The Man-Thing 8 (August 1974)

The Man-Thing #8

In some ways, this issue has Gerber's most predictable comics scene. Man-Thing and his arch-nemesis, Schist, duke it out in a laboratory where Man-Thing could regain his humanity and Schist could gain immortality. Sure, it's got Ploog artwork, but there's nothing special about it. Man-Thing's almost human again and Gerber can't think of anything to do with him except fight.

Again, Ploog art, so it's a nice-looking fight, but it's just narratively goofy.

Gerber opens the issue with an about-face in the cliffhanger resolution. Man-Thing goes straight back to the secret city, this time Schist and a sidekick following. Man-Thing's return to the city is the most impressive handling in the issue, with Gerber giving him a guide and so on. It just doesn't go anywhere. The character development on the guest stars, for example, is just filler before the fight scene.

It's a pretty good issue… but not great.

B 

CREDITS

The Gift of Death!; writer, Steve Gerber; artist, Mike Ploog; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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The Man-Thing 7 (July 1974)

The Man-Thing #7

Gerber only puts in a few pages of about Man-Thing's erstwhile human sidekicks, but it's all rather effective. It grounds the issue in reality, while elsewhere Gerber pulls even more out of it. Turns out Schist isn't just a bad guy industrialist, he's actually a bad guy industrialist looking for the fountain of youth.

Unconnectedly, Man-Thing finds himself captured by a bunch of Spanish conquistadors and stumbles across said fountain and a lost city.

The issue works thanks to Gerber's pacing and Ploog's art. The capture sequence is lengthy–and Man-Thing's attack on the city is somewhat inexplicable–but Gerber keeps everything busy enough he's able to sneak in a big moment towards the end. While there's a visual component, there's also how Gerber handles the familiar expository narration regarding Man-Thing.

It's an excellent issue. Ploog doesn't get to draw much in terms of variety, but he excels at what he's given.

A- 

CREDITS

The Old Die Young!; writer, Steve Gerber; artist, Mike Ploog; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 6 (June 1974)

The Man-Thing #6

Gerber nails it again, this time using Man-Thing to write an epitaph for a character. He’s also introducing most of this character in this issue. He uses a three act device–obviously so, with the regular cast and guest stars put to work as actors in a play–and runs the character development throughout.

He has enough time to foreshadow and to get the reader’s hopes up for possible outcomes and even has enough time to get the reader to readjust his or her hopes. It’s a beautifully paced comic.

Even the ending, which initially seems problematic, works once the reader has a chance to calm down and reflect on it. The only complaint might be how Gerber gets the tension so high, it does take a moment to interpret the finish.

The Ploog pencils are gorgeous, with Chiaramonte an able inker.

Gerber and Ploog produce a masterful comic.

A 

CREDITS

And When I Died…!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 5 (May 1974)

The Man-Thing #5

Here’s a rarity–the cliffhanger successfully ties the issue together. Gerber–with Mike Ploog joining him on the art–spends most of the issue bringing the players together. Rory and the biker chick, a couple circus performers, a dead clown and Man-Thing. They all converge at the end, where Gerber finds time for a fight scene.

He also finds time to bring a little more humanity to Man-Thing, which is an emphasis of the entire issue. It opens with the dead clown and Man-Thing finding him, lots of second person narration describing Man-Thing’s failure to properly access his lost humanity.

The odd cast of characters–there are also some small town meanies mad at Rory for being a hippy (they ought to be mad at him for being such a lame character)–gives Ploog a lot to do. He’s good on the swamp stuff, great on the various people.

It’s got problems, but works.

B 

CREDITS

Night of the Laughing Dead; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Planet of the Apes 19 (April 1976)

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Tom Sutton inking Mike Ploog.

It must be seen to be believed. The result is more Sutton than Ploog but the fluidity to the action is all Ploog. This visual feast is on Moench’s getting even stranger original story this issue.

While waiting for the evil gorilla to arrive, the protagonists take peyote and trip. I guess as long as it wasn’t a comic book, Marvel didn’t care about encouraging drugs in the seventies.

Moench brings in a lot of sci-fi elements this story and it’ll be interesting to see what comes of them.

Alcala continues to be the essential component to Moench’s Conquest adaptation. With so little dialogue–basically just squabbling politicans–Acala has to make just the visuals compelling. He does a great job of it; Alcala’s future world is restrictive, but still somehow open. It’s claustrophobic.

