Written by R.L. Stine
Art by German Peralta
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Travis Lanham
Microbiologist Dr. Ted Sallis had spent years in the swamp as the murderous mutated muck monster known simply as the Man-Thing, whose touch burns those that know fear. For the longest time, the brilliant scientist wandered the Marvel universe as an unspeaking, barely sapient creature that guarded the Nexus of Realities. Nowadays, not only has Ted Sallis regained control of his faculties, but is currently a [failing] movie star. However, irrelevancy is not his only problem.
Acclaimed Fear Street and Goosebumps author R.L. Stine provides an homage to classic horror comics of years past. The expository captions, that often times describe a scene as it happened, lend themselves to the more prose aesthetic Stine is accustomed to. Half of the time, it felt like I was reading a Goosebumps novel with pictures, making Stine's storytelling gel comfortably with the format.
There's pointed commentary on how movie studios are mining comic book obscurity for the next big franchise. Studio producer Heck Haywood explains to Man-Thing why such a prospect might be difficult for a creature who looks like a bad CG monster from a hideously bad direct-to-dvd horror flick. With the popularity of high-risk properties, such as Ant-Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy, it's not unthinkable to, one day, see a Moon Knight movie or TV series on Netflix. (Wink-wink, nudge, nudge, hint-freakin-hint)
Man-Thing's characterization in the issue is a great departure from the incarnations I've usually seen him in. For the most part, he stood around like a towering slab of muck, mire, and membrane. But here, he's articulate, intelligent, and even snarky. It's as the title suggests, "A Different Direction," but it's also one I'm not completely sold on yet. His more bestial, non-human self gets time in the sun, as well, but in a different way which provides a bit of a dust-up.
The artwork by German Peralta compliments the horror comic aesthetic that the story is looking to convey, with darker shades, thicker lines and expressive facials of the people around our main character. Their disgust is evident although the reactions to Man-Thing walking around Hollywood are more like seeing a bum in a smelly costume than a gigantic swamp monster. The action scenes, though brief were dynamic and flowed beautifully.
While this current Man-Thing title has been described as a horror comic, from the flashback of Man-Thing's origin, to the structure of the panels, the dialogue and captions, this reads like an old school EC comic, though I hope more horror aesthetics await us in the issues to come. I won't say this isn't a good story so far, however, it comes off as a little more quirky than quake-inducing.
After the main story there's another R.L. Stine tale, illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson. It's a quick little terror tale of a pilfering pianist trying to seduce a young woman out of a magic ring that grants success to the wearer. It goes about where one would expect, O Henry ending and all, but it's a neat little bit that provides a bit more actual horror than the Man-Thing story has so far provided.
It's a bit of an odd duck (no pun intended) but Man-Thing #1 is worth a read for an offbeat work-in-progress creature feature, much like the Man-Thing himself.