Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Trade Waiting - Silver Surfer: Parable by Moebius and Stan Lee

There are times when a pairing of character and creator makes so much sense that there is no way that is destined to fail. Recent examples of this are pairings such as Garth Ennis and Nick Fury, James Stokoe and Godzilla, and Paolo Rivera and Daredevil. In the eighties Marvel had a good business relationship with Jean Giraud, aka the incomparable Moebius, publishing his creator owned projects such as Arzach and The Airtight Garage through their Epic imprint and because of this had the opportunity to get him to work on one of their many properties. Moebius chose Norrin-Radd, The Silver Surfer, a character that would fit just as well into the worlds that Moebius creates as he does the Marvel Universe. For the writer it was deemed who better to pair with a living legend with than another living legend in the form of Silver Surfer co-creator Stan Lee. Together they created Parable, a tale that has long been out of print but has recently been re released as a deluxe one shot. Is it any good? (As if you need to ask,) find out after the jump.

Silver Surfer: Parable by Moebius and Stan Lee
Published by Marvel Comics

The Silver Surfer, protector of Earth and former herald of Galactus, is in a bit of a sorry state. Masquerading as a homeless man he spends his time in dark alleys just existing. He has no calling until Galactus returns to Earth, seemingly going back on the deal he made to leave our planet alone. Galactus' appearance sends the planet into a frenzy, claiming that he is the one true god and needs to be revered as such. For his part, Galactus does nothing, that is until The Silver Surfer decides to confront the eater of worlds. Meanwhile Colton Candell, a young opportunistic religious leader, uses the appearance of Galactus to further his own agenda, claiming to be the one true prophet of Galactus and in turn rapidly becoming the most powerful human being on the planet.

This is not the comic you expect to come from Marvel in the eighties, although upon further inspection it makes sense that such a subdued comic would come from the minds of Stan Lee and Moebius. There isn't a lot of fighting (save for one massive one,) and the action in the book is minimal. What we get instead is a study into what gods and religion are and how we as human beings are susceptible to suggestion. The Galactus seen in Parable is an intelligent one, content not to destroy the Earth and going back on the promise that he made to The Silver Surfer but instead let his mere appearance send the planet crazy and destroy itself. Interestingly enough Norrin-Radd really isn't the star of the book, that accolade instead goes to Colton Candell, the true villain of the piece. Candell is both Lee and Moebius' way of getting two messages across; one that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and two that faith and politics have no place in the same arena. As this is comics, the villain gets his comeuppance, the case unfortunately being not so in the real world even to this day. Behind the veneer of buildings exploding and skyscraper sized gods, Parable poses some surprisingly high brow questions about how we live our lives.

It's easy to dismiss Stan Lee as a hokey writer nowadays but in Parable, we have one of finest works not as a creator but as a scribe in his own right. The Silver Surfer seems to bring the best out in Lee and it is proved again here. It is easily the most tempered Lee this writer has ever seen, letting the art do the talking and not over crowding the book with paragraph upon paragraph of dialogue. As such, the poetic patter to his writing feels more eloquent and gets right to the heart of the story.

To say that Parable is beautiful would be an understatement of the greatest magnitude. There are few comics, short of Moebius own stuff and a couple of select others, that have ever looked as good as this. His Surfer is graceful and alien, and his Galactus looks like the god Kirby originally conceived him to be. The thing that you really take from Parable, or in fact any of Moebius' work is the sense of scale. When Galactus' ship first lands above an unnamed American city it looks big enough to blot out the sun, the same goes for when Galuctus appears, standing next to a skyscraper. Aiding him in this is the space that Moebius gets to work with. The panel layouts are more in line with the way comics are made today rather than how they were made in the eighties with panels having a 'widescreen' effect long before the term was coined to describe Bryan Hitch's art on The Authority. Moebius also has an eye for detail like few others, crowds run amok in the streets and you can make out each and every one. There is no room for suggestion in Jean Giraud's art. The colour work, credited to now DC Art Director Mark Chiarello but taken off of the colour guides from Moebius are cold and flat but nevertheless stunningly beautiful. It's easy to see where Brandon Graham gets the inspiration  for the 'ice cream' palette he has in his own works. Kudos should go to Marvel as well for doing a bang up job on the printing process, leaving all the colour work seemingly intact. It would also be amiss to not speak about the lettering in Parable which is done by hand by Moebius himself. It's understandable why letter fonts are the main way that comics are lettered nowadays but upon seeing this book there is no doubt that lettering is an art form in and of itself  and has pretty much been lost in modern comics. The hand lettering gives the book a personality that it wouldn't have had if fonts had been employed.

In terms of the package, Marvel deserve credit from one hand and chastising from the other. On top of the main story we also get an in depth look into the process of making the book, from inception to completion from Moebius himself, complete with his views on character designs, meeting Stan Lee, and the fears he had working on characters that were not his own. It's really insightful stuff and interesting to hear that one of the greatest to ever pick up a pen has the same doubts that we all do when it comes to creation. We also get all of Moebius' pin up work for Marvel, with beautiful pieces of art of characters such as Iron Man, The Punisher, and more, each rendered in a different style to Parable itself. Honestly, these have to be seen to be believed as words really cannot explain how amazing it is to see your favourite Marvel characters drawn in such a different way. We also get a short piece on the character of Silver Surfer, covering not only the main story beats for the character's solo adventures but also the varied creators that have worked on him. Unfortunately the packaging falls down on two fronts. The first, slightly minor yet still relevant, if DC can repackage their 100 page giants such as Green Lantern: Willworld and Gotham Noir with a spine and still sell it for eight dollars why can't Marvel, especially on a book of this magnitude. True, many will say get the hardcover but again, why Marvel chose to package the hardcover with the lesser Enslavers story is beyond this writer. Secondly, whilst it's understandable that Marvel will try to get you to try their other products, chances are Parable is not going to be anyone's first taste of the Marvel Universe so putting one of their garish Marvel checklists at the back of the book is off putting, unnecessary, and a little bit insulting. Thankfully these are small issues in the big scheme of things and they do not stop the enjoyment of the story within. 

Verdict - Must Buy

I'm not really sure what verdict is higher than must buy, but if there was one, rest assured it would've been used to describe Parable. Stan Lee is truly at his best telling tales of The Silver Surfer and if you need an explanation as to why you should buy a book drawn by Moebius there is no hope for you. Surpisingly deep, beautiful to look at, and for eight dollars you get one of the best tales Marvel put out in an already amazing decade of comics. Parable deserves to be on your bookshelf.

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