The Infernal Man-Thing is one of those cases where justice is served far too late. Because this isn’t really a Man-Thing book: it’s Steve Gerber looking back on his life… and not liking what he sees.
Steve Gerber, for those unfamiliar, is one of the writing giants of comics. He created Howard the Duck, but he’s also written everything from funny animals to Daredevil, all of it with his unique stamp. And this script, likely the last work of his that will ever see the light of day, is one of his best, if also his bleakest.
The protagonist is a blatant stand-in for Gerber, right down to his work in television animation. Gerber pours pretty much every ounce of frustration and self-hatred he has into this character and it’s both compelling and deeply painful to read. This is a man at the end of his rope, hallucinating all the godawful cartoons he’s ever written, and tearing himself up inside over his artistic and personal failures.
It also happens, at moments, to be gut-bustingly funny. Gerber’s not shy about punctuating a moment of self-loathing with a bit of slapstick.
Kevin Nowlan’s art takes some getting used to, but that’s not due to the quality: he takes a week on each page and the time taken shows. The art is detailed and carefully considered.
What gets me the most is that Marvel stuck by this book. Gerber died four years ago, now. He had a contentious relationship with the company, to put it mildly, and Man-Thing is hardly their most popular character. And, yet, out of respect, they have stuck by him, and they’re putting out what just might be their best book of the year.
What about you? What’s the comic you think everyone should be reading this week?