Saturday, September 9, 2017

Silver Surfer #54 (Early September 1991)

The Silver Surfer. The silver-skinned sentinel of the spaceways. Once an astronomer named Norrin Radd, his life would be changed forever when the Eater of Worlds, Galactus, came to his homeworld of Zenn-La. He saved his world by agreeing to be the world-eater's herald. With that, Galactus granted him some of his Power Cosmic, transforming him into a silver-skinned surfer with vast cosmic power.

Co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and debuting in Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966), the Surfer would go on to be one of Lee's favorite co-creations. He would write his first solo series in 1968, which became regarded as one of Lee's best and introspective works. The solo would end after 18 issues, but the Surfer would continue to appear in various adventures, even being a former member of the Defenders. His second series, which this comic is from, launched in 1987, and went on to last for almost 150 issues, ending in 1998.

This series would get itself a bit of a boost in 1991, as issues #51-59 tied into the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. Those comics are collected in the Silver Surfer Epic Collection The Infinity Gauntlet. I got the scans from that trade. I love the Epic Collection line. I'm trying to get as many as I can.

The cover is a bit basic, but it's well-drawn. It's basically the Silver Surfer fighting the Rhino. It's pretty much exactly what happens in this comic. A simple cover for a simple story. Rather appropriate.

Writer: Ron Marz
Penciler: Ron Lim
Inker: Tom Christopher
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Tom Vincent
Editor: Craig Anderson
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The story begins with Doctor Strange telling a group of other superheroes, including Richard Rider in his "Kid Nova" gear, that they have a bit of a problem.

Evidently, the Hulk, being the Hulk, has decided he wants nothing to do with helping the other heroes because he's angry at the Avengers. He's the Hulk, being angry is his thing. I knew it was a tie-in with Infinity Gauntlet, so I grabbed my trade of it so I could figure out when exactly this issue took place. And from what I could tell, it took place during Infinity Gauntlet #3. Sorry about the tangent, just trying to get the continuity straight. Back to the story!

Unnoticed by the other heroes, the Silver Surfer walks away quietly, thinking about how this is a bad omen. He also thinks about when he thought he had killed Thanos back in Silver Surfer #38, but it turned out be a ruse by the Mad Titan.

I like the touch of the Surfer glancing at a picture of the original Avengers.

He considers that maybe if he had actually killed Thanos, this whole crisis could have been averted. The Surfer has long considered himself a "champion of life", as he liked to put it and he did feel shame when he thought that Thanos had died by his hand. However, he wonders if maybe he was justified when he thought he had killed the Mad Titan. His thoughts then turn to the current crisis, and he realizes he's going to need a clear head to deal with Thanos becoming a god.

As such, he decides to take a flight on his surfboard. He flies around over New York City, and the Surfer isn't too fond of the city. He thinks of it as an "ugly growth of concrete and steel", but his flight takes him to Central Park. The former Norrin Radd thinks here would be a fine place to think, as he's found peace and calm in nature in the past.

Silver Surfer looks at a fallen tree, and thinks about how Thanos was able to wreak such destruction so casually. He then looks at a mourning man and realizes that as much as the park was destroyed...the human cost was even worse. In an attempt to impress Death, Thanos casually killed half the population of the universe. It let to trillions of deaths on Earth. Surfer decides for now that even though he can't heal the motional wounds, he may be able to help repair the park a little bit. In the process, he amusingly encounters a penguin.

The penguin just looks at the Surfer and waddles away, Surfer remarking that he's not very familiar with all of Earth's creatures. You'd think that in the time he's spent on Earth thanks to Galactus's exile and his time with the Defenders, somebody would have told him about penguins. Although to be fair, it probably just never came up. Surfer vows to learn more about life on Earth, thinking maybe after the crisis, Doctor Strange could help with that. He heard a scream about animals on the loose. A man runs by him, screaming at everyone to save themselves. The Surfer wonders what has got the man all freaked out, and then he sees a tiger.

The Surfer may not be completely knowledgeable about Earth's fauna, but he does have the idea that a tiger should not be allowed to roam free in a city full of people. He investigates and finds a tiger enclosure. The Surfer realizes that he's at a zoo. Yes, Central Park does have a zoo. Interestingly, the Surfer remarks that back on his native Zenn-La, zoos had been abolished. He then realizes that the animals in their holding pens were deliberately set free. It's not long until he finds the perpetrator.

Yup, it's the Rhino, mainly known as a part of the Amazing Spider-Man's rogues gallery, although he has also occasionally tangled with the Incredible Hulk. The Surfer sees Rhino unlocking a tiger cage, and demands to know what he is doing. Rhino explains that he's doing so because the end of the world is coming. He's been locked up quite a few times in his life, and he wanted to give the animals a bit of freedom before the end hits. Surfer tries to explain that the universe is in danger, but there are heroes gathering to stop the danger and save the world. He asks for Rhino's help in getting the animals back, but Rhino decides basically turns down the offer in his classic manner.

