[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artists: Trevor Scott, Diogenes Neves
Ethan and Damage need to work together if they want to survive the combined might of Poison Ivy’s partnership with Gorilla Grodd and his gorilla warriors. Ivy is in the middle of a moral struggle with her psyche. Oh, and did I mention Swamp Thing makes an appearance?
If you’re ready for more, then read on.
Ethan has a conversation with Damage in the middle of his/their rampage with Gorilla Grodd’s Warriors from Gorilla City. It’s something that Ethan has been trying to do for the last two issues. When Damage takes control, his only intent is mindless violence. Casualties are not something that he thinks about.
But, Ethan volunteered to be a human lab rat because he was promised the chance to be a hero. Every time he sees the results of Damage lashing out, what hits Ethan the hardest is the number of innocent people who were hurt and how many could have been hurt. He might become a monster when he is Damage, but that doesn’t mean that he has to let innocent people get her in the process. Ethan believes that even a monster like Damage can act like and eventually may become a hero.
A great twist here is that Ethan tells Damage to let loose. Until now Ethan has sought to limit the destruction that Damage creates, but now Ethan needs him. They are under attack from a band of military gorillas, and Ethan wants to fight fire with fire. We get to see a moment of carnage and outright monstrosity from Damage.
And then Grodd breaks out the telepathy and shuts it all down.
Poison Ivy is with Grodd. She has been terraforming farmland in Iowa to prepare for Grodd’s arrival. During this process Damage, and readers have witnessed a split in her psyche that reveals that another part of her personality is fighting Ivy’s control. Grodd senses the presence of Ethan in Damage’s mind and when he tells him to speak, Ivy is struck by his cries for help. Her other compassionate side takes over and she turns on Grodd.
Damage seizes the moment and headbutts Grodd. And then Damage thinks like an animal and decides to destroy the predator that just attacked him. Right before Damage crushes Grodd’s throat, Ivy convinces him to let Grodd go free. Damage throws him aside in disgust and the gorilla warriors collect their defeated leader and flee.
The workers who gave Ethan sanctuary — and that he tried to protect as the one they call El Daño — come to his rescue, only to have their weapons stripped away by the leaves of plants controlled by Ivy. She releases fragrant Jasmine that lulls Damage to sleep before she lays him down into the petals of a giant flower.
When Ethan awakens, the petals of the flower have opened, and there is a monologue that is not Ethan’s or Damage’s thoughts. It is Alec Holland. He appears to Ethan in the form of Swamp Thing — Avatar of the Green — because of the disturbance that Ivy’s forest on the farmland has brought to the natural balance between the Green and earth’s other elemental forces.
Holland reveals that The Green withheld Ivy’s actions from him while it controlled her and that there is a reckoning that is due and the earth’s time is coming.
I like that Damage uses this moment to relate to his own experience of Colonel Jonas controlling him.
Damage needs to find answers and he still thinks that they will be found at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Alec promises that he has many friends who can help, but he needs a favor. The forest cannot exist and it must be destroyed, but Swamp Thing cannot bring himself to kill so much vibrant life. Ethan transforms into Damage and asks Alec to come back for him in an hour.
When next we see Ethan he is aboard a steamboat on the Mississippi River speaking to a man who owes his life to Alec Holland. Of course, Colonel Jonas, Handyman, and the others are watching and waiting for their chance to move on Ethan.
Grodd is underused here. This is a sophisticated villain who has outsmarted The Flash by planning ten steps ahead, but he doesn’t have a contingency for Ivy when she turns on him. And, this disruption is enough to overcome his psychic hold on Damage, despite his legendary telepathic powers. Then he loses in a physical contest with Damage. It felt a little like when they use to let The Teen Titans smack around Dr. Light. It’ll be interesting if he comes back with a vengeance, and just sad if they leave him broken and more of a villain-of-the-week who is just passing through.
Ethan and Damage end this issue by beginning a new chapter. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier would be a great time to bring back the original Unknown Soldier and continue the trend of returning timeless heroes like Challengers of the Unknown, Vandal Savage, and Carter Hall. I like the potential that Damage has to become a hero throughout time.