4 out of 5
A near perfect marriage of the more tragic elements of Man-Thing to darkly comedic, Twilight Zone-esque plotting, easily sidling in to Gerber’s plot elements and characters for what’s to come. Introducing Richard Rory: the man who feels he’s life’s punchline. Man-Thing observes and steps in when the swamp-stranded Rory is contemplating his failures and manages to get entangled with a croc… and then further gets entangled with Ruth, ex- of some angry bikers who’s also hanging out in the swamp. F.A. Schist gets involved via another harebrained anti-Manny scheme involving a mad scientist, with Steve quite masterfully networking between his omniscient Man-Thing insights, fleshing out Rory’s character, and moving the story along so that all of the pieces come together in a true marriage of that comedy and tragedy.
There are some minor narrative hiccups that would require a bit more explanation for what we know of Man-Thing – he “bandages” Rory up after his croc incident, for example, and ignores his hated “fear” emotion at one point – but these blips are generally sacrificed to an otherwise incredibly well written and paced story, so it works. What’s more of an issue is an art: Val Mayerik and inker Sal Trapani work together well on more light-hearted fare, but this story has a darker tone, and excepting some great splash shots, Trapani is a bit too concrete in his inking style to get the right tone out of Val’s pencils. The art is also rather completely flubbed in the final sequence, with Rory appearing out of nowhere…
But on the whole, this very much solidifies the “style” of Man-Thing, working as a great standalone tale but also seeding in important story elements.