Supernatural Thrillers (#5, #7) – Steve Gerber

3 out of 5

Did Steve purposefully toss his hat into the ring for any wordless, shambling character at Marvel – e.g. Man-Thing, Zombie – or did editorial just recognize that his generally verbose style lent itself to it…?

Either way, here we are again, early into his Fear stint – which makes this Living Mummy origin perhaps a prototype for Zombie – and Steve Gerber crafts a setup for a guy who doth wronged his Egyptian slaver, and is embalmed with ooky stay-alive magic blood and entombed for centuries…  Supernatural Thrillers #5 and #7 gave us N’Kantu, awakened in the (then) modern age and frightening those around him as he stumbles about town wrecking things.

Writing it out with snark, the background is appropriately comic-y, but Steve, as ever, gives the tale gravitas, and uses his sensibility with these (out loud) silent protagonists to smartly balance Mummy’s havoc and his role as a sympathetic lead.  The benefit here, over Steve’s other zombie types, is that N’Kantu can think, he’s just in shock at all the changes around him.  Not much actually happens in these two issues beyond setup: Tony Isabella would take over afterwards for a few issues, and a surprising amount of #7 is recounting what happened in #5, but there’s still much more here than the usual shell used for the Marvel Monsters.  Steve didn’t have room to do too much to avoid some pitfalls – he kinda sorta touches on race (N’Kantu being black) but not really at all, and the only women in the thing are essentially damsels – but you can see why there was enough interest to kick this around for a few more issues.

Rich Buckler gives us solid art in book 5; Val Mayerik takes over book 7, but as was often the case with his sketchier style, color printing at the time wasn’t fine enough for it, and Linda Lessman’s colors make the art look kinda blotchy as a result.