Charles Soule and a barrage of talented artists deliver magic in Swamp Thing Annual #3. The tale is everything a Swamp Thing comic is supposed to be, supernatural, action-packed, and heartbreaking.
The issue opens on a morose note as Capucine reveals that she is dying, the thousand year curse finally fading and her demon coming for her. Pained by the impending loss of his friend, Alec Holland initially offers to find a way to prevent her death. Capucine, however, insists that Swamp Thing tell her a funny story to ease her passing. Holland selects a story in which he, after becoming Swamp Thing, sneaks into a movie theater to catch up on a film series that he had always loved. It’s a humorous tale punctuated by the image of a popcorn version of Swamp Thing.
Capucine sees the humor in the story but is overwhelmed by the fear of the demon that hunts for her. It is here that it is revealed that her demon is none other than the rhyming Etrigan. When Swamp Thing has Etrigan’s past recounted to him, he devises a plan to prevent Etrigan from taking Capucine – Capucine and Swamp Thing swap bodies. This allows Capucine to exact her revenge on the demon personally, and it leads to one of the more brutal sequences in the book. The battle takes an interesting twist when Etrigan projects himself into Alec Holland’s mind. The demon reveals that Capucine is not without her own secrets, and her own dark history. Etrigan argues that Capucine has used Holland’s affection for her to obtain his immortal body. As Swamp Thing, she can continue her streak of horrific violence unopposed.
Capucine eventually overtakes Etrigan and proves his accusation to be false when she returns to her own body, but the battle has taken its toll, leading to a heartfelt ending between her and Holland.
Charles Soule’s script is absolutely wonderful this issue. There are numerous beats throughout the story that are told with just the right pacing. Soule is efficient with his wording, making sure the actual text doesn’t overwhelm the beats. In addition he has a ton of fun with Etrigan’s rhyming schemes, playing with different rhythms for the demon. But comics are a visual medium and not enough can be said of the artists on this issue.
Javier Pina & Carmen Carnero handle the largest portion of Swamp Thing Annual #3, and do so with great results. The lineart is fantastic, and the dual between Capucine’s Swamp Thing and Etrigan is a visual treat. However, this issue features a number of guest artists, and it’s their scenes that tend to stick out. Ryan Browne handles the “Popcorn” scene in the issue, and brings to life a simultaneously creepy and adorable Swamp Thing/Popcorn creature who sneaks into the movie theater. Browne’s visuals bring a lot of the humor to story to life. Dave Bullock delivers a moody scene which reveals the origin of Etrigan with aplomb, the lines looking more like an ancient scroll, with elements of medieval horror. Finally, in my personal favorite, long-time Swamp Thing artist Yanick Paquette returns to deliver one of the more emotional scenes in the book. It’s a gorgeous two page spread that really sells home the conclusion to the book.
Swamp Thing Annual #3 is an extremely strong book with no discernible weaknesses. The issue reads best if you’ve been following Soule’s run from the beginning, but the issue is so complete that it delivers a full story and functions as solid done-in-one. This is how comics should be done.
Charles Soule and the many talented artists deliver the goods in Swamp Thing Annual #3. This is a somber tale, for sure, but it’s one that fits perfectly into Swamp Thing’s mythos. And guest-star Etrigan doesn’t hurt.