It’s Man-Thing’s 50th birthday! And Marvel has celebrated with the 3-part release of Curse of the Man-Thing, written by Steve Orlando. The mini-series has had an alternating run of artists—for issue #3, the artist at the helm is Andrea Broccardo, alongside regular colorist Guru-eFX and letterer Clayton Cowles.
Issue #3 marks the end of the Curse of the Man-Thing, as the Avengers and various Spider-People continue to try and save the world against Harrower’s humanity-ending scheme. This week, the X-Men join the fray, led by the Queen of Limbo, Magik. With three teams, a villain, a group of eco-warrior old ladies, and an anti-villain swamp monster–the creative line-up has a lot to wrap up in the final act.
The conclusion to this series is largely successful in this issue because Orlando embraces the nostalgic tone of the series overall. Indeed, an anniversary release for Man-Thing can essentially go down two thematic routes: horror or nostalgia. Whilst using the former may have allowed for more creativity, the use of the latter is equally fulfilling. This issue in particular embraces the nostalgic tone. It uses a variety of traditional comic literary techniques to further its plot steadily, despite its many components. Monologuing, spoken exposition, and flashbacks are all utilized in a way that feels intentional to the commemorative nature of the series.
It is here that the art seems slightly out of place. It is not only modern — thus contrasting slightly against the written narrative — but generally unremarkable. There is nothing necessarily wrong with it; it is just fine. Action sequences are adequately executed, and character expressions are conveyed. Granted, Broccardo’s Man-Thing is both emotive and intimidating, which certainly takes skill. However, beyond this, there is little to note. Guru-eFX’s colors are pretty and tranquil, but are also mismatched against the writing. This can largely be said about the art of the series overall. Marvel would have likely been better off having a more stylized artist on the entire book, one who could at once adopt and transform the contemporary style of the original Savage Tales comic. For instance, Javier Pulido, or Chris Samnee.
The incorporation of the X-Men into the story is equally as hit-or-miss as the thematic execution. Orlando does very well to take full advantage of the reputable status of Krakoa in this issue. The X-Men’s ability to come in and solve the problems that the Avengers could not comes across as earned, rather than convenient. The use of Magik’s Dark Riders is also a lot of fun, and brings some attention to some currently overlooked X-characters, such as Forearm, Shark Girl, and Mammomax.
There are a few problems, however, with Magik’s portrayal. Nothing too distracting, and perhaps I’m being a bit too pedantic in my observations here. For one thing, it is implied that Illyana is in her late teens/early 20s, when she is probably closer to her mid-20s. Whilst this is an incredibly minor point to bring up, her reduced age reflects in her writing. There’s a certain immaturity to Illyana in this issue that falls slightly out of sync with her writing under the X-books.
The stand-out characterisation in Curse of the Man-Thing #3 is, quite rightly, that of Ted Sallis. Given his repressed status, Sallis largely takes a backseat to most Man-Thing stories. The series has subverted this pattern by going back to the man behind the monster. Orlando’s writing stands out in this regard, as he has been able to depict Sallis as an incredibly selfish, flawed, but sympathetic figure. It is impressive how Curse of the Man-Thing has explored a character in such detail, despite its limited time frame. The personal journey that Sallis goes through to reach a sense of redemption in this issue is very well written. It comes across as almost Shakespearean—tragic, distorted, and incomplete.
It is a shame that series villain Harrower’s conclusion was not so well executed. As an eco-fascist, Harrower has the potential to be an extremely important and interesting modern villain. Given the social significance and moral framing of superhero comics, there is a lot to be done with the topics of environmentalism, eugenics, and the right. Positioning Harrower’s ethics as unequivocally evil was the right start — it just should have been better developed. Everything about her in this series has felt pretty shallow, issue #3 being no exception. That said, she is still a character with a lot of potential. Hopefully, Orlando or another writer will pick her up in a later title and explore her further.
Curse of the Man-Thing #3 is a good conclusion to an overall fun series. Orlando’s writing is nostalgic and emotive. It successfully ties the plot together without rushing through chapters. The issue is, unfortunately, let down by its art, which whilst not bad, does not fit with the written narrative.
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