Before doing this review I would have sworn this comic came out in the 90's. I guess after having read so many books over the years many series and periods seem to mesh together for me.
But it was the late 80's(1988). I was loving this Silver Surfer relaunch.
Englehart, the late great Marshall Rogers and Rubenstein had really done an amazing job revitalizing and weaving a great tale in the first 12 issues. Essentially using the Elders to great effect in a ploy to use the Infinity Gem to restart the universe as the only survivors each become a Galactus. It doesn't work obviously, but it is executed perfectly by the creative team, who go on to continue the tale and expand into a war between the Kree and the Skrulls.
That being said the annual came out and was part of Marvel's Evolutionary War event that ran through all the Marvel annuals.
The gist of the story is the High Evolutionary wants to perfect humanity and requires some essential DNA information from Surfer to do so. So he pops up in Olympia and appeals to the Eternals to collect it for him. Since they benefitted from similar genetic tampering millenia ago at the hands of the Celestials they think it's a good idea to force Surfer to volunteer his DNA for humanities greater good. Science spawned gods they are...ethics can be ignored.
In the mean time, Sufer is returning to Earth and witnesses the reconstruction of the Super-skrull who had been scattered into the atmosphere as radiation. They fight, and Surfer wonders if he should tell Super-skrull that is race is again at war with the Kree..and have lost their natural shape-shifting abilities.. The fight is interrupted and the unlikely allies are captured by Ikaris and the other Eternals. Brought to Olympia for testing, the Surfer finally has enough and he and Super-skrull escape and battle anew with the Eternals.
Eventually Super-Skrull ties to escape, and as the Eternals go to chase, Surfer prevents them and tells Super-skrull to go and that he will hold off the Eternals, his people need him, as his genetic code may hold the key to revitalizing the Skrull race. The Skrull thanks him and the Eternals finally have a change of heart as forcing a living being to do something like succumb to unwanted testing isn't right. Nice tidy ending no fuss no muss.
It may sound silly, but even upon re-reading all these years later Steve Englehart's plot and scripting makes for great classic comics. the best of intentions lead to confrontation and realization that I was the wrong thing to do.
The execution is great. Englehart's script is to the point, and enjoyable. The characters are handled well and play their parts in the big scheme of things. Its also nice how Englehart seeds plots for the future that will last 25 issues or so and end up making Super-skrull one of my favorite characters while still making the story relevant to the larger event Marvel's Evolutionary War.
The art chores are handled well by Joe Staton. Its very cartoony as always, manages to work well for superheroes. He does a great job on the story-telling and action. There is nice action and great expression. Rubenstein inks and like always really adds nice finishing touches to the pencils. I don't think Staton's work is as dynamic as Marshall's or Lim's(who tales over Surfer soon after), but it is certainly strong enough to carry this story.
The great thing about the annuals of this time was additional content, and in this particular annual its all good. A great story drawn by Lim, and I think this was the first time I saw his art, that provided a prelude of sort to the next chapter of the story with the Eternals, and widened to eventually include a great war between the In-betweener and Galactus. And another story with the rebirth of Mantis, who also becomes an important secondary character in the book.
Finally you have some awesome pin-ups by Ron Lim and Joe Rubenstein.
All in all a great read, I really recommend every one who love cosmic comic book super heroes to pick this issue up, and to also check of the series. Englehart, Rogers, Staton, Lim, Rubenstein..they really did an amazing re-envisioning of Surfer and really told some fun, epic stories.
Grade: 9 out of 10