Put simply: It shouldn't have worked. At least not nearly as well as it did. If you're looking to tell a story about true love and what it really means to be human, the Silver Surfer isn't the most obvious candidate.
He's a character from Marvel Comics' cosmic side, and is probably best known as a supporting player around the Fantastic Four dating back to the Silver Age in the 1960s. Then there's the fact that he's not actually human — he's an alien named Norrin Radd from the long-destroyed planet Zenn-La — and he lost most of whatever personality he may have had after spending decades as the herald of the planet-eating Galactus.
But all that changed in 2014, when comic veteran Dan Slott (Amazing Spider-Man) took the reins of the silver, naked, surfboard-riding space hero. His approach was a simple one: Put all the grand, cosmic shenanigans and reality-warping McGuffins on the back burner and figure out what makes the Silver Surfer tick at his very core. Turns out, the answer was nothing, really (at least not at that point), so he created it.
The answer was Dawn Greenwood, a lovely, quirky, brave young woman who is perfectly happy living her life in the beautiful town of Anchor Bay, Massachusetts. Slott introduced Dawn in the most Rube Goldbergian way possible, having her caught in the middle of a Silver Surfer-focused kidnapping scheme because a machine determined she was the most important thing in the world to the Surfer.
The only problem is that he hadn't actually met her yet. One madcap jailbreak and a few adventures later, and one of comic's most pure and touching relationships was born.
Slott's run on Silver Surfer spanned 29 issues and one line-wide reboot, though his story persisted with nary any forced crossovers or soft resets. The final issue hit shelves last week, bringing the story to a tear-jerking conclusion. The adventures of Dawn and Norrin took them to some of the strangest and most beautiful worlds ever conceived in the Marvel Comics universe, from a holographic planet; a world filled with billions of alien refugees; a living planet that can induce euphoria; and a whole lot more.
They even had a few Earth-based adventures, helping save the planet alongside the Hulk and Doctor Strange at one point. But, unlike most comics, Slott never got stuck in the weeds with the timey-wimeyness of zipping through space on a super-powered surfboard.
Artist Michael Allred brought a timeless pop art look to the action, with a vibe that feels true to the era that birthed the Surfer in the first place, and the types of stories Slott was wanting to tell, with alien worlds and cosmic beings lingering in the fringes. Though, all these adventures were simply the backdrop for Dawn and Norrin's budding romance. It's charming, it's witty, and makes for some of the best banter to hit comics pages in years.
In an Earth girl from Massachusetts, the Silver Surfer finally found his humanity. She didn't have superpowers, or the power cosmic to back her up when facing down alien bounty hunters, or Eternity itself. Whenever she saw injustice or evil, she tried to fix it — regardless of the odds. It stood in stark contrast to the Surfer's long-earned pragmatism, and in Dawn, he once again learned to boil a situation down to one simple question:
What can I do to help?
It's a question Dawn asked everyday throughout their adventures, and though she was only around for a couple of years, she leaves behind a legacy across the entire Marvel universe. Literally.
All great adventures must come to an end, though, and Slott pulled out all the stops to wrap his tenure on Silver Surfer in a way that not only honors the story he set out to tell, but the characters who populated it. One of the final arcs of the series found Dawn and the Surfer accidentally traveling into the past to a time before our universe existed, and they lived out their lives exploring this brand new universe for decades.
The series finally picks up on Dawn's deathbed, at the end of her life of grand adventure with the Surfer. This being a comic book story, most readers may have expected a twist to have Dawn reborn and returned home — but this isn't most comic book stories.
The Surfer brings Dawn's energy, her essence, with him into the birth of our universe, and blasts it out literally into the beginning of time. That light became the dawn of time, literally, as the Surfer shares her personal impact on his life with all of reality. His power cosmic is even transformed in the process, now a visual representation of Dawn's signature black and red polka dot look.
Their journey is brought to an end with a fitting coda, as Norrin visits Dawn and her family in disguise throughout the years in Newhaven, watching her grow up into the woman who would eventually change his life forever. It gives the Surfer a chance to say goodbye and process his grief, and though he'll certainly be setting out on a new set of adventures in the future, he'll never be the same.
Much like Matt Fraction's seminal run on Hawkeye, Slott's time spent with the Silver Surfer has undeniably redefined the character for a new generation.
Silver Surfer is one of the best comics of the decade, telling the most unlikely story with the most unlikely of heroes. It's a love story that will absolutely stand the test of time. Anywhere and everywhere.