet: children, families, and ultimately good-hearted beings.
Silver Surfer comes to realize that his impulse drove him to pass a sweeping judgment on this planet.
He assumed the planet maintained a general hopelessness until now. Now, he has witnessed the good buried within, the hope beneath the surface. Silver Surfer has understood that the music he hears is the wistful song of a people who have suffered greatly, a people who hope for a brighter future.
His impulse comprised a narrow vision of what actually was, and those people will have to suffer for it as their melancholic song nears its end.
The Once and Future World
The term “melancholy” distinguishes itself from those of “sadness” and “grief.” Oftentimes, grief refers to a state of being in which a person cannot find inspiration, and, thus, energy to maintain an active existence. On the other hand, a state of melancholy comprises a constructive, dynamic state of being.
The term alludes to a state in which an individual transposes their sadness into something beautiful and poetic. In the context of this SILVER SURFER ANNUAL, that melancholic energy translates into the song of an entire population, a song that celebrates their existence as a blessing rather than a curse despite their hardships.
Upon the discovery of this array of good-hearted individuals, Silver Surfer comes to understand the dimensionality a planet can possess. He understands that the hostile beings he was initially introduced to do not represent the oppressed, those in need of salvation.
Unfortunately for those people, Silver Surfer has heralded the exact opposite of salvation.
Thus, the people demand he hear their song, so that it may not be forgotten in their deaths.
Interestingly, the beings singing their song do not express ill-will towards Silver Surfer, the one who has sealed their fate. It appears as though they maintain an acceptance towards their demise. They acknowledge that there is no way to change their fate, so they elect to not express resentment. Rather, they wish to celebrate their species in their final moments so that Silver Surfer himself can preserve a positive memory of their people, which he promises to do despite the fact that he is the one who has written the final verse of their song.
He is the herald of their death, a role that brings
on immense guilt with its duty. So, does life find preservation in memory? Of course, that is the only way the individuals of this doomed planet can persist. Though, memory is volatile, subjective. One can easily skew the perception of a past event by the influence of the imagination within their own subconscious. Therefore, the memory of this planet’s
people can be compromised. Yes, Silver Surfer has heard their song, he has even contributed to it.
However, his memory of the song and the individuals who created it is subject to change, a change we will witness soon enough.
With the fate of this planet inscribed, Galactus finally answers his servant’s summons, prepared to consume the planet. Ridden with guilt, Silver Surfer begs for the planet’s salvation. He pleads that there are people within the planet who are entirely innocent, who have the right to live. Galactus perceives life as subservient to him, so the cosmic being becomes annoyed with Silver Surfer’s pleas. To Galactus, all other life is subservient, expendable. Thus, Galactus believes Silver Surfer should share that perspective in order for their partnership to succeed.
So, Galactus eases Silver Surfer’s misery by erasing his memory of those living within the doomed planet. As a result, their song fades with the volatility of Silver Surfer’s memory.
Of course, one cannot help but wonder why Galactus would do anything for Silver Surfer. Yet, this act is not one for Silver Surfer’s benefit. Rather, it is an act for Galactus’ personal needs. Galactus needs Silver Surfer to view worlds with a sense of apathy or he will not succeed in serving Galactus.
So, the song fades, though it does not disappear entirely because Silver Surfer continues to
remember a melody of a song that once was, though he does not recall the origin.
Unfortunately, that subtle melody is not enough to salvage other worlds since Silver Surfer
continues his duty, searching for worlds ripe for the taking.
He searches for worlds drowning in corruption, abundant with hate and violence until he finds the one that he believes has no chance at redemption: Earth.
What Lies Beyond 2018’s Silver Surfer Annual
The ending of this SILVER SURFER ANNUAL is one that served as a great shock for many readers. It forced us all to think about the state of Earth: the war, the pollution, the hate that seems to persist more than it ever has before.
However, is Silver Surfer only witnessing a skewed, general view of our world?
Is there hope buried deep within that he must discover in order to restore his faith in our world? Will he come to discover that hope when it is too late, just as his master arrives to consume Earth?
To me, this issue exemplifies the perception that hope is a relentless force of nature. It may be hard to find in dark times, but it is everpresent. Unfortunately, it is easy for dark forces to overcome hope, exemplified in Galactus’ insatiable hunger.
Thus, it is vital that individuals maintain hope, hope that can contrast the hate in the world before those dark forces consume it all before our eyes. Silver Surfer made a sacrifice when he took on the duty to explore the galaxy. Yes, he is fulfilling a childhood dream, but at the cost of billions. So, one may conclude that if he had the choice, he would have simply let his dreams only be dreams, and nothing more.