Man-Thing: A Candle for Sainte-Cloud (#15) – Steve Gerber

5 out of 5

This is such a brilliant detour for Man-Thing, and is yet wholly in line with what Steve Gerber had started to do with the book in shaking it up beyond its initial confines. A Candle for Sainte-Cloud is almost an immediate, and strong, refiguring on the way Steve had been casting male and female roles in his morality plays: while certainly a more progressive type, in Man-Thing stories he had still often reinforced certain stereotypes: nagging wives; women as caretakers. Sometimes the stories are definitely playing on these, but sometimes not, and even when they are, there’s been no counterpoint offered. But here, our main, female character – a writer, who’s purchased a Man-Thing inspired candle to write by (this is justified contextually, I promise – and don’t lie: you jealously wish you could have a Manny candle) – gets to be the three dimensional character, expressing her personality without any indirect sense of judgement, and the male characters pick up the purposefully cardboard cutout roles of jealous, ignorant types. The detour is that Man-Thing isn’t here at all, he’s a dream, brought about by the psychedelics-infused wax of the candle, but he’s absolutely a necessary presence in the book: our main character dates his human side, Ted Sallis, in a dream / flashback, and this melds back in to the monster as the dream seeps into reality… including Manny’s fear-burning affects. Through this, Steve studies the differences between how we think of ourselves versus how we appear to others, and it ripples through all levels, and through all the characters, and it’s concise and deep; funny and affecting; human and comic booky. Brilliant.

While artist Rico Rival isn’t the Alfredo Alcala we were promised, the art is still rather perfect – a finer, more delicate line than Alcala, but fitting for how it can flit between the more light-hearted and heavier moments, the same being true for Pablo Marcos’ expressive lettering.