Marvel’s most recent revival of their near-mindless swamp monster Man-Thing occurred in an umbrella title Dead of Night, issued under their Max imprint, which enabled slightly more adult content. In practice this manifests as some suggestive dialogue, some swearing, a pair of breasts and more graphically illustrated violence, so not very adult really, but would the Frat-Boy imprint have been as commercial?

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s four separate but connected stories draw heavily on the work of Gerry Conway and Steve Gerber without crediting them. The opening tale in particular supplies Conway’s origin of Man-Thing with only minor variations, and it’s followed by one reworking using characters and themes of Gerber’s. The lack of acknowledgement is disappointing. By the final tale extrapolating on the consequences of the first, Sacasa’s moved to original material.

The problem with all but the opener and the closing sequence is that there’s absolutely no need for Man-Thing at all. Pretty well the same story could be told substituting another character, and that being the case, why bother?

Five different artists handle the series, with Nick Percival the most impressive in creating a dank and gloomy atmosphere. Unfortunately he’s only illustrating the introductory sequences of the Digger. Divorced from the original idea of a showcase for Marvel’s horror characters introduced by the traditional horror comic host, the Digger comes across as a space-wasting indulgence.

The remaining artists all have their strengths and weakness. Kano is a good storyteller, Brian Denham (sample page) supplies a great Man-Thing, Javier Saltares is solid without being spectacular, and Nic Klein’s acrylic style art on the final chapter is the weakest. As individual images his panels are fine, but the figures are stiff and sometimes from panel to panel you wonder if it’s the same story the composition is so different.

Since the 1970s Marvel’s had problems integrating Man-Thing into their line as anything other than an occasional guest star, and this wasn’t the solution.