Review by Frank Plowright
Walter Mosley has a long and distinguished career as a novelist and writer on TV shows, picking up numerous awards along the way, accounting for the cover promoting his name in large font. That track record makes it all the more puzzling how the dreamlike incoherency of The Next Big Thing entirely fails to hit the mark.
It’s obviously intended as a homage to Jack Kirby with its abrupt changes for cast members, tremendous energy and lack of concern for previous continuity. It’s the story that matters, not the baggage, which is fine, and in some cases preferable, but when dealing with a character whose personality has been long established some consistency is surely a baseline minimum. Here Ben Grimm/The Thing has an argument with girlfriend Alicia, which leads to her saying a break in their relationship is necessary. Instead of looking at ways to patch things up, when a sparkling fairy turns up suggesting Ben head onto a new tailored dating site, he takes up the offer. His profile attracts the attention of a glamorous fashion designer and their relationship rapidly develops despite the complication of a jealous super-powered fantasist. Even allowing for later revelations about manipulation, it just rings false, as does so much else, with the revelations of the final pages almost laughable.
Mosley’s better when it comes to ensuring Tom Reilly is given some startling visual set pieces, and he certainly delivers. One memorable spread features a vast field of dead Marvel characters up to and including Galactus and Eternity, the scale impressive. Reilly’s an imaginative storyteller drawing with an attractive cartoon realism and initially manages to disguise how little makes sense.
Starting with the Thing being arrested by the NYPD, at so many points during The Next Big Thing readers will be asking themselves “Would this really happen?”, even in the context of a superhero story. Too much is too random, and few of the cast are credible.
Once among Marvel’s superstars, the Thing doesn’t see the spotlight much these days, so such a disappointing experience from a rare solo outing is a great shame.