Man-Thing (#3 – 4) – Steve Gerber

4 out of 5

Richard Rory; F.A. Schist; Foolkiller: Stever Gerber grows and shrinks Man-Thing’s world as existing characters are toyed around with and new characters are added, swirling them around in this kind of weird, incestual way that prevents anyone from escaping the swamp – interestingly enforcing the thematic, tragic inevitabilities that perpetuate throughout the comic.

If that all sounds pretty heavy, bear in mind this is also a comic featuring a dude dressed up like a pirate who shoots people with a magic gun because they’re fools.

This first iteration of the “Foolkiller” is pretty hilarious, but always rife with brilliant Gerber irony: a religious zealot who, essentially, worships a god named “Mike,” which is, in itself, akin to a false idol. The dude can’t even kill fools right, and bends over backwards to force events into his worldview as he hunts down Ted Sallis and Richard Rory and Schist, and then ends up figuring several innocents along the way are fools as well. Man-Thing lumbers in and out of events, fending off more crocodiles and coming across as this creepy, omnipresent denizen: laying in the swamp, sometimes sleeping, sometimes dead, and only “active” when one has made the mistake of upsetting the murky status quo of his home.

Rory, with new ladyfriend Ruth, has discovered a new lease on life, while Schist decides to head outta’ town post being threatened by the Killer. Gerber’s origin for FK is perfectly executed – hilarious and weird – and the way Rory’s and Schist’s storylines end up getting inadvertently stitched together is an exciting bit of plotting, two very different characters and worlds brought together by the oddest of circumstances.

Jack Abel, inking Val Mayerick, is delightful when it comes to the swamp, and the horror; Mayerick, though, isn’t great at machinery – that helicopter and boat just don’t look like real things – and there’s a bit of a runaround with a character who looks like the Foolkiller which comes across as a throwaway plot point, unhelped by confusing coloring, but these issues continue Gerb’s finding his unique voice on the series, striking a tone and style that still stand out, even today.