“Man-Thing” Issue #1
Writer: R.L. Stine
Artist: German Peralta
Colourist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Emerging from the swamp after a half-decade since his last feature title, Man-Thing shambles onto this week’s new issues rack with some seriously interesting writer’s credits in tow. R.L.Stine takes a crack at this craggy classic character, marking his first foray into writing for comics. The quick-and-dirty writing style and polished visuals make Man-Thing a breezy first issue and re-introduction for a character that could just as easily wound up left in the muck.
Despite being a figure that may need a little dusting off, Man-Thing wastes no time diving straight into the action starring former government scientist turned marshy mess, Ted Sallis. A once-man turned monster attempting to break into the acting scene, Ted is quickly canned by his agent, who deems his hulking form simply, “too gross” for TV and movies. Out in the mean, clean streets of Hollywood, Ted finds it hard to blend with the rest of the glamorous crowd, and draws many a stare and catcall as he shambles down the streets, pondering his life’s purpose. In between sequences, we are treated to the tale of Man-Thing’s origin in flashback format. It’s a crisp, albeit predictable, method of establishing the reader with a basis with which to enjoy future issues. Despite my personal qualms about a vicious creature-feature style fight being used as a trope-y intro (I’m sick to death of interesting sequences being dreams or set-dressing for meta narrative), this comic serves as a perfectly adequate introduction.
Man-Thing, while formulaic in its presentation, is infused with a direct sort of wit that can be enjoyed in most of R.L. Stine’s work. Dialogues are snappy, to-the-point, and provide humor by poking fun at Man-Thing’s pulpy appearance. The result is a bumbly, brambled, self-conscious protagonist in a macabre story of scientific accident. In order to convey Ted’s near-crippling self doubt, this comic does suffer from an over-use of inner monologue. Large and imposing white thought balloons hover throughout, providing too much context to already well illustrated actions. That being said, Stine injects his classic Goosebumps flavored narrative by way of green exposition snippets peppered between sequences. Ordinarily, such impositions can break up already busy pages with unnecessary boxes, but Stine seems to know exactly what to say to sweeten the story with the right flourish of language. His cheesy horror chops work to his advantage, and these tidbits are often the juicy joyful rhetoric by which the narrative is wound together and propelled forward through what is an otherwise choppy flashback. In this way, Stine’s voice haunts Ted during his transformation into Man-Thing, follows closely as action and anger tears through the annals of his origin, and trails behind Man-Thing ever after as he ambles through his new life, an eager new commentator to this comic book classic.
If this comic is packed with so much stanza, where does the art go? Don’t worry. German Peralta and Rachelle Rosenberg still get a decent amount of room to play in this issue. Despite Man-Thing being a golden age reboot, the illustrations here are anything but vintage. Perspective in scenes in offices and outside in the big city are executed with a flawless sense of space, whether we are viewing the events straight on or from over Man-Thing’s massive shoulders. Peralta’s attention to detail shines in the creature close-ups, keep your eyes peeled for all the sweeping foliage and hidden bird skulls or butterflies on Man-Thing’s grubby bod. He appears both sodden and crunchy all at once, and additions in texture make him all the more interesting to watch. Whether he’s shambling through the streets or leaving destruction in his wake, Man-Thing is a fully realized and beautiful beast. Rachelle Rosenberg’s best work on this issue is executed in the bog, Man-Thing’s home. Her colours and washes in wooded areas, light playing across foliage, and the dense and heavy depths in the murky waters of the swamp add as much to the atmosphere of the story as Stine’s creeping prose. Yellowish light from car headlights and the red glow from Man-Thing’s eyes remind us that, despite it’s sense of humor, this story remains one rooted in the suspense/horror genre.
If you’re a fan of pulpy origin stories, were glued to Goosebumps books growing up, or just missed out on Man-Thing in his heyday and are rife with curiosity, this title is for you. It’s a well executed debut into comics for R.L.. Stine, and his fellow creators do a good job of enlivening his already spirited storytelling style. While sometimes suffering from crowded moments and choppy narrative jumps, Man-Thing’s swampy groundwork is lain by the end of the book and with a little bonus content at the end to boot. While not the spine-tingler that I was hoping for, it’s no bump on a log. 6/10
Much like finding a prize inside a cereal box, Man-Thing boasts a little bonus content at the end of the issue. I won’t give too much away suffice to say that Stine couldn’t resist the urge to sneak in a spooky little tale of the supernatural. Completely separated from the Man-Thing story, Put A Ring On It is a self contained mini comic with a twist ending, a total gem. Illustrated by Daniel Johnson (the master behind Extremity, which I had the pleasure of reviewing last week) and coloured by Matt Lopes, this standalone is sketchy and dynamic, with a simplistic colour palette that further sets it apart from the feature title. Man-Thing is almost worth buying for this little tidbit alone, it reads like a short episode of Tales from the Crypt, and the artwork is punchy and vibrant to match. I can only hope that future Man-Thing comics are accompanied by these shorts, as it was a very pleasant and solid surprise, and gave R.L. Stine a little more creative room to shine. 9/10
Chris is the owner of The Sidekick comic shop/coffee bar in Toronto. You can find her there under a mountain of books, doing shots of espresso off the bar.When she’s not in the shop, Chris does freelance illustration work and tours the city’s outdoor space with her dog Cooper.
Her favorite fandoms feature giant monsters.