CoverSilver Surfer #2, Vol. 3
Published by Marvel Comics

August, 1987

"Shalla-Bal"

Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Marshall Rogers
Inks: Joe Rubinstein

Colorist: Marshall Rogers
Letters: John Workman

Editor: Michael Higgens
Chief: Jim Shooter

Original Price: $0.75
Current Value: $6.00

History Behind Issue: Steve Englehart and Marshall Rodgers continue this brand new series with Silver Surfer's return to Zenn-La.

Plot: Basically, the Silver Surfer returns to Zenn-La where he finally wants to settle down and lead his life in peace, but when he wants to reunite with Shalla Bal, he is forced to make the hardest decision of his life (and that’s saying a lot!).

It all begins in space, at the constellation Cygnus, near a canopy of stars and the first black hole ever to be discovered by man. There the Silver Surfer soars, and he has come home at last. Flying down to his homeworld brings back fond memories, but the fondest of them all is, of course, Shalla Bal! Shalla welcomes him tenderly, but one Zenn-Lavian reacts quite differently, accusing him of betraying his people by breaking his vow to Galactus, thereby making him return once more to devour Zenn-La (this all happened in the one-shot preceding this series, and Marvel is so kind as to reprint it
in just a few months, woo-hoo!).

Naturally, Shalla Bal is none too pleased with these accusations, and commands the fellow attacking the Surfer to hold his tongue, which he does quickly enough, as Shalla turns out to be... the Empress of Zenn-La! Not a small shock for our silver friend, to be sure. Then an elderly man informs the dumb guy about what happened before, how Shalla became Empress. In the one-shot, Shalla Bal was kidnapped by Mephisto, forcing the Surfer to save his love, but in turn leaving him once again trapped on Earth. He had imbued Shalla Bal with a bit of his power cosmic, so the damage Galactus
had caused to Zenn-La could be repaired, and in a miraculous way, to boot, since Shalla Bal now has the ability to make life spring from barren ground wherever she sets her foot! So the Surfer should be thanked for helping them, not scorned for abandoning them. The Surfer, modest as he is, says he only did what any of them would have done to save their world, and wants to be treated like anybody else. When
he wants to have a private word with his beloved, however, he is in for another surprise. Because of her duties, she doesn’t have time right now to talk, but suggests he explore the newly restored city meanwhile. While doing so, Norrin remembers the old days, when his planet was so filled with technology, and now it has become a green world where pioneers dwell... He then lands at the spot where he was born and where he had led his life so many years ago, and recreates his house.

Shalla Bal, in the meantime, is audiencing an emissary of the Skrulls, Ptakr. His emperor wants to establish a trade agreement with Zenn-La, upon which Shalla Bal cleverly asks which emperor he’s talking about. Because indeed, Galactus had destroyed the Skrull homeworld, with as a result a civil war between different Skrull factions, of which the leaders all claimed to be the rightful emperor of the Skrulls. Ptakr’s emperor is Kylor, and he wants to call Shalla Bal his friend (or in other words, he wants Zenn-La as an ally against the other factions). The Empress says she
can’t be expected to conduct off-worldly business when her own world is in the process of being rebuilt. This makes Ptakr imply that Kylor will see her as an enemy if she won’t be his ally. But what have the Zenn-Lavians to worry, when they are backed up by the awesome might of the Silver Surfer?

Ptakr makes a signal to one of his cronies, who makes his way to a Skrull spy, contemplating the trouble the Skrulls are in on the way there (due to a genetic bomb, the Skrulls are unable to shift their shapes anymore, thus making them so much more vulnerable). The spy (who had been put there before the explosion of the genetic bomb, as had been done on so many other worlds—the Skrulls are no fools) brings the Skrull to the Surfer’s house, who is enjoying the star-filled sky.

He’s thinking of Earth, where man is so faulty in so many ways, yet so alive, filled with passion and sorrow... Moreover, since he has stayed on Earth for such a long time, he knows it better than he knows this new Zenn-La, which is still growing, still changing. Even Shalla Bal isn’t the woman she once was. He will have to get used to the new situation, he thinks, just as he is interrupted by an attack from behind with an atomizer
gun.

