By Molly Jane Kremer. Most comics are simple. (You know, relatively.) They allow us to sit and read and absorb their contents as we turn page after page, following a linear story both written and illustrated, until you reach the end. This isn’t a bad thing. This is how approximately 90% of monthly comics flow (maybe more?).
But every once in a while, a creative team decides to go that extra creative mile to attempt something different, something that gets the reader physically involved in the story’s twists and turns; something that has equally (and very) mind-bendy story and art, yet has a basic, deep emotion nestled snugly at its core. Dan Slott and Mike and Laura Allred have done exactly this with Silver Surfer #11, and in doing so, have made one of this reviewer’s favorite comics of the year.
Written as a continual, time-displaced loop — an illustrated Möbius strip, with one side running along the top of the page, and another running in the opposite direction along the bottom — events within the narrative cause the entire layout to shift and twist, and necessitate the reader to flip the comic over to continue. With each literal new perspective, the comic switches to a different character’s point of view for the story to be retold (and redrawn, from that different angle); but seriously, whatever you do, don’t lose your page. This is something no media other than comics can even approach, and transforms the act of reading into an adventure unto itself.
The comic takes place in space within “The Giraud Expanse” — assumedly named after that other famous Moebius, Jean Henri Gaston Giraud, no stranger to the Surfer himself — and it’s here where Mike and Laura Allred really stretch their artistic muscles. With a continuous stream of vertical panels stretching forward (and doubling back, etc. etc.) there isn’t as much freedom for the art team, but everything remains readable and beautiful. Joe Sabino’s lettering is excellent as well, as he makes sure that these smaller and sometimes close-packed panels never become overstuffed with word bubbles or narration. Everything flows forward effortlessly, no small feat considering this restrictive (but innovative) format.
Writer Dan Slott keeps the book from becoming repetitive by making each new perspective different and compelling while revealing different aspects of the story through the different characters. (There’s an inevitable hint of Groundhog Day to the proceedings: “Why does this all feel… so familiar?” Dawn asks the reader directly, after our third trip through.) And though it ends with a question posed and unanswered, the comic (like most of this stellar series) is incredibly self-contained, and can be picked up without much knowledge of the previous issues, or even of the main character.
Some readers might not want to put this much “work” into reading a comic book (hell, I know people who find Ryan North’s simple and amazing margin comments in Adventure Time and Squirrel Girl “too exhausting”), but they’re missing out on a singular reading experience. The last time a single comic issue inspired this much reader interaction was Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #5, though that was certainly a much darker delving into the psyche than this space-faring romp.
This title has been just as consistently enjoyable as that flagship DC book has been, but full of a positivity and light that doesn’t tend to grab as many headlines as all that Bat-pathos. Silver Surfer seems to fly under many readers’ radar, yet it’s a book that should be on everybody’s pull list. If this oversized, engrossing issue brings more attention to the ever-superb series, every “exhausting” flip of the comic is eminently worth it.
Written by Dan Slott.
Art by Mike Allred.
Colored by Laura Allred.
10 out of 10