Art: German Peralta
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: Travis Lanham
Covers: Tyler Cook, Francesco Francavilla, John Tyler Christopher, Stephanie Hans, Ron Lim, Billy Martin, Rachelle Rosenberg
Man-Thing created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Gray Morrow.
Whenever celebrity writers from outside the industry make the jump to working on a comic book series, readers can expect their prose to play an outsize role in the comic. At the heart of the award-winning March are the personal recollections of John Lewis told in casual first person voice. The first arc of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther is a slowly unfolding discourse on the relationship between the state and the people embodied as dialogue between the comic’s numerous characters. So when Marvel hired Goosebumps author R.L. Stine to work on a Man-Thing mini series, the result is a a story helmed by the kind of prose once described as “funny, icky, and just a bit menacing.” Put another way, the usually mute swamp monster now talks like a young R.L. Stine protagonist.
The menacing part (or at least the icky part) is quickly exhibited from page one. The comic opens with a swamp battle between Man-Thing and a hideous centipede creature. Our hero is stymied on how to defeat the monstrosity. But then, the centipede starts talking: “Whoa. I didn't know they could pile human waste that high. Where does the swamp end and you begin?” More surprising is Man-Thing’s internal monologue, represented by a constant stream of thought bubbles. Ted Sallis (Man-Thing’s former human identity) turns out to be a really chatty person.
Stine keeps piling on the ironic twists. Ted is now a resident of Los Angeles and a struggling actor. His dream of a successful Hollywood career receives a serious blow when a sleazy studio executive bluntly points out “You’re a nice guy - but you’re sickening.” The studio’s instead considering going with Ant-Man. Stupid Marvel Cinematic Universe! When Ted walks the streets, he’s relentlessly heckled by pedestrians for his alien appearance. Artist German Peralta draws a suitably creepy Man-Thing and somehow manages to convey the dejection behind the hulking figure with glowing red eyes by using some pretty subtle body language.
There’s a bit of Peter Parker in Ted’s sack sack behavior, with a dash of Ben Grimm for good measure. His response to the unwelcome attention on the street is “Don’t let my good looks fool you. Deep down inside I’m very ugly.” But Stine’s pulpy approach to horror is on full display when the story goes on an extended flashback of Man-Thing’s origins. “Ted Sallis wanted to build an indestructible killer. He never dreamed it would turn out to be himself!” Whoa. Aren’t scientists who work for the military just the worst?