Sunday, May 29, 2016

Man-Thing-Splaining? A quick review of Essential Man-Thing Vol.1 featuring Steve Gerber

Essential Man-Thing, Vol. 1Essential Man-Thing, Vol. 1 by Steve Gerber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Steve Gerber did not always have a very optimistic viewpoint on humanity, but he wrote honestly
and believed in our best values. If you want to read a thoughtful- not to mention occasionally horrific- graphic novel, this collection of serialized stories does the job.
IF there's one glaring weakness, it is the strength that makes the stories unique: the protagonist is essentially mindless. This means the other random characters are necessary to give dimension to the conflicts, and they change over time. Richard Rory, hippie Everyman, is as close to a constant as the title has, and he's an interesting ordinary guy, never transformed by the usual power fantasy plot twists, but often swept up by them.
This volume features his origin by Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow, and with a stop off by Jim Starlin along the way, by FEAR #10 we get to Steve Gerber, with stories about pollution, free spirits, shady developers, Native American protesters, and other-dimensional demons. In the middle, it's a pure fantasy saga, and from there it evolves into bizarre slice-of-life, offbeat tales from the fringes of society.
I enjoyed this volume, but Gerber really turns up the heat in the remainder of the series. The weirdness, of course, is not to everyone's taste, and these stories were not often of the straight-ahead adventure variety. They were more involved in soul-baring character sketches.
How dare I forget Val Mayerick and Mike Ploog? They turn in some terrific art. Ploog in particular has become an in-demand fantasy artist with a cartoony style here that was not simply a Kirby/Romita Marvel House Style. What can I say? If you enjoyed Neil Gaiman, particularly on Sandman, this is probably right up your alley! The black and white palette does little to mar the appeal and keeps the price nice.

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