Thursday, December 2, 2021

Virus Of The Spirit


"But I thought freezing kills any virus." -- Will Robinson
"You thought. It's a good thing I'm the doctor and not you." -- Zachary Smith

The end of 1989 also marked the end of writer Steve Englehart's noteworthy run on the second volume of Silver Surfer, making way for new Surfer scripter Jim Starlin to come aboard (with Thanos in tow, it goes without saying). Sandwiched between the two points, however, was a stand-alone issue put together by Jim Valentino with artists Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott that is suitably entertaining in its own right as well as possibly a breath of fresh air for readers who may have had their fill of the cast of characters Englehart had introduced which tended to steal the book's thunder. Yet while its cover gives the impression that this will be an album issue, the images are instead indicative of a dangerous threat to the Surfer which will make him a foe to all who live should he fail to perceive its true nature in time.

As an interesting twist to such stories, we're tipped off from the beginning as to what we're dealing with, if not yet who--"A disembodied intelligence attempts to convince a sentient virus... to do its bidding." From their discussion, and in light of the title of this book, it's not difficult to guess which sky-rider of the spaceways these two are targeting--but the answer as to why will take some time to become clear.

As to the attack itself, we don't have long to wait at all.

(Score one for Dr. Smith. The temperature of space is well below freezing, yet this virus continues to mosey along in the void unaffected, waiting for its next victim.)

Despite the evidence of his symptoms and the pain he is beginning to suffer, it nevertheless seems peculiar that the Surfer would detect no threat to himself (in addition to sensing no sentience from this sentient virus). Yet from what we'll see of the Surfer's changing demeanor, it's safe to assume that this virus is skilled in affecting its victim's mind to the extent of making it seem to him that there is no "sickness" to blame his actions on. And in a form as powerful as the Surfer's, the danger he presents to others who come into contact with him will almost certainly incite alarm, and fear.

While the virus itself is content to be satisfied with the Surfer's aggressive actions, it appears the one it takes its guidance from prefers a more vocal role in spurring the Surfer to act on his feverish visions and suppress any inclination to pay heed to his conscience.

Meanwhile, the Pheragot of Arago-7, whose refinery the Surfer obliterated, have conducted an investigation into their facility's destruction and, with understandable shock, have discovered the cause--a being which, despite the danger, must be confronted.

As for the Surfer, he reels in agony from the infection that continues to afflict him--a helpless state of mind and body that the intelligence responsible for orchestrating this attack takes advantage of to wear him down even further by inciting him to expend his energy in attacking enemies that only exist in his mind.

(If you note the conspicuous absence of a figure who should be front and center among this assemblage of the Surfer's "greatest foes," you're on the right track here--but hold that thought.)

As we see, it's at this point of heightened violence and confusion that the Pheragot vessel in search of the Surfer comes across him. Fortunately, the action the crew take allows them to diagnose the Surfer's condition, though doing so has put them at risk--all the more so, since whoever or whatever is prodding the Surfer to lash out is not connected to this "ailment" except as an instigator who takes advantage of its effects and the innocents caught in the Surfer's crosshairs.

Despite everything, however, the Surfer has the presence of mind to rally, and thus takes steps to safeguard those in harm's way by removing himself from the galaxy. But in the darkness where he intends to remain forever, he has the opportunity to reflect--and, in so doing, pursue a course of action which on its own merits may not have accomplished much against such a pernicious virus but becomes a powerful tool when charged with the power cosmic.

With the expulsion of the virus, the Surfer returns to a state of vitality and clearness of mind. But all is not well with the one who has heaped this latest torrent of abuse upon him--a demon who has been with him since the Surfer's earliest days of being trapped on Earth, and whose obsession with corrupting the Surfer's soul has followed the sky-rider into deepest space. That obsession will be given its due in the Surfer's 100th issue--but for now, we readers can only expect yet another "Curses! Foiled again!" reaction from this demon of demons.


Anonymous said...

Having been a big fan of the Frenz/Sinnott run on Thor, I remember enjoying seeing them take a crack at the Surfer.
Yeah, like Thor in them bygone days, it was your basic Lee/Kirby homage (complete with Kirby Krackle and all them floating balls in space) and corny as heck. But I dug it, so bring on the corn, I guess.
Even though Stan the Man's high-falootin' dialogue on the Surfer made me wince at times.
Great review, C.F.!


Comicsfan said...

It was a pleasure to revisit after all this time, M.P. ;)

Colin Jones said...

Apologies for veering off the topic but I've just discovered a new sci-fi movie called 'Moonfall' (due for release in February) in which the moon is on a collision course with Earth. I immediately thought of the Captain America panel shown recently on the PPoC in which a huge moon looms in the sky in the distant future and is about to collide with Earth.

Anonymous said...

Was that from the issue of Captain America where Cap and the Falcon took on time-travelling entity Agron, Colin?
I remember there being a glimpse of Earth's nightmarish future in that comic.
It certainly sounds like Kirby. He was good at those.
Apocalyptic imagery was something he returned to again and again, I've noticed.
(Actually, scientists say the Moon is getting further away from Earth, but who cares, it's a striking image!)


Colin Jones said...

Yes, that's the one, MP.

Mike Hood said...

Have you noticed the change in the way Blogger stores its images? Compare the images in your posts since November 22 to the older images. (Click on them). The new googleusercontent domain no longer stores the original filename, unlike blogspot. At first I thought this was a bug, but now I've realised we're stuck with it.

Comicsfan said...

Mike, you're right that it's something of an inconvenience, though I tend to think it's how the new syntax was designed to refer to the file, rather than the actual name it's stored under. For what it's worth, you can still view the original file name by initiating a Save As, at which point you'll see it displayed in the file name prompt--and in whatever photo album your images are in, the same workaround would still apply.