Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Surfer, The Skrull-Deviant, and the Eternals!


It wasn't until 1988 and around fifteen issues into his second series that the Silver Surfer received his first annual, written by Steve Englehart with art by Joe Staton and Joe Rubinstein--an issue which shares a cover distinction similar to the four annuals which followed, indicating their reliance on promotion-fueled crossover events which typified Marvel's line of comics going into the early 1990s. In this annual's case, that would be the eleven-issue Evolutionary War, where the High Evolutionary sought to accelerate human evolution worldwide in separate, piecemeal efforts as well as through the use of a genetic bomb.

Titled "Adam" (for a reason I've failed to grasp), the main story obviously involves the Eternals, led now by Ikaris following the final conflict with the Celestials which their Uni-Mind barely survived due to the sacrifice of their former sire, Zuras. In his globetrotting to assemble allies and put the pieces of his plan in motion, the Evolutionary appears in Olympia, the city of the Eternals, and secures their aid in regard to what he requires from the Surfer.

It's either because Ikaris is a less deliberating leader than Zuras might have been in this matter, or (not being an authority on the Eternals myself) the possibility that the Eternals might have always been so quick to sign on the dotted line when someone conscripts them to do their dirty work, that makes this scene so hard to swallow. For his part, Englehart boils it down to the fact that the Eternals, who were products of artificial evolution themselves by the Celestials, realize better than most the benefits of genetic enhancement, but that's by no means an excuse for acting as if you've been given carte blanche to proceed with efforts to impose that fate upon others.

Also, as fond as I am of the big fellow, when was it when Karkas, a Deviant, began to consider himself, assemble with, and speak as if he were one of the Eternals? Throughout this story, he appears to be completely loyal to them and the position they take in this matter, despite the fact that the Deviants have always been considered as outcasts.

And speaking of Deviants, look what long-established character also turns out to be one--if we're to believe the Eternals, who upon arrival at the scene place the two combatants into confinement.

Thena's explanation (such as it is) as to why Karkas is now an Eternal in regard if not in name will have to suffice, as it apparently does for Englehart.

As for the Surfer, there might well have been a time, during which he was still trapped on Earth and at the height of humanity's hatred and fear of him, when he might have taken the Eternals up on their proposal. But that was then--and at any rate, there's the matter as to what purposes such information will be used.

Curiously, the Surfer makes no move to free himself, nor does he even insist that he be released, even when it's clear that the Eternals aren't paying any heed whatsoever to his objections. And you might want to take note of Makarri's claim that their captives will not be harmed during their procedure, given what happens in due course.

Upon arrival in Olympia, there's a bit of a shock awaiting the Super-Skrull as the Eternals fill him in on his race's state of affairs since the use of the hyper-wave bomb which nullified their ability to change shape. But soon after, the Eternals begin their work, and the fact that the Super-Skrull is a Deviant in their eyes does him no favors when the Eternals decide to calibrate his settings even while the equipment is still in operation--while Karkas, of all beings, whitewashes the Super-Skrull's state of agony.

Of course, with his augmented FF abilities, the Super-Skrull could have used his force field more defensively in order to completely protect himself from the equipment's harmful effect on him. Be that as it may, with their freedom the Surfer and the Super-Skrull have no choice but to resist the Eternals more aggressively--that is, until the Skrull sees the Eternals focus on his ally and seizes the chance to escape. It isn't long, however, before they catch up with him--though the Surfer still intercedes on his behalf, and offers new perspective on how the Super-Skrull might better help his people, and possibly end a war in the process.

From there, the story ends in a most unexpected and even perplexing way--with the Eternals giving the Surfer a pass, since he is prepared to personally investigate the High Evolutionary's project.  But as the truce is called, he also gives the Eternals food for thought as to their own existence.

The Annual has a few bells and whistles to fill out its page count: pin-ups by artists Ron Lim and Joe Rubinstein of characters featured in the Surfer's main book... a small segment on Mantis... a teaser on the on-sale Silver Surfer story... and the third segment of the High Evolutionary's origin by Mark Gruenwald, spread out through all the annuals in the Evolutionary War crossover.


A quickie Marvel Trivia Question for you: Did we ever get a glimpse of the actual story where the Surfer was doing the meditating he spoke of earlier? Well, Englehart and Len Wein differ in the amount of time he spent on that mountain peak--but I think we did, thirteen years prior to this annual.

1 comment:

McSCOTTY said...

I usually like Joe Statons art a lot but not keen at all on this one especially his version of the surfer. A pretty stilted cover as well.