Marvel has been a busy bee over the past couple of weeks with rumors of a relaunch and lots of publishing milestones, but we’re going to stop and smell the roses with the debut of Man-Thing #1 featuring beloved horror writer R.L. Stine and the excellent German Peralta on art. Next up is the finale of Inhumans vs. X-Men, an event that will be a harbinger of change as both titles are set to be relaunching very soon. Come one, come all to The Marvel Rundown.
Writer: R.L. Stine
Artist: German Peralta
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewer: AJ Frost
When I was in elementary school, I remember there always being copious amounts of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books on a spinner rack at the library. Even back then in the mid-nineties, there was an odd aura to them. As a kid who could get frightened easily (to this day, horror is among my least favorite genres), all I had to do was glance at the cover and get spooked; don’t get me started on reading the back cover descriptions! My childhood aversion to all things Stine, however, have ebbed, which is why I was excited to see what this master sage of suspense had cookin’ for his interpretation of Marvel’s Man-Thing.
As the inaugural issue of a planned five-issue run, this incarnation of Man-Thing aka Ted Sallis certainly has the potential to be something special. Right now, though, it’s hard to tell exactly what direction the book is heading. Indeed, Stine has a lot of room to play with the cult-classic character and immediately subverts expectations. We begin our adventure with what appears to be Man-Thing locked in a vicious battle with a horrible centipede monster, trading barbs (yes, this version of Man-Thing speaks!). Though not noted for his repartee, Man-Thing’s uses his caustic wit as a compliment to his brutal strength before revealing….It’s all a Hollywood production. And the studio ain’t having none of the Man-Thing. In one memorable exchange, some slick studio exec (who wants to call Man-Thing “Manny”) says: “The studio is stooping as low as we can to find heroes for our movies. But we can’t use you.
You’re a nice guy—but you’re SICKENING!” Yes, Stine’s Man-Thing has left his abode of the swamp and moved to even murkier territory: Burbank, CA. The rest of the comic is nothing more than an origin tale, reestablishing Ted’s transformation from brilliant, troubled scientist to an acrid weeping-willow with a heart of gold. There’s nothing inherently unsatisfactory about this approach. I quite enjoyed seeing how Ted, lovelorn and filled with rage, thought he could outsmart the government only for his hubris to be transmuted into a quite a literal tangle of caustic wit and unrequited dreams.
For someone as illustrious in the publishing world, I found Stine’s pulp dialogue a little too self-conscious of it’s B-movie monster pedigree. Artist German Peralta does great work imbuing the comic with a lurid glamour befitting of the character. For real Stine fanatics, I feel that the more intriguing aspect of the issue is the backup story, which is probably more in his wheelhouse of light suspense and moralistic horror. It’s a classic sort of tale, with fantastic art from Daniel Warren Johnson, and is probably the strongest part of this issue.
Even though I was never into Stine’s literary oeuvre when I was growing up, I’m glad a gave this comic a chance. It’s setting up for something interesting, but it just lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. All the cards are there, but it needs to show more of its hand.
Inhumans vs. X-Men #6
Writers: Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Inks: Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan
Colors: David Curiel
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewer: Alexander Jones
Marvel has pulled the curtain on Inhumans Vs. X-Men, a series that found a way against all odds to deliver the big, bombastic action between the Inhumans and X-Men in a manner that felt organic. This issue is paced very nicely as the X-Men and Inhumans come to a breaking point while readers get the chance to see just how far Emma Frost will go to exact vengeance for Cyclops’ death. The character has excellent villainous motivations and from the first month of the story was always the most captivating aspect of this narrative. Frost is so desperate to have her way and the lengths at which she goes to battle the Inhumans align so beautifully with Cyclops’ defining moment during Avengers vs. X-Men, given the title I wonder if the two are at all meant to be compared.
Not everything about this issue is perfect, as some characters seem to just be here to convey the large scale of the event. Soule and Lemire introduce a great plot point towards the end of the issue and for the most part, the writers mixed up this event in interesting ways that it set apart from other crossovers we’ve seen in recent memory. Even though this story introduced a ton of additional characters and plot points, I can’t help but admire the fact that Lemire and Soule were able to focus only on this huge war between the two groups of enemies. The writers also peppered in just enough plot points to keep each issue interesting throughout the series. As mentioned above, the issue really feels like the culmination of Emma’s story in particular and the last couple pages features haunting glimpse into the character’s tortured state of mind.
To pick on Civil War II a bit, that series ended the conflict between the two teams multiple times which robbed the series of the conflict that it should have had. Inhumans Vs. X-Men kept the one central conflict going throughout the series, adding in numerous layers of intrigue and entry points throughout the six issues. This comic book kept the tension of this huge battle by keeping the two teams at play in a war.
The action in this issue is beautifully depicted by Leinil Yu who is now a seasoned Marvel professional. With so much work under his belt, the artist specializes in drawing great interior art that is highly detailed and features tons of characters. His work here is really nicely detailed and has a great futuristic look, but the aspect of the Yu that sets his pencils apart from his contemporaries are his layouts. Lots of artists that have different interpretations of a style like this have page layouts that aren’t as clear which really serve to make the story confusing. Yu is great at focused interiors that have a wonderful amount of polish and production value that makes me look forward to see his name on a Marvel comic.
The other half of the equation, the Inhumans have not gotten as much focus in this issue, but the series does give Medusa the spotlight. Her characterization and new motivations in the series are interesting and I can’t help but appreciate for the final moments with her in this issue that restore her status quo ever-so-slightly. I really have appreciated how much Marvel has been willing to really shake up the status quo of the Inhumans and X-Men over the past few years. They have different leaders, people are dead and the publisher seems committed to not hitting the reset button on both franchises.
This comic serves as a wonderful swan song to Charles Soule’s Inhumans books and Jeff Lemire’s X-Men titles and I can’t wait to see the pair properly wrap things up in the final issue of each of the team’s respective comics.
Verdict: Buy. Soule and Lemire close out their Inhumans and X-Men event with an emotional finale.
We’ve got another strong Marvel ongoing and event series in the can, I’d go ahead and call that a pretty successful week.
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics