When Marvel sent me a review copy of Deadly Storm, I took the opportunity to ask if they had any other trades they wanted to send for review.
When they said “yes,” I didn’t expect a boatload of trade paperbacks in return but I received two boxes worth of stores. Some are from series I’ve never read before, some star familiar characters and others are adaptations of stories, like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I’m looking forward to reading them all, as I’m somewhat of a lapsed Marvel reader, but the first two trade paperbacks I pulled off the stack were Steve Rogers, Super-Soldier and Silver Surfer: Devolution.
I grabbed the Rogers trade because it was written by Ed Brubaker, my favorite writer on Captain America, with art by Dale Eaglesham, and starred probably my favorite Marvel character, the once and future Captain America. I picked up the Silver Surfer book because I hadn’t read a solo story about him in years and I’d heard good things about the writer, Greg Pak.
By coincidence, they turned out to have a great deal in common, including having the heroes each confront a situation in which their powers are worthless or unusable.
Super-Soldier is a good introduction to the current Steve Rogers. He’s only recently returned from being timelost/dead and he’s content to simply be Steve Rogers for now rather than Captain America. In this story, he’s drawn into an investigation involving the grandson of Dr. Erskine, the man behind the super-soldier serum that originally transformed Steve into Captain America. This Erskine has apparently discovered a cure for cancer by modifying his grandfather’s serum. But Steve soon discovers someone’s been using the new serum to create hulked-up guards, the younger Dr. Erskine is killed and Steve is plunged into a conspiracy that somehow involves a woman he knew in World War II. He’s stripped of the serum through comic book science and must defeat the villain through only his intelligence and his scrawny original body.
It’s not giving away anything to say that Steve wins and gets his super body back. But there are some great action sequences. Eaglesham really outdoes himself, putting real emotions into his faces, like the resolve scrawny Steve shows as he escapes his captor. The mysterious woman is not who she seems and the revelation of her real identity and her eventual fate was welcome and unexpectedly poignant.
Silver Surfer: Devolution, as the title implies, also features the hero being taken down from “super” to normal. The Surfer has one of the saddest origins in comics. To save his planet from being destroyed by the galactic devourer, Galactus, Norrin Radd volunteers to become Galactus’s herald. His planet is saved but Norrin is transformed into the cosmic entity known as the Silver Surfer. He loses the woman he loves and is forever condemned to choose other suns for Galactus is devourer.
In this story, he comes back to Earth to contemplate his existence, drawn to a planet where he’s made friends in previous adventures. When he saves a couple from being attacked, he ends up in the middle of those investigating a possible alien invasion. This is not strictly true, as the antagonist eventually turns out to be the High Evolutionary, who was once of Earth. Somehow (again using comic book science), the High Evolutionary takes the power cosmic from the Surfer and he becomes human (well, alien human) once more. The transformed Surfer and a scientist, codenamed Cybermancer, who has made it her life’s work to study aliens have to somehow find a way to stop the High Evolutionary from “evolving” Earth, which means the destruction of what’s on Earth right now.
Anyone tackling art on the Surfer and his galactic-spanning stories is in for a challenge. This story is set in space, then on Earth, features all kinds of alien tech, a space battle and men who must battle against giant tech, well, things. Stephen Segovia, Harvey Tolibao and Iban Coello are credited as the pencillers and they do an outstanding job but I also have to give props to the inkers, Victor Olazaba, Sandu Florea, Jaime Mendoza and Jason Paz.
Norrin is great fun in his more human form, as he has no idea how to process emotion and overcompensates. He falls for Cybermancer and the feeling is mutual but he’s the Silver Surfer so despite the attraction, I suspected as I was reading that the pairing was ultimately not to be. I also feared Endo (Cybermancer) would eventually suffer the fate of many superhero love interests and be shoved into the figurative fridge but her story is a lot more interesting than that and I hope to see her in future stories throughout the Marvel universe.
I’d recommend both these stories to anyone who likes superheroes and especially the Steve Rogers trade to anyone who liked the movie version as it draws extensively on his World War II origins.