Swamp Thing is not only my favorite superhero, but the only reason I read superhero comics at all. Like many readers, I went through a period from my late teens to early twenties where I wasn’t really that invested in comics for awhile. It was my love of horror comics that got me reading again, and my love for Bernie Wrightson in particular that got me into Swamp Thing, and Swamp Thing that got me into giving a darn about superheroes again.
I went into the relaunch-era Swamp Thing thinking I’d wind up with a list of all the things I thought they were doing wrong. It didn’t even take the whole first issue to disprove that notion.
The relaunched Swamp Thing has been very true to the roots of the character in offering up plenty of straight horror while at the same time rethinking the whole canon, from origin story to visual design and even Alec Holland’s personality, to fit more neatly into the same world as characters like Superman and the Green Lantern.
Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson created their own take on a classic Universal movie monster who has always felt a little out of place in the DCU. Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing was instead a DCU character who wouldn’t be out of place in a black and white monster movie. Rather than a simple lab explosion as the alpha and omega of Holland’s transformation, like the first act of several monster flicks, Snyder makes clear that the Green has always been calling for Holland.
This Alec didn’t stumble into the role, he was born for it, and he needs to Answer the Call in order to make the transformation. Holland wouldn’t answer the call until issue seven, but I was already hooked by page twelve.
Anyways, I’m supposed to be reviewing issue 32, not the entire Swamp Thing canon, so I’ll leave it at this: the relaunch-era Swamp Thing is one of my favorite takes on the character.
Issue 32, written by Charles Soule with art by Jesus Saiz, has Holland dealing with the repercussions of having destroyed the parliament. Swamp Thing is forced to hit the ocean to combat some kind of massive seaweed monster. Holland finds himself unable to control the matter that the monster is made of and winds up physically bonding with the creature and battling the beast within its own consciousness in a sequence that’s honestly a little convoluted for my tastes.
The highlight of the issue is Holland’s interaction with Aquaman, who feeds Swamp Thing to a gang of hungry dugongs in a scene that could have been way too stupid, but is, instead, just stupid enough. I got a chuckle out of it.
Thus far, Charles Soule has proved a competent and imaginative writer, but where Snyder’s stories had me consistently on edge, Soule’s has been, at times, a process of getting through the exposition for the good parts, and trying to wrap my head around ideas that have a few too many moving parts.
Even so, last issue treated us to Alec Holland, borrowing the Grey’s body, being forced to rescue his own green body from being used as a gruesome Halloween costume, peeling his own hollowed-out skull off of the face of some poor test subject. To say Soule can’t write some stunning horror would be false. My issues with Swamp Thing’s writing right now are matters of pacing more than content.
Soule is an imaginative writer backed by a team of stellar artists. The confrontation between Aquaman and Swamp Thing is thoroughly entertaining, creative and even funny. Although I’ve never been a tremendous fan of rich, cinematic computer coloring in comics, the underwater effects are very nice. The shimmering of refracted sunlight on the backs of the dugongs is a nice touch, and the feeling of depth in the ocean is very well executed. What I really drool over is Saiz’ intense use of black and I’d love to see a black and white print of his Swamp Thing work, but as far as D.C.’s colorists go, Matthew Wilson is excellent.
I expected more from Holland’s confrontation with the sea monster. When the creature first physically bonds with Holland, it’s a frightening moment, but then the thing is very easily squashed in what I guess is some kind of dream sequence or a sub-reality or something. I don’t know.
Gorgeous art and generally strong writing ensure that Swamp Thing remains my favorite of the new era of D.C. titles, but taking issue 32 on its own, it’s not one of my favorites. The Monster of the Week formula is still a part of what this character is all about, and this week’s monster’s defeat was both disappointing and too convoluted for me to care to really wrap my head around.