Man-Thing is a character I don’t really care about. He’s a fine concept wrapped in a fairly bland design, with no stories that I know of that appeal to me, even while I can tell the concept has promise. It is with this mindset that I approached Curse of the Man-Thing trusting in Steve Orlando and his ability to make big ridiculous stories work. And for the most part, it worked! It didn’t convince me to read any backlog or even commit to any future comics, but I enjoyed my time with this book.
My favorite thing about this story is its format, where each issue is broken down into three chapters each, making a total of nine chapters. With the issues being oversized, this made the pace of the whole book very even, and allowed for an interesting effect where the story feels both compressed, from the short chapters, but also decompressed, from creating more sections of story. It feels like this allowed for Curse of the Man-Thing to be able to do more than it should have in three issues, and it got to the meat of the story much faster than many series do.
What is probably of more interest to normal people, though, are the character interactions, which I loved, almost completely across the board. The team made good use of the rosters across the issues, especially with what characters got sent into Man-Thing’s inner place. Each issue had a character go in with Ted Sallis, and those conversations were easily the highlight for me, especially the use of Magik, who uses very different tactics than Spider-Man, Captain America, or Dr. Curt Conners.
Even aside from those, the series makes great use of both the current Avengers status quo and X-Men’s Krakoa, the former of which makes me want Orlando to helm his own Avengers book or take over the main title. In just one issue, the sprawling Avengers cast was used well, with most everyone given a good amount of time on-panel. Without even being an Avengers book, this somehow gets to be one of the better ones of the last few years. And while the story doesn’t spend a lot of time with the X-Men as a group, there is one page of the quiet council and it’s one of my favorite pages of the book. The creative team did a great job deploying different characters from across the 616 in interesting ways that felt true to the characters.
It isn’t all perfect, though. GURU-eFX colors the whole thing, which isn’t my cup of tea at all, and I think hurts the book overall. The coloring looks good in some places, but like a lot of their work, it’s very inconsistent, even across the same artist. Almost all of the art is over-rendered and muddy, and I feel like an opportunity was missed with the coloring inside of Man-Thing in particular, where the general muddiness is amplified in a boring way, rather than a horrific or thematic one. In general, I think the inside of Man-Thing was a missed opportunity for this reason, though I guess the boring stillness of it provides some of the vibes I was looking for, it just didn’t go quite far enough with them.
Along that, I’m not in love with any of the art, but I do think the ones involved work well together. A bigger issue than the aesthetics is that the main threats are a bunch of vines and burning stuff, both of which can be difficult to illustrate in interesting ways, or in ones that are easy to understand. I don’t think legibility is much of a problem here, but interest was, at least for me. I found myself largely bored by the action scenes (besides the one involving the Lizard), with the highlights being the aforementioned interactions in Man-Thing’s place.
Still, while the art isn’t perfect, or even great, it works, and the storytelling is pretty much always easy to understand. It’s a little bit incredible what the team was able to accomplish with three issues drawn by three different artists, based around different teams of characters. It’s a minor miracle that it’s cohesive, let alone a workable on-ramp for me to maybe actually get into Man-Thing comics. Maybe.
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