MAN-THING: THOSE WHO KNOW FEAR
Writer: R.L. Stine
Artist: Germán Peralta
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Covers: Tyler Crook
Letterer: Travis Lanham & Joe Sabino (#4)
Assistant Editor: Christina Harington
Editor: Katie Kubert & Mark Pannicia
Rating: 7.5/10 Loveable Garbage Heaps
It’s time for spooky season! I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t take this opportunity to look through my reads to find the “spookiest” one to fit this time of year. One such read happened to be the melancholy muck-monster himself, Man-Thing. When I spied this in my local comic shop and saw it was written by R.L. Stine I just had to pick it up. Was I a big Stine fan growing up? Absolutely not! I was terrified of his books, that my older brother would casually read and still sleep soundly through the night. As an “adult” now, with a few scary movies under my belt, I felt like Stine on a Marvel book would be my entry point to such a famous author I knew of growing up. So with the votes piling up on this mulchy mess, It’s time for those who fear spoilers to turn back or burn at this read. For this review, I’ll just be covering the five-issue story that focuses on Man-Thing in this book.
Getting Down And Dirty Learning About Man-Things
Stop! We can’t go further without addressing the elephant in the review (see that Man-Thing also has some sort of trunk appendage). My first time being introduced to this character was seeing him in a Deadpool comic with some other monsters. I got a little back story about him, that for a time had me thinking “ok, Marvel’s Swamp Thing.” While true, both Ted Sallis (Man-Thing) and Alec Holland (Swamp Thing), share similar backgrounds of being a scientist whose experiments in the swamp transformed them into monstrous creatures, the similarities stop there. Or at least in this book.
Man-Thing is no avatar for plant life like his considered DC counterpart. He’s a mass of plant, flesh, dirt and basically whatever else has him labeled as the most disgusting thing to look at by the characters in this book. So many garbage heap references and people being nauseated by the sight of him in this book, but all I see it a big cutie. I mean look at his face! Absolutely adorable and I love it. Another important difference to note is that Swamp Thing is a dude (dude-thing) that has control of, and is, all plants essentially. If I had to pit these two against each other I’m sure Swamp Thing would win. Man-Thing has one power, any who are touched while afraid of him burst into flames. Simple, yet another thing I love about him. Differences established. The waters of confusion unmuddied. We can continue with the story.
The Fate Of The World In His Gross Hands
Man-Thing squares off against his opponent, a giant centipede, carefully avoiding its claws that are as poisonous as the venomous insults it’s spitting. It looks like it may have gained the upper hand on Man-Thing, but Man-Thing is the hero of this story and as he brings down a mighty stomp on the creature...Cut! Take five everyone.
Our story finds Man-Thing pursuing a career in acting. Recently recovering his faculties as well as the ability to speak after first transforming in Man-Thing all those years ago, Ted Sallis has been looking to gain a life back he lost in some way. Unfortunately, it looks like the Hollywood business of getting superheroes in their movies doesn’t want a giant heap of whatever he is that makes tummies ache. So while moping the streets, he encounters a feral Man-Thing that merges with him after a short tussle and teleports him back to the swamp that was his stomping grounds.
What was once battling the Hollywood biz now becomes battling some monster as Man-Thing wrestles down giant gators and pythons that steal your exes from college right as you are trying to tell them who you are through some charades. In need of answers to what’s going on, Man-Thing seeks out the Oldfather, a wizard who guards a nexus to all of reality. When it turns out that the Oldfather is kidnapped, Man-Thing must travel beyond his reality and do battle with bored rulers, headless bodies and talking snakes. It couldn’t get any weirder for Man-Thing, could it?
He’s R.L. Fine
Successfully, finishing my first R.L Stine written book I gotta say, I really enjoyed his writing. His writing for Man-Thing’s voice was fun and laughable experience all the way through. With a character like Man-Thing, as well as Ted Sallas, you would think getting control of his consciousness again would have had Man-Thing’s dialogue be a bunch of body horror and struggle to cope with what Ted has become. It’s actually so opposite. It’s like a life gives you lemons scenario as he meets people's disgust with light-hearted humor to deflect their gross comments or he just bums about his current predicaments. Yes he stills wants his old body back and Stine shows that really well when opportunities arise in this book, but through and through, Man-Thing produces all the quips that Spider-Man would consider garbage.
Along with the five-issue story, there are a few short horror stories included in this book that really up the horror factor compared to the Man-Thing story. Those feel like someone turned pages from his books into comic form. What’s interesting after reading this is seeing how easily Stine can jump back and forth between his well known young horror writing, and a fun light-hearted tone of voice in a monster book for Marvel.
The Nexus Of All Art
With a character like Man-Thing already being a monster, having a spooky writer on board had me thinking that this book was going to be as visually dark as the story being told. I was wrong however on the dark part. Germán Peralta’s art gives us clear action sequences that easy to follow and amazing use of body language for Man-Thing to help convey his mood throughout the story. Peralta goes from the public streets with a crowd of people, to the swamps of big creatures, to some really trippy visuals crossing realities. The guy really can create any reality himself on these panels.
Complimenting Peralta’s work we have Rachelle Rosenberg, who brings the colors far from being murky on these pages. With multiple locations (and realities) that this story takes us through, Rosenberg has nothing holding her back from using a wide assortment of colors. The pages are bright and bold in colors. Any moment that would be considered dark and spooky to a reader is set at ease with Rosenberg’s color choices that lighten the mood just enough to while keeping it enjoyable.
If there is any takeaway I can give after reading this book is that don’t be afraid of this guy (or around). Seriously. Don’t. R.L. Stine gave a character that sounds like they haven’t had much of a voice or depth in a long time, new life in such a fantastic and fun way. The only thing I found disappointing with this book was how suddenly it ended. The story’s conclusion definitely felt like there was supposed to be more to it, especially with a couple of things not being resolved. Nevertheless though I would highly recommend Man-Thing to anyone looking for a new book to add to their spooky season reads or is a fan of R.L Stine. Maybe now I can finally pick up that copy of Say Cheese and Die and brave my way through.