WARNING: This post contains spoilers!
Disclaimer: Everything here is purely my opinion.
Man-Thing and all related images are property of Marvel Entertainment.
Man-Thing: Those Who Know Fear #1
Written by: R.L. Stine
Art & Colors by: German Peralta, Rachelle Rosenberg, Daniel Johnson, Matt Lopes
Lettering by: Travis Lanham
Those of you who grew up in the nineties most likely are familiar with the name R.L. Stine, the famous children’s horror author who gave the world the highly successful and much beloved Goosebumps series amongst other spine-tingling literary works. Now though we see the daddy of living dummies and grandpa of ghoulies take on a new style of storytelling with his foray into comics with Marvel’s monster of muck, The Man-Thing! Does Stine’s first outing into sequential storytelling hold up as well as his past works or will it leave you feeling as empty as a ghost? Let’s find out.
The first issue opens with Man-Thing in the swamp fighting a giant insectoid beast referred to as the Silver Centipede. While Man-Thing contemplates the best way to dispatch his foe, the Silver Centipede hurls insults at him as he prepares to attack our hero, while the beast does temporarily get the upper hand on our swampy pal he is quickly dispatched with a fierce stomp, followed by someone yelling CUT! That’s right this is not the swamp, but in fact a set for a movie. It would seem our favorite swamp dweller is now trying to make it in Hollywood. Shortly after this somewhat odd revelation we find out that Man-Thing has regained his human consciousness once again as well as his ability to speak. Now remembering his life as Dr. Ted Sallis, he is just trying to find a way to make it in the world. After some exposition on his situation we get a flash back to the Man-Thing’s origin, which is basically more or less the same origin as DC Comic’s Swamp-Thing. After some more self contemplation the story ends with Man-Thing running into an evil twin, whom unlike himself is still a feral and violent beast.
The next feature in the book is a short story titled “Put A Ring On It” which is also written by Stine. The story features a Pianist named Daniel who is trying to woo a young woman named Ashli in attempts to murder her and still the magic ring which helped her to attain her fortune, despite Ashli warning Daniel that the ring has to choose the wearer or else it will bring them misfortune, he ignores these warning and proceeds with his plan, at night while they are out on Ashli’s yacht he bashes her over the head and throws her overboard. At first it seems the ring is working and improving his musical prowess, but he wakes up the next day to find all of his fingers missing, a just fate for such a cruel and greedy man.
In terms of story I have to say that the first issue of Man-Thing: Those Who Know Fear is a fairly weak freshman outing for Mr. Stine’s comic book carrier, while true the cliché story of fish out of water trying to remake his life in a new way is something unique and unexpected to do with the character of Man-Thing, that gimmick alone does not save the story from what is fairly simplistic dialogue, Man-Thing speaking may make him a more relatable character in a sense, but it takes away the supernatural mystique the character has had in the past, it also doesn’t help the dialogue in the book is primarily just exposition of Man-Thing explaining to the reader his new situation, and even then it is fairly straight forward and simplistic. The only thing the main story gives the reader by the end is the hint at a fight between Man-Thing and his double who seemingly came out of nowhere. The second story, while also short and simple is much well-structured and despite only being four pages long arguably has better writing.
Overall from a writing perspective the first issue of Man-Thing: Those Without Fear feels like a bit of a disappointment, it is neither really horror or comedy, and it feels like Stine is playing it far too safe with the book the entire time despite the character and premise.
In terms of artwork however German Peralta and Rachelle Rosenburg do a overall decent job on art duty, its hard to get characters like Man-Thing to show a wide array of emotion, but with visual cues using his hands and eyes they manage to pull it off, and while the facial expressions are fairly subdued for the most part they aren’t in any way a negative impact on the tale, though it does make the occasional over exaggeration of an emotion such as disgust or fear seem a bit awkward. Daniel Johnson’s art in the back-up strip is much more expressive and alive in terms of facial expressions and colors which helps the short story pop even more.
Overall the art for the book is well done, Man-Thing’s larger size in comparison to regular humans is well portrayed and the back-up strip has a nice modern meets Marvel E.C.Comics kind of feel to it that I imagine Stine and co were looking for.
At the end of the day though, outside of those who are already huge fans of Man-Thing or a completionist who feels they need to own everything R.L. Stine ever wrote, I can’t really recommend this book yet.
Story: 2 out of 10
Art: 7 out of 10
Final Score: 5 out of 10.