Review: Essential Man-Thing Vol.1

I just finished up another Essentials volume so I guess I’m sticking with the comics review theme for one more day.  The first of two volumes of the Essential Man-Thing covers the (unfortunately named) character’s earliest appearances and the beginings of Steve Gerber’s run on the book.  Now Man-Thing is a very strange book, in that it features a swamp creature (it’s worth noting that Man-Thing appeared a few months before Swamp Thing) who is nearly mindless and who has no means of communicating.

Thus the burden of the story is placed upon a rotating assortment of random supporting characters who serve as the foil for Man-Things adventures, and on a slightly overbearing omniscient narrator.  Fortunately, most of these stories are by the great Steve Gerber (who reader’s of my old book review blog will know I obsess over), who manages to take the rediculous premise and built it into a set of oddly poiniant morality plays.  He also throws in a few of his trademark touches of absurdity, this book does contain the first appearance of Howard the Duck after all, not to mention the ever so slightly over the top Foolkiller.

Somehow this all manages to come together to create Marvel’s second best horror book after Tomb of Dracula.  It’s really a shame these stories have mostly gone down in history the awful name (particularly due to the five “Giant-Size”  issues) and the corny catch phrase “whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch”.  Granted the stories here haven’t aged particularly well (this is the era of Marvel where every book had to include an evil biker gang at some point), but they have enough substance to be worth a read if you can get past the window dressing.  Oh and there’s some lovely Mike Ploog art.

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