Issue(s): Man-Thing #19, Man-Thing #20, Man-Thing #21, Man-Thing #22
This is the final arc for the original Steve Gerber Man-Thing series. Continuing off the end of the last arc, it has Richard Rory, Carol Selby, and the Man-Thing leaving Citrusville ahead of the mob that had formed there. We learn that the Man-Thing's experience in the waste treatment facility has transformed his nature: he no longer needs to be in his swamp to survive, and he's now a self-contained ecosystem.
Rory also learns that Carol Selby, the daughter of the leader of the book burning mob, is a minor, so he has technically kidnapped her, and she's a bit of an odd duck besides.
The trio are outside Atlanta, where there is also a super-villainish guy called the Scavenger, who stalks women and absorbs their life-force with a kiss. The Man-Thing winds up wandering the streets and happens to be around while the Scavenger attacks, and he prevents the Scavenger from completing his devouring of his latest victim (although too late to save her mind).
So later the Scavenger seeks the Man-Thing out at the hotel where Rich and Carol are staying.
The Scavenger seems to desire being burned by the Man-Thing, and we soon learn that the reason why is that as a child he had no ability to feel anything. No pain, no pleasure. So eventually he made a deal with Thog that allowed him to experience sensations by absorbing women. Thog also promised that if he fought the Man-Thing, his insensitivity would be removed. But that turns out to not be the case...
...and he flies off, disgusted.
All of this commotion gets Rory and company kicked out of their hotel room. As they are driving away, they get into an accident with a car going the wrong way on an exit ramp. The other driver turns out to be a demon; it turned down the one-way ramp because it couldn't read English.
As the police arrive, Rory realizes he's going to have to face the music on Carol's "kidnapping" so he hands the strange box that the demon was carrying to the Man-Thing and tells it to "stay here" and hold it. Even the narration box knows that's an exercise in futility, but Rory doesn't have any other options.
The last we hear of Richard Rory is that he was being brought back to Citrusville under armed guard for arraignment.
From there the story switches to some new characters. Paul Jennings, an artist infatuated by his boss Dani Nicolle's eyes, which seem to change color. Paul walks in on Dani using her eyes to zap a box like the one that Rory just handed to the Man-Thing.
The story is that she is actually the sister of the Scavenger, and while he can't feel anything, she finds herself constantly overwhelmed with rage. So Thog approached her and gave her the ability to expel her rage into these boxes. Dani then told Thog about her brother, and that's how he became the Scavenger. Paul just gets the hell out of there.
Meanwhile, the Man-Thing is wandering Atlanta with his box. The cover to issue #20 has a pretty deceptive cover showing a bunch of super-heroes, all of whom have met the Man-Thing previously, but they turn out to just be demons who have taken the shape of those characters, and others, to confuse the Man-Thing (as if that was needed!). During the fight, someone else manages to grab the box.
The next issue introduces another new member of the cast, the Accountant, who is another Thog worshiper. His wife has become unhappy with his obsession with whatever he's working on, and she's leaving him (a repeat theme in this arc; the first victim of the Scavenger was also a wife leaving her family). She finds the Man-Thing outside her apartment but then gets snagged by the Scavenger and killed.
The Accountant, we learn, is responsible for making sure that Dani's rage-filled boxes are filled and delivered in a timely manner. And his real name is Roland Duhl (is that a reference to Roald Dahl?).
Back to the Man-Thing. As he's wandering around, a pair of cocoons land in front of him and it's the alternate dimension wizard and warrior that tried to take over Korrek's kingdom in Giant-Size Man-Thing #3.
They say they were rescued by Thog (after getting wrapped up and sent into space by Jennifer Kale).
They attack the Man-Thing and the wizard, Klonus, casts a spell that pierces the Man-Thing's brow. It's said that the "gum" inside is what's been deadening the mind of Ted Sallis, so he suddenly becomes aware of his existence...
...and is horrified by his own body when the warrior, Mortak, shoves a pipe through it.
While Sallis is dealing with all of that, Thog shows up.
The final issue of this arc is formatted as a resignation letter from Steve Gerber to Len Wein. The idea is that Gerber has been getting the ideas for this series from Dakimh The Enchanter...
...and with the events of this storyline, which he winds up personally involved in, he's had enough and is getting out. We learn that Thog was freed after Dakimh was killed, and that's when he set all the various wheels in this story (Scavenger, Dani, the Accountant, Klonus & Mortak) in motion. The "Nightmare Boxes" that Dani has been feeding are meant to power an emotional weapon to use against the Man-Thing. But a "friend of Dakimh" stole that box during the Man-Thing's fight with the super-hero demons above, and delivered it to Steve Gerber. Gerber is soon attacked by demons and sucked into the box, where he encounters the Man-Thing (still with Sallis' mind)...
...and the spirit of Dakimh ("old sorcerers never die. They don't even fade away! They simply move on into a higher plane -- pure spirit -- pure mind.").
The fact that Gerber and company are actually in the final Nightmare Box ruins the effectiveness of the weapon, and so Thog and the Man-Thing wind up in physical combat. Thog's heavy emotions cause Sallis to revert back to the Man-Thing persona...
...and Thog is burned up.
Creators have included themselves in their comics at least since Fantastic Four #10, but it's weird and maybe almost arrogant to make a comic that's really about you. But Steve Gerber was obviously a very personal writer and this series was always a vehicle for whatever he felt like writing about, so it's a fitting end. The issue is text heavy (a few all-text pages, and heavy on first person narration), but it does manage to wrap up the seemingly disparate issues introduced throughout the arc, and it's certainly a unique "goodbye" issue.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Man-Thing vol. 2 (#20-22 are originals)
Inbound References (4): showCarol Selby, Dakimh The Enchanter, Klonus, Man-Thing, Mortak, Richard Rory, Scavenger, Thog
There was also a Scavenger in Steve Skeates' Aquaman, very close to the that Sub-Mariner crossover.
Carol's pigtails make her look very much like Supergirl's secret identity, Linda Lee Danvers, as drawn by Jim Mooney in the 1960s(which may have been an intentional choice by Gerber as he was a comics fan then).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 26, 2013 2:58 PM
My take is that this story reads as a companion piece to the previous one; having taken on rural America, the reactionaries, and the South, Gerber is now satirizing the self-obsessed or unstable urban professional types, the New York City culture he's a part of. They're narcissists who use up other people to try to feel anything at all (the Scavenger), incapable of handling their pent-up feelings and always looking for a pop-psych silver bullet (the sister), or they subsume themselves in their jobs without caring much for the morality of what they're doing (the accountant).
And in the background, the family is disintegrating, and the women who are neglected by emotionally dead types like the accountant wind up being preyed on by sexual and emotional predators like the Scavenger.
Event he Man-Thing is defeated by a sort of induced existential crisis in this story. It's zany introspection and social satire, which are the two most consistent notes of the series to date.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 22, 2016 6:58 AM
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