Yup, Mighty Punch to the Surfer's silver-sheened jaw. Surfer tries to avoid a fight, but Rhino would rather throw punches. Surer tries to explain that he's a being with cosmic power, whereas Rhino is just a very tough guy with a very tough suit. The Rhino does not care, and shows the Surfer one thing.

Even a being armed with the Power Cosmic and able to surf the spaceways without suffering any of the negative exposure to the vacuum is not immune to getting speared into a lake. As a fan of wrestling, I had Joey Styles screaming "OH MY GOD!" in my head when I read this.

Rhino and the Surfer tussle in a lake, and the big villain tries to strangle/drown the Surfer. However, that doesn't work. You see, the Silver Surfer doesn't need to breathe. And he makes that clear to Rhino.

You would think at this point, the Rhino would consider that maybe he's punching way above his weight class with this one. But the big lug doesn't seem to get it. Surfer warns him he'll only get hurt if he keeps trying to fight him, but Rhino does not care. He's going to gore the Surfer good and show him those horns he wears aren't fancy decorations.

I love this cluster of panels. They really give an idea of the Rhino charging closer and closer to the Surfer, the Rhino's rage and intent, and Surfer's lack of fear over this as...well, he's faced threats that would turn the Rhino's suit white with fear. The Surfer shows his power by easily stopping the villain.

One hand. Just one hand. That's all it took to stop the Rhino, a villain who has tangled with The Hulk. The Surfer is fed up with Rhino's antics, and decides to give him a Power Cosmic-charged Mighty Punch to the face. However, the Rhino's jaw is saved by the sound of a gunshot. The two decide to check it out, and Rhino is shocked by what he sees.

A policeman had seen a tiger running around, and shot it in a panic. The Rhino is furious and wants to beat the officer to a pulp. The Surfer stops him from doing so, saying that this was Rhino's fault. His foolhardiness led to the tiger getting shot. He stated his desire to free the animals led to them getting endangered, as he just let them loose in a place that was not meant for them. However, the zoo's pens were meant and designed for them, a place where they could be safe.

Rhino kneels over the injured tiger in remorse, saying he didn't mean for this to happen. He just didn't want them to spend the end of the world in a cage. The Surfer does agree that they do deserve to be free, but that isn't meant to be here. They need to be somewhere safe. They need to be back in their pens. Using the Power Cosmic, the Surfer heals the injured tiger, and asks the Rhino to help him repair the damage he did to the zoo. The Rhino reluctantly agrees.

The Rhino helps repair the damage he caused without incident, but he still feels what he's doing isn't right. He feels that there was no point to all this as Thanos is bringing the world to an end. Surfer tries to reassure him that Thanos will bring about his own downfall and the world will be saved. He suggests that Rhino join the heroes, as his strength would be a help against Thanos, and considering much of the superhero community are among the people whom Thanos has made vanish. Rhino turns it down, saying he'll keep an eye on things in the city.

The Surfer understands, and heads out. He hopes that he and the Rhino meet again under better circumstances, but they both think they doubt that. The Surfer returns to the heroes' gathering area, feeling renewed, only to hear a new voice.

Yup, it's the Hulk. Evidently, while the Surfer was having his little donnybrook with the Rhino, the Hulk had changed his mind and decided to help the heroes battle Thanos.

This was a good issue. I had to admit, I was left a little confused as to how this brawl with the Rhino helped clear the Surfer's mind. It's not a bad issue, though. It's was nice seeing another, more empathetic side of the Rhino. One can understand his actions, and the good intention behind them. He believed the world was doomed, and he just wanted to give some animals one last taste of freedom before the end. Maybe that's what did it.

I like to think that the Surfer convincing the Rhino to help him repair the zoo and put the animal back in their cages was his way to trying to being some optimism to the Rhino, trying to reassure him the world will not end, and the heroes will triumph in the end. That, and letting a bunch of wild animals loose in a city that is already freaking out over half its citizens vanishing is not the best of ideas. I have no complaints about Ron Lim's art, it's great work. 

I also have one other complaint about this comic, but it's not one you can really hold against this story. From what I figured, this comic takes place during Infinity Gauntlet #3, but there's a bit of a continuity mishap. You see, this comic states that Hulk had changed his mind and arrived at Avengers HQ before the Surfer returned from his adventure with the Rhino. But in the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries itself...

Silver Surfer is shown to be in the room when Hulk does arrive. I don't know if it was an art goof, or there was some miscommunication between Jim Starlin (who wrote the main IG mini) and Ron Marz, but it's something I noticed and wanted to point out. It's not a strike against Silver Surfer #54 at all, it's still a good comic. And I just wanted to show a panel drawn by George Perez. Who doesn't love George Perez art on things?

Next time, we're going to the DC Universe, as the Flash battles the new Doctor Alchemy...

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