X-Men: Curse of the Man-Thing is the finale of a three part “Curse of the Man-Thing” miniseries, spanning the worlds of Marvel’s Avengers, Spider-Man, and now X-Men. In “Curse of the Man-Thing” the adopted niece of Hordeculture – remember them? – is magically manipulating the abilities of the Man-Thing so the entire world, and possibly multiverse, always remember that whatever knows fear BURNS AT THE MAN-THING’S Touch!
Today I’ll Answer:
+ What does the Man-Thing have to do with Krakoa and the X-Men?
+ Who is on Magik’s new X-Men team, the Dark Riders?
+ What happens to Hordeculture here that might have major ramifications for the Hickman era of X-Men?
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Andrea Broccardo
Throughout the Avengers and Spider-Man first two issues, with a full story broken into 9 chapters, we see plant-like growths effectively disrupting and exploding across the world, with Man-Thing’s fear-burning powers amplified on a worldwide scale. Overall, I enjoyed the story more than expected, not because I don’t like Orlando’s work (I do, a lot!) but because I’m not usually that into much post-Steve Gerber 70’s Man-Thing.
Ted Sallis, the original Man-Thing, has his abilities manipulated here by Harrower, again we’ll talk about her connections to Hordeculture here shortly, and throughout the story is visited by a wide array of Marvel heroes inside his “Man-Thing-Scape” (there is no better way to say that, you’ll just have to trust me) such as Captain America, Spider-Man, and Magik.
Meanwhile on Krakoa, “The human world burns while Krakoa suffers nothing more than a new hedge piece.” Krakoa is uniquely positioned to manage these plant-based uprisings, so Krakoa is perfectly safe. Magneto, and the Winter Council, are all satisfied to let the world burn, but Storm does the X-Men heroism thing, before we officially have our “heroic duty” X-Men officially protecting the world after the Hellfire Gala announcement, and the new ongoing of a relaunched X-Men from Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz.
Now as Krakoa is deciding to, once again after King in Black, show up to save the day for humanity, Ted Sallis wrestles with the truth of his turn into the Man-Thing. He tells Captain America the Man-Thing experiments that turned him into Not-Swamp-Thing were meant to replicate the Super-Soldier formula, and reveals as the story progresses that Sallis’ science couldn’t actually crack the formula. Instead he turned to dark magics, bringing our good creepy pal, Belasco, then ruler of Limbo, later to be replaced by Illyana Rasputin into the picture.
So Man-Thing made a deal with the devil – of sorts – which, yes, gives the Marvel Universe Man-Thing, but more dramatically unleashed the interdimensional magic that opened a portal in space-time and created the Nexus of All Realities. Ok, this is new, and kind of a big deal!
What’s the Nexus of All Realities? Ok, from the Wiki “a cross-dimensional gateway which provides a pathway to any and all possible realities.” Man-Thing’s guardianship, and connection to the Nexus was generally a mystery up to this point.
Who are the Dark Riders?
- Marrow – Throws sharp bones out of her body and is extremely sarcastic w/ a devil may care attitude. For more, I recommend Si Spurrier’s run on X-Force
- Shark-Girl – Really fun newer character, who – get this – looks like a shark! I liked her character in the Ed Brisson written Old Man Logan believe it or not.
- Forearm – OG Mutant Liberation Front, and probably the best pun name Rob Liefeld ever gave a character. Intriguingly, also a part of SWORD’s security division.
- Mammomax – Big strong Elephant bro and former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Fights Juggernaut in one of the less very bad Chuck Austen written Uncanny X-Men stories!
- Wolf Cub – Debuted in the never-discussed early aughts Chamber mini written by Brian K. Vaughan. I’ll admit my general knowledge of Wolf Cub is “Not Wolfsbane or Feral,” but the character’s had a decent role in the Yost/kyle New X-Men days, and Young X-Men afterwards.
The Original Dark Riders debuted in X-Factor #65 to #69, aka the Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, and Chris Claremont issues where Apocalypse kidnaps baby Nathan Summers and Jean and Scott are forced to give him up to the future to save him from the techno-organic virus. I had read this story for My Marvelous Year podcast like days before writing this video, and I still didn’t remember any of their names, so the Dark Riders weren’t exactly primo Apocalypse horsemen material.
The Return of Hordeculture
Looking a bit more closely at our antagonist, Harrower has been raised and trained by Hordeculture, the ecoterrorists introduced in Hickman’s X-Men #3, and shown again in Empyre: X-Men, making this Hordeculture’s 3rd appearance. Harrower refers to her “Aunt Augusta,” but is clearly at odds with the groups mandate to protect the biome above all else, wishing they would go further in their stated goals, effectively wiping humanity from the Earth. Think Poison Ivy at her angriest, but more magicky.
Big picture, I really refer Orlando’s take on Hordeculture, giving the elderly ladies more gravity and clearer purpose, and not trying to capture the failed comedy of Hickman in the team’s debut.
Hordeculture’s status as antiheroic foils for the X-men continues too, as they absolutely attempt to stop Harrower. Nonetheless they’re unsuccessful, which actually results in some of the team being lost in the multiverse through the Nexus of All Realities.
Which brings me to the most interesting development here for Hordeculture which is that they are now FLIPPING MULTIVERSAL
Now listen, this could be the sort of thing that no one ever mentions again, but Hordeculture gaining access to the multiverse, and technology or ideas there that might help Hordeculture against the Krakoan X-Men, is very interesting! Think of all the plants across the multiverse!
I maintain that a MULTIVERSE of mutants remains one of the largest untapped conversations, issues, and storylines to enter into the Hickman and Krakoa era of X-Men. Even a mild alliance with Man-Thing as guardian of the Nexus of Realities opens up another possible gateway for mutants, as they also explore the reality warping properties of mysterium through SWORD and the mutant space program.
Before we move on, I’ll also note here that Orlando’s presence in the Krakoasphere feels intentional, and definitely like the Marvel offices are gearing up to include him more in future works, which I for one look forward to!
Big picture, there’s an interesting and frankly surprising trend incorporating Man-Thing into the fringes of the Krakoan era of X-Men. This began with Weapon Plus: World War IV, a one-shot written by Ben Percy – aka writer of X-Force and Wolverine – with art by Georges Jeanty early in 2020. For the unfamiliar, Weapon Plus is the program trying to crack the super-soldier formula, or more aptly, turning humans into weapons, and are responsible for the likes of Captain America, Wolverine, Fantomex, Ultimaton, and now, Jackson Strode, aka Man-Slaughter, aka a gloriously on point comic book play on Man-Thing.
It’s not really relevant, but also worth noting that the backup story in this issue by Ryan Cady and David Baldeon stars Brute Force, aka Paul Scheer’s dream Marvel movie, taking down an Orchis supply ship.
Ok, so what do we make of the Man-Thing of it all? Well again, Magik and the Dark Riders aide potentially forms an alliance that could lead to easier access to the Nexus of All Realities.
Additionally, given Krakoa’s organic nature, it doesn’t seem impossible that mutantkind could have a particularly green superteam on their side in the future
- Black Tom
- Arakko / Redroot