Of course, this has no effect whatsoever on one who wields the Power Cosmic, and, enraged, he hurls the two lizards back. The Skrull is winging about how the Surfer must die, since he is a possible threat to the Empire, making the Surfer even more irritated. When the Silver Surfer mentions he knows about their current inability to shift shapes, the Skrull is stunned, but he vows that the Skrulls won’t go down without a helluva fight! (You know, the “eat-or-get-eaten”-principle? Perhaps they are fools, after all.) Norrin brings them to Shalla Bal, and she tells them they may leave, but they will not get Zenn-La mixed up in a war with the Kree. Ptakr says they won’t have any choice in the matter, since there will be a war, in any case, whether the Kree find out their secret or not. But what can they do against the Power Cosmic, the Surfer asks him. Moreover, Ptakr must remember this, whosoever dares attack Zenn-La, will have to deal with him! The Skrulls leave, and now we get the big confrontation between Norrin and
Shalla.

The two lovers kiss, and Norrin asks Shalla to marry him, but... she cannot. The Surfer doesn’t understand, she loves him, does she not? Of course she does, but she’s empress of their people now, her responsibilities are too great to leave her time for a personal life, let alone a marriage. But surely the Silver Surfer, with all his power, can
rebuild Zenn-La in an instant (or not-so-long-a-time, at least)? He can, but that’s not the point, or better, that is the point. Once, long ago, Norrin told Shalla that man had to be able to yearn, to face hardship, to overcome challenges. And when Galactus came, he told her maybe this danger was necessary to make them the men their forefathers were. Now, she has finally seen the wisdom in his words. Their world is naught but barren sands, and their people will strive to rebuild it. Should the Surfer do their work for them, the challenge he himself wanted to give them, would be taken away from them...

Understandably, the Surfer gets angry, and since she cannot love marry because of her rank, which she got thanks to the powers invested in her by her beloved, he will remove these powers, making her a normal woman once more. But he cannot (of course not, he’s too noble, we all knew that). And though it hurts her much, Shalla Bal must ask him to remain their protector, to help them against the impending doom of the Kree-Skrull War... She wants him to stay, to wait, and when all what has to be done has indeed been done, they will finally be together.

But that’s not what the Silver Surfer desires, he knows that “time passes slowly for a man who waits”, as he puts it. He leaves, his last word to her: “majesty”. Then he returns to his newly rebuilt home, and transforms it into a plaque, with on it the words “Here was born Norrin Radd, a son of Zenn-La”, but with hurt in his eyes, he changes the words, and they become “Here was born the Silver Surfer, a son of Zenn-La”. And then he soars away, back to the stars.

It ends in space, at the constellation Cygnus, near a canopy of stars and the first black hole ever to be discovered by man. There the Silver Surfer soars, and he has come home at last.

Comments: Again a strong story, wrapping up things with Shalla Bal, making sure the
Surfer won’t be a homely boy. Having the beginning and ending of the story be almost entirely the same, yet so totally different, was great. Other great things: the Surfer changing the plaque, thus stating he no longer is Norrin Radd; his musing about Earth; the nice interweaving of the Kree-Skrull plotline with the confrontation between Shalla and Norrin; and the confrontation itself, which had one of the most beautiful representations of Shalla Bal I’ve ever seen (Rogers has surpassed himself here).

However, the coloring wasn’t as good as it should be here, and even made some things look quite unclear. The Skrulls attacking ol’ Surfy boy was a bit dumb, in my eyes. And there wasn’t enough interaction with his people (sure, that one guy attacked him, and the old guy retold a bit of his history, but I didn’t think it was enough.

Also, a remark about what’s going on in the current issues: Zenn-La and its inhabitants aren’t real, so we have been told, and hasn’t been so for the last fifty years. Now how can this be when it is clearly stated that the one-shot is within continuity? How come Galactus returns to devour a planet which is only an illusion? It doesn’t make much sense, and I wish Perez and DeMatteis would have thought about it a bit more. The Surfer without Zenn-La just doesn’t work, but anyhoo, that’s a discussion for another
review...

Altogether, this story was good, very good. I think I’m going to go for a full score again. I’ll keep on saying it, Englehart is the god of cosmic comics. He has a knack for solidity, and doesn’t bother with shock value (unlike, say, DeFalco, for instance, or Lobdell). And above all, he doesn’t ignore past stories. Everything flows neatly together. I love it. I really do. Five stars, definitely.

Written by The Collector

 

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