Marvel Comics Presents #2 (Man-Thing)
“Elements of Terror, Part 2 of 12: First Witness”
Writer – Steve Gerber
Art – Tom Sutton
Letters – Agustin Mas
Colors – Petra Scotese
Assistant Edits – Michael Rockwitz
Edits – Terry Kavanagh & Michael Higgins
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Hey, hey, hey… WHAT is going on here? < / belding > We’re only one issue in, and Doug Moench and Steve Gerber have already swapped features???
Okay, okay… as some eagle-eyed readers have already noticed, there was a bit of a goof-up (on Marvel’s end) on the credits page of MCP #1. The Shang-Chi story is incorrectly attributed to Gerber and Company, while Man-Thing was credited to the Moenches. I chose to “play along” with the goof last issue, though I was tempted to tip my hand… I mean, if there’s a Man-Thing story, in an anthology with Gerber-involvement… that’s sort of a no-brainer, right?
I played along for a simple… silly, and probably a little bit precious reason. If you’re following us over on Morituri Mondays, and really… why wouldn’tcha be… we’re currently covering issues of Strikeforce: Morituri that hit the shelves right around the time of the launch of Marvel Comics Presents. There’s a big push for this book in the house-ads and Bullpen Bulletins… so, MCP is like a big-deal (newish-EiC) DeFalco project. Another big DeFalco project at the time is something along the lines of an “Editor Bootcamp”, where he and his right-hand Mark Gruenwald are making sure their editors are on top of things.
Welp… it feels like ever since they made this proclamation in the Bullpen Bulletins, more and more errors have begun to surface… where there weren’t all that many before (especially under the prior regime). Looking at a “current year” Marvel Comic, which is rife with basic spelling and grammatical errors (not to mention continuity errors, ay yai yai)… it feels like the DeFalco/Gruenwald Editor’s Bootcamp might’ve been the “beginning of the end” of quality control!
So yeah, that’s why I didn’t “fix” the mistaken credits last issue. No-Prizes are being sent out to the eagle-eyed readers who did catch the error before I “lifted the veil”!
And now… a properly credited, Man-Thing!
We open in a Washington, D.C. courtroom, where General Selbert (that fella from last issue who met up with those geeks in the swamp) is being grilled by a bloated, slow-tahkin’ Suthin’ Senitah. He’s being questioned about possible involvement in the Colombian Drug Trade… and some nebulous book-keeping involving a Swiss Bank Account… which, is like a sure-sign of not being on the up-and-up in the 1980’s, right? Selbert manages to “massage” an explanation that almost makes sense (if you squint). All the while, there’s a drug-deal going down in a parking structure. It’s cash-for-coke… and then a car explodes. Okey doke.
The Senitah keeps Selbert on the hook for a bit… almost as though he knows more than he’s letting on, and might just be giving the General enough rope to hang himself. The line of questioning shifts to a facility called the Freedom Science Studies Institute… a place where General Selbert sits on the Board. The Senitah inquires about the goings-on inside, to which, we learn that they’re working on your run-of-the-mill super-soldier studies. Our man is very nonchalant about this… could you imagine someone coppin’ to this in real-life? It might come as no surprise, but these “super soldier” rejects look a whole lot like those abominations we met last issue.
As the courtroom back-n-forth continues, we a page featuring the one and only Man-Thing crawling from the muck. Senator Wycombe changes the subject to the matter of something called “Project: Glamour”… which, I believe is those pictures they take of you at the mall after coating the camera lens in copious amounts of Vaseline, right? Welp, Selbert plays ignorant… and so, the line of questioning ends. Now, this entire proceeding has been televised (which is friggin’ nuts… I mean, they’re casually talking about human experimentation and super-soldiering here). One fella (maybe the General?) who is watching the trial looks to have placed a target on owa ahn’able Senitah.
Later that night, we catch up with Wycombe… who is still trying to get to the bottom of the Glamourshots gambit. Unfortunately for him, an assassin (I assume) bursts through his window… and kills him! Well, maybe kills him… for all we know, it might’ve been a bloody abduction. The front page headline the next day attributes his murder to a “Cult”… though, it confirms that no corpse was found at the scene.
Speaking of the next morning, we next arrive at Sunshine Air Cargo in Florida, where a gawky burnout called “Skinny” has arrived… and he might have a package? Or he might’ve just done something bad? Or… who the hell knows… he’s here, and he’s greeted by another bloated fella who sticks a pistol in his face.
We wrap up with a preciously purple page of Man-Thing… still crawling outta the muck. He feels feels, sees memories, hears laughs… yadda, yadda, yadda. Hopefully we’ll find out a little bit more… next time!
Well… I didn’t love this, and I didn’t hate this. I swear, this story in particular is really giving me Action Comics Weekly flashbacks. I feel like we’re reading a blend of the first arcs of Deadman and Secret Six. Story, art, and that odd feeling of “what in the world are we reading?”… just so reminiscent of those two features!
So, we’ve got a trial… we’ve got ties to the Colombian Drug Trade… we’ve got a weirdo Science Institute trying to concoct Super Soldiers… we’ve got a Murder Cult… we’ve got Man-Thing being all goth and poetic… izzit me, or are we perhaps trying to cram a little too much graham into this little cereal… err, serial? We’ve seen that sort of thing before… Black Canary, we’re lookin’ at you! Though, in fairness… I do have a great deal more faith in Steve Gerber’s ability to pull this all together than I did Sharon Wright.
The art here continues to impress… and now, I can finally give credit where it’s due… to Tom Sutton! I’m still getting some underground comix vibes from his style… which feels very much right for a story of this tone.
I’d have liked our titular Man-Thing to do a little bit more than repeatedly rise out of the muck… but, I suppose I can give ’em a pass due to the “world-building” Gerber’s engaging in during this early chapter. One of the reasons I’d started this project was to better familiarize myself with the “fringe” Marvel characters. So far, and yes… we’re only 16-pages in… I’m not feeling all that confident. I’m optimistic this will pick up over the course of the next ten (ten???) weeks.
Tomorrow: Izzit Shang-Chi… or Bruce Lee?