It’s a good adaptation; Alcala makes it even more spectacular.

CREDITS

Demons of the Psychedrome; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Tom Sutton. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Part Four: The Savage Is King; writer, Moench; artist, Alfredo Alcala. Editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Planet of the Apes 14 (November 1975)

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Ploog looks so loose in his portion of this issue, I’m wondering if he didn’t have inking help. The art’s still good… it’s just not of Ploog’s usual caliber when he’s inking himself.

The group—the human, the ape, the girl—are sitting around in the President’s secret residence in Mount Rushmore. Their guide has electricity and it’s all very post-apocalyptic, realizing what was before stuff.

It’s a good story. Moench is a lot more interested in that aspect of Planet of the Apes than the ape society. Maybe because no one ever concentrated on the realization stuff in the movies.

The Escape adaptation continues. Moench’s script is good. He doesn’t pause on the jokes, waiting for a smile, he just includes them. It makes it a lot smoother than otherwise.

Rival keeps caricaturing, even when the villain appears. It just makes the villain look more evil, which works.

CREDITS

Up the Nose-Tube To Monkey-Trash; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Mike Ploog. Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Part Three: Trouble In Paradise Lost; writer, Moench; artist, Rico Rival. Editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Planet of the Apes 13 (October 1975)

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Ploog’s back on the original story with Moench, continuing their long-term storyline about the human and his ape friend. Moench’s heading West, into the congenital United States, and it makes almost no sense. I’m pretty sure the imagery has shown the Golden Gate bridge in Apes land at one time or another. I don’t think anyone ever worked out a map, just winged it.

Moench’s trying not to wing it. Besides moving very fast, it’s interesting to see. Post-apocalyptic, but not exactly.

And Ploog has eased the art a little. Some luxurious ink washes, but not all. It’s excellent, but indistinct.

Whereas Rival’s art on the Escape adaptation is distinct but not excellent. His caricature approach brings out the absurdity—his government bureaucrat meeting is all officials with their eyes bugged out—and it fits the story. When the tone changes, of course, hopefully Rival will get serious.

CREDITS

The Magick-Man’s Last Gasp Purple Light Show; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Mike Ploog. Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Part Two: Strangers In A Strange Land; writer, Moench; artist, Rico Rival. Editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Planet of the Apes 11 (August 1975)

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Moench and Alcala wrap up their Beneath adaptation. Moench doesn’t match the off-putting final moment, though he does manage to make the whole thing personal to the characters. It’s much better than the movie; it has great Alcala art and no bad Charlton Heston acting. I just wish Alcala had more interesting subject matter.

The original story–with Ploog art, yay–sort of wraps up the storyline Moench started in the first issue. The human protagonist embraces hatred, which is rather depressing, but it’s also pretty darned cool.

Planet of the Apes is willing to be downbeat, to let the bad guys win. It’s not simplistic, even with goofy theme apes. Moench does go overboard with the dialogue. He writes two Lawgiver speeches and they go on forever in mediocre (at best) parables.

Also in the finale, Moench reveals there were subtle recurring themes throughout.

It’s rather well executed.

CREDITS

When the Lawgiver Returns; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Mike Ploog. Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Part Six: The Hell of Holocaust; writer, Moench; artist, Alfredo Alcala. Editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Planet of the Apes 8 (May 1975)

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Moench and Ploog are back with another installment of their human and ape fugitives. The mountain men apes and the gypsy apes are back too. This time they get into a battle with the mutants, after they capture the renegade gorilla who’s trying to kill them.

Confused yet?

Moench does a great job keeping it all straight–though he does reveal the Lawgiver to have almost no authority or common sense.

Once again, Ploog enjoys the ink washes. The art is fabulous. Though he does lose track of apes and people during the big battle scene. Moench has a lot of players in it–for a plot development reason–and Ploog can’t track them all visually.

The adaptation chapter is pretty good, with Moench concentrating on character for most of it. The finale is all action and feels a little forced, especially the cliffhanger.

Alcala’s art is again utterly fantastic.

CREDITS

The Planet Inheritors; writer, Doug Moench; artist, Mike Ploog. Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Part Three: The Warhead Messiah; writer, Moench; artist, Alfredo Alcala. Editor, Don McGregor; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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