Giant-Size Man-Thing: Of Monsters and Men (#2) – Steve Gerber

5 out of 5

Steve brilliantly navigates the swamp dweller to slump his way in to reality. ‘Of Monsters and Men’ could certainly be summarized as a King Kong rift – a group of scientists abduct Manny from his home and transport him first to a lab for study, and then to a museum for display – but, despite the issue’s title, we don’t fall back on the predictable “man is the monster!” lesson. We’ve already done that throughout Fear and previous Man-Thing issues, after all, and this Giant-Size is very much about moving past that: the one-note evil of F.A. Schist has been replaced by the more human drives of his grieving wife, who ups the money ante for anyone who can capture the creature… but agrees, at scientist Dr. Dane Gavin’s insistence, that no harm will come to it unless it can be proven that it had murdered Franklin Schist, unprovoked. That Vivian Schist shakes hands to this, and doesn’t immediately have some comic-booky thought-ballooned double cross in mind, is indicative of the balanced tone Steve pursues here, in which Vivian’s daughter, Carolyn, has a sense of the Man-Thing’s humanity, as does Dr. Gavin.

We still hit beats from King Kong, but it all feels much more weighty and balanced than iterations on that story have usually been; Man-Thing’s inherent tragedy bleeds through every page, even when Steve nods to the Marvel U (and his past Man-Thing crossovers) with the inclusion of Reed Richards and Tony Stark. The pairing of John Buscema and Klaus Jansen on art are a surprisingly great match: what I would’ve guessed would’ve been a too-traditional visual approach actually produces a very emotive cast, and a moody, heavy Man-Thing.

The reprints in this ish aren’t as well-chosen as issue #1; they still feature monsters, they’re just not very good. But the core story is so strong, I can’t hold that against the book at all.