Thursday, March 09, 2017

Single Issue Voter - Man-Thing #1

By R.L. Stine & German Peralta, et al.
from Marvel Comics
$3.99 USD

So, Man-Thing talks now? The f--- did that happen?

Of all the new titles Marvel's letting off the chain this month, Man-Thing is the one I've been most looking forward to. The original series from the seventies is probably the first bonafide horror comic of which I could ever call myself a fan (though I didn't start reading it until long after the first and second Man-Thing series had closed their respective doors). I've never read anything by R.L. Stine, though I figured he's sold more books than I so trusting him with Marvel's favorite plant monster might be a fine idea. In fact, I was so convinced it was a smart purchase that rather than ask my local comics seller to just hold the first issue for me so I could decide whether or not I'd add it to my regular pull list, I bypassed the screening process entirely and had him go ahead and throw it on my list of monthly reads; affording the new Man-Thing a privilege I usually reserve only for the kind of proven creative teams that just never miss, or - alternatively - anything with the Hulk in it.

Kind of  regretting that now.

The issue opens on what appears to be a battle between Man-Thing and some kind of giant bug monster thing. Soon, we learn Man-Thing is in a movie studio and the giant bug monster thing is just a dude in a suit. While being urged to stay as far from his office furniture as possible, Man-Thing is fired by a heartless studio executive who is disappointed with Man-Thing's test screenings and the nausea the swamp monster inspired. Wandering the streets of Hollywood and bemoaning his luck, Man-Thing is attacked by what appears to be the older, mindless version of himself.

There is something deadening to the narrative tone of Man-Thing, like it doesn't know what it wants to be. Once you learn the monster is an aspiring actor on a movie set, you think it's going to be something in the vein of the Chip Zdarsky/Joe Quinones Howard the Duck series, but it doesn't seem to know it's own place in its own absurdity.

Man-Thing is unsure about whether or not it's supposed to take itself seriously. It's got a Sliver Age sense of humor that's poking fun at the Silver Age, but not ironically. When Man-Thing says to his mindless doppelganger, "You want to dance? How about if I lead!" and then punches him, you aren't actually sure whether or not Stine thinks, "How about if I lead," is funny. Like, does he think that's oh-let's-lampoon-the-corny-old-comics-dialogue funny? Or is he actually thinking it's funny ha-ha, like I will make a noise while reading this that is largely involuntary and signifies being entertained?

I don't know. I don't know which. Not a fan just yet.

I don't know if this will be standard for the rest of the mini, but this issue also ends with the 4-page Stine-written back-up story "Put A Ring On It." The story features wonderful art by Daniel Johnson and Mat Lopes, but the story itself feels like an afterthought, and its surprise ending will tear a horrified "meh" from your quivering bowels.

So Stine & co. get one more issue to prove to me I'm stupid. Otherwise, I'm flushing this series and picking up a copy of one of the Steve Gerber collections instead.

(though probably not right away because money)

(and honestly I'll probably eventually pick up the Gerber collections regardless of the quality of this series)

(but I needed some kind of closer)

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