Posted tagged ‘Steve Gerber’

Review: Essential Man-Thing Vol.1

September 1, 2008

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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Review: This Shape We’re In

July 14, 2008

For part two of my pre-readercon reading list it’s second guest of honor, Jonathan Lethem’s novella This Shape We’re In.  To be upfront about my review, I am biased when it comes to Lethem.  He’s probably my favorite modern author, in large part because his two primary influences, Philip K. Dick and Steve Gerber are the same writers I grew up devouring.  He’s also the author of my favorite book of the last decade, Motherless Brooklyn.

So, with that little disclaimer out of the way, on to the review.  This Shape We’re In is a very odd and incredibly tightly written story.  It focuses on two characters searching for one of their sons who has run away to join a cult, as well as the purpose of their lives, oh and lest I forget the purpose of their environment as well.  The environment in question, the shape, is a body that may or may not be human.  It could also be a generational ship, a fallout shelter, or possibly a trojan horse.

The brilliance of the story comes from the craft on display.  For nearly any other writer a story this ambitious would form a novel.  For Lethem, the tale encompases a total of 55 pages and feels like it’s exactly the length it ought to be.  This is world building of the first order, there is no extraneous exposition (or really any exposition at all for that matter), yet the environment feels fully realized.

This story (if you can still find a copy) makes a great introduction to Lethem’s work, very highly recommended.