After seeing the birth, as well as the death, of countless astrological phenomena it is time for his own existence to come to an end. But how can something, someone, who has powers that are equal to that of comets, supernovas, black holes; it can't be a quick, stupendous, monumental occurrence, but a slow, quiet, and, according to Reed Richards, extremely painful.
Traveling back to Earth, the Silver Surfer has come to find Dr. Reed Richards for help. It appears that the Silver Surfer's molecular skin, that protects him from the intense cold of space, is breaking down, and the only one he feels can help him is Mr. Fantastic. The only problem is that after a few days of strenuous research, Richards is no closer to finding out a possible cure.
The Silver Surfer is dying, and in about a month's time his life will end very painfully. With the time he has lift he wants to visit with Earth for a little while and then return to his home, Zenn'La.
Standing atop a right-sided Cable Co. truck that has crashed into the corner of a New York City building, Spider-Man comments on how we all make mistakes, when out of no where comes a giant robot, the likes of which can probably be seen in the new Transformers movie, causing even more damage as Spider-Man swings out of the way. We learn that Peter was innocently trying to purchase some earrings for Mary Jane when a news cast comes on the TV informing the public that a robot is on the loss on the other side of town.
Still fighting the machine that's piloted by some faceless person, a city bus turns onto the street that the battle is taking place. The pilot, seeing the bus filled with potential hostages makes for it. Spider-Man, knowing he's not nearly strong enough to stop it, only slow it down long enough for the bus to get out of here, jumps in front of the machine and yells to the driver to stop. To Spider-Man's surprise it actually does.
Too bad it didn't stop for him, but for the Silver Surfer hovering over Spider-Man's head. Silver Surfer gives the pilot a warning but it falls on deaf ears. As the guns of the machine go off, the Silver Surfer's hands light up with the power cosmic, and the flash that is caused is too much for Spider-Man to take, causing him to turn away, only to turn back when it is over to find a large pile of wreckage that once was the machine.
Once the battle, if you could even call it that what with how easy it was for the Surfer to end it, is over the Surfer starts to fly away as Spider-Man makes joke after joke after him. Starting to follow him, Spider-Man knows that something is wrong with the Surfer and continues his pursuit up as far as the buildings will go, until finally getting the Surfer to turn back around to him.
Once standing on the rooftop Spider-Man notices a small black mark on the inside of the Surfer's wrist. Asking again what's wrong, the Surfer tells him that Earth has sort of become his adopted home and, because he must leave it, never to return, he thought that before he left maybe there was something he could do for it. He then makes some poignant remarks on the nature of humanity, how even though we are all basically the same, we chose to divide ourselves and then fight about our petty differences. How we then elect politicians who promise to wage war of those we see as different from us.
The Silver Surfer wants to do something about it but can't figure out what he could do to fix it, and seeing as how Spider-Man is an actual human (mostly), he asks him if he knows of a way. Making some lame jokes, he then thinks that the Surfer could go into other countries and overthrow the governments there that oppose their people, but quickly realizes that that isn't any guarantee that that'll fix the problem. Plus there's nothing to stop the next group of leaders coming in to be just as oppressive.
Spider-Man's next idea is for the Surfer to travel into space and bring back riches beyond compare and donate it all to needy countries but that would only make the value of the riches meaningless if everyone had everything. Plus with those countries now fabulously wealthy other countries that depended on them would, in effect, just change places with them. Problem still not solved.
Spider-Man's third idea (and my personal favorite) is to strand all the world's political and religious leaders together and force them to work out their problems and differences. But Spider-Man just gets a premonition of them all just killing each other and then someone else would just take their places.
Spider-Man contemplates how easy it is for the superheroes to fight the bad guys because it's easier to stop someone from trying to do evil, it's another thing entirely to try to change the way people are. Realizing that he's not going to come up with a solid plan, Spider-Man asks the Surfer something that he's been meaning to for awhile now. Why the surfboard? He tells the Surfer that it's sort of "hoaky", but the Surfer says it's due to form following function. He needs no air or food and water and because of this he doesn't need a ship to sustain him. He just needs something to carry him throughout the universe.
Spider-Man asks again, so why the surfboard and not some kind of space-car or something and the Surfer asks Spider-Man to imagine what is must be like to be able to fly throughout the universe, to see the marvels that is everything, to be able to witness the beauty that is our world and every other world in our galaxy, plus all the other worlds in all the other galaxies, and to be able to do all this with nothing standing in between you and these sights. Would he, Spider-Man, every wish to encase himself within the confines of a ship ever again? The point is well made.
Spider-Man says he can't imagine what that must be like and the Surfer offers to show him by placing a small amount of his power cosmic in him so that for a brief moment he can witness these things first hand. Spider-Man declines, even after the Surfer says this would be his last and only chance, but he asks the Surfer that instead of showing him, could he maybe show someone else.
