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Evil Geek Book Report – Silver Surfer Epic Collection Vol. 1: When Calls Galactus

Comics are expensive. Trade paperbacks while sometimes can you give more bang for your buck than buying the individual issues outright can also be very expensive. Marvel’s big project a few years ago was to release the Essentials; budget line black and white trades the size of phone books. Now they’ve moved on to the Epic Collection, claiming to trade entire series’ but highlighting some of their previously uncollected issues. This (as long as it’s seen through all the way) is a great idea. Many of the more famous titles did start with a volume of their respective series inaugural issues. I bitched about their treatment of Claremont’s X-Men run but since then they have released information that they will be releasing a pivotal Epic Collection volume that covers a desirable non traded run of issues so that’s a step in the right direction. We are here today though to discuss Silver Surfer’s first volume of the Epic Collection.

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So this volume collects early Surfer appearances in the Marvel Universe before he was granted his own book in the late 1960’s. While that series will surely make up Vol. 2 of the Epic Collection, Vol. 3 has been solicited with the first 14 issues of his late 1980’s series. I’ll admit, part of the reasoning behind buying this collection was a chance for me to read the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby classic Fantastic Four Galactus Trilogy encompassing FF#48-50 in color and fairly cheaply.

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The story is pretty well known so I won’t get into a lot of detail, but it involves the first appearance of Galactus and Silver Surfer coming down to destroy Earth so that Galactus can feed upon it. I have always loved the idea of a being like Galactus that’s basically a galactic Brontosaurus that uses so much energy it needs to pretty much feed all the time. As I was reading and Uatu the Watcher showed up having a previous relation ship with the FF I was thrown for a loop, I had always thought this was his first appearance as well. It’s interesting to see how characters looks evolved and seeing that initial Galactus costume was amazing, it’s so different. Not to mention it completely changed color from issue #48 and #49.

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This stories get silver age praise heaped upon it and rightfully so. Kirby and Lee are thinking way outside the damn box here and things are getting marvelously weird. One thing that stood out to me though was after Silver Surfer ends up in Ben Grimm’s lover Alicia Master’s apartment she is able to sway him to stop Galactus and fight for mankind in about 10 minutes. I know its stuff like this that helps make the silver age what it is and needed as a plot device so I take it with a grain of salt but that’s pretty stupid. I also am blown away by how much The Watcher interferes with human life even though his entire existence is predicated as not being able to get involved. Regardless, these issues are a classic for a reason and it was great to finally read it.

The next appearance of the Surfer is 5 issues later in FF #55 and is pretty unremarkable.  The Galactus trilogy ended with Silver Surfer betraying Galactus and being banished to never be able to leave Earth again. Here the Thing catches him paying a visit to Alicia and automatically thinks he’s moving in on his woman which erupts into a lengthy fight and yea that’s the entire issue.

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However, Silver Surfer would be back two issues later. In #57-60 I had the pleasure of reading another classic storyline. This time Doctor Doom harnesses the Silver Surfer’s power cosmic. Sadly, I was only aware of this one from the short lived Jim Lee 1990’s Heroes Reborn series. There’s barely any Surfer here since he’s captured and incapacitated for most of these issues but plenty of Doctor Doom which is always a good thing as well as the Inhumans later on. I had actually forgotten I was reading a Silver Surfer collection and not a Fantastic Four one. You do though; get to see Doom ride a surfboard…a lot.

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I love how serialized the issues are, almost always ending on a cliff hanger that gets wrapped up in the first few pages for the next issue. For instance in the last panel of issue 60 Silver Surfer’s board is traveling to him while he’s locked up in Latveria. In issue #61 page 5 (included in the collection for story consistency) we actually see it arrive. The writing here though is laborious and hard to slug through, something that strangely didn’t feel as bad during the Galactus trilogy.  As much as Stan’s writing may be hard to swallow, Kirby is at the absolute high of his powers making these issues a feast for your eyes and blowing your mind with every page. I’m a sucker for seeing Reed Richards in a suit and Sue with that haircut.

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This is followed by Tales To Astonish #92 & 93 and a small feature in Fantastic Four Annual #5. The Tales To Astonish issues are a crossover with the Hulk and I imagine a taste of what the original Silver Surfer series is like. Since he’s condemned to Earth it’s just him flying around trying to understand humanity better and getting into skirmishes. Which I get, but to me Silver Surfer belongs in space. It’s also cool just to see the early Marvel Universe with the Hulk on the run and etc. but these boil down to just more fighting issues.

The last 5 issues in the collection are Fantastic Four #72 where Silver Surfer attacks mankind in hopes of uniting them (um…sure?) followed by #74-77. These issues bring Galactus back into the fold having him seek out Silver Surfer so that they can be reunited and he can scout more planets for him rather than have Galactus eat Earth. Especially since he made that pact with the humans about not consuming their planet and all.

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This trade is a bit of a mixed bag. If you’re a silver age junky then by all means check this out. The Fantastic Four issues (especially the ones that weren’t just slugfests) were undoubtedly the highlights and all of those issues are drawn by Kirby. Stan Lee wrote everything in here, so take that as you will. You do get the entire first handful of Silver Surfer appearances in one collection but keep in mind he is a secondary character here in most of the stories or in some cases barely in it. If you’re into Surfer and the Fantastic Four than I’d say this is definitely worth your time.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on May 14, 2015, in COMICS!, Evil Geek Book Report, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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