What Are You Reading? | ‘Silver Surfer,’ ‘Usagi Yojimbo’ and more

See what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately. In this edition, we talk about the new storyline kicking off in Usagi Yojimbo, the intersection of Slott/Allred’s Silver Surfer with Doctor Who, and more.

Let us know what you read this week in the comments or on social media.

Tom Bondurant

This week I read the first two collections of the 2014 Silver Surfer series, written by Dan Slott, drawn by Michael Allred, and colored by Laura Allred. (They cover issues #1-10.) I had heard it described as basically a Doctor Who riff; and it certainly feels that way, thanks to new supporting character Dawn Greenwood. Dawn is an appealing young woman who’d fit right in on the TARDIS. Even if she weren’t on the cover of issue #1 we’d know she’s meant to ride the space-waves, because she is perfectly content with her humble little life helping her dad run a quaint New England inn. Nevertheless, in the first arc she escapes from an extraterrestrial prison, and in subsequent stories she stands up to the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Defenders. This is all light-hearted and fun. As a result, it’s not until Dawn learns the Surfer’s full history as Galactus’ herald that things start to get interesting. In issue #8, the pair comes across a world populated solely by the last survivors of the planets Galactus has destroyed – and of course, this means that Galactus can’t be far behind. Issue #10 ends with the Surfer vowing to find these billions of refugees a new home, while Dawn tries to figure out how she really feels about ol’ Norrin.

Accordingly, it’s not quite a Doctor Who pastiche. For one thing, the Doctor has seen a lot of death, but (the War Doctor notwithstanding) still isn’t on the hook for as much destruction as Galactus has caused. Moreover, the Doctor tends not to fall in love with companions, and the Surfer admits his love for dawn in the closing pages of issue #10. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy these issues, because I did. It just shifts my perspective somewhat. I have never been a huge fan of Silver Surfer solo stories, mainly because I tended to see him either as a supporting character in Fantastic Four or a non-teammate in Defenders. Here the Surfer is much more mellow than I expected. His world-weariness expresses itself in wildly different situations, from announcing that he is the Herald of Galactus and everyone on a particular planet needs to take cover, to explaining rather bluntly that of course he’s seen The Wizard of Oz. Therefore, I’m tracking down the remaining paperbacks – apparently there are only five total – and eager to see where Slott and the Allreds take this pair.

JK Parkin

The first issue of S.W.O.R.D. serves as an introduction to yet another team of mutants tied to the ongoing Krakoa storyline. It comes on the heels of X of Swords, as we see what Krakoa has planned for the Peak, the reclaimed space station that you might remember from the first S.W.O.R.D. series back in the day. It also reintroduces a bunch of B and C list mutants from various comics of the past, who serve as the new S.W.O.R.D. team. Like with many of the current X-Men comics, there’s a lot of plot and set-up and bigger purpose to what’s happening here, as we learn how S.W.O.R.D. fits in with all the other X-titles.

In the hands of a lesser creative team, this would have felt like just another X-title — we’ve seen this sort of set-up already a dozen times over with the current X-regime, many times at the expense of character development. But not here. As we meet the new team, we get a glimpse into what makes each of them tick, for the most part — there’s a group of teleporters here, who are treated like more of a plot device than actual real people — but the key players, like Kid Cable, Fabian Cortez, Wiz Kid, Frenzy and the leader Abigail Brand, get the chance to at least sparkle, if not shine. Add to that a really mind-bending teleportation scene expertly drawn by Valerio Schti and Marte Gracia, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty exciting first issue, with lots of room to grow in future issues.

Stan Sakai has spent the last several issues of his long-running, pretty much always flawless comic series Usagi Yojimbo exploring the ronin’s past. As we leave behind the village where Usagi grew up, we head into a new tale that draws on his days studying underneath a tengu to become an even better swordsman. We’ve seen this particular tengu, or mountain goblin, before; his name is Soboju, and in the flashback we learn more about how Usagi came to study underneath him. The end of the issue kicks off a new storyline, which sounds like it’s going to be pretty awesome — Sakai uses not only Japan legends but also the rich continuity he’s been creating for decades now to tell new and fun stories about Usagi. This comic always gets my highest recommendation.

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