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Saturday, January 30, 2010

This Week's Suspended Animation - Essential Man-Thing Volume 1

Essential Man-Thing Volume 1, published by Marvel Publishing, Inc., 544 pages, $16.99.

Chalk up another reason to favor the Marvel Essentials line: Man-Thing. Never a big fan of Marvel's denizen of the swamps in my 30+ years as a comics reader, I've formed the opinion that it's because I never read more than an appearance here or there. Having 32 consecutive stories in a row, beginning with Man-Thing's origin, changes the landscape, a bit. Now, after all these years, I tip my hat to the creators of such compelling fare.

Steve Gerber (creator of Howard the Duck) is the primary writer of these tales, with Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Tony Isabella lending a hand. While not necessarily breaking any new ground in the field, the writers did present some interesting situational dramas, wonderfully morose settings, and even a few tales with an almost classic "B" movie atmosphere. Often, the muck-monster was little more than a bystander, as the theater of other people's lives unfolded before him and the reader, alike. This produced a vibe not unlike many past E.C. horror yarns; the stories were quite engaging. I'll also add my opinion that, from a story-telling perspective, when the Man-Thing DOES play a significant role in a story, he becomes one of the best "unlikely heroes" in comics.

Additionally, a fan could hardly ask for more accomplished art work to adorn these pages. With a roll call boasting the likes of John Buscema, Mike Ploog, Gray Morrow, Neal Adams, Val Mayerik (co-creator of Howard the Duck) and more, there is precious little not to admire about this 500+ page tome. The pages fairly spring to life with a sense of realism (and sometimes SURrealism) that only serves to heighten the intensity and sense of macabre.

Essential Man-Thing Volume 1 is recommended for older readers, due to some horrific content. Find it at comics shops, bookstores, and online retailers and auctions.

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Review by Mark Allen