Man-Thing (#13 – 14) – Steve Gerber

4 out of 5

Tom Sutton finishes in issue #13; Alfredo Alcala art in #14… even setting aside the mostly fascinating, out-there story, these Man-Thing issues look exceptional. Sutton’s dross of wrinkled, detailed linework is perfect for a muck-monster, and especially the ghostly seabound story, and Alcala’s more lithe, Van Gogh-whorls are equally fitting for when it shifts moreso into fantasy.

To the writing, the letters page promise of issue #12 being sort of a wrap-up to some of the title’s initial themes feels like it’s being followed up on: these issues shift away from the swamp, and are less clunky in their morality-play application; they’re not beholden to lingering storylines. Manny curiosities his way on to a research vessel headed to the Bermuda Triangle, and is then inadvertently – as per his m.o. – swept up in a multi-generation spanning ghost story, with spirit pirates and buried treasure. But it’s not as whimsical as that sounds: it is, instead, very moody, very sober, with Steve touching lightly on gender roles and expectations; and obsession. When the pirate ship launches in to space, you know you’re in good territory…

However, as we have seen with a lot of these Man-Things, Steve sometimes loses the narrative tightness in the wrap-up, boiling things down a little too simply. That happens here as well, with a – I think – well-intentioned dig in to men and women and relationships still ultimately enforces some “nice guy” stereotypes, and there’s a sense that some vaguely defined fisticuffs may have led Alcala to similarly vaguely define them in the art, making the final scuffle lacking a sense of place. We’re fueled by a lot of fascinating ideas by this point, so it’s not a huge ding, but certainly prevents the issues from perfection.