Charles Soule started his run on Swamp Thing incredibly strong, offering a much more traditional, yet still fresh, interpretation of the character. The second issue however, while full of action, focused on Superman rather than Swamp Thing, which created an ultimately confused tone for the book. Luckily, Soule’s third issue combines the best of both issues, producing not only Soule’s best issue on Swamp Thing to date, but one of the best issues I’ve read in a long time.
This issue focuses on Capucine, an 800-year-old woman seeking Swamp Thing’s help. The issue explores a bit of her past and what she wants from the Avatar of the Green, while continuing the overarching story with Seeder, Swamp Thing’s new enemy. What I love the most about this issue is the new mythology it adds to Swamp Thing and the concept of the Green. When Capucine asks for Alec’s protection at the beginning of the issue, she invokes “The Sanctuary of the Green Leaves”, a pact made by a previous avatar which grants protection to whomever asks for it. Alec, who had never heard of this pact, was sent back by the Parliament of Trees to speak with the avatar who created the sanctuary in a flashback of sorts. This aspect of the issue was extremely well done, with Soule managing to add some very interesting mythology to the history of the Green, all whilst telling an engaging story in the present. The Green is perhaps the most intriguing part of Swamp Thing due to the very vague nature of its history, so I applaud any chance a writer takes to expand upon that history.
Soule has made a point since the beginning of his run to question Alec’s loyalty to the Green, and its loyalty to him. As was hinted at during his nightmare in last month’s issue, Alec is beginning to have his doubts about the Green’s intentions, and exactly how much it needs him. This plays a passing role in issue #21, as Alec discusses how he’s always felt as though the parliament has seemed detached from him, like they’re holding back vital information. Exploring the Green’s motivations has never really been touched on before, and I hope Soule plans on exploring it more in the future.
Finally, this issue provided our very first look at Seeder, Swamp Thing’s new villain. While very brief, we do get a quick shot of him in the last panel of the issue, and with Alec now traveling to Scotland to deal with him, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the coming months.
My biggest complaint for this issue actually contains a kernel of praise. On the plus side, some of the paneling in this issue is absolutely phenomenal. Some of the creative decisions stand in artist Jesus Saiz makes on some of the later pages are absolutely amazing, rivaling the unique paneling used by Yanick Paquette on his previous run. The downside, however, is that there isn’t nearly enough of it. Saiz reserved his inventive paneling for the final few pages, leaving the first half of the book with the generic layout found in most comics.
Additionally, I wasn’t overly thrilled with Saiz’s depiction of Swamp Thing himself. Regular artist Kano managed to create an ideal look for a modern depiction of Swamp Thing, giving him a newer aesthetic while still remaining faithful to the original depiction of the character. Saiz, however, opted for a more warrior-esque look for the character, giving him the build of Superman covered in bark. Alec is now at home in the swamp, and should look like the original version of the character we all know and love.
While last month’s issue faltered slightly due to the increased emphasis on Superman, Charles Soule’s third venture into the world of Swamp Thing proves his most successful yet. Soule continues to find an interesting voice for the character, delving deep into the psychological process of the character whilst building an intriguing new aspect to the mythology of the Green.