Infernal Man-Thing #1 Review
This is a very interesting project, a followup to an old story that is said to have meant a lot to the late writer Steve Gerber, and unfortunately wasn't able to be completed until after he had died from complications of a chronic illness.
While it can be perilous to read too much into a writer's work sometimes, Gerber wasn't one of those types of writers. There's no question how personal much of his comic book writing was, and that much of his own experiences were combined with his bizarre imagination. In fact, after Gerber's time in comics was pretty much over with, he worked in animation in the '80s on many now-beloved Saturday morning cartoons like GI Joe, Thundarr, Transformers, and Dungeons & Dragons, and these can be seen subtly referenced in the cartoon gremlins that vex Man-Thing in the Kevin Nowlan artwork. Now that it's too late to ask him, I hope Steve Gerber didn't look back over his own life near the end as fatalistically as Lazarus does here.
Because to be honest, I found Lazarus's self-pity a little ridiculous, and it seemed like he trivialized and then abandoned a wife and son who'd never done anything to deserve it in the opener here, and so I find it hard to feel too sorry for him. Truth to tell, it sounded like he'd had it pretty good, and had had every opportunity to make more of his life along the way if he wished to. The original story presented as a backup features the same character as a younger man having a nervous breakdown (and accompanying psychic outbreak) over his time as an ad writer, and it reflects the societal changes of its time and feels very anachronistic as a result, the intrusiveness and deceptiveness of advertisements being omnipresent and taken for granted these days.
You want to tell Lazarus to just chill the fuck out, to be honest. What the fuck, man?
The Nowlan artwork reminds me of Man-Thing done in a more painterly Vaughn Bode-style, and Man-Thing himself looks a bit like a soggy green Hammerhead action figure. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it, but it worked much better in the swamps than in the longer scenes with Lazarus and the waitress where the facial expressions in those panels were hard to judge sometimes. When Lazarus assaulted her and stuck his tongue down her throat, he looked (and sounded) downright sinister afterwards, which made me more unsympathetic to his moaning about his humdrum life working in the 'toons. He may have had the best intentions there, but the artwork didn't show that to me.
Steve Gerber did as much as anyone to make bronze-age Marvel Comics the best comics of the day back then in the 1970s and 1980s, and I was drawn to them as a kid because they were so weird and unlike anything else out there. I realized later how much of an underground comix sensibility Gerber and a few others in the bullpen had, and appreciated them all over again. I loved them, and it's a little sad that I did not love this new IMT story even a little bit the same way but I've come to terms with it after about a half a dozen readings of this issue.
Steve Gerber gets a 10. What the hell, turn it up to 11. This new issue though gets a 6, so the average works out to be: