Marvel Comics Presents #1 (Man-Thing)
“Elements of Terror, Part 1 of 12”
Writer – Doug Moench
Pencils – Tom Grindberg
Inks – Dave Cockrum
Letters – Agustin Mas
Colors – Petra Scotese
Assistant Edits – Michael Rockwitz
Edits – Terry Kavanagh & Michael Higgins
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Now here’s a character I’m kind of excited to learn a bit more about. Covering Marvel Comics Presents this way affords me (and us) the opportunity to spend some time getting to know a who’s who of the B, C, and D-List of the Marvel Universe. Man-Thing, outside of an odd appearance here and there, is a pretty big blind spot for me. Outside of a couple “dur-hur, Giant-Size Man-Thing” issues, I doubt I even own anything else with his name on it!
Welp… let’s see what get here! I’m getting Secret Six from Action Comics Weekly vibes here.
We open with Man-Thing rising from the muck, aware that something sinister this way comes. These narration boxes are a little too purple for my tastes… really feels like they’re chasing Swamp Thing here. Then again, I’m not much of a Man-Thing aficionado, so for all I know folks who write this character were always a bit too pleased with themselves. Anyhoo, this dark and desperate being draws near… and, it’s a weird fibrous-looking fella. Man-Thing bonks him on his head putting the creature down. Suddenly a pair of men enter the scene… they’re looking for this fibrous fella, as he was a “test subject” of sorts. Upon finding what’s left of him, this guy Zahner attempts to cut an implant out of the “corpse”. This does not go well, as when Zahner makes skin-to-yuck contact with the beastie, he gets a rather awful burn on his hand.
Man-Thing watches this entire deal unfold… and kinda just lingers. Zahner and his partner Monteiro report in to a General that their subject went berserk and got away. The General notices the burn on Zahner’s hand, and is given a quick-n-dirty explanation how it came to be. In learning this, the General suggests that this mission wasn’t such a failure after all. He excuses himself, as he has a meeting with the Senate in Washington, D.C., leaving our two heroes behind with a whole lotta… COCAINE. Too bad “Dave Chapel” is in the Wolverine story and not this one!
Zahner and Monteiro load the coke on a boat… making sure to keep a little for themselves, before being attacked by… another weird shambling corpse just like that crispy critter from before! They open fire… naturally, this winds up being quite futile. At this point, Man-Thing (annoyed by all the FEAR in the air) decides to intervene… and winds up getting shot full’a holes himself… not that it matters all that much.
Man-Thing and the Subject wind up getting sorta intertwined… with the former actually winding up impaled on the latter. Man-Thing considers this the worst pain he’s ever felt. Amid the skirmish and confusion, our two heroes make a break for it.
We wrap up with Man-Thing and the Subject briefly merging… before Man-Thing expels the strange creature, seemingly killing it… while perhaps absorbing a bit of it as well. The victory does not appear to be without injury, however… as it looks as though our Muck Monster is barely holding himself together!
This wasn’t a bad story… but, man… those narration boxes. Are Man-Thing writers always so up their own butts? I mentioned it in the synopsis, but it really feels as though they’re trying to keep up with what Alan Moore was doing with Swamp Thing over at DC. Trying to make this more “sophisticated” than perhaps it ought to be? I dunno. It’s only one chapter at this point, but… this did not win me over. We’ve got time though! God help us, we’ve got another eleven weeks of this!
So, whatta we got? It’s, say it with me, a “Chapter One”… which, for me, says we shouldn’t be expecting all that much. We meet our bad guys, we meet the even badder guy they’re working for… and we get a bit of an idea as to what they’re trying to do. Well, maybe not exactly what they’re attempting to accomplish, but we know it involves test subjects! That’s something, right? Whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll learn more as we go.
I think, if not for the very flowery narration… I probably would have enjoyed this a whole lot more. Not a deal-breaker by any means… but, just kinda cringy… and, if it is chasing Alan Moore, it’s not doing all that great a job (in my opinion).
Let’s look at the art. I really liked it! Tom Grindberg is an artist who, for the longest time, I assumed was a pen-name for a fill-in penciller. I mean, “Grindberg” just sounds too much like a name you’d give to a fill-in artist who’s in a rush, doesn’t it?
Anyhoo, the art here was pretty fantastic… it almost gave me an R. Crumb/underground comix sort of vibe. Really great stuff. Probably the best part of the story, if I’m being honest. I do look forward to future installments, and am optimistic that it’ll all come together (famous last words).
Tomorrow: Mastering Kung Fu, the Shang-Chi way!