Full disclosure here - let me start by stating that I am a big Silver Surfer fan. That being said, I was starting high school and was pretty much out of comics when this series was launched in 1987. I hopped aboard with issue #29, and would ride with it religiously until just after the 100th issue (even had a letter published in #49). I just loved this stuff - totally ate it up. Some time around 1990, I went back to pick up some back issues from the beginning of the run. The thing is, it just didn't work for me. It just seemed so flat. The stories seemed too dense with page after page of talking heads and the artwork seemed a bit too spare and almost slight for a interstellar adventures. I just didn't enjoy them as much as the later stuff - especially the Starlin/Lim epics.
Don't get me wrong, I've always enjoyed Steve Engelhart's stories as well as the artwork of Marshall Rogers, but my gut reaction to this stuff was negative. I recently picked up a copy of the second volume of the Essential Silver Surfer and were my eyes ever opened! My relatively juvenile mind had missed Engelhart's master plan. He was establishing a new mythos for the Marvel Universe (literally, the whole universe), essentially reintroducing the Elders, the Kree, the Skrulls and exploring as many facets of life off Earth as possible. It's exciting, it's suspenseful, it's funny and even a bit romantic.
Readers are finally rewarded with an actual war between the Kree and the Skrulls, and the relationship between the Elders and Galactus is revealed in a fascinating way. Freed of entrapment on Earth and the ball and chain on Zenn-La, the Surfer is able to become a major player in the universe. I still have few minor issues with the storyline, though. First, it can be a bit too talky at times. Second, Rogers' art is all over the place - at times gorgeous and brilliant, and at other times it comes across as rushed and lacking in detail. Finally, the Mantis/Surfer relationship needed to be fleshed out more, if we are going to feel for the big guy after she's gone. He keeps alluding to their 'hot and heavy' time together, but we didn't get to see it. Let this be a lesson - just because something didn't sit right with you at one point in your life, doesn't mean that you should right it off for good.