A little while later Spider-Man comes swinging back, this time with Mary Jane. Trying to introduce her to the Surfer, before he can realize he foully, the Surfer tells her she can call him Norrin Radd. Up until this moment Spider-Man has never thought to ask the Surfer his real name before and he feels disappointed with himself for his lack of... compassion, humility, maybe.
The Surfer tells Mary Jane to clear her mind and just relax as he waves his hand over her face. The power cosmic causes her eyes to turn silver and telling her that she doesn't have very long; he leads her to his board and tells her it will take her wherever she wishes to go.
After about an hour Mary Jane returns and all she can say is how it made her feel so unbelievably free, a freedom that is impossible to imagine, a freedom of life and of time. I think I can barely imagine it myself.
Saying Happy Birthday to her, Spider-Man and Mary Jane kiss and share their vows of love. The sweet moment shared is witnessed by the Surfer who is taken back to his home world, remembering his own love, Shella-bal who he sacrificed everything for to save her and his world from the hunger of Galactus.
What Mary Jane feels from her experience, Spider-Man comes up with an idea of what the Surfer might be able to do for the Earth. Seeing as how it's impossible to just change the way people truly are, maybe if they could see what they could become, to see the world as beautiful as it really is to see the peace and tranquility that their world could become, then maybe they could change who they are themselves. Grabbing Mary Jane and swinging away, she asks him if maybe they should stay and make sure everything is alright. Spider-Man tells her that the amount of power the Surfer is about to unleash, it'd be best for them to get away.
For just five minutes all the people in the world, all the hurt and tortured masses, all the tyrants who's own internal turmoil that causes them to harm others, all prisons, all people who are have lost hope and see no point in living for the next day, for just five minutes they were all at peace. Not many of Earth's super heroes can say they've ever done more.
Collapsing from the strain, Spider-Man, having come back, catches the Surfer before he can fall. Showing the people of Earth what real peace could feel like, the Surfer tells Spider-Man that their peace also touched his own heart and for that he thanks Spider-Man for his idea. Telling him thank you himself, Spider-Man removes his mask so that the Surfer can see who he really is.
As the Surfer flies away, Peter can't help but feel some regret that for someone who cared so much for this world and all the people on it, no one really knew who the Surfer was, including Spider-Man. Watching him until he disappears into the clouds, Peter says a slight pray for the Surfer to rest in peace, he has definitely earned it.
Finding Spider-Man taking on a mechanical adversary, who is more then his match, the Silver Surfer comes to his aid and within a second ends the fight. The Surfer tries to fly off but Spider-Man trails him, trying to get him to slow down so that they could talk, or at least stop him long enough so that Spidey and thank him for his help.
After a few words, Spider-Man realizes that something is seriously wrong with the Surfer and actually gets him to talk about it. Once the Surfer finishes telling him that his time on Earth is short and this trip will be his last here, the Surfer confines that before he goes he wishes that there were one thing he could do for the citizens of the planet, and he asks for Spider-Man's opinion on what that something could possibly be.
We learn here of the futility of comic books and the superheroes that frequent them. Spider-Man and the like take on the bad guys, usually one at a time, in an attempt at stopping someone from committing an evil act. But truthfully, they don't ever change anything - they don't actually make things better as a whole. Yes, they save lives, and those people whose lives were saved are more than grateful, but never is the Earth changed for the better because of their actions. There's always some other villain to fight or another catastrophe to stop.
After realizing this, Spider-man doesn't have any idea what the Surfer could do that would help the people of Earth. But then Spider-Man starts talking about all the truly wonderful and awe inspiring things the Surfer must have seen, and the Surfer offers to allow Spider-Man to see them himself. The Surfer has the power to give a little of the power cosmic to whomever he chooses.
Deciding that there is someone else more deserving of this gift, Spider-Man swings off to retrieve Mary Jane. Bestowing on her the power cosmic, she flies off on the Surfer's board, seeing the marvels that make of the universe through her own two eyes. After an hour she returns completely moved by the freedom of her experience, which gives Spider-Man his idea of what the Surfer could do for Earth.
For just five minutes everyone on the planet would know what it was like to feel as free as Mary Jane felt soaring through the cosmos, and, just maybe, being exposed to that kind of freedom is enough to, if not change the people of the world, maybe it's enough to provide the spark that change needs to start taking place.
Every once in awhile a comic book comes along that helps remind you why it is you read comics in the first place. This is such a book.
Not only is this a fabulous read, but I'm delighted that the editors and writers at Marvel have decided that Spider-Man was the appropriate super hero in the Marvel universe to guest star in this book, a comic that dealt with some pretty serious and deep questions about the human race, as well as the superheroes trying their best to protect it from each other.
If I could I would have given this a better rating than a five, but 5 is the highest rating a comic on this web site can get, but really this book needs to be rated as a 5+. If I could only recommend one book this year, this one would be it. After I finished reading it, I handed it to my wife and made her read it as well. She doesn't usually read my comics, not because she doesn't like them but because she's usually reading her own thing, and even she thought that this